Great Documentariesby birthdaynoodle | created - 04 Dec 2010 | updated - 06 Nov 2015 | Public
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2. Gates of Heaven (1978)
Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama
A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.
A bit bizarre, touching, often funny.
3. Please Vote for Me (2007)
Not Rated | 58 min | Documentary
Democracy in China exists, that is, in a primary school in Wuhan where a grade 3 class can vote who they want as class monitor.
Director: Weijun Chen
Hilarious and very informative about China today.
4. Salesman (1969)
G | 85 min | Documentary, Drama
Four relentless door-to-door salesmen deal with constant rejection, homesickness and inevitable burnout as they go across the country selling very expensive bibles to low-income Catholic families.
5. Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)
PG | 80 min | Documentary
A documentary that explores the careers of four unrelated professionals: a lion tamer, a robotics expert, a topiary gardener, and a naked mole rat specialist.
Votes: 3,340 | Gross: $0.83M
I can just watch this over and over again: a playful, transcendent film about people fascinated with what they do for a living.
Not Rated | 150 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama
A horrific triple child murder leads to an indictment and trial of three nonconformist boys based on questionable evidence.
Not for everyone: it's a great film, but also a very dark subject matter.
For those interested in this topic, I very highly recommend listening to this interview with Damien Echols: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/09/25/west-memphis-three-life-after-death-row
7. Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
G | 105 min | Documentary, Music
Aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro's takeover of Cuba, are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travelled to Havana in order to bring the musicians together, resulting in triumphant performances of extraordinary music, and resurrecting the musicians' careers.
Votes: 14,567 | Gross: $7.00M
8. Hoop Dreams (1994)
PG-13 | 170 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.
Votes: 21,183 | Gross: $7.83M
9. Genghis Blues (1999)
Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary
San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva.
Votes: 1,200 | Gross: $0.32M
While it may perhaps lack a bit in technical virtuosity, it has a lot of heart.
11. En construcción (2001)
125 min | Documentary
An author spent a year and a half filming what happened as a new apartment building was built in the El Chino neighborhood of Barcelona. En Construccion focuses less on the practicalities ... See full summary »
Regular people living and working in a neighborhood in Barcelona, where old buildings are being demolished to make room for new ones.
12. The Act of Killing (2012)
Not Rated | 117 min | Documentary, Crime
A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
Votes: 28,688 | Gross: $0.49M
Stranger than fiction and very disturbing.
13. Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos (2003)
65 min | Documentary, Music
Documentary on the life of Ada Falcón, one of the great legends of Argentine tango history. After seventy years of silence she finally tells her story.
Slow-paced, nostalgic documentary, for lovers of tango, silent films and the 30s.
14. Cutie and the Boxer (2013)
R | 82 min | Documentary, Biography
This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.
Votes: 4,152 | Gross: $0.20M
16. The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.
Votes: 18,350 | Gross: $1.21M
18. From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1979)
G | 84 min | Documentary, Music
Isaac Stern's cultural tour of China is seen, with the master violinist performing and mentoring young Chinese musicians. He visits rehearsals of the Peking Opera, meeting with their ... See full summary »
19. El sol del membrillo (1992)
133 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama
The artist, Antonio Lopez, tries to paint the quince tree he planted some time back in his garden. Throughout his life, he has worked on the same theme many times, almost as if it were a ... See full summary »
A quiet film about a very typically Spanish artist painting a fruit tree in his backyard. From the director of The Spirit of the Beehive.
20. L'image manquante (2013)
Not Rated | 92 min | Documentary
Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia's Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979.
Votes: 2,585 | Gross: $0.05M
21. The War Room (1993)
PG | 96 min | Documentary, History
A documentary of the Bill Clinton 1992 presidential campaign and the organization who ran it.
Votes: 3,331 | Gross: $0.90M
A look at America's political circus.
22. The Substance: Albert Hofmann's LSD (2011)
90 min | Documentary, Biography, History
In 1943, the year in which the first A-bomb was built, Albert Hofmann discovered LSD, a substance that was to become an A-bomb of the mind. Fractions of a milligram are enough to turn our ... See full summary »
This film asks what LSD might have brought to society had it not been approached in such a juvenile manner by the likes of Timothy Leary.
