most entertaining documentaries from the 1990's till now

by walker-dale | created - 20 Dec 2012 | updated - 15 Jan 2013 | Public
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1. The Coconut Revolution (2000 TV Movie)

50 min | Documentary

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

This is the modern-day story of a native peoples' remarkable victory over Western Colonial power. A Pacific island rose up in arms against giant mining corporation Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ) - and won despite a military occupation and blockade.

Director: Dom Rotheroe | Stars: Joseph Kabui, Francis Ona

Votes: 152

Amazing eco Documentary, only 52 mins and can be found on youtube.

2. The Union: The Business Behind Getting High (2007)

104 min | Documentary

8.3
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BC's illegal marijuana trade industry has evolved into a business giant, dubbed by some involved as 'The Union', Commanding upwards of $7 billion Canadian annually. With up to 85% of 'BC ... See full summary »

Director: Brett Harvey | Stars: Adam Scorgie, Chris Bennett, Steve Bloom, Renee Bojee

Votes: 7,330

very one sided documentary, not as bad as a Michael Moore film though. It is still very entertaining and thought provoking

3. Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008)

PG-13 | 105 min | Documentary, Sport

7.6
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80 Metascore

An examination of America's win-at-all-cost culture from the perspective of bodybuilding and performance enhancing drugs, as it focuses on a pair of siblings chasing their dream.

Director: Chris Bell | Stars: Chris Bell, Mike Bell, Mark Bell, Hank Aaron

Votes: 12,381 | Gross: $0.31M

as with the union it is a very one sided documentary. You get guided by the narrator on what to believe. Very entertaining.

4. Pumping Iron (1977)

PG | 85 min | Documentary, Sport

7.4
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From Gold's Gym in Venice Beach California to the showdown in Pretoria, amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests in this ... See full summary »

Directors: George Butler, Robert Fiore | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Matty Ferrigno, Victoria Ferrigno

Votes: 18,154

This documentary is older than anything else on the list but as it is such a classic I needed to include it. Not only is it very interesting this documentary is a great example of how a documentary should be made.

5. 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: 20,870 | Gross: $3.12M

A very disturbing mystery, you never end up knowing the truth as it is very open ended.

6. Man on Wire (2008)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

7.8
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89 Metascore

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".

Director: James Marsh | Stars: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix

Votes: 45,587 | Gross: $2.96M

A very slow documentary but expertly made though.

7. Food, Inc. (2008)

PG | 94 min | Documentary

7.8
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80 Metascore

An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.

Director: Robert Kenner | Stars: Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Richard Lobb, Vince Edwards

Votes: 45,792 | Gross: $4.42M

Great behind the scenes look at the food industry in America. Not as gross as you would think but a lot more educational than many other documentaries.

8. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

PG-13 | 79 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

8.2
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83 Metascore

Die-hard gamers compete to break world records on classic arcade games.

Director: Seth Gordon | Stars: Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Mark Alpiger, Adam Wood

Votes: 32,107 | Gross: $0.68M

Very good movie with great characters. Even if the subject matter is not your cup of tea it is still worth a watch for the people involved.

9. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

R | 96 min | Documentary

8.2
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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.

Directors: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola | Stars: Dennis Hopper, Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, George Lucas

Votes: 15,326 | Gross: $1.32M

The best movie about making a movie. highly recommended.

10. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

8.6
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82 Metascore

A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

Director: Kurt Kuenne | Stars: Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby, Kathleen Bagby

Votes: 25,791

Heartbreaking movie but an absolute must see.

11. Deliver Us from Evil (2006)

Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime

8.0
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86 Metascore

Documentary about Father Oliver O'Grady, a Catholic priest who was relocated to various parishes around the United States during the 1970s in an attempt by the Catholic Church to cover up his rape of dozens of children.

Director: Amy Berg | Stars: Oliver O'Grady, Thomas Doyle, Adam, Jeff Anderson

Votes: 8,907 | Gross: $30.58M

just shows you what you can get away with if you have religion to hide behind. A great movie about pain and corruption.

12. Religulous (2008)

R | 101 min | Documentary, Comedy, War

7.7
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56 Metascore

Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion.

Director: Larry Charles | Stars: Bill Maher, Tal Bachman, Jonathan Boulden, Steve Burg

Votes: 54,587 | Gross: $13.00M

A documentary and a comedy, It can be a bit blunt but well worth the watch for entertainment purposes unless you are seriously religious.

13. Jesus Camp (2006)

PG-13 | 87 min | Documentary

7.5
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62 Metascore

A documentary on kids who attend a summer camp hoping to become the next Billy Graham.

Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady | Stars: Mike Papantonio, Lou Engle, Becky Fischer, Ted Haggard

Votes: 24,221 | Gross: $0.90M

a great example of brainwashing done in America to young children. Very frightening.

14. Ônibus 174 (2002)

R | 122 min | Documentary, Crime

7.9
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83 Metascore

Documentary depicts what happened in Rio de Janeiro on June 12th 2000, when bus 174 was taken by an armed young man, threatening to shoot all the passengers. Transmitted live on all ... See full summary »

Directors: José Padilha, Felipe Lacerda | Stars: Sandro do Nascimento, Rodrigo Pimentel, Luiz Eduardo Soares, Anonymous

Votes: 7,129 | Gross: $0.22M

A bit slow but good enough to make this list. I live in South Africa so a lot of the material is not as shocking as it would be for an American viewer and this is all about shocking you.

15. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

R | 87 min | Documentary, Comedy, Crime

8.0
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85 Metascore

The story of how an eccentric French shop-keeper and amateur film-maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains... See full summary »

Director: Banksy | Stars: Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, Space Invader, Debora Guetta

Votes: 55,398 | Gross: $3.29M

a nice look into the work of graffiti artists and where the line between art and vandalism is drawn.

16. The Cove (2009)

PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Crime

8.5
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84 Metascore

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.

Director: Louie Psihoyos | Stars: Richard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones, Michael Illiff

Votes: 43,041 | Gross: $0.86M

If you have not seen it, see it. One scene is very shocking but after that it is a very informative piece of film making.

17. Sicko (2007)

PG-13 | 123 min | Documentary, Drama

8.0
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74 Metascore

A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories including shotgun deaths.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, Tucker Albrizzi, Tony Benn, George W. Bush

Votes: 69,581 | Gross: $24.54M

one of the few Michael Moore documentaries which I can stomach. Very one sided and the viewer is lead through out the film with manipulated stats and omitting facts

18. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996)

Not Rated | 150 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

8.3
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A horrific triple child murder leads to an indictment and trial of three nonconformist boys based on questionable evidence.

Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky | Stars: Tony Brooks, Diana Davis, Terry Wood, Dick Clay

Votes: 12,181

in my opinion the best crime documentary. there are two follow ups to this which are also worth a watch.

19. Catfish (2010)

PG-13 | 87 min | Documentary

7.1
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65 Metascore

Young filmmakers document their colleague's budding online friendship with a young woman and her family which leads to an unexpected series of discoveries.

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman | Stars: Yaniv Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Angela Wesselman-Pierce

Votes: 37,234 | Gross: $3.23M

a documentary revolving around the use of social media not perfect by any means but entertaining none the less. you won't learn anything here.

20. Enemies of the People (2009)

Not Rated | 93 min | Documentary

7.9
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The Khmer Rouge slaughtered nearly two million people in the late 1970s. Yet the Killing Fields of Cambodia remain unexplained. Until now. Enter Thet Sambath, an unassuming, yet cunning, ... See full summary »

Directors: Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath | Stars: Thet Sambath, Nuon Chea, Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan

Votes: 427 | Gross: $0.07M

so scary as it happened so recently and in front of the world media.

21. The Trials of Darryl Hunt (2006)

PG-13 | 106 min | Documentary, Crime

7.7
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"The Trials of Darryl Hunt" is a feature documentary about a brutal rape/murder case and a wrongly convicted man, Darryl Hunt, who spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he did not... See full summary »

Directors: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg | Stars: Evelyn Jefferson, Fred Flagler, John Reeves, Mary Anne Sheboy

Votes: 887 | Gross: $0.00M

another crime documentary in the same vain as the thin blue line.

22. Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land (2008)

Unrated | 84 min | Documentary, History, News

8.0
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82 Metascore

Using smuggled footage, this documentary tells the story of the 2007 protests in Burma by thousands of monks.

Director: Anders Østergaard | Stars: George W. Bush, Ko Muang, Aung San Suu Kyi

Votes: 2,190 | Gross: $0.05M

good eye opener but the country has changed a bit since 2008

23. Mugabe and the White African (2009)

90 min | Documentary

7.8
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77 Metascore

An intimate and moving account of one family's extraordinary courage in the face of overwhelming injustice and brutality.

Directors: Lucy Bailey, Andrew Thompson

Votes: 852 | Gross: $0.00M

What more can be said that he is a Dictator left to do what he wants with all the power and money he can pillage.

24. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)

86 min | Documentary, History

7.9
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79 Metascore

Featuring never-before-seen footage, this documentary delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple, headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch.

Director: Stanley Nelson | Stars: Rebecca Moore, Janet Shular, Tim Carter, Stanley Clayton

Votes: 4,222

If you don't know anything about this event this movie is very informative. It also has some crazy footage.

25. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

PG-13 | 86 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

8.2
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79 Metascore

Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock n roller, Rodriguez.

Director: Malik Bendjelloul | Stars: Rodriguez, Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey, Mike Theodore

Votes: 54,128 | Gross: $3.97M

a very interesting story with some great shots of Cape Town

26. Blood Into Wine (2010)

100 min | Documentary

7.2
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Take a look inside the life of one of Rock music's most mysterious and interesting figures. With winemaking in his blood, multiplatinum recording artist Maynard James Keenan sets out to bring notariety to Arizona's burgeoning wine regions.

Directors: Ryan Page, Christopher Pomerenke | Stars: Glenn Alexander, Tim Alexander, Fairuza Balk, Tom Beaujour

Votes: 979

Anyone who is a fan of the band Tool or wine will enjoy this.

27. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (2010)

Not Rated | 97 min | Documentary

7.6
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45 Metascore

100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb ... See full summary »

Directors: Joe Cross, Kurt Engfehr | Stars: Joe Cross, Amy Badberg, Merv Cross, Virginia Cross

Votes: 7,502