If you’re like us, you’re absolutely obsessed with Tiger King. The Netflix documentary series has us hooked on the weirdest stuff true crime has to offer. It’s got everything from big cats, truly spectacular mullets, polyamory, mysterious disappearances, drugs, and attempted murder. Now that you’ve binged all those episodes (because let’s face it, we all did that), what’s next?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We’ve compiled a list of the weirdest and most entertaining documentaries to keep you up all night. From true crime to weird childhoods to the most fascinating characters, you’re sure to find scratch that itch!
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009)
There’s a reason this documentary is at the top of our list, and the title says it all! The White family is one of the most notorious in modern Appalachia originally stemming from the family’s claim to fame – a unique style of mountain dancing. The documentary follows the family for a year across drug deals, dive bars, hospital beds, backwoods country, prisons, and jail cells as it accounts for their wild and eccentric escapades. There’s a lot to be said about their perseverance and spirit. You’ll be cheering for them by the end!
(As a side note? One of the most colorful members of the family is also a guest star on Adult Swim’s Squidbillies.)
The Barkley Marathon: The Race that Eats its Young (2014)
The single most brutal ultramarathon you’ve never heard of, The Barkley Marathon is a yearly trail race held in rural Tennessee. The course is done in 20-mile loops that total 100 miles altogether (well, more or less, given the ever-changing route). Still interested? The race starts sometime between noon and midnight on the race day, with runners expected to copy their own accurate versions of the route from one master copy at the race site. Yes, it is just as weird as it sounds.
Throw in the race’s founder, Lazarus Lake, and you have one of the most entertaining documentaries we’ve ever seen.
Have you ever heard of “competitive endurance tickling”? Neither had filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reed before spotting an ad looking for young male fitness models. Supposedly, it’s a sport where young men compete to see how long they can withstand being tickled (often while restrained). The truth, on the other hand, leads the filmmakers down a rabbit hole no one expected.
Trust us. You won’t expect all the twists in this tale before it’s over (though the 2017 follow-up The Tickle King just brings more questions than answers!).
Grey Gardens (1975)
One of the most iconic documentaries ever made, Grey Gardens is the story of two eccentric, reclusive formal socialites living with ghosts of their pasts. The film follows the lives of “Big” Edie and “Little” Edie Beales – the aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy – through their everyday routines living in a dilapidated Hampton’s mansion (the titular Gray Gardens). Donning elaborate, often unorthodox couture attire, the women putter through the house, ignoring the peeling wallpaper and battered furniture, feeding visiting raccoons, and sharing their elaborate dance routines for the filmmakers.
Despite the description, the documentary is a humanizing look at two very fascinating and perplexing women and has gained a cult following through the years.
Room 237 (2012)
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of The Shining is a cult classic. Filled with symbolism, ambiguity, and tons of hidden details for keen-eyed viewers, the movie is a popular topic of discussion for academics and film critics alike. Filmmaker Rodney Ascher explores the most outlandish and popular of these conspiracy theories and the lengths some of those believers will go to justify them. These theories include ties to the Holocaust, faking the moon landing, and even retelling Greek myths.
It’s a captivating look at how frequently people over-analyze the media they consume to the point of absurdity, and Ascher does a great job highlighting the irony in these mostly conflicting interpretations.
The film revisits the “Manacled Mormon Case” from the 1970s, where a former beauty queen from Wyoming flew to England, kidnapped the Mormon missionary she’d fallen in love with (aided by a man enamored with her), held him captive in a small cottage, and raped him. Joyce McKinney, the truly bizarre beauty queen, has been in and out of the tabloids since.
The documentary is narrated mostly by McKinney herself, which only serves to highlight the absurdity of her claims and unreliable narration without openly contradicting her. This narration allows for a bizarre story to unfold over the next few decades of her increasingly strange behavior and legal troubles. Overall, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.
The Wolfpack (2015)
Locked in their NYC apartment by a paranoid father, the six Angulo brothers spent most of their early lives inside. The only escape they found was through cinema. They found their window to the outside world in the form of popular films that offered a glimpse of life beyond their tiny apartment. They began to re-enact their favorite scenes and emulate their favorite characters. In early 2010 – and after 14 years spent entirely in that tiny apartment – the boys escaped and went out to explore the city around them as they pleased.
It was there that director Crystal Moselle met the siblings and quickly befriended them based on their shared love of film. For the next four years, she would film each new “first” they experienced – from riding bikes to going to the beach – and documented their growth away from the life they’d known inside.
Finders Keepers (2015)
In the category of too weird to be true, there’s this hidden gem. In 2004, a man purchased a barbecue smoker from a storage unit auction. Inside, he discovers a partially mummified human leg. Horrified yet? Don’t worry. It gets weirder! The owner of the leg comes looking for it and wants it back. Thus begins the weirdest custody battle North Carolina has ever seen.
It’s far from being a story about two hillbillies fighting in what seems to be the most ridiculous feud ever. The documentary is a thoughtful depiction of two men whose lives become tied together in a way neither expected.
The Queen of Versailles (2012)
In 2004, a wealthy real estate capitalist and his wife began building a palace. Designed with opulence and extravagance, the couple refers to the home as “Versailles,” modeled after the French palace of the same name. It’s gaudy nature–and outrageous price tag (over $100 million at this point)–drew immediate attention.
Then the 2008 recession hits.
The film focuses entirely on the pursuit of excess and luxury, even during an economic crisis as the family scrambles to survive without their bevy of servants and curbing truly excessive shopping habits. It’s no less timely now than when it was first released.
Crazy Love (2007)
Most love stories follow a standard trajectory: two people meet, fall in love, overcome their obstacles, and then live happily ever after. True life – and true crime – are never that simple. In the case of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach, the story is so much more dysfunctional. After ending her relationship with Pugach in 1959, Linda Riss opened her front door one day and had lye thrown in her face, blinding her. The mastermind behind the scheme? Her ex-boyfriend. 13 years later, they were married.
It’s a story of obsession, revenge, love, guilt, and insanity tangled up into an unusual look at two people whose path together doesn’t make sense.
In 1982, three 11-year old boys in Mississippi began making their film. Not just any film, either, but a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. For the next six years, they spend their summers recreating every scene, replicating impossible set pieces and costumes with the kind of ingenuity only kids can have from the original film with themselves, their family, and friends as the cast and crew.
Unfortunately, they never finished one scene – the iconic airplane propeller fight.
35 years later, the trio gets back together to complete the missing piece of their masterpiece. Telling the story through archival footage and their modern efforts at amateur filmmaking, Raiders is an enthusiastic, hilarious journey through fandom, friendship, obsession, and very poorly supervised kids with explosives.
In 2003, a local pizza man steps into a Pennsylvania bank with a bomb collar around his neck. In a little under an hour, he was dead. And that’s only the beginning of this story detailing the most bizarre bank heist we’ve ever heard of. The four-part series explores the murder of Brian Wells while addressing the conspiracies and unanswered questions that remained long after a conviction has been made in the case.
That’s our list of entertaining and weird documentaries for your next binge. We’d love to know what makes your movie night! What’s your favorite weird documentary?