The National Society of Film Critics was founded in 1966 in order to promote the mutual interests of film-making and film criticism. Its membership is by election, and includes the critics of most major American newspapers and prominent online websites as well as critics from smaller/regional newspapers, free weeklies, major weekly magazines, specialized film journals, and freelance journalists.
The NSFC holds an annual meeting in early January to award the the best film-making of the previous year. There is no nomination process prior to the vote; every film which had a theatrical release in the U.S. in the previous year is eligible. There is no division of voting by trade (actors, screenwriters, directors, etc.). The meeting is not televised or otherwise “prettied up” with awards ceremonies, presenters, etc. The results are disseminated to the press and publicists immediately after the meeting.
[UPDATE, JAN. 7, 2017: “O.J.: Made in America” announced as 2016 Best Non-Fiction Film Winner]
I am compiling this list both for my own benefit (to have one easy place to refer to the NSFC Best Non-Fiction Films) and for your benefit (especially if you’re not aware of the NSFC or its award winners). I will write my reviews for each film as I see it (I have seen some of these films previously; I will see them again before I review them).
NOTE: The NSFC began voting for “Best Non-Fiction Film" in 1984, and so this lists starts with 1984. No award was given in 1987 for best non-fiction film. 1998 winner “The Farm: Angola, USA” is missing from the MUBI database and therefore not on the list. In 2013 there was a tie between “The Act of Killing” and “At Berkeley”.
[EDIT: “The Farm: Angola, USA” has been added to the MUBI database and so it’s on the list.]
For more information about the NSFC: https://nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com/
For a list of members: https://nationalsocietyoffilmcritics.com/members/