The 100 Most Necessary Documentaries to Stream On Netflix This October

Pat Rendleman in Shermans March

Rather than update our original list of the 100 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.

One month you’re in, the next month you’re out. That paraphrased slogan of Heidi Klum is appropriate for this list, as we often include new Netflix additions that we feel don’t make the cut weeks later when another fresh batch comes through. To give an example for last and this month’s changes, September saw the inclusion of Mission Blue, while it’s absent from October’s rankings. We had also just added Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon only to take it off now. Maybe it’ll be back later.

Meanwhile, titles that had fallen off in the past have returned for different reasons. Make Believe is back in order to be paired with the great new Netflix Original Print the Legend, both being from director J. Clay Tweel. And I’ve brought Ondi Timoner’s Cool It back in part because everyone’s been talking about climate change lately.

Another addition, Manakamana also joins associated films. The doc comes out of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, just like Foreign Parts and Leviathan. Then there’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, which just arrived on Watch Instantly and can now be easily viewed by any skeptics and haters who haven’t known what they’re missing. That could almost be two listings in one since Netflix also added the film’s “Director’s Fan Cut” to its streaming service. But we haven’t seen that version (nor have we seen the sequel Justin Bieber: Believe, which is on Netflix Watch Instantly), so it’s not.

Obviously we had to cut out some other picks to fit the newcomers in. One was easy, as Style Wars is unfortunately departing the service as of October 8th (see it before then!). The others were hard, but we wound up removing two numerically titled we find to be lesser works by their directors: Alex Gibney’s Client 9 and Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s The Central Park Five. I also gave Monica and David a leave of absence, hopefully only temporarily.

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 (Dogtown and Z-Boys and This Ain’t California 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.