11 scandalous documentaries that will shock you

17.07.2020Julia Stolpovskaya

Wouldn’t you like to know a little truth? Uncover a couple of dirty secrets of celebrities, politicians, international corporations and entire nations? See the world in a new way and then spend the evening in heated arguments with friends? Yes? Then this text is for you.

We have collected 11 outstanding documentaries that told the world the stories of high-profile scandals or became a sensation themselves. Watch out! By looking at everything, you can get rid of too many illusions and become a different person.


Filthy Rich.

Obscenely rich

This show from Netflix centers on the life of rich and powerful businessman Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein raped underage girls for decades. However, despite the testimony of hundreds of victims, went unpunished.

Even after Epstein was finally taken into custody in 2018 and his trial began, the victims were not morally satisfied. The rapist committed suicide in the lockup, leaving investigators and the public with more questions than answers.

The documentary centers on the women Jeffrey Epstein forced to have sex with him or his powerful friends. Victims recount how they were lured to a rich man’s Palm Beach home or his private island and subjected to humiliation that is hard to forget. The girls emphasize: Epstein is only the tip of the iceberg and justice has not yet been served.

The documentary paints Ghislaine Maxwell as an accessory to Jeffrey’s crimes (which she herself denies). The tape also mentions Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Britain’s Prince Andrew – all of whom have occasionally visited Epstein (but they deny it).



Leaving Neverland.

Leaving Neverland

A 2019 documentary directed and produced by Dan Reed. The show centers on two men, Wade Robson and James Seifchuck, who claim to have been sexually abused as children by singer Michael Jackson.

“Leaving Neverland” tells how Jackson supposedly bonded with two young fans, who were 7 and 10 years old at the time, and their families. The movie includes interviews with Seifchak and Robson, as well as their mothers, wives, brothers and sisters. The viewer observes a picture of sustained violence as the authors explore the complex feelings of two now grown men, after both have had sons. Watch both parts of the show on All 4.


HyperNormalisation (“HyperNormalization”)


“Hypernormalization” is a 2016 BBC documentary film directed by Adam Curtis. The strip argues that since the 1970s, government, financiers and technological utopians have begun to build a “fake world” run by corporations with the support of politicians.

The movie was shot in an unusual technique – it consists entirely of historical newsreel footage and old news stories. A voice-over narrates the unexpected interconnections of past events and explains how the decisions of politicians have caused modern society to lose touch with reality.

The term “Hypernormalization” is taken from Alexei Yurchak’s book It Was Forever Until It Was Over (2006), which describes the paradoxes of life in the USSR during the last 20 years of its existence. Jurczak, a professor of anthropology at the University of California (Berkeley), argues that everyone envisioned the collapse of the system, but no one envisioned an alternative. Politicians and citizens have resigned themselves to the need for a pretend society. Over time, this misconception became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the “fake” was mistaken for the real thing. This effect has been called “hypernormalization” by Yurchak.


Citizenfour (“Snowden’s Truth”).

Snowden's truth

The movie focuses on the 2014 spy scandal, when Edward Snowden released classified documents about US intelligence agencies’ surveillance of the country’s residents.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras was researching the use of post-9/11 monitoring systems in the United States and received an email from a man named Citizenfour who offered to help her. The citizen turned out to be Snowden. The documentary mentions the initial meetings between Poitras, Snowden and The Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill, and the implications of releasing classified data to the media.

Citizenfour is a close look at one of the most controversial stories in recent years. The movie can be seen on YouTube and on Google Play.




Brian Vogel couldn’t believe that his rivals in the Haute Route and Tour de France are really as good as they seem. So he set out to prove how easy it is for cyclists to circumvent anti-doping measures. He was assisted by experts, including the head of Russia’s anti-doping agency, Grigory Rodchenkov.

Rodchenkov revealed how athletes in Russia use doping under state patronage, and the scale of the problem led Vogel to change the subject of the documentary. Rodchenkov, fearing for his life, fled to the United States. And Russian athletes entered a long struggle for the right to compete in international competitions.

