It’s looking more and more likely we’re all going to be spending a lot of time inside over the coming weeks. While we all buckle down to keep each other safe, we’re looking for books, movies, documentaries, and activities that while away the hours without leaving us feeling trapped.
These docuseries are currently available to stream on either Netflix or Amazon Prime, have multiple episodes, and will suck you into their worlds. Grab a blanket, hunker down, and queue one up!
Myths & Monsters
This British docuseries breaks down some of Europe’s most pervasive myths and stories, showing the common threads and the cultural specificity that gives them such power. With each episode focusing on a major theme, you’ll find yourself sucked into the explorations of the powers of stories over centuries.
If there was ever a time to explore the world via your television, this is it. Our Planet, Netflix’s answer to Planet Earth, will take you all around the natural world. You’ll be accompanied by the soothing tones of Sir David Attenbourgh as you explore frozen planes, the depths of the ocean, and miles of savannah.
A word of warning before you jump into this docuseries—we cannot vouch for its full accuracy. We can, however, guarantee that you will have a significant amount of fun whilst binging its documentary/epic historical drama mixture. Three miniseries follow one character from history with both reenactments and real historian interviews. Sean Bean narrates this oddly compelling series covering Julius Caesar, Commodus, and Caligula.
Ready to get riled? Dirty Money digs into the corporations and individuals that use their wealth to cheat the system, from Volkswagen’s falsified emissions tests to a maple syrup heist that shocked the world.
Pandemic: How to Stop an Outbreak
Want a glimpse at the type of work happening right now to stem the tide of COVID-19? This timely January release from Netflix explores life on the front lines of medical crises. Focusing primarily on the flu and Ebola, the series features doctors and researchers who are working to create new vaccines and treatments for the illnesses that threaten the human population.
Five Came Back
Explore a different form of warfare with this series. During World War II, well-known directors were drafted alongside soldiers. Those directors, though sent to the frontlines, were not meant to do any physical fighting. Instead, they were to film the war. The films they made were used as propaganda, although some of the work, deemed too depressing to invigorate the nation, was hidden from the public for many decades. Current directors look back on the work done by the likes of John Ford and Frank Capra.
Genius of the Ancient World
Let historian Bettany Hughes take you back to a world where a single mind could change the course of science and history alike. This three episode series investigates thinkers that changed the ancient world for good: Buddha, Socrates, and Confucius. This accessible series is great for those with any level of previous knowledge.
Rick Steves' Europe
Over on Amazon Prime, you’ll find four seasons of Rick Steves’ classic travel show. From Lisbon to Israel, Steves shares hard-won gems of wisdom about the best places to go and how to make the most of a trip to a city or country. Your armchair travel has never gone so far before.
America: The Story of Us
This 12-hour miniseries will take you from Jamestown to 9/11. Although flawed by a heavy reliance on celebrity commentary and the challenge of condensing hundreds of years of history into hours, this is an enthralling overview of the American experience.
Looking for some true crime documentaries? Try Lorena, a four-part investigation of the tabloid-loved Bobbit case. In 1993, Lorena Bobbit infamously cut off part of her husband’s penis, igniting a firestorm. With 25 years worth of perspective, this docuseries recasts the key players and shows that all was not as it seemed.
This Ken Burns docuseries profiles nine exemplary American lives. Whether he’s profiling a well-known figure like Thomas Jefferson or bringing light to an undertold story, this collection shows exactly why Burns is the king of documentary. We are especially charmed by the story of Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, a man who hoped to be the first American to complete a cross-country road trip.
Taking its inspiration from the History Channel series Vikings, this docuseries investigates the realities of the Viking people. Each episode delves into an aspect of Viking culture or history portrayed in the rather more fictional series, showing viewers what came from history and anthropology, and what was invented for drama.
Although only one season is available for free streaming with Prime, this PBS natural history doc is certainly worth the stream. Exploring the past, present, and future of wildlife, Nature takes you behind the scenes of a dinosaur dig, into the moose population of Jasper National Park, and inside the minds of your pets.
Featured still from "Our Planet" via Silverback Films