23. The Nazis: A Warning from History (1997– )
292 min | Documentary, History, War
An examination of how a cultured people could have allowed Hitler's rise to power.
A very clear and concise documentary series from the BBC, it shows how all the pieces fell into place for the war and all its tragedy to happen.
24. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Not Rated | 107 min | Documentary, Biography
Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
Votes: 21,130 | Gross: $3.12M
25. Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel (2003)
PG | 93 min | Documentary, Drama, Family
When a Mongolian nomadic family's newest camel colt is rejected by its mother, a musician is needed for a ritual to change her mind.
Votes: 5,622 | Gross: $1.74M
PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, Biography, History
Votes: 20,713 | Gross: $4.19M
28. When We Were Kings (1996)
PG | 88 min | Documentary, Sport
A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.
Votes: 13,303 | Gross: $2.67M
29. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
G | 90 min | Documentary, History
Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.
Votes: 13,122 | Gross: $5.23M
30. Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
R | 106 min | Documentary, Crime, War
Alex Gibney exposes the haunting details of the USA's torture and interrogation practices during the War in Afghanistan.
Votes: 12,799 | Gross: $0.27M
33. Guest (II) (2010)
124 min | Documentary
Filmmaker Jose Luis Guerin documents his experience during a year of traveling as a guest of film festivals to present his previous film. What emerges is a wonderfully humane and sincere ... See full summary »
34. Grizzly Man (2005)
R | 103 min | Documentary, Biography
Votes: 45,833 | Gross: $3.17M
37. Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (2006)
74 min | Documentary, Music
Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, compiles his Super 8 footage for an intimate look at what it was like to be a member of one of the world's biggest rock bands.
Mainly if you're a fan of The Police...
38. loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies (2006)
Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Music
loudQUIETloud is the story of this unforseen plot twist. A deeply compelling portrait of four band members and their difficult, tense, and ultimately triumphant return.
Votes: 1,205 | Gross: $0.00M
The band later felt the filmmakers were trying too hard to push a narrative of tension among the members – but it's still an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Pixies' 2004 reunion. It helps if you're a fan, which I am.
39. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
PG | 81 min | Documentary
A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, his renowned Tokyo restaurant, and his relationship with his son and eventual heir, Yoshikazu.
Votes: 28,662 | Gross: $2.55M
40. Alamar (2009)
G | 73 min | Documentary, Drama
Before their inevitable farewell, Jorge, a young man of Mayan roots, and Natan, his half-Italian son, spend time together living off the Banco Chinchorro coral reef.
Votes: 2,172 | Gross: $0.06M
41. Gerhard Richter - Painting (2011)
Unrated | 97 min | Documentary
A documentary on the German artist that includes glimpses at his studio, which has not been seen in decades.
Votes: 554 | Gross: $0.24M
Gerhard Richter's paintings leave me cold, but I suppose that's part of the intention.
42. Arakimentari (2004)
Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Biography
Meet kinky, controversial Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki.
43. Man on Wire (2008)
PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".
Votes: 46,527 | Gross: $2.96M
44. Standard Operating Procedure (2008)
R | 116 min | Documentary, Crime, War
Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Votes: 3,558 | Gross: $0.23M
45. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
R | 96 min | Documentary
Documentary that chronicles how Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) was plagued by extraordinary script, shooting, budget, and casting problems--nearly destroying the life and career of the celebrated director.
Votes: 15,634 | Gross: $1.32M
46. Baraka (1992)
Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary
A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.
Director: Ron Fricke
Votes: 31,176 | Gross: $1.25M
An interesting, if also somewhat detached and glossy collection of striking images of different societies from around the world.
47. Grey Gardens (1975)
PG | 94 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.
Votes: 9,692 | Gross: $0.03M
48. Restoring the Light (2011)
55 min | Documentary, Drama
A rural eye doctor helps under-served villagers in rural China regain their sight and restore their lives.
An important look at rural China, where medical facilities are exceptionally rare, and a family who do everything in their power to offer assistance.
