IDA's Top 25 Documentaries

by Jumping_Elephant | created - 13 Sep 2011 | updated - 13 Sep 2011 | Public

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)

PG-13 | 170 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
98 Metascore

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James | Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates, Curtis Gates

Votes: 21,010 | Gross: $7.83M

2. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

8.1
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79 Metascore

A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson

Votes: 18,085 | Gross: $1.21M

3. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

R | 120 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

8.0
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72 Metascore

Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson, Salvador Allende

Votes: 129,710 | Gross: $21.24M

4. Spellbound (2002)

G | 97 min | Documentary, Comedy, Thriller

7.6
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80 Metascore

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

Director: Jeffrey Blitz | Stars: Angela Arenivar, Ubaldo Arenivar, Jorge Arenivar, Scott McGarraugh

Votes: 11,353 | Gross: $5.73M

5. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

PG | 103 min | Documentary

8.3
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80 Metascore

A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike.

Director: Barbara Kopple | Stars: Norman Yarborough, Houston Elmore, Phil Sparks, John Corcoran

Votes: 3,919

6. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

PG | 96 min | Documentary

7.5
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75 Metascore

Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment.

Director: Davis Guggenheim | Stars: Al Gore, Billy West, George Bush, George W. Bush

Votes: 73,864 | Gross: $23.81M

7. Crumb (1994)

R | 119 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

8.0
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93 Metascore

An intimate portrait of the controversial cartoonist and his traumatized family.

Director: Terry Zwigoff | Stars: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Charles Crumb, Maxon Crumb

Votes: 15,503 | Gross: $3.17M

8. Gimme Shelter (1970)

R | 91 min | Documentary, Music, Thriller

7.9
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80 Metascore

A harrowing documentary of the Stones' 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont.

Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin | Stars: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Charlie Watts

Votes: 9,094 | Gross: $0.25M

9. The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, Biography, History

8.2
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87 Metascore

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.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Robert McNamara, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon

Votes: 20,554 | Gross: $4.19M

10. Roger & Me (1989)

R | 91 min | Documentary

7.5
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70 Metascore

Director Michael Moore pursues GM CEO Roger B. Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Rhonda Britton, Fred Ross

Votes: 23,955 | Gross: $6.71M

11. Super Size Me (2004)

PG | 100 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

7.2
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73 Metascore

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.

Director: Morgan Spurlock | Stars: Morgan Spurlock, Daryl Isaacs, Chemeeka Walker, Dania Abu-Rmaileh

Votes: 91,546 | Gross: $11.53M

12. Dont Look Back (1967)

Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary, Music

8.0
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Documentary covering Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England, which includes appearances by Joan Baez and Donovan.

Director: D.A. Pennebaker | Stars: Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman, Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez

Votes: 6,951

13. Salesman (1969)

G | 85 min | Documentary, Drama

7.9
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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.

Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin | Stars: Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt, James Baker, Raymond Martos

Votes: 3,855

14. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Music

8.3
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A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.

Director: Godfrey Reggio | Stars: Lou Dobbs, Ted Koppel

Votes: 29,487 | Gross: $1.72M

15. Sherman's March (1985)

Not Rated | 157 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

7.5
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Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but is continually sidetracked by ... See full summary »

Director: Ross McElwee | Stars: Ross McElwee, Dede McElwee, Ross McElwee Jr., Patricia Rendleman

Votes: 2,039

16. Grey Gardens (1975)

PG | 94 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

7.7
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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.

Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer | Stars: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers

Votes: 9,557 | Gross: $0.03M

17. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Not Rated | 107 min | Documentary, Biography

7.8
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90 Metascore

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.

Director: Andrew Jarecki | Stars: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman, Elaine Friedman

Votes: 20,958 | Gross: $3.12M

18. Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids (2004)

R | 85 min | Documentary

7.4
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78 Metascore

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.

Directors: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman | Stars: Kochi, Avijit Halder, Shanti Das, Manik

Votes: 13,514 | Gross: $3.41M

19. Titicut Follies (1967)

Unrated | 84 min | Documentary

7.9
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Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman takes us inside the Massachusetts Correctional Institution Bridgewater where people stay trapped in their madness.

Director: Frederick Wiseman

Votes: 3,187

20. Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

G | 105 min | Documentary, Music

7.6
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81 Metascore

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.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, Eliades Ochoa

Votes: 14,454 | Gross: $7.00M

21. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

R | 122 min | Documentary, Drama, War

7.5
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67 Metascore

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.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Ben Affleck, Stevie Wonder

Votes: 118,295 | Gross: $119.19M

22. Winged Migration (2001)

G | 89 min | Documentary

8.0
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82 Metascore

Documentary on the migratory patterns of birds, shot over the course of three years on all seven continents.

Directors: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats | Stars: Jacques Perrin, Philippe Labro

Votes: 10,788 | Gross: $10.76M

23. Grizzly Man (2005)

R | 103 min | Documentary, Biography

7.8
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87 Metascore

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.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard, Werner Herzog, Carol Dexter

Votes: 45,480 | Gross: $3.17M

24. Night and Fog (1956)

Not Rated | 32 min | Documentary, Short, History

8.6
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The history of Nazi Germany's death camps of the Final Solution and the hellish world of dehumanization and death contained inside.

Director: Alain Resnais | Stars: Michel Bouquet, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler

Votes: 14,296

25. Woodstock (1970)

R | 184 min | Documentary, History, Music

8.1
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The film chronicle of the legendary 1969 music festival.

Director: Michael Wadleigh | Stars: Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Roger Daltrey, Joe Cocker

Votes: 13,738 | Gross: $50.00M