Charlie Swinbourne: My top 10 subtitled programmes on Netflix UK

Posted on January 13, 2016

When on-demand video started, one of the biggest bugbears deaf people had was about programmes and films not being subtitled.

The situation, at least as far as Netflix and Amazon Prime are concerned, has improved massively (BBC iPlayer has always been a step ahead) and now it’s rare for me to choose a programme that I discover isn’t subtitled.

Having made a documentary last year, you’ll see quite a few docs in this list, with a couple of comedies thrown in. Below, in no particular order, are ten programmes that have stuck in my mind, or made me laugh, or occasionally, both.


Making a Murderer

This ten-part documentary series managed to wipe out about three days over Christmas, because once I got into this bizarre story of a man imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit, released, only to then be accused of murder, well, I just had to find out how it ended.

The footage is unbelievable, with the documentary taking us through court cases, police interviews, press conferences, and interviews with everyone involved. This programme will make you look at the justice system in America in a whole new light.


Give Up Tomorrow

If you like Making a Murderer, you’ll also be intrigued by this documentary about a teenager in the Phillipines who is convicted of murdering two women in 1997.

Again, there’s remarkable footage of the process he goes through, but there’s also a troubling end when you realise that the justice he receives comes with severe contradictions.


It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

This comedy series doesn’t shy away from tackling tricky subjects like racism, homophobia, sexism, and just about anything else that you can think of, with an edgy, not particularly PC, improvised feel. And it stars Danny De Vito.

They’ve already made ten series, and they’re making two more, so there’s tonnes of episodes to watch. That said, I ration myself to an episode every other day as I don’t want to run out too quickly.


Atari: Game Over

If you remember the early days of computer games, and are old enough to have once owned an Atari (I was born a little late, I’m a Sega Mega Drive person) then you’ll enjoy this documentary about what really led to the demise of the company. Is the rumours that it was the failed ET game true?

What I enjoyed most about it was seeing some of the computer game designers talk about the games they created – and the mischief they got up to when, for a while, geeks became like rock stars.


Trailer Park Boys

This is another semi-improvised comedy series I’ve really enjoyed, set on a trailer park in Canada.

It seems to be inspired by The Office, as the premise is that a documentary is being made about the people who live on the park (so there’s lots of glances at the camera). What makes it work is the dynamic of the characters. It’s ridiculous, but just about real (or natural) enough to make it work.

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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

This documentary is about the abuse suffered by Deaf children at a Catholic school in America, and how they battled to tell people what had happened to them. It’s also about how the system made it harder for them to gain justice.

It’s not an easy watch at all, it left me feeling very angry, but with a lot of admiration for the Deaf men who’d bravely spoken out. It’s a really well-constructed documentary, made by Oscar winning documentary maker Alex Gibney (who was interviewed for this site about the film here).

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I first saw this documentary on BBC iPlayer, and it had my wife and I on the edge of our seats.

It’s about Killer Whales in captivity, and one whale in particular at Sea World that has killed or injured several of its trainers. This one changes what you think about how animals should be looked after (and has led to Sea World’s policies – and profit margins – changing radically).


All This Mayhem

This is the story of two Australian brothers who became the best skateboarders in the world is probably the programme that I found most compelling when I first watched it.

It’s one of those true stories that is so unbelievable, it couldn’t be written as a drama. You’d get laughed out of the room.

The trouble is that the brothers are completely unprepared for fame and wealth, and so, just at the peak of their powers, things start to go wrong, then keep getting much, much worse. By the end you find yourself shaking your head, staring into the distance.

Mayhem doesn’t really cover it.


Stories We Tell

This is a brilliant documentary which, as well as telling an intriguing story in its own right (about identity and family), is really all about the nature of stories, and points of view. It starts slow, but bear with it – it’s worth it.


Dreams of a Life

This has to be the saddest programme I’ve seen. It’s about a woman whose body was discovered in her London flat three years after she’d died. The documentary tries to piece her life together, interviewing those who knew her, asking how she fell off everyone’s radar.

It’s a disturbing story, and one that feels incomplete (the woman’s family declined to take part). But in some way it brings her memory back to life, and has a quite remarkable final shot that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it.

What are your favourites? Tell us below!

Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being an award-winning filmmaker. He directed the comedies The Kiss and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool, and his documentary Found, about people discovering the Deaf world, came out last year. As a journalist, he has written for the Guardian and BBC Online.

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