Channel 4's "50 Greatest Documentaries"

The 50 Greatest Documentaries was a Channel 4 television programme which was broadcast on 9 October 2005 and was narrated by British actress, Zoë Wanamaker. The list was compiled based on the nominations submitted to Channel 4 by a series of factual filmmakers.

Some entries are imperfect as explained within their description and numbers 34 - "Signs of the Times" (1992) and 35 - "An Impossible Job: Graham Taylor" (1993) are unfortunately totally absent as there is no entry in IMDb for them.
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1.
Seven Up! (1964 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A group of seven-year-old British children from widely ranging backgrounds are interviewed about a range of subjects... (39 mins.)
Director: Paul Almond
“ This is for the entire "Up" series; Seven Up! (1964), Seven Plus 7 (1970), 21 Up (1977), 28 Up (1984), 35 Up (1991), 42 Up (1998) & 49 Up (2005). Another instalment is due in 2012. ” - deadmonger
 
2.
Touching the Void (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. (106 mins.)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
 
3.
Bowling for Columbine (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence. (120 mins.)
Director: Michael Moore
 
4.
The World at War (1973 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
A series of documentaries about World War II. (52 mins.)
 
5.
Capturing the Friedmans (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
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. (107 mins.)
Director: Andrew Jarecki
 
6.
The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A year ago, 36-year-old Jonny Kennedy died. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)... (50 mins.)
 
7.
Life on Earth (1979 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
David Attenborough's groundbreaking study of the evolution of life on our planet. (702 mins.)
 
8.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Michael Moore's view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (122 mins.)
Director: Michael Moore
 
9.
When We Were Kings (1996 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali. (88 mins.)
Director: Leon Gast
 
10.
Faking It (2000 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
 
11.
Hoop Dreams (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. (170 mins.)
Director: Steve James
 
12.
This Week (1956 TV Series)
Episode: Death on the Rock (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
SAS execute 3 unarmed IRA Volunteers in Gibraltar. Witnesses discuss the British Military cover up.
 
13.
The Leader, His Driver, and the Driver's Wife (1991 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
From the award-winning Director, The Leader, His Driver, and the Driver's Wife portrays the sinister and comic sides of Eugene Terre'Blanche, leader of the neo-Nazi AWB Afrikaner Party in South Africa. (85 mins.)
Director: Nick Broomfield
 
14.
One Day in September (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The Palestinian terrorist group Black September holds Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. (94 mins.)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
 
15.
Fourteen Days in May (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
(87 mins.)
Director: Paul Hamann
 
16.
The Family (1974 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
"The Family" (1974) is one of the first "reality" shows in the history of television. Modelled after the US TV series "An American Family (1972), this 12-part series documents the daily life of a working-class family from Reading, UK. (30 mins.)
 
17.
Night Mail (1936 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Shows the special train on which mail is sorted, dropped and collected on the run, and delivered in Scotland overnight. (25 mins.)
 
18.
The Nazis: A Warning from History (1997 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
An examination of how a cultured people could have allowed Hitler's rise to power.
Director: Laurence Rees
 
19.
Super Size Me (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
While examining the influence of the fast food industry, Morgan Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald's food for one month. (100 mins.)
Director: Morgan Spurlock
 
20.
The Death of Yugoslavia (1995 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
(50 mins.)
 
21.
Walking with Dinosaurs (1999 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Documentary-style series about the era of the dinosaurs, mixing real locations and CGI. (180 mins.)
 
22.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Nick Broomfield's second documentary on Aileen Carol Wuornos, a highway prostitute who was executed in 2002 for killing six men in the state of Florida. This second installment includes the filmmaker's testimony at Wournous's trial. (93 mins.)
 
23.
China: Beyond the Clouds (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
(240 mins.)
Director: Phil Agland
Stars: Lisa Lu
 
24.
Omnibus (1967 TV Series)
Episode: Cracked Actor (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
BBC documentary showing David Bowie looking back on his Ziggy Stardust character during his Diamond Dogs tour.
 
25.
Panorama (1953 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Long-running factual programme reporting on all aspects of life in Britain. (40 mins.)
“ This entry is for the 2003 documentary "The Secret Policeman" for which this is a sequel, however there is no IMDb page for the original. ” - deadmonger
 
26.
Q.E.D. (1982 TV Series)
Episode: John's Not Mad (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Influential 1989 documentary which explores the struggles of a Scottish teenager to live with Tourettes syndrome.
 
27.
Around the World in 80 Days (1989 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
Michael Palin attempts to copy the exploits of fictional character Phileas Fogg, by trying to travel around the world (without flying) in 80 days. (49 mins.)
 
28.
The Thin Blue Line (1988 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas. (103 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
29.
Wife Swap (2003 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
(60 mins.)
 
30.
A History of Britain (2000 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A comprehensive historical survey of the British Isles. (60 mins.)
 
31.
The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
A series of three documentaries about the use of fear for political gain. (157 mins.)
 
32.
Spellbound (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee. (97 mins.)
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
 
33.
The War Game (1965 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city... (48 mins.)
Director: Peter Watkins
 
34.
Woodstock (1970 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The film chronicle of the legendary 1969 music festival. (184 mins.)
 
35.
People's Century: 1900-1999 (1995 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Series documenting the history of the twentieth century through the testimony of those who lived through it. (60 mins.)
Director: Angus MacQueen
 
36.
Beneath the Veil (2001 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
British journalist Saira Shah travels to Afghanistan with a camera crew to document the realities of life under the Taliban...
Stars: Saira Shah
 
37.
Feltham Sings (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A documentary film crew go into Feltham young offenders prison where the teenagers who left are 75% likely to re-offend... (60 mins.)
Director: Brian Hill
 
38.
The Human Body (1998 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
(394 mins.)
 
39.
World in Action (1963 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
A documentary series focusing on current affairs.
 
40.
Driving School (1997 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
(30 mins.)
 
41.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Documentary that chronicles how Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was plagued by extraordinary script, shooting, budget, and casting problems--nearly destroying the life and career of the celebrated director. (96 mins.)
 
42.
Nanook of the North (1922 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle. (78 mins.)
 
43.
Forty Minutes (1981 TV Series)
Episode: Home from the Hill (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Documentary about Colonel Hilary Hook, formerly of the Indian cavalry and leader of extravagant safaris in Kenya... (40 mins.)
 
44.
Civilisation (1969 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
(50 mins.)
 
45.
Fred Dibnah: Steeplejack (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
(60 mins.)
 
46.
Malcolm and Barbara: A Love Story (1999 TV Movie)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
(75 mins.)
Director: Paul Watson
 
47.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara. (107 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
48.
When Louis Met... Jimmy (2000 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Louis spends a week with Jimmy Savile and attempts to get behind the public persona. (49 mins.)
Director: Will Yapp