11 Shocking Documentaries that Will Leave Your Head Spinning

Ready for some truly shocking documentaries that will leave your head spinning and your mind blown?

All of these films fit the criteria and you’ll remember each and every one of them long after you’ve finished watching.  

From unbelievable true crime documentaries to mind-blowing cultural and health documentaries, the one thing all of these have in common is their shock value. 

So get cozy and start updating your queue!  

These are all must-watch shocking documentaries that you’ll be talking about for a while!

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These amazing shocking documentaries are must-watch shows that you need to add to your Netflix queue!  They're some of the best documentaries out there.

Mommy Dead and Dearest

Mommy Dead and Dearest is, without a doubt, one of the most shocking documentaries out there…from the very beginning to the very end. 

The documentary tells the devastating story of Gypsy Rose, a young girl who spent her entire childhood fighting debilitating ailments, including cancer, muscular dystrophy and brain damage.

But the true devastation is that she actually wasn’t sick with any of these conditions. 

Gypsy Rose was forced and manipulated by her mother into believing – and sometimes pretending – that she was actually sick.

There was so much deception in this case that it’s truly hard to wrap your head around it…but there’s more, because the end of this shocking documentary is just as unbelievable as the beginning. 

This is definitely one to add to the top of your queue!

Related post: 14 Bizarre Documentaries that Prove Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Ruby Ridge

Telling the traumatic story of the Weavers, Ruby Ridge recounts a stand-off between a reclusive family and the government that went terribly, terribly wrong.

The Weaver family had moved to a secluded cabin in the Idaho wilderness when they became associated with a white supremacy group. Whether they were actually active participants in the group would later be called into question, but the association alone put their patriarch, Randy Weaver, on the government’s radar and ultimately led to an arrest warrant…and that’s when things got out of control.

The events that followed are now widely known as what-not-to-do when trying to arrest someone…and certainly make for a one-of-a-kind story.

This is definitely a shocking documentary for the ages…and you can find it on Netflix, so definitely add it to your queue!

**If you’ve read the best-selling book, Educated, you may remember author Tara Westover’s mention of the Weaver family throughout her story…THIS is their story!

Don’t F*** With Cats

Oh boy.  Don’t F*** With Cats is one of those unbelievable documentaries that shocks from the very beginning until the very end…with some pretty bizarre drama sandwiched in between.

The disturbing story starts with an anonymous video posted online that shows a man suffocating two kittens. 

The shocking video finds its way to a group of savvy internet users that decide to take matters into their own hands and track down the anonymous animal killer themselves.

Their pursuit spans years and takes them to multiple nations until finally the police get involved…but for crimes that extend way beyond the original video.

This is definitely one of the most shocking documentaries on Netflix, so move it to the top of your queue!  You’ll never forget it. 

Food, Inc. 

As far as shocking documentaries go, Food, Inc. is one that will stay with you for a looooong time.

The documentary dives into the food we eat – the way it’s raised and cared for, produced, packaged and sold – and provides some pretty horrifying facts that the vast majority of consumers have no idea are true. 

And it’s not just that certain things we eat are unhealthy.  

It also uncovers abuse throughout the system (with both animals and workers) and a ton of deceptive practices from both marketers and politicians that affect the food we eat and the information we consume.

There are a lot of shocking food documentaries out there, but this is definitely one of the best (and one that everyone should see).  Add it to your queue!

Related post: 8 Food Documentaries that Will Make You Rethink Everything


Blackfish is a must-see shocking documentary that uncovered disturbing details that luckily ended up leading to a lot of positive change in the world.

The positive change, however, didn’t come without an immense cost, as this documentary shows from the very beginning to the very end. 

Centered around the gross mistreatment that orca whales face in captivity, Blackfish follows the story of Tilikum, a killer whale that was part of Sea World’s notorious performance show. 

His devastating story is more than enough proof that these creatures just can’t survive – let alone thrive – in these kind of conditions. 

This is definitely one of the best shocking documentaries out there and one that will change your feelings on a lot of things.  

Definitely add this one to your queue! It’s a must-see.

Related post: The Best Controversial Documentaries to Get Your Blood Boiling

The Imposter

If you’re really looking for a how-the-heck-did-this-actually-happen kind of shocking documentary, then The Imposter needs to move to the top of your queue…quickly.

This film tells the story of Frederic Bourdin, a French man who successfully conned a Texas family (as well as two national governments) into believing that he was their missing son.

What makes this documentary even more shocking is that Frederic himself narrates the story…and as you’ll see, he’s one of those characters that you just can’t make up.

This is a truly unbelievable documentary that will shock and entertain you from start to finish.  

Add this one to your queue!

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

It’s hard to believe that so many injustices can happen to one person, but this shocking account of Kalief Browder’s story proves it’s possible…and probably happening more often than we think. 

Browder’s tragic story starts with a wrongful arrest for a minor violation – stealing a backpack – that ultimately led to him being stuck in jail for over three years…without ever even being convicted of a crime.

Browder’s time in jail is disturbing and devastating, involving abuse, neglect and far too long for a minor to spend in solitary confinement.

This shocking Netflix documentary provides a glimpse into the criminal justice and prison systems’ failings and how devastating the effects can be on those who are stuck in it. 

This is one that you will never forget – definitely add it to your queue!

Related Post: 15 of the Best True Crime Documentaries to Fill Your Queue With

Saudi Arabia Uncovered

If you’re looking for a shocking documentary about politics, religion and culture, then Saudi Arabia Uncovered should move to the top of your Netflix queue. 

This documentary delves into one of the most notorious and secretive nations in the world, yet one that still manages to hold a lot of power, both politically and economically. 

What’s really shocking about this documentary isn’t the things you’d expect though.  Yes, there are egregious human rights violations, abysmal rights for women and extreme religious laws…but what is truly most shocking is the hold they have over US and European political decisions. 

This is another shocking documentary on Netflix that should move to the top of your queue! It’s definitely one that everyone should see. 

Related post: The Best Middle East Documentaries about War, Religion and Life

End of the World Cult

There are a lot of really shocking cult documentaries out there, but End of the World Cult is in a class of its own. 

The documentary follows the Lord Our Righteousness Church in Strong City, New Mexico, led by notorious cult leader Michael Travesser (aka Wayne Bent). 

This group is possibly most famous for their steadfast belief that the world was going to end in 2007…but really, it’s the outrageous devotion that the followers have to their leader that make this a truly shocking documentary. 

From ensuring each virgin sleeps with him first, to claiming God wanted his daughter-in-law to become his own wife, Wayne Bent is obeyed – worshipped, even – without question. 

If cults are your thing, then this is without a question the next shocking documentary to move to the top of your queue!  And if that isn’t exciting enough…there’s actually a sequel – Inside a Cult: Messiah on Trial (and it’s just as good!).

Related post: 11 Cult Documentaries that Will Leave You Completely Bewildered

Tiger King

Tiger King is one of those amazing Netflix documentaries that manages to shock…and shock…and shock…again and again and again.

The premise – two big cat lovers at war with each other – is shocking enough.  But it’s when you start to dig into the lives of these two nemesis that you really start to have your mind blown.

There are death threats, accusations of murder, polyamorous relationships, lost limbs…and, of course, lots and lots of tigers.

This is definitely a shocking Netflix documentary series that will go down in history, not just for the storyline, but for finding the most bizarre real-life characters that you couldn’t have made up if you tried.  

So if you aren’t yet familiar with Joe Exotic or Carole Baskin, it’s time to update your Netflix queue!  This is a shocking documentary you’ll never forget.

The Confession Tapes 

Imagine being coerced or tricked into making a confession for a crime that you didn’t commit. 

It’s a terrifying thought that could happen to any of us, but unfortunately it DID happen to each person featured in The Confession Tapes

What is so shocking about this documentary series is how frequent this practice seems to happen…and how it truly can happen to anyone. 

Even worse is that many of these people are still in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.

This is definitely one of the most shocking Netflix documentaries out there and with more than one season, it’s perfect for a binge-watching weekend.

Related post: 8 Documentaries about Wrongful Convictions that Will Scare the Crap Out of You 

I hope you get a chance to watch all of these shocking documentaries!  For more documentaries to fill your schedule with, check out these posts:

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These shocking documentaries will completely blow your mind and leave your head spinning!