The world through a screen - Top documentaries

by aekengren | created - 09 May 2012 | updated - 11 months ago | Public

Here is a list of my favorite documentaries which you might not have heard about! No particular order.

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1. Yuki yukite, shingun (1987)

Not Rated | 122 min | Documentary, War

A documentary following Kenzo Okuzaki, a 62-year-old WW2 veteran notorious for his protests against Emperor Hirohito, as he tries to expose the needless executions of two Japanese soldiers during the war.

Director: Kazuo Hara | Stars: Kenzo Okuzaki, Riichi Aikawa, Masaichi Hamaguchi, Toshio Hara

Votes: 1,151

2. Mondo cane (1962)

R | 108 min | Documentary, Horror

A "shockumentary" consisting of a collection of mostly real archive footage displaying mankind at its most depraved and perverse, displaying bizarre rites, cruel behavior and bestial violence.

Directors: Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi | Stars: Stefano Sibaldi, Rossano Brazzi, Yves Klein, Henning Skaarup

Votes: 3,037

3. 7 Plus Seven (1970 TV Movie)

52 min | Documentary, Biography

Director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born children after a seven-year wait. The subjects are interviewed as to the changes that have occurred in their lives during the ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Apted | Stars: Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield

Votes: 2,277

Check out the rest of the series as well.

4. Land of Silence and Darkness (1971)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary

Through examining Fini Straubinger, an old woman who has been deaf and blind since adolescence, and her work on behalf of other deaf and blind people, this film shows how the deaf and blind... See full summary »

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Fini Straubinger, M. Baaske, Elsa Fehrer, Heinrich Fleischmann

Votes: 2,147

5. Dark Days (2000)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

75 Metascore

A cinematic portrait of the homeless population who live permanently in the underground tunnels of New York City.

Director: Marc Singer | Star: Marc Singer

Votes: 5,990 | Gross: $0.43M

6. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)

Unrated | 85 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

65 Metascore

A rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat.'

Directors: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman | Stars: Daniel McGowan, Lisa McGowan, Tim Lewis, Kirk Engdall

Votes: 2,912 | Gross: $0.06M

7. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Music

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: 31,012 | Gross: $1.72M

8. Nanook of the North (1922)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary

In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle.

Director: Robert J. Flaherty | Stars: Allakariallak, Alice Nevalinga, Cