100 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This January

Because people say there are no good movies on Netflix anymore.

A new year has arrived, and with it Netflix has introduced some more great documentaries to its streaming library. And will add a few more essentials through January. You could possibly consider the transgender-child doc Growing Up Coy the first great release of 2017 (see our review from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival), since its January 6th arrival is technically its public release premiere.

Other new docs on Netflix include some of the best of last year, such as Homeland: Iraq Year Zero, which is this site’s #2 pick on our list of the greatest docs of 2016. Hieronymus Bosch, Touched by the Devil is one of the docs that made it a special year for films about art and artists. And both Miss Sharon Jones (arriving on the 7th) and Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World appear in our annual best-of poll results.

The other three docs added to our Netflix 100 this month are older films we love, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me and God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan. With all these newcomers and nothing expired, we had to reluctantly drop these films, some of which aren’t aging well right now: The Endless Summer, Detropia, The Queen of Versailles, Cartel Land, Western and Our Last Tango.

Also we removed Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss and Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, which he co-directed. Because we don’t need all of Herzog’s films on here. Don’t worry, he’s still got seven others here.

Now a reminder of how the Netflix 100 titles are numerically arranged:

They are mostly ranked in order of my favor with some objective authority, but there are some clumps throughout the list that obviously fit together. Some are by director, some are by genre or subject matter and some are by series. In fact, I see this whole list as being best watched in order of the rankings.

There are a few double features in the bunch (Super Size Me and Super High Me and GasLand and FrackNation, for two example sets) and some groupings where I truly think the higher ranking title is best watched before a certain title or titles below it (Into the Inferno is sort of a sequel to Encounters at the End of the World and The Look of Silence is sort of a sequel to The Act of Killing, for two example sets).

  1. Homeland: Iraq Year Zero (Abbas Fahdel, 2016)
  2. Growing Up Coy (Eric Juhola, 2016)
  3. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog, 2016)
  4. Hieronymus Bosch, Touched by the Devil (Pieter van Huystee, 2015)
  5. Miss Sharon Jones! (Barbara Kopple, 2015)
  6. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Jon M. Chu, 2011)
  7. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Chiemi Karasawa, 2013)
  8. God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan (Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker, 2006)
  9. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)
  10. Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)
  11. Brother’s Keeper (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1992)
  12. Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 1992)
  13. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 2003)
  14. The Act of Killing: Director’s Cut (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
  15. The Look of Silence (Joshua Opppenheimer, 2014)
  16. Under the Sun (Vitaly Mansky, 2015)
  17. Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
  18. Super High Me (Michael Blieden, 2007)
  19. Expedition to the End of the World (Daniel Dencik, 2013)
  20. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)
  21. Into the Inferno (Werner Herzog, 2016)
  22. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2010)
  23. Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog, 1992)
  24. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
  25. Moana With Sound (Robert J. Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty and Monica Flaherty, 1926/1980)
  26. Approaching the Elephant (Amanda Wilder, 2014)
  27. Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel, 2015)
  28. In the Basement (Ulrich Seidl, 2014)
  29. Rats (Morgan Spurlock, 2016)
  30. The Nightmare (Rodney Ascher, 2015)
  31. My Beautiful Broken Brain (Sophie Robinson and Lotje Sodderland, 2014)
  32. Particle Fever (Mark Levinson, 2013)
  33. Extremis (Dan Krauss, 2016)
  34. Casting By (Tom Donahue, 2012)
  35. Lost in La Mancha (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, 2002)
  36. Looking for Richard (Al Pacino, 1996)
  37. The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)
  38. Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, 2015)
  39. Stray Dog (Debra Granik, 2014)
  40. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Werner Herzog, 1997)
  41. Last Days in Vietnam (Rory Kennedy, 2014)
  42. 1971 (Johanna Hamilton, 2014)
  43. The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Bill Siegel, 2013)
  44. 13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
  45. The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 (Goran Olsson, 2011)
  46. Concerning Violence (Goran Olsson, 2014)
  47. Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2014)
  48. The Ivory Game (Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, 2016)
  49. How to Survive a Plague (David France, 2012)
  50. We Were Here (David Weissman and Bill Weber, 2011)
  51. Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
  52. Sunshine Superman (Marah Strauch, 2014)
  53. Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, 2011)
  54. Rich Hill (Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, 2014)
  55. White Earth (Christian Jensen, 2014)
  56. The Overnighters (Jesse Moss, 2014)
  57. Pervert Park (Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors, 2014)
  58. Vernon, Florida (Errol Morris, 1981)
  59. The Chinese Mayor (Hao Zhou, 2015)
  60. Street Fight (Marshall Curry, 2005)
  61. Democrats (Camilla Nielsson, 2014)
  62. The Square (Jehane Noujaim, 2013)
  63. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky, 2015)
  64. The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2016)
  65. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Alex Gibney, 2005)
  66. Kids for Cash (Robert May, 2013)
  67. The Farm: Angola USA (Liz Garbus, 1998)
  68. Evolution of a Criminal (Darius Clark Monroe, 2014)
  69. (T)error (Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, 2015)
  70. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
  71. Gasland (Josh Fox, 2010)
  72. FrackNation (Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, 2013)
  73. Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley, 2013)
  74. Of Men and War (Laurent Becue-Renard, 2014)
  75. Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis, 2011)
  76. Mala Mala (Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, 2014)
  77. My Prairie Home (Chelsea McMullan, 2013)
  78. Presenting Princess Shaw (Ido Haar, 2015)
  79. Justin Timberlake + Tennesse Kids (Jonathan Demme, 2016)
  80. What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus, 2015)
  81. Beware of Mr. Baker (Jay Bulger, 2012)
  82. Kurt & Courtney (Nick Broomfield, 1998)
  83. Kumare (Vikram Gandhi, 2011)
  84. Holy Hell (Will Allen, 2016)
  85. Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 2006)
  86. Trapped (Dawn Porter, 2016)
  87. Pumping Iron (George Butler and Robert Fiore, 1977)
  88. Bigger, Stronger, Faster (Chris Bell, 2008)
  89. Print the Legend (Luis Lopez and J. Clay Tweel, 2014)
  90. Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, 2013)
  91. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)
  92. Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (Kevin Macdonald, 2016)
  93. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman, 2012)
  94. Hooligan Sparrow (Nanfu Wang, 2016)
  95. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011)
  96. More Than Honey (Markus Imhoof, 2012)
  97. Tabloid (Errol Morris, 2010)
  98. Amanda Knox (Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, 2016)
  99. The Witness (James D. Solomon, 2015)
  100. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.