Got nothing but time on your hands these days? Instead of your usual reality TV dating show, switch things up with something that’s informative (and interesting!). We won’t leave you endlessly flipping through Netflix trying to figure out what to watch tonight: Simply queue up one (or all) of these documentaries and TV shows that are streaming on Netflix right now. From the mysteriousness of outer space to the way the human mind works, we picked our favorites below.
Episode length: 40 min
Number of episodes: 8
100 Humans takes — you guessed it — 100 “average” people of different ages, genders, races, and backgrounds throughout a series of social experiments to try to answer the common questions and debates about life, from how to be happy to the best age to be alive. It’s entertaining with the comedic commentary from the hosts, but if you’re looking for a show with concrete scientific data, you won’t get that here as there are too many variables to the experiments. It’s light-hearted and fun, makes you think about how the human mind works, and you’ll love how the show brings random strangers together in camaraderie.
Episode length: 50 minutes
Number of episodes: 12
This docuseries will be particularly fascinating to new parents who are navigating the newborn stage, but the science (and cuteness!) behind how babies discover the world around them will be interesting for non-parents alike. Each episode is a fly-on-the-wall observation of the journeys of 15 families all around the world and dozens of scientists who are trying to figure out why their kiddos do what they do, think what they think. There’s plenty of adorable clips of baby babble that you’d expect, but it’s hard-hitting on human development and clinical studies on topics like breastfeeding, first words, crawling, and more milestones.
Movie length: 100 minutes
This film, which debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, takes a look at transgender people in the creative industry and how they’re depicted in Hollywood. An interesting fact that the film reveals: 80% of Americans don’t know a transgender person, so their perception of the trans community is likely based on what they see in the media. The documentary features Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Jen Richards, Alexandra Billings, and others who help the audience see how stereotypes in TV and movies have shaped a problematic narrative about trans issues. Disclosure makes positive steps towards better representation and how everyone can adjust their understanding of the transgender experience.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
Episode length: 25 minutes
Number of episodes: 40
The news can be a lot to digest, especially these days. So if you want to watch a snackable show that recaps the latest in global news, politics, and culture, comedian Hassan Minjah (formerly of The Daily Show) brings his funny — and sometimes rightfully emotional — perspective in this Emmy-award winning show. It’s the first talk show to be hosted by an Indian-American and gives a refreshing, non-white take on issues like asylum, mental health, and drugs. Unfortunately due to unexplained reasons, the show was canceled this summer, but there’s a Change.org petition to bring it back should you also become a fan. Meanwhile, catch them on Netflix while you can.
Episode length: 20 minutes
Number of episodes: 10
When you want something informative, yet easy to watch (each episode is a short 20 minutes long), History 101 boils down to some of the most complicated topics like oil and the Middle East, robots, and genetics. It uses infographics and archival footage to make facts and figures visually entertaining — plus a narrator’s voice who’s so soothing, there are multiple articles that dive into who she is.
Episode length: 20 minutes
Number of episodes: 30
Running out of dinner table talk? In partnership with Vox Media (the media company behind The Cut, Grub Street, Vulture, and others), this journalistic approach gives you a broad understanding of complex issues. Like History 101, the episodes are short and so the Sparks Notes-style might leave you wanting more, but it does a good job of not watering down the information so you can walk away with a meaningful understanding of anything from music, orgasms, astrology, and weed.
Episode length: 45 minutes
Number of episodes: 18
Gravity. Nebulas. Dark Matter. Space Travel. If you have any curiosity about space or the beginning of history, there’s sure to be an episode to strike your fancy. Netflix currently only has one of the seasons (season two) out of the nine seasons this aired on The History Channel, but you get a wide range of topics to choose from. The show mainly relies on CGI renderings to show beautiful imagery of the world beyond ours.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak
Episode length: 50 minutes
Number of episodes: 6
When this docuseries released in late January of 2020, you would’ve never have thought how eerily accurate it would predict the year ahead. Over six episodes, this show follows people around the world (including a retired nurse; a Ph.D. with the World Health Organization, and an infectious disease expert) and lays out the challenges of how to prepare for certain pandemic-related hypothetical scenarios that turned out to be our new reality.