Netflix: Hidden Gems

After having to sit on the sidelines and enviously watch my friends in the USA enjoy their service for the last few years, Netflix’s online streaming finally launched in Canada last week. There’s a lot of grumbling about their limited selection, which is true when you compare it to the USA’s catalog, but in isolation I think it’s still very worthwhile. The documentary section in particular is extremely impressive. As long as you aren’t expecting first-run or new-to-DVD movies, I suspect most people can easily find the four hours or so of content per month that makes it worth your money.

Here are a list of some of my favourites that you might not be aware of. These aren’t the big obvious selections that everyone will pick up on, like Mad Men or the newer movies, but hopefully things you might not have heard of before.

Nova: Battle of the X-Planes

One of my favourite documentaries ever, this film is an inside look at the competition between Boeing and Lockheed to design the Joint Strike Fighter. The crew had full access to both teams during the development process and the finished documentary is gripping, unique and extremely cool!

The Day of the Triffids

This is the 1980’s BBC version of John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, featuring some nasty plants (as well as man’s inhumanity to man, the benefits of high-calibre weapons and oddly, seawater). It may look a little dated now but it’s brilliantly written and acted and has some really creepy scenes.

Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth

This is a fantastic documentary about a fascinating man. Ellison is one of the most celebrated sci-fi authors in history, and happens to be one of the most angry and irascible persons you’ll ever meet. Despite his near-constant fury he comes across as quite lovable in this film. I’m sure he’d hate to hear himself described like that.


An absolutely amazing movie from the hit-and-miss, incredibly prolific Takashi Miike. I don’t even want to tell you what genre it’s in. If you haven’t seen it, don’t read anything about it and just watch it, but not with the kids!

For All Mankind

A beautiful documentary covering the Apollo space program. It’s not really like any other documentary on the subject, concentrating almost entirely on the images shot by the astronauts themselves. It’s powerful and visually stunning.


Yeah, the movie about the talking pig. I know, I know, you’re far too manly to watch this. I had to be almost forced into seeing it by a friend over a decade ago, and it remains one of my favourite finds. It’s amazingly funny and also, if you can stand it, heartwarming. And if that’s still not convincing enough for you macho types, it was directed by George Miller, who also gave us Mad Max!

Step Into Liquid

Visually mindblowing surfing documentary. Whether you’re into surfing or not (and I’m not), this is worth your time.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Forget the movie of a few years ago, this is the original BBC TV production, scripted by Douglas Adams himself. Hilarious, with an iconic presentation of the eponymous book. Unmissable.

So there you go. Plenty to watch, in case the new TV season didn’t have enough for you already. I’ve already found a lot more good stuff available, so I’ll do another one of these posts at some point.

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