Netflix documentaries that make you feel all warm and fuzzy
There’s something about Netflix documentaries that lure me in like a trucker to hot coffee. Whenever a fresh crop pops into my “recently added” queue, I need to clear my schedule to watch as many as possible before annoyances like working, showering or going to the bathroom try to shift my gaze. The only downside to getting pulled into the succubus that is the Netflix doc category is you could be buying a one way ticket to Sadsville—population you! After just a few hours of nonfiction programming, you are questioning your sugar intake, your energy consumption, your usage of fossil fuels and even your childhood trip to Sea World. Is everything corrupt?! Doc watching is not always a warm and fuzzy experience.
Sure, knowledge is power and I am not so Pollyanna to advocate that you ignore the tough issues, but sometimes you need to taper the heaviness of films documenting prison life and human trafficking with something a little more feel-good. Luckily, there are several true stories currently on Netflix that will leave you with a restored faith in humanity and an unshakable good feeling. I like to think viewing these movies are the audio visual version of footie pajamas or what I like to call a streaming cup of cocoa.
Craigslist Joe (2012) Sure, there are lots of documentaries where filmmakers issue themselves a personal challenge (SuperSize Me, etc), but never has one left me feeling so hopeful. Usually the subject gives themselves a span of time to jump out of his/her comfort zone and adhere to a lifestyle change with very strict parameters. In this movie, the guinea pig (or Joe) in question gives up his home, money and belongings (except for a cell phone and laptop) for one month to live his life only by things he finds on Craigslist on the free/barter section. Over the course of the movie he participates in ride shares, volunteer opportunities and day jobs that take him from one end of the country to the other. As someone that has bought and sold on Craigslist many times, I am glad that this movie reinforced that it is not all swindlers and potential murderers, proving you can still depend on the kindness of strangers.
Legends of the Knight (2013) The simple concept behind this Netflix pick is proving the truth that super-heroism is attainable. Batman is really just a normal guy with zero supernatural assistance (unless you count a cool car), who fights for justice and what is right. This everyman quality makes Bruce Wayne/Batman a fan favorite all over the world, and has inspired legions of followers that live their life thinking, “What would the dark Knight do?” The movie turns a spotlight on several of these superfans from a cop to a child with cancer to a teen from California, who roams his hometown via razor scooter, protecting his neighbors. Even if you are not a comic book reader, you can’t help but be touched by these people.
Andrew Jenks, Room 335 (2006) If you are feeling downtrodden about your generation, like millennials provide nothing but selfies and YouTube videos, this movie by a then 19-year-old filmmaker will give you hope. Andrew Jenks voluntarily spends his summer break in a nursing home living among the population. Although there are some definite tearjerker moments, there is a lot of humor. These men and women adopted Andrew and they formed genuine friendships despite the half-century age difference. My favorite resident is a little tiny pistol named Tammy who you will promptly want to be besties with.
Darius Goes West (2007) Through Darius, the movie’s teenage protagonist, the film draws attention to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which is the number one genetic killer of young men. After that sentence, you are probably like, “How is this a movie gonna make me feel good?”—but fear not, this movie is oozing with warmth and heart. Amid the nods to accessibility and struggle, this movie will make you fall desperately in love with Darius and his friends as they board an RV and take the teen from his hometown in Georgia, that he has never left, on a cross-country journey. Their end goal is to get his wheelchair pimped by the folks at MTV’s Pimp My Ride. I won’t tell you if they get to meet XZibit, but I will tell you you’ll love seeing the comradery of the young men who took Darius on this trip. It takes a village, and that village was incredibly fun to watch. Also, extra points for Darius, who provides original raps along the way.
Gotta Dance (2008) This movie about a rag tag senior hip-hop group is my go-to happy place. It really has everything: a true underdog component, an unlikely friendship, a woman with a street alter ego, a former beauty queen, a dressing room montage, and DID I MENTION SENIOR HIP HOP DANCERS!??! These people are inspiring.
Monica and David (2009) Monica and David are two young adults with Down syndrome who met at a day program and fell in love. This is the story of their marriage and how they plan their lives together with the help of their parents. Despite their disability, they have a very normal relationship—they spend time with family and friends and they deal with health issues, work struggles and moving hassles. Love is love and this movie proves that no one is immune to it.
Now you have ample happy ammunition. Hopefully, your queue of Netflix documentaries is about to get a little fuller.