100 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This May

100 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Netflix This Month

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

There are not many documentaries added to the Netflix 100 this month. Only the recent release Oklahoma City, which presents a conventional but still very strong history of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and the near-decade-old rock doc cult classic Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which I personally don’t love but recommend as an essential of both nonfiction cinema and pop culture history.

Other potentially great docs I’ve heard positive buzz on but can’t verify as must-see titles include the Netflix Original Get Me Roger Stone and the Sundance 2017 favorite Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower. Also, the new Netflix Original true crime miniseries The Keepers is sure to be both interesting and popular. We’ll be checking these out before the end of the month to see if they should be added to our list in June.

As for those titles that our two new additions took the place of, both are Netflix’s choice for removal. Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man has surprisingly disappeared in spite of there being so many of the filmmaker’s titles streaming there lately. And Goran Olsson’s superb Concerning Violence is expiring on May 5th, so you might have a chance to watch it if you see this soon enough.

Here is 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. Oklahoma City (Barak Goodman, 2017)
  2. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, 2008)
  3. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)
  4. Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)
  5. Stevie (Steve James, 2002)
  6. Brother’s Keeper (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1992)
  7. Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 1992)
  8. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (Nick Broomfield, 2003)
  9. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
  10. The Look of Silence (Joshua Opppenheimer, 2014)
  11. Under the Sun (Vitaly Mansky, 2015)
  12. Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
  13. Super High Me (Michael Blieden, 2007)
  14. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)
  15. Into the Inferno (Werner Herzog, 2016)
  16. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2010)
  17. Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog, 1992)
  18. Moana With Sound (Robert J. Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty and Monica Flaherty, 1926/1980)
  19. Finders Keepers (Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel, 2015)
  20. In the Basement (Ulrich Seidl, 2014)
  21. Rats (Morgan Spurlock, 2016)
  22. The Nightmare (Rodney Ascher, 2015)
  23. Notes on Blindness (Peter Middleton and James Spinney, 2016)
    Review by Daniel Walber
  24. My Beautiful Broken Brain (Sophie Robinson and Lotje Sodderland, 2014)
  25. Particle Fever (Mark Levinson, 2013)
  26. Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
  27. Casting By (Tom Donahue, 2012)
  28. Lost in La Mancha (Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, 2002)
  29. The Imposter (Bart Layton, 2012)
  30. Kumare (Vikram Gandhi, 2011)
  31. Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, 2006)
  32. Why We Fight: Prelude to War (Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak, 1942)
  33. Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia (Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak, 1943)
  34. How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines (John Ford, 1943)
  35. Report from the Aleutians (John Huston, 1943)
  36. Tunisian Victory (Frank Capra, Hugh Stewart, and John Huston, 1944)
  37. The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (William Wyler, 1944)
  38. Know Your Enemy (Frank Capra and Joris Ivens, 1945)
  39. Nazi Concentration Camps (George Stevens, 1945)
  40. Let There Be Light (John Huston, 1946)
  41. Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, 2015)
  42. Stray Dog (Debra Granik, 2014)
  43. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Werner Herzog, 1997)
  44. Last Days in Vietnam (Rory Kennedy, 2014)
  45. 1971 (Johanna Hamilton, 2014)
  46. The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Bill Siegel, 2013)
  47. 13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
  48. The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 (Goran Olsson, 2011)
  49. God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan (Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker, 2006)
  50. Virunga (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2014)
  51. The Ivory Game (Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, 2016)
  52. How to Survive a Plague (David France, 2012)
  53. We Were Here (David Weissman and Bill Weber, 2011)
  54. GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (Brett Whitcomb, 2012)
    Capsule review by Christopher Campbell
  55. Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, 2003)
  56. Sunshine Superman (Marah Strauch, 2014)
  57. Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, 2011)
  58. Rich Hill (Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, 2014)
  59. The Overnighters (Jesse Moss, 2014)
  60. Vernon, Florida (Errol Morris, 1981)
  61. The Chinese Mayor (Hao Zhou, 2015)
  62. Street Fight (Marshall Curry, 2005)
  63. Democrats (Camilla Nielsson, 2014)
  64. The Square (Jehane Noujaim, 2013)
  65. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky, 2015)
  66. Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi, 2016)
  67. Sacro GRA (Gianfranco Rosi, 2013)
    Review by Daniel Walber
  68. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Alex Gibney, 2005)
  69. The Farm: Angola USA (Liz Garbus, 1998)
  70. Evolution of a Criminal (Darius Clark Monroe, 2014)
  71. (T)error (Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, 2015)
  72. Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016)
  73. Gasland (Josh Fox, 2010)
  74. FrackNation (Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, 2013)
  75. Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley, 2013)
  76. Of Men and War (Laurent Becue-Renard, 2014)
  77. Homeland: Iraq Year Zero (Abbas Fahdel, 2016)
  78. Trapped (Dawn Porter, 2016)
  79. Growing Up Coy (Eric Juhola, 2016)
  80. Mala Mala (Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, 2014)
  81. Presenting Princess Shaw (Ido Haar, 2015)
  82. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Jon M. Chu, 2011)
  83. What Happened, Miss Simone? (Liz Garbus, 2015)
  84. Miss Sharon Jones! (Barbara Kopple, 2015)
  85. Beware of Mr. Baker (Jay Bulger, 2012)
  86. Kurt & Courtney (Nick Broomfield, 1998)
  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. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman, 2012)
  93. Hooligan Sparrow (Nanfu Wang, 2016)
  94. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011)
  95. More Than Honey (Markus Imhoof, 2012)
  96. Tabloid (Errol Morris, 2010)
  97. Amanda Knox (Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, 2016)
  98. The Witness (James D. Solomon, 2015)
  99. Casting JonBenet (Kitty Green, 2017)
  100. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)

And here are the six must-see documentary miniseries and series:

  1. Five Came Back (Laurent Bouzereau, 2017)
  2. The Civil War (Ken Burns, 1990)
  3. Prohibition (Ken Burns, 2011)
  4. The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (Ken Burns, 2014)
  5. Making a Murderer (Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi, 2015)
  6. Planet Earth (Alastair Fothergill, 2006)

And here are the seven must-see documentary shorts:

  1. The Battle of Midway (John Ford, 1942)
  2. The Negro Soldier (Stuart Heisler, 1944)
  3. San Pietro (John Ford, 1945)
  4. Thunderbolt (John Sturges and William Wyler, 1947)
  5. White Earth (Christian Jensen, 2014)
  6. The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel, 2016)
  7. Extremis (Dan Krauss, 2016)

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.