30 Must See Documentaries

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1.
Streetwise (1984 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Gritty documentary looks at the life and lives of teenagers living on the streets of Seattle. (91 mins.)
Director: Martin Bell
 
2.
Harlan County U.S.A. (1976 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike. (103 mins.)
Director: Barbara Kopple
 
3.
Style Wars (1983 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and early '80s, specifically focusing on graffiti art and breakdancing. (69 mins.)
Director: Tony Silver
 
4.
Salesman (1968 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
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. (85 mins.)
 
5.
Marjoe (1972 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Part documentary, part expose, this film follows one-time child evangelist Marjoe Gortner on the "church tent" Revivalist circuit... (88 mins.)
 
6.
Best Boy (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In this documentary, the director follows the day-to-day activities of his retarded, middle-aged cousin Philly, over a three-year period. (111 mins.)
Director: Ira Wohl
 
7.
Burden of Dreams (1982 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo, showing how the film... (95 mins.)
Director: Les Blank
 
8.
Grey Gardens (1975 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. (94 mins.)
 
9.
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
 
10.
Crumb (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An intimate portrait of the controversial cartoonist and his traumatized family. (119 mins.)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
 
11.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
German-American Dieter Dengler discusses his service as an American naval pilot in the Vietnam War. Dengler also revisits the sites of his capture and eventual escape from the hands of the Vietcong, recreating many events for the camera. (80 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
12.
Different Drummer (1989 TV Series)
Episode: Dancing Outlaw (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
This documentary short, produced for West Virginia public TV's "Different Drummer" series, introduces us to Jesco White... (30 mins.)
Director: Jacob Young
 
13.
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
 
14.
Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary (1997 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Twenty-four contestants compete in an endurance/sleep deprivation contest in order to win a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck... (98 mins.)
Director: S.R. Bindler
 
15.
The Cruise (1998 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Affectionate portrait of Tim "Speed" Levitch, a tour guide for Manhattan's Gray Line double-decker buses... (76 mins.)
Director: Bennett Miller
 
16.
Tattooed Tears (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
An intimate, hands on encounter with a maximum security juvenile correctional facility in Chino California. (85 mins.)
 
17.
Gates of Heaven (1978 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there. (85 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
18.
Roger & Me (1989 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Director Michael Moore pursues GM CEO Roger Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing. (91 mins.)
Director: Michael Moore
 
19.
Winged Migration (2001 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Documentary on the migratory patterns of birds, shot over the course of three years on all seven continents. (98 mins.)
 
20.
American Movie (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Documentary about an aspiring filmmaker's attempts to finance his dream project by finally completing the low-budget horror film he abandoned years before. (107 mins.)
Director: Chris Smith
 
21.
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
 
22.
Chicken Ranch (1983 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Documentary on the "Chicken Ranch," a legal Nevada brothel. (74 mins.)
 
23.
Samsara (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and shot on seventy-millimetre film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders. (102 mins.)
Director: Ron Fricke
 
24.
Last Train Home (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower. (85 mins.)
Director: Lixin Fan
 
25.
Poto and Cabengo (1980 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Two young twins in the USA have invented their own shared language. Scientists are wanting to study... (77 mins.)
 
26.
Warrendale (1967 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Chronicles 7-weeks in the lives of 12 emotionally disturbed children and their therapist's experimental method of treatment at the Toronto-area Warrendale facility. (100 mins.)
Director: Allan King
 
27.
Louie Bluie (1985 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
About the obscure country-blues musician and idiosyncratic visual artist Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, member of the last known black string band in America. (75 mins.)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
 
28.
Hell House (2001 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A look at the "Hell House" performed annually in October by the youth members of Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Cedar Hill... (85 mins.)
Director: George Ratliff
 
29.
Sherman's March (1985 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of... (157 mins.)
Director: Ross McElwee
 
30.
Nanook of the North (1922 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 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, Inuit living in the Arctic Circle. (78 mins.)