14 April 2013 6:10 PM, PDT | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

The following documentaries from the 21st century were chosen for their abiding influence and/or “Wow!” factor. Most of them—not all—we also happen to love. But we did leave out some more obscure personal favorites to make room for the penguins, etc.1. Spellbound (2002)Jeffrey Blitz’s portrait of eight National Spelling Bee contestants and their families has a deep resonance: Among other things, mastery of the English language becomes a means of affirming one’s Americanness. The second half—in which the characters are knocked off one by one, as in an Agatha Christie thriller—has the audience hanging on every letter. The downside: Its massive success ushered in an age of similarly structured competition docs.  (D.E.) 2. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)After Roger & Me, the Michael Moore doc with the most impact: part prosecutorial brief, part rabid editorial cartoon—a blend of insight, outrage, and innuendo. It’s not a documentary for the ages, »

- David Edelstein,Bilge Ebiri,Miranda Siegel

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