100 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This October


Netflix may not be holding onto a lot of their classic documentaries — Hoop Dreams is gone again! — but this fall they’re adding a handful of very good originals. This week sees the debut of Ava DuVernay’s powerful feature 13th, for instance (that’s an image from the film above, by the way, allowing us two Cory Booker header images in a row).

And last weekend had the premiere of the problematic but compelling Amanda Knox (see my new piece on the doc at Film School Rejects). Plus Kevin Macdonald’s Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (see my ★★★★ review) drops on October 14th.

Additionally, I’ve been catching up on this year’s releases and finally discovered the wonderful My Beautiful Broken Brain. If you’re wondering where some other new Netflix originals are, well, I sadly was disappointed by the very inconsistently directed Audrie & Daisy. And Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno doesn’t release until October 28th, so I figured that’s late enough to save it for later.

In anticipation of that, however, Netflix brought back some other Herzog titles, so we’ve added Grizzly Man, Lessons of Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly and the collaboration Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. Rounding out the new additions is Holy Hell, which was on our list of the best docs of Sundance this year.

As for what that means for removals, it’s not too bad. Well, it is bad that in addition to Hoop Dreams some other great docs have expired from Netflix streaming, including Best of Enemies, Caucus, Evolution of a Criminal, Girl Model and Lady Valor. Also, Actress expires Friday so watch that one ASAP!

For the other three that needed to be removed, I decided to take off the two series on the Netflix 100, Cosmos and Making a Murderer, because I might do a separate list for them later. The other is The Hunting Ground, which combined with the Audrie & Daisy snub is admittedly bad for rape as a subject, but I haven’t seen it and our review is actually not positive. Once I catch up with it, if I think it should return it will.

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.

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.