6 Documentaries as Wild as "Tiger King"
If you have access to the internet, then you’ve likely been immersed in the deafening chatter surrounding “Tiger King.” I guess when you release a multi-part docuseries about an over-the-top Oklahoma man who owns 176 tigers, has five husbands, and talks about murdering a rival cat breeder, you’ll spark a few conversations. The now-notorious Netflix docuseries, about the bizarre and lawless world of big cat breeding, does not disappoint when it comes to jaw-dropping storylines and plot twists. But it’s probably safe to say that you’ve had your fill of the never-ending references and memes by now — we get it, the internet thinks Carole Baskin fed her ex-husband to a tiger. If you’re ready for a new strange and unpredictable story, here are five documentaries on Topic that are just as transfixing as “Tiger King.”
Terlingua, Texas is a tiny off-the-grid community, and I do mean tiny. The population is a mighty 58. In a place like this, it’s safe to say that everyone knows each other and life is simple and predictable. So when the beloved owner of the town bar is murdered, minds are bound to start spinning and questions will start flying. Soon the once-quiet community finds itself divided and, ultimately, the residents are forced to reevaluate themselves. “Badlands, Texas” follows the murder trial of Glenn Felts and the subsequent unraveling of a town that perhaps needed to be woken up from their usual existence anyway.
“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” will make your blood boil and your jaw drop. The true crime documentary follows the murder of Andrew Bagby, who was shot point blank by a scorned lover. The story takes a dark turn when it’s revealed that she is pregnant with their baby, sparking a heartbreaking custody battle between Bagby’s parents and his murderer. Here comes the blood-boiling part: what Bagby’s parents had to endure — in addition to losing their son — to win custody of their only grandson is almost impossible to fathom, from negotiating with a psychopath, to battling international politics, and a massive betrayal that reopened old wounds.
“Death in the Terminal” captures the unfolding of a terrorist attack in an Israeli bus station, but the story is not at all what it seems. Told through security footage, cellphone videos, and eyewitness accounts, this chilling documentary hurls the viewer inside the chaos, with one resounding message: sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, you actually have no idea what the f*ck is going on. Eighteen minutes in, two men are dead, but who are they? Did officials stop the right person? Was there really a terrorist? “Death in the Terminal” uses the premise of a terrorist attack to expose the dangers of human judgment when clouded by fear, chaos, and prejudice.
It’s a classic tale of “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” In 1986, the city of Cleveland attempted to set the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest balloon launch in history by simultaneously releasing 1.5 million balloons over the city. Besides not considering what would happen to 1.5 million pieces of litter, the organizers could have never imagined that their festive story would have such a tragic ending. And after all of that, the Guinness Book of World Records didn’t even end up recognizing the event. Talk about an epic fail.
Speaking of epic fails, how does a company get rid of a massive and embarrassing failure? Sometimes you have to literally bury it. In 1982, Atari was the most innovative gaming console in history, and the fastest-growing company in the world. Its head designer, Howard Scott Warshaw, was practically revered as a god in the gaming community. So how did he end up designing what is considered to be the worst video game of all time? “Atari: Game Over” is an eye-opening look at how one man’s hubris can topple an empire and the lengths a company will go to cover up their misstep. Now if only we could bury all of our embarrassing mistakes next to the E.T. game.
We all want to make more money. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just...make more money? That expression takes on a whole new meaning in this docuseries that explores the craft of creating your own currency. The three-episode series follows the history of two alternative currencies in the U.S., BerkShares in Massachusetts — which is still in use today! — and the Liberty Dollar in Florida; two Copenhagen residents who use their art as currency; and Frank Bourassa, the self-declared “world’s greatest counterfeiter” who somehow only served six weeks in prison after being caught with $250 million worth of fake bills. So who wants to start a currency with us using toilet paper? Any takers?