This candid movie shows the underbelly of the cover-up of banned stimulants and makes you wonder how many other athletes are playing by the rules. You can watch “Icarus” on Netflix.


An Open Secret.

It's a well-known secret

Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg spoke out about the issue of sexual harassment in Hollywood long before the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Released in 2014, the documentary was negatively received in Hollywood. None of the movie distributors, TV stations or streaming services wanted to stream it.

The tape claims that industry figures raped boys who were about to embark on an acting career. It’s about five former child actors who were sexually abused by multiple Hollywood bosses. Much of the movie focuses on Mark Collins-Rector, later convicted of child sexual abuse. He was co-owner and manager of Digital Entertainment Network (DEN). The company produced short online videos in the early days of the Internet and was known for wild parties involving underage boys at the Collins-Rector home. An Open Secret is available on Vimeo.


Fire in the Blood.

Fire in the blood

The authors describe the tape as a story about “medicine, monopoly and malice.” It’s about how the Western pharmaceutical industry has been blocking African countries’ access to cheap HIV drugs since 1996. The movie shows the stark contrast in the treatments available in America and other countries around the world. The AIDS epidemic continues to rage in low-income states, even though patients have long been treatable with affordable antiretroviral drugs. Criminal policies have caused ten to twelve million avoidable deaths.

In November 2018, legendary Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger included Fire in the Blood in his selection of “26 landmark documentaries of the last seven decades.” You can watch the movie on Netflix.


Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator.

Bikram - Yogi, guru, predator.

Bikram yoga came into existence in the 1970s and has since gained worldwide accolades from celebrities. Bikram yoga is a patented system of 26 movements. Classes are held indoors, which is very hot. One of the main secrets behind the popularity of this trend is its enigmatic founder Bikram Chowdhury.

The documentary reveals the unflattering secrets of the Chowdhury empire. In recent years, Chowdhury was accused of rape and fled the United States after refusing to pay $6.8 million in civil lawsuits. The movie, published on Netflix, tells the guru’s story from the perspective of his victims.

Fyre Festival.

Fyre Festival

The Fyre Festival was a complete disaster. Shocking footage capturing the so-called “luxury event” was actively posted by participants on social media. The music festival took place in the summer of 2017 and is remembered as a monstrous disappointment.

Created by Billy McFarland (CEO of Fyre Media Inc.) and rapper Ja Rule, the event was announced as the premier event of the year. Influencers, celebrities and musicians have been announced among the participants. What really happened? Chaos, lack of tents, debts… The documentary tells the story of a huge scandal and explains why a good idea turned out to be a failure. You can watch the tape on Netflix.


Dirty Money.

Dirty money

This six-part Netflix project explores the murky world of finance. The movie reveals how banks knowingly launder drug cartel funds, car manufacturers falsify emissions tests, and pharmaceutical companies unreasonably raise drug prices to pay bonuses to their executives.

Each episode tells a depressingly familiar story of corporations that ignore morality in the pursuit of profit, evade justice and, in many cases, end up reaping the rewards of their criminal behavior.




This Netflix original documentary explores the history of racial issues in the United States. The show is named in honor of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which formally led to the prohibition of slavery. But opponents of equality have come up with a new way to put black Americans in chains – declare them all criminals.

The documentary traces how the criminalization and marginalization of black men in the United States has evolved since the abolition of slavery. The disenfranchisement of African Americans, lynchings, the war on drugs, and other historical events led to the mass incarceration of black people in the United States in the late twentieth century. The show reveals the underbelly of the prison-industrial complex, which makes fabulous sums of money from inmates.

“13th” was warmly received by movie critics. Director Ava DuVernay’s film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, won an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary Feature, and won the Critic’s Choice award for Best Political Documentary.


Read also:

Ekaterina Shulman: “The New Normal: What We Know About How Russian Society is Changing”

‘Shaken, not stirred’: the best movies about British spies

10 public scandals involving members of the British royal family

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