49. The House I Live In (2012)
Not Rated | 108 min | Documentary
From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
Votes: 4,905 | Gross: $0.21M
51. Mein liebster Feind - Klaus Kinski (1999)
Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Biography
In the 1950s, an adolescent Werner Herzog was transfixed by a film performance of the young Klaus Kinski. Years later, they would share an apartment where, in an unabated, forty-eight-hour ... See full summary »
Votes: 8,872 | Gross: $0.10M
54. The Queen of Versailles (2012)
PG | 100 min | Documentary
A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years, their empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis.
Votes: 11,528 | Gross: $2.40M
55. Tocar y luchar (2006)
Not Rated | 70 min | Documentary
To Play and To Fight presents the captivating story of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System - an incredible network of hundreds of orchestras formed within most of Venezuela's towns and ... See full summary »
El Sistema is an excellent project that has trained for decades young, mostly underpriviledged musicians, including now world-reknown conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
56. Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008)
Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama
Since 1978, Anvil has become one of heavy metal's most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts. In 2006, after a fledging European tour Anvil sets out to record their thirteenth album and continue to follow their dreams.
Votes: 14,287 | Gross: $0.67M
Not Rated | 208 min | Documentary, Biography, Music
58. My Architect (2003)
116 min | Documentary, Biography
Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974.
Votes: 2,860 | Gross: $2.75M
60. Restrepo (2010)
R | 93 min | Documentary, War
A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.
Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger | Stars: The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Juan 'Doc Restrepo, Dan Kearney, LaMonta Caldwell
Votes: 19,229 | Gross: $1.33M
61. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
PG-13 | 86 min | Documentary, Biography, Music
Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock n roller, Rodriguez.
Votes: 55,090 | Gross: $3.97M
62. American Movie (1999)
R | 107 min | Documentary, Comedy
Documentary about an aspiring filmmaker's attempts to finance his dream project by finally completing the low-budget horror film he abandoned years before.
Votes: 14,755 | Gross: $1.16M
63. Crazy Love (I) (2007)
PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Romance
The bizarre true story of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach.
Votes: 2,238 | Gross: $0.30M
A campy take on the extremely twisted and unlikely, yet true story of a monstrous man and the woman with whom he is obsessed.
64. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)
PG-13 | 110 min | Documentary, Biography, Music
Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.
Votes: 7,964 | Gross: $0.33M
65. Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary (1997)
PG | 98 min | Documentary
Twenty-four contestants compete in an endurance/sleep deprivation contest in order to win a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck. The last person to remain standing with his or her hand on the ... See full summary »
Votes: 1,408 | Gross: $0.49M
68. Helvetica (2007)
Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary
A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.
Votes: 6,724 | Gross: $0.20M
Whether you regard the font Helvetica as a friend or a foe, if you have strong feelings about it, this documentary is for you.
70. Nostalgia de la luz (2010)
Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary
A documentary about two different searches conducted in the Chilean Atacama Desert: one by astronomers looking for answers about the history of the cosmos, and one by women looking for the remains of loved ones killed by Pinochet's regime.
72. Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2003)
PG | 90 min | Documentary
Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player who has ever lived. In 1997 he played a chess match against IBM's computer Deep Blue. Kasparov lost the match. This film shows the match... See full summary »
75. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
G | 99 min | Documentary
Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there.
Votes: 15,316 | Gross: $0.94M
76. Painters Painting (1973)
Not Rated | 116 min | Documentary
The definitive documentary on the New York School Painters. Featuring footage of all the major figures of the New York Art Scene between 1940-1970, showing many of the artists before they became famous.
77. Ikebana (1957)
32 min | Documentary, Short
The history and art of ikebana, a centuries old Japanese art of flower arrangement and a look inside the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, where the director's father Sofu Teshigahara worked as the grand master of the school.
79. Between the Folds (2008)
G | 56 min | Documentary
Depicts a cast of fine artists and eccentric scientists (from MIT and NASA) who have devoted their lives to the unlikely medium of modern origami. Through their determination to reinterpret... See full summary »
80. The Cove (2009)
PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Crime
Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Votes: 43,466 | Gross: $0.86M