150 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This September

Seven Up Slide

Netflix is continuing to lose great documentary titles, and it’s not adding as many essentials as it used to. Is this service going downhill? Maybe, and the big news that it’s ended its longtime deal with the cable channel Epix is another blow. Presumably this will take away the Epix original Milius as well as maybe catalog titles Cool It, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Underwater Dreams, Stories We Tell, Trekkies and Man With a Movie Camera. It also seems to explain why some Ross McElwee and Alan Berliner docs and some others left the list last month.

At least Jiro Dreams of Sushi didn’t actually leave for good, as seemed to be the case a month ago. It looks like the doc’s deal expired and they renewed last minute. Meanwhile, though, I’m hearing bad news that the whole Up series is soon going away (maybe by month’s end), joining the already gone 56 Up. But it’s left before and come back, so hopefully that will only be temporary. That’s a bunch of slots on our Netflix 150 potentially going vacant soon.

The one documentary I know for sure has already disappeared from streaming and therefore now exits our monthly guide is Gary Hustwit’s Objectified. They finally got rid of the whole Design Trilogy. In its place, I’ve added Christian Jensen’s beautiful Oscar-nominated short White Earth, which I highly recommend paired with The Overnighters, as they’re both set in North Dakota amidst the current oil boom. The latter should have also been nominated, for Best Documentary Feature, and both should have won their respective category.

Another slot opened up this month due to an error last month with The Art of the Steal, which is good since one of Albert Maysles’s final films, Iris, about fashion icon Iris Apfel, is arriving on Netflix Watch Instantly this month, on September 24th. That’s late enough that we could hold off including it until October, but it’s a Maysles and therefore essential viewing as soon as it’s available.

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.

  1. – Begins Streaming on September 24th

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.