IDA's Top 25 Documentaries

A list of 25 essential documentaries according to the International Documentary Association: http://www.documentary.org/content/top-25-docs
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1.
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
 
2.
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
 
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.
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
 
5.
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
 
6.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Al Gore's personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change in the most talked-about documentary at Sundance. (96 mins.)
 
7.
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
 
8.
Gimme Shelter (1970 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A harrowing documentary of the Stones' 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont. (91 mins.)
 
9.
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
 
10.
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
 
11.
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
 
12.
Dont Look Back (1967 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Documentary covering Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England, which includes appearances by Joan Baez and Donovan. (96 mins.)
Director: D.A. Pennebaker
 
13.
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.)
 
14.
Koyaanisqatsi (1982 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them. (86 mins.)
Director: Godfrey Reggio
 
15.
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
 
16.
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.)
 
17.
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
 
18.
Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city's notorious red light district. (85 mins.)
 
19.
Titicut Follies (1967 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman takes us inside the Massachusetts Correctional Institution Bridgewater where people stay trapped in their madness. (84 mins.)
 
20.
Buena Vista Social Club (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
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. (105 mins.)
Director: Wim Wenders
 
21.
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
 
22.
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.)
 
23.
Grizzly Man (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska. (103 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
24.
Night and Fog (1956 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
The history of Nazi Germany's death camps of the Final Solution and the hellish world of dehumanization and death contained inside. (32 mins.)
Director: Alain Resnais
 
25.
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.)