150 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This July

Act of Killing

Rather than update our original list of the Best Documentaries on Netflix whenever a film expires or is added, we’d like to post a new version each month to keep things tidy and less confusing. And to make it even nicer for all of you, we’re going to note everything that has joined or left the guide.

So much for thinking that increasing the number of recommendations to 150 would solve all my problems. A bunch more great nonfiction films joined Netflix Watch Instantly since last month’s post, and it’s just as difficult to find room for all of them as always. In June, we got the exclusive debut of Liz Garbus’s latest, the excellent music bio What Happened, Miss Simone? plus the addition of two of her previous, quite different essentials, Girlhood and the Oscar-nominated The Farm: Angola USA.

Also making their way onto our Netflix 150 this month are three very different docs about performers: Jody Lee Lipes’s Ballet 422, which follows choreographer Justin Peck and the New York City Ballet do; Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, about the incarceration of members of the Russian feminist activist music group; and Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein’s An Honest Liar, a fascinating portrait of magician turned debunker The Amazing Randi.

So what’s leaving our list? Well, there are a number of necessary titles that have departed the streaming service. Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and the Moore-featuring The Yes Men are gone after a brief run. Cutie and the Boxer has sadly stopped streaming, and sad doc Dear Zachary is also no longer available. Strangely, 56 Up has been removed from Watch Instantly, yet the other seven installments of the Up series remain. I had to make one choice for the final removal myself, and I went with Ken Burns’s Jazz. He has enough representation on the list already, and I actually haven’t yet seen that one anyway.

Now a reminder of how the 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 — the Up installments are of varied quality, for instance, but they should be seen in order. 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 (Expedition to the End of the World and Encounters at the End of the World and The Act of Killing and Camp 14, for two example sets) and some grouping 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.