Hit documentary series Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. is still trending since its release on 16th March as more and more Netflix-ers are drawn in by the scandalous and juicy true story of Sarma Melngallis, the titular Bad Vegan. The unraveling of a lengthy game of deception behind the arrest of the celebrity vegan restauranteur has left many with a taste for more.
Bad Vegan features themes of manipulation, cult conspiracy, the cut-throat restaurant industry, and true crime. The following docs share a few of these things in common, as well as being just as digestable and dramatic in their twists and turns. It’s far too easy to devour the moreish four-episode Bad Vegan in one sitting, so here are 10 more intriguing true stories for fans of the doc that also find their home on Netflix.
This film chronicles how entrepreneur (and friend of Anna Delvey) Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule coordinated one of the most infamous failures in event planning that the internet has ever seen. A festival promoted to luxury clients, the catastrophic failure of operations showed how deceptive marketing can be. Not only does it show the well-documented effect on stranded, hungry, and stiffed guests, but it also highlights the environmental and social burden that fell on the residents of the island of Great Exuma.
Fyre is the previous work by Bad Vegan director, Chris Smith, in which he looks into the story behind another notorious scammer behind viral headlines. He’s certainly a director to watch on the pop culture documentary front and looking back on his first Netflix hit show that there are many more dramatic stories to be told.
Recently released to horrified reaction, Our Father follows Jacoba Ballard and her 50-plus half-siblings as they attempt to discover the truth behind their conception. The father in question is popular fertility doctor Donald Cline, who operated in the ’70s and ’80s and inseminated hopeful mothers with his own semen before DNA ancestry was a concept. Touching on cults, eugenics, and fraud, this wacky story shows how one man can cause so much chaos with his unique crimes.
Also trending as a watercooler topic, this is another riveting story of a conspiracy of control coordinated by one man. Jacoba is also reminiscent of Sarma, as they both attempt to find the meaning behind the crimes of domineering manipulators and find cult leanings of their abusers – real or imagined.
This Is A Robbery documents the events of the famous 1990 art theft at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The burglars entered dressed as policemen and stole 13 priceless paintings including two Rembrandts and a Vermeer. The doc follows the investigation and multitude of leads following the most expensive and devastating art theft, as well as exploring the world of art theft (and greed) in general.
A fascinating subject matter with a neat four episodes that can be binged in one night, similar to Bad Vegan. With its investigative elements, the official’s search into the multitude of possible leads in locating the one-off paintings will inspire anyone’s amateur sleuth to come out.
Bourdain ran Brasserie des Halles for 25 years in Manhattan and was a fixture of the restaurant scene in the early 2000s when Sarma’s Pure Food and Wine was on the up. He travels the world in 12 brilliant seasons of Parts Unknown, with amazing guests such as Barack Obama and Iggy Pop, to explore cities’ unique cultures through their tasty dishes. In his final episode (“Lower East Side”) he visits the borough’s up-and-coming eateries and unpacks NYC’s foodie history.
If the NYC culinary culture of Sarma’s popular vegan restaurant was intriguing, before its ultimate fall, try the late chefs acclaimed food travel docuseries. Although Bourdain famously compared vegans to “a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn,” this will satisfy any desire to understand a restauranteur’s love of what they do.
A digestible three-episode story, The Puppet Master is told from the perspective of the heartbroken Clifton family, whose mother Sandra has been missing for seven years after fleeing with notorious conman Robert Hendy-Freegard. Convicted in 2005 for using a fake MI5 identity to manipulate and dupe families out of their fortunes, this documentary unravels a web of cons from a career fraudster.
Like Bad Vegan, this is an investigative docuseries about people who will lie and cheat as much as they can to get exactly what they want. Viewers will love this intriguing deep dive into the psyche of master manipulators.
Using lies, a particular dating app, and a whole lot of gall, Simon Leviev duped several victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often pressuring them to max out credit cards with the promise of repayment, his charm and lies put hopeless romantics into heaps of debt. A wild international investigation followed, comprised of a team made up of the very women he swindled.
Another addition to anyone’s “Summer of the Scammer” binge-watch list, like Bad Vegan, The Tinder Swindler is another fraudster that took advantage of women only to fund a penchant for designer purchases and luxury experiences rather than excessive gambling and Dominos like Anthony Strangis. This is surely an interesting doc for those who couldn’t believe that Sarma fell for the hustle, as Simon’s victims illustrate how easily they fell under his spell.
Gerry Cotton was a Canadian cryptocurrency pioneer who suspiciously died in India in 2018, leaving behind $215 million in investors’ currency as he was the only holder of all the passwords to access the funds. The investors turn into investigators as they attempt to discover the truth behind his untimely death and missing money. Did he fake his death, or was the money never invested in the first place?
As with Bad Vegan, the show allows viewers to deduce your their conclusions after a fast-paced, dramatic ride. It will raise questions such as if one could fall for such a con, and how far one would go to get answers.
“Tell me who I am” is what Alex asked of his family after a motorcycle accident left him with severe amnesia. His twin, Marcus, teaches him about his life but hides the heavy burden of a family secret from his brother. Both twins take part in the documentary, which was chosen as part of the BFI festival selection, and come to terms with the lies and the consequences of those lies.
This doc also shows a look into big secrets and the manipulation of others, instead, showing how this tool can be used for a perceived greater good as well as total self-serving wickedness.
The latest entry, released on Netflix on 8 June, Keep Sweet is another docuseries that is an insightful yet terrifying look into cult behavior. It follows the life of cult leader Warren Jeffs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an extreme denomination of Mormonism. He famously had 78 wives and was accused of such wide-scale abuse that he was on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a deep dive into the cult-ish means of manipulation that Shane Fox used in Bad Vegan, but on an industrial scale. Fans of Bad Vegan will eat up this stranger-than-fiction documentary.
Amanda Knox was twice convicted and then acquitted for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, in 2006. The case attracted wide international attention due to sensationalized tabloid stories by Daily Mail journalist Nick Pisa, who features as an unapologetic talking head. It also features Amanda herself asserting her innocence, as well as notable figures such as Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, who has always maintained his belief in Knox’s guilt.
This twice Emmy nominated one-off documentary also concerns one woman at the center of headlines, telling her truth to clear her name. Featuring witnesses and experts from both sides of the argument concerning Knox’s culpability in the crime, this doc will keep minds turning about who is actually at fault, as with the controversial ending clip of Bad Vegan.
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