As I've been getting many, many visitors using those exact search words, I suppose I owe them a better overview than my post on Errol Morris affords.
So, here's part one of my uncatalogued listing of best non-Errol docs available. Not an exhaustive list by any means, I'm just going to scroll through and link anything I come across that I've absolutely loved. I'll predict that most of this list will be stuff I got hipped to via the fantastic documentary section at the late, lamented Insomniac Video. I'll tally it up at the end and see.
Without further pontificating, The Best Documentaries Available on Netflix Streaming
The Buena Vista Social Club
Don't hold its eventual mass popularity with the PBS donor set against it. A fascinating glimpse at a compelling subculture in a place the modern world has largely passed by.
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
A fine doc on the band, but also a penetrating examination of a frozen moment in the evolution of west coast punk, and San Pedro, and California. Mike Watt makes for a genial, informative and magnetic tour guide through an era.
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
The Ken Burns treatment is ideal for the story of the first black heavyweight champion. Johnson is a larger than life character tailor made for a detailed examination, and Burns does a fine job overall. As a rabid boxing fan I have some quibbles here and there, but for the general public it's as fine a view of the sport at that time as you're likely to find.
A Great Day in Harlem
Chronicle of a gathering of Jazz greats for an Esquire photo shoot. Falls short of what it could have been, but engaging nonetheless.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
I don't usually take to Nick Broomfield's style, but in this case the subject overcame his limitations as a documentarian. A fascinating portrait of one of societies chosen 'monsters'.
Capturing the Friedmans
Not an easy watch, but deeply compelling, drawing on a tremendous archive of footage shot by the subjects over the course of a media circus child molestation trial. Incredible access makes for a riveting film.
More Than a Game
Suffers from a bit of LeBron hagiography, but not as much as you'd expect given that he put up the money to complete the project. One of those 'right place, right time' documentaries where the filmmaker starts with one thing and ends up with something entirely different. The real interest here wasn't so much LBJ, as the way his teammates & friends respond to and deal with the frenzy that build and build and builds as he evolves from just one of the guys to THE NEW JORDAN. Also provides, almost incidentally, a damning portrait of the sleazy sub-NBA system of touts, promoters, agents and con men who seek lamprey-ish attachment to the players they perceive to be 'on the way up'.
One of my all time top ten. Ostensibly about two kids pursuing their dreams in difficult circumstance, it ends up being about everything. Just watch it.
Dogtown and Z-Boys
Another 'moment in time' doc, focusing on a lost California where only disreputable bohemians lived near the beach and documenting the transformation of skateboarding from an underground phemomena to big money big business. Tremendous archival footage from director Stacy Peralta, a skate pioneer and one of the founders of the Powell/Peralta empire that defined the sport in the 80's.
When We Were Kings
The greatest documentary on The Greatest, covering arguably his most compelling victory and certainly the most raucous, fantastical settings for a prize fight since the days of Jack Dempsey. Recreates the unique circumstances of this three ring circus/cultural event/boxing match with such fidelity you get a sense of what it must have been like to be in Zaire for the Rumble in the Jungle. A magnificent accomplishment.
One of a kind.
The inexplicable musical and even less explicable 'tv movie based on the documentary' aside, it is a one of a kind excursion into the realm of the marginally functional, nimbly traversing the grey area between exploration and exploitation. The Wife has steadfastly refused to revisit this one, saying it's "too disturbing". I can't argue, but I'd really love to check out the Criterion release- my memories hail from a well-used VHS copy Bob found for the Insomniac back when it was an out of print rarity.
(click here for Part Two)