Must-see documentaries

by Scopophilia | created - 28 Jan 2014 | updated - 02 Mar 2014 | Public

A list of documentaries I've seen that I highly recommend.

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1. Samsara (I) (2011)

PG-13 | 102 min | Documentary, Music

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

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.

Director: Ron Fricke | Stars: Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Puti Sri Candra Dewi, Putu Dinda Pratika

Votes: 26,537 | Gross: $2.60M

2. The Act of Killing (2012)

Not Rated | 117 min | Documentary, Crime

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
89 Metascore

A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Directors: Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, Christine Cynn | Stars: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik

Votes: 28,010 | Gross: $0.49M

3. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

R | 87 min | Documentary, Comedy, Crime

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
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: 55,653 | Gross: $3.29M

4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)

G | 90 min | Documentary, History

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
86 Metascore

Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Werner Herzog, Jean Clottes, Julien Monney, Jean-Michel Geneste

Votes: 12,900 | Gross: $5.23M

5. I Am (III) (2010)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
38 Metascore

Director Tom Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what's wrong with our world and how we can improve both it and the way we live in it.

Director: Tom Shadyac | Stars: Tom Shadyac, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Ray Anderson

Votes: 3,126 | Gross: $1.57M

6. Microcosmos (1996)

G | 80 min | Documentary

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A documentary on insect life in meadows and ponds.

Directors: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou | Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Jacques Perrin

Votes: 9,750 | Gross: $1.57M

7. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Music

8.3
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    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.

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

Votes: 29,282 | Gross: $1.72M

8. Grizzly Man (2005)

R | 103 min | Documentary, Biography

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
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: 45,233 | Gross: $3.17M

9. Man on Wire (2008)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
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: 45,572 | Gross: $2.96M

10. Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Not Rated | 68 min | Documentary, Music

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.

Director: Dziga Vertov | Star: Mikhail Kaufman

Votes: 17,637

11. Al midan (2013)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Drama, History

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
84 Metascore

A group of Egyptian revolutionaries battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience.

Director: Jehane Noujaim | Stars: Ahmed Hassan, Khalid Abdalla, Magdy Ashour, Ramy Essam

Votes: 7,460 | Gross: $0.12M

12. Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)

R | 106 min | Documentary, Crime, War

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
82 Metascore

Alex Gibney exposes the haunting details of the USA's torture and interrogation practices during the War in Afghanistan.

Director: Alex Gibney | Stars: Alex Gibney, Brian Keith Allen, Moazzam Begg, Christopher Beiring

Votes: 12,414 | Gross: $0.27M

13. Style Wars (1983 TV Movie)

69 min | Documentary, Music

8.3
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    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.

Director: Tony Silver | Stars: Demon, Kase 2, Eric Haze, Spank

Votes: 2,239

14. Night and Fog (1956)

Not Rated | 32 min | Documentary, Short, History

8.6
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    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.

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

Votes: 14,216

15. Winged Migration (2001)

G | 89 min | Documentary

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
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: 10,760 | Gross: $10.76M

16. Into the Abyss (2011)

PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
74 Metascore

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people - and the state - kill.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Werner Herzog, Richard Lopez, Michael Perry, Damon Hall

Votes: 13,924 | Gross: $0.22M

17. The Buddha (2010 TV Movie)

TV-G | 120 min | Documentary

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

After 400 BC, a new philosophy was born in South east Asia, generated from the ideas of Buddha, a mysterious Prince from Nepal who gained enlightenment while he sat under a large, shapely ... See full summary »

Director: David Grubin | Stars: Richard Gere, Blair Brown, The Dalai Lama, Mark Epstein

Votes: 815

18. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

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

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
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: 54,120 | Gross: $3.97M

19. Forks Over Knives (2011)

PG | 90 min | Documentary

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
57 Metascore

Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

Director: Lee Fulkerson | Stars: Lee Fulkerson, Matthew Lederman, Alona Pulde, T. Colin Campbell

Votes: 8,913

20. Fuel (I) (2008)

Not Rated | 112 min | Documentary

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
50 Metascore

Director Josh Tickell takes us along for his 11 year journey around the world to find solutions to America's addiction to oil. A shrinking economy, a failing auto industry, rampant ... See full summary »

Director: Joshua Tickell | Stars: Joshua Tickell, Barbara Boxer, Richard Branson, George W. Bush

Votes: 588 | Gross: $0.17M

21. Earthlings (2005)

95 min | Documentary, Horror

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

Director: Shaun Monson | Star: Joaquin Phoenix

Votes: 14,629

22. Waiting for 'Superman' (2010)

PG | 111 min | Documentary

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
81 Metascore

An examination of the current state of education in America today.

Director: Davis Guggenheim | Stars: Charles Adam, Charles Adams, Jonathan Alter, Robert Balfanz

Votes: 10,025 | Gross: $6.41M

23. Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

R | 127 min | Documentary, Crime, News

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
61 Metascore

An examination of the social costs of corporate interests pursuing profits at the expense of the public good.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, William Black, Jimmy Carter, Elijah Cummings

Votes: 37,821 | Gross: $14.36M

24. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

R | 120 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
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: 129,371 | Gross: $21.24M

25. Collapse (II) (2009)

Unrated | 82 min | Documentary

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
71 Metascore

A documentary on Michael Ruppert, a police officer turned independent reporter who predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter, From the Wilderness.

