The 100 Most Necessary Documentaries to Stream On Netflix This September


Update: For this month we are going to add a 101st title to the list in honor of the great Joan Rivers, one that’s been on here before so has always been worthy: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. The Joan Rangers here at Nonfics salute you one of the finest, funniest doc subjects in years. R.I.P.

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.

A few days ago, I discovered that our Netflix 100 has been missing a very important film. In fact, it’s the film that was recently voted the best documentary of all time. For some reason Netflix doesn’t classify Man with a Movie Camera as a doc, which makes me wonder what other titles we might be missing. That has now been added, and you’ll see that it’s been placed in the number one slot. Not necessarily because we think it’s the best (though it’s among the 10 best according to yours truly), just clearly the most necessary at the moment, according to that Sight & Sound poll.

Other titles we’ve added are The Unknown Known, because every Errol Morris doc is necessary, and Mission Blue, because it fits nicely with the passionate scientists of Particle Fever. Both of those were only recently added to the streaming service. You’ll notice they’ve been highlighted in blue. As have the following necessities I discovered and picked out from the archives: Pumping Iron and Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon, which is worth watching in addition to or instead of Alex Gibney’s new doc Finding Fela!

Of course these five films had to take the place of some that expired or that we simply had to take out ourselves. The former include High Tech, Low Life and The Interrupters. The latter include Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq and First Position. No offense to any of these. We still recommend them. Just think of it as this: wow, there are even more than 100 great docs streaming on Netflix.

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.