Over the past year, we’ve been putting together TV and movie recommendations here at CNET. It’s been a blast! Discussing the best show on Netflix, or the best sci-fi series on Prime Video. Most of the time it’s fairly easy for us to select our favorites.
Not this time.
When someone suggested I select the “best documentary on Netflix” I started sweating. Immediately. I maintain CNET’s list of best documentaries. I watch almost every documentary, be it movie or miniseries, as soon as they’re released.
And folks, Netflix has a lot of good documentaries.
I’d argue documentaries are the best thing about Netflix, period. There’s genre-defining true-crime series like Making a Murderer, Oscar-winning movies like Icarus, incredible nature docos like Our Planet. That’s before we even mention viral hits like Tiger King or Drive to Survive.
It’s almost impossible to choose just one.
But the nature of our recommendations at CNET is to choose something audiences might have missed, or something underrated. That’s why we tend to call out shows like Dark or For All Mankind on Apple TV Plus over established classics like Stranger Things.
So in that spirit, I am selecting Untold as my pick for best documentary series on Netflix. Because it rules. It rules so goddamn much.
Produced by the folks behind the also extremely good Wild Wild Country, Untold is a series of feature-length documentaries focused on sports. Which is like saying Game of Thrones is a story about an iron chair or Harry Potter is a franchise about a kid with glasses. It’s obviously much more than that.
Untold doesn’t just tell a set of sports stories that challenge your expectations of what a sports documentary should be. It tells those stories so effectively you barely need to care about sports to be enraptured. It really is that good.
Take the topics. There’s Crimes and Penalties, which tells the Slap Shot-esque story of the Danbury Trashers, a minor league hockey team run – incredibly – by the 17-year-old son of a waste management mogul connected to the Genovese crime family. Utter chaos ensues.
Then there’s Malice at the Palace, a definitive, insider account of the infamous basketball game in 2004 when Ron Artest marched into the crowd and kickstarted a massive brawl between players and fans.
And there are profiles. Really good ones. On Caitlyn Jenner, most famous for her connection to the Kardashians, but once an Olympic gold medalist. That episode is decent, but the profile on Christy Martin is perhaps more compelling. Martin, once the world’s most famous female boxer, was a genuinely game-changing athlete, but was also the victim of a savage murder attempt. Her story is a terrifying one, expertly and sensitively told by the Untold crew.
The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is arguably the best of the bunch. If you’re going to watch one episode, I’d suggest this one. Manti Te’o was a superstar college football player, a consensus All-American who was victim to an incredible catfishing scam with so many layers it would be impossible to explain here. Just watch. And prepare yourself for one of the most unique stories in all of sport.
So yes, Untold is great. More than great, actually. It’s a series of mini masterpieces each more intriguing than the last. Incredibly, it feels like a show gathering steam. Season 1 is fantastic, but Untold’s just-concluded second season comes with an assured confidence to tackle tougher stories, with better, more in-depth reporting.
Even if you have zero interest in sport, you owe it to yourself to watch. Untold transcends sports. It’s the best documentary series on Netflix.