Director: Chris Smith | Star: Michael Ruppert

Votes: 6,189 | Gross: $0.05M

26. This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

Unrated | 98 min | Documentary

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
75 Metascore

Kirby Dick's exposé about the American movie ratings board.

Director: Kirby Dick | Stars: Kirby Dick, Kimberly Peirce, Darren Aronofsky, Atom Egoyan

Votes: 26,131 | Gross: $0.30M

27. Kumaré (2011)

Not Rated | 84 min | Documentary

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
60 Metascore

A documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. At the height of his popularity, the Guru Kumaré must reveal his true identity to his disciples and unveil his greatest teaching of all.

Director: Vikram Gandhi | Stars: Vikram Gandhi, Toby, Greg, Molly

Votes: 4,258 | Gross: $0.13M

28. The Human Experience (2008)

PG-13 | 90 min | Documentary

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? Their journey brings them into ... See full summary »

Director: Charles Francis Kinnane | Stars: Jeffrey Azize, Clifford Azize, Michael Campo, Matthew Sanchez

Votes: 885

29. Life in a Day (2011)

PG-13 | 95 min | Documentary, Drama

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
58 Metascore

A documentary shot by film-makers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on the twenty-fourth of July, 2010.

Directors: Loressa Clisby, Kevin Macdonald, Hiroaki Aikawa, Natalia Andreadis, Jack Attridge, Cristina Bocchialini, Zillah Bowes, Ferran Brooks, Andrea Dalla Costa, Lisa Cottrell-Bentley, Alejo Crisóstomo, Sócrates Cuadri, Ayman El Gazwy, Shawn Gadberry, Jane Haubrich, Soma Helmi, Jennifer M. Howd, Clementine Isaac, Aditya Kolli, Gabor Kukucska, Francesco La Regina, Frederic Lumiere, Marek Mackovic, Zuqy Cruz Marquez, Linda Matarasso, Kevin McMahon, Joseph Michael, Joaquin Montalvan, Lilit Movsisyan, Emmanuelle Pickett, Christopher Redmond, Alejandro Romeo, Alaa Sheikh Hassan, Marcus Tedenryd | Stars: Hiroaki Aikawa, Cindy Baer, Teagan Bentley, Ester Brym

Votes: 13,931 | Gross: $0.25M

30. The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004)

98 min | Documentary

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Documentary about the art of film editing. Clips are shown from many groundbreaking films with innovative editing styles.

Director: Wendy Apple | Stars: Kathy Bates, Zach Staenberg, Jodie Foster, Michael Tronick

Votes: 2,186

31. Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001)

Not Rated | 142 min | Documentary, Biography

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The career and life of Stanley Kubrick is explored through pictures, clips from his films, his old home movies, comments from his colleagues and a narration by Tom Cruise.

Director: Jan Harlan | Stars: Katharina Kubrick, Malcolm McDowell, Stanley Kubrick, Barbara Kroner

Votes: 8,949

32. Room 237 (I) (2012)

Not Rated | 102 min | Documentary

6.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
80 Metascore

An exploration of various interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's horror film, The Shining (1980).

Director: Rodney Ascher | Stars: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan

Votes: 18,362 | Gross: $0.26M

33. Senna (2010)

PG-13 | 106 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
79 Metascore

A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.

Director: Asif Kapadia | Stars: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis

Votes: 50,069 | Gross: $1.61M

34. The Elephant in the Living Room (2010)

PG | 96 min | Documentary

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
69 Metascore

The Elephant in the Living Room takes viewers on a journey deep inside the controversial American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world, as common household pets. ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Webber | Stars: Tim Harrison, Terry Brumfield, Russ Clear, Casey Craig

Votes: 918

35. The Cove (2009)

PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Crime

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
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: 43,036 | Gross: $0.86M

36. Zeitgeist (2007 Video)

Not Rated | 118 min | Documentary, History

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Mythology and belief in society today, presenting uncommon perspectives of common cultural issues.

Director: Peter Joseph | Stars: Chogyam Trungpa, Jordan Maxwell, George Carlin, Bill Hicks

Votes: 44,739

37. Derrida (2002)

Not Rated | 84 min | Documentary

6.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
73 Metascore

Documentary about French philosopher (and author of deconstructionism) Jacques Derrida, who sparked fierce debate throughout American academia.

Directors: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering | Stars: Jacques Derrida, Marguerite Derrida, René Major, Chantal Major

Votes: 759 | Gross: $0.16M

38. Roger & Me (1989)

R | 91 min | Documentary

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
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: 23,902 | Gross: $6.71M

39. Food, Inc. (2008)

PG | 94 min | Documentary

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
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: 45,785 | Gross: $4.42M

40. Super Size Me (2004)

PG | 100 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
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: 91,208 | Gross: $11.53M

41. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

G | 99 min | Documentary

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
80 Metascore

Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Werner Herzog, Scott Rowland, Stefan Pashov, Doug MacAyeal

Votes: 15,363 | Gross: $0.94M