Just watched Tiger King? You’re going to want to see Louis Theroux’s doco with Joe Exotic.


The seven-part Netflix documentary series Tiger King is set to be one of their most watched true crime offerings of all time.

The series follows the story of Joe Exotic, a flamboyant animal enthusiast with multiple husbands, and owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, one of the largest private zoos in the country.

We learn that there are more tigers in American backyards than in the wild – as many as 10,000 held captive around the country.

And that’s when we meet Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue.

From there, every scene gets weirder, and every character more eccentric. There’s a twisted murder plot, a missing husband who was allegedly fed to the tigers, polygamy, a country music career, an amputated arm, and that’s just the beginning.

For some viewers, Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, might have looked familiar.

And that would be because in 2011, Joe featured prominently in Louis Theroux’s  BBC documentary America’s Most Dangerous Pets. 

Video by BBC

The episode has Theroux travel through the United States, meeting people who own animals like lions, tigers, bears and chimpanzees, normally found in America, Africa and Asia. He speaks to Joe, and a number of other men and women, about why they choose to keep wild and potentially dangerous animals as pets.

But just as Theroux’s time with Joe begins, they receive news that a tornado is imminent, so all Joe’s animals, including 176 tigers, have to go into lockdown. Tornados are particularly dangerous because if they compromise the infrastructure of the zoo, tigers can escape and wreak havoc on the community.

When Theroux asks if there is anything he can do to be of assistance, Joe says they might have to hand him a gun. As much as he doesn’t want to shoot any of the animals, if they escape, they will be left with no choice.

Later in the documentary, Joe says of one of his lions: “If he was to get you and not kill you and eat you right away, he’s going to torment you… So, if you were to get in there and I was out here trying to get you out he would be on top of you covering you up. I’d just shoot you, it would be more humane.”

Theroux replies, “You would shoot me? In the head?”

Joe laughs and says, “Yeah… because I’m not going to get you back. So why make you suffer?”

Theroux is visibly shocked.

The documentary shows a slightly different side of Joe, highlighting his role in rescuing animals, including leopards and tigers, from people who can no longer care from them.


Since the release of Tiger King, Theroux posted to Twitter with the comment: Just finished watching Tiger King on Netflix. I have a lot of thoughts which I’ll post in a considered form in the next day or two. In the meantime, here is me and Joe back in the day and a link to the doc I did on player…

You can watch America’s Most Dangerous Pets on Stan, which has an entire collection dedicated to Theroux’s documentaries.

If you’re in the mood to binge watch a bunch of Louis Theroux’s documentaries, then here’s a list of all his best work, ranked.

The top 14 Louis Theroux documentaries of all time. Ranked.

14. Louis Theroux: Gambling in Las Vegas (2007)

Theroux travels to the Las Vegas Hilton and spends time with people who are addicted to gambling. One woman, a retired doctor, has gambled away $4 million of her life savings in seven years.

13.  Louis Theroux: Behind Bars (2008)

Set inside America’s most notorious prison, San Quentin, Theroux speaks to serial murderers, at-risk inmates, gang members and prison guards.

When it first aired in the UK, Behind Bars was the tenth most watched program of the last decade on BBC2.

12. Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity (2015)

A two-part documentary, By Reason of Insanity explores the lives of psychiatric patients at two hospitals in the United States. Each of these patients have been acquitted of serious, and often horrifically violent crimes, by reason of insanity.

11. Louis and The Nazis (2003)

Theroux travels to California to spend time with the man believed to be “the most dangerous racist in America”, Tom Metzger.

One of the most remarkable moments of the documentary is when Metzger asks Theroux outright if he is Jewish, and Theroux refuses to answer the question. Despite the fact that Theroux is not Jewish, he allows the tension to escalate, revealing a side of Metzger viewers might not have otherwise seen.

10. Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles (2009)

Theroux spends time with patients in California’s Coalinga Mental Hospital, which is home to more than 500 convicted paedophiles who have been deemed unsafe for release.

9. Louis Theroux Dark States: Heroin Town (2017)

Part of Theroux’s Dark States series, Heroin Town explores the opiate crisis crippling the community of Huntington, West Virginia.

He sits with a young woman while she injects heroin, putting a microscope on a nationwide epidemic that claims more lives in the United States than car accidents or gun crime.

For the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the US is declining, with many experts insisting that heroin overdoses are a primary cause.

8. Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (2015)

A feature length, big screen documentary, My Scientology Movie explores the infamous Church of Scientology and what compels the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta to stay.

The film alleges the Church has enacted “terroristic activities”, and speaks to former senior church official Mark Rathbun. The Church turns its own cameras on Theroux once they discover his interest, leading to multiple confrontations between the documentary maker and his subject.

7. Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion (2016)

Theroux heads to Europe’s largest liver transplant centre to spend time with patients in the grips of alcohol addiction. He learns about the physical side effects of alcoholism and the real challenges faced by the medical community and family members in treating it.

6. Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: Among the Sex Offenders (2014)

California has some of the toughest regulations in the United States when it comes to sex offenders. Theroux visits the paroled offenders now living on the fringes of society, where redemption seems impossible.

5. Mothers on the Edge (2019)

Theroux spends time with mothers experiencing serious mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Inside two UK specialist psychiatric units he learns of their backstories, including birth trauma and the pressures of motherhood.

4. Louis Theroux’s Altered States: Choosing Death (2018)

Immersing himself in the world of assisted dying, Theroux meets four people preparing to take a lethal but legally prescribed overdose.

They grapple with trying to choose the ‘right’ time and communicating that with the people they love.

3. Louis Theroux: Louis and the Brothel (2003)

Theroux spends time at the Wild Horse Adult Resort and Spa, a brothel in Nevada, and gets to know the sex workers and their clients. He befriends a young sex worker named Hayley, who only agrees to an interview if he lets her perform a massage.

2. The Night in Question (2019)

Theroux delves into the subject of rape on college campuses in the United States, first interviewing two college students accused of sexual assault.

A twist part the way through the documentary, that shocks even Theroux, turns the tables on one of his key interview subjects.

1. The Most Hated Family in America (2007)

The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, mostly made up of one family, are known for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and broadcasting their extreme homophobia.

Theroux gets to know the children, including Meghan Phelps, who would years later defect from the family church.

What documentaries did we miss? Let us know in the comments below. 

You can watch pretty much all Louis Theroux’s documentaries on Stan. 

Feature image: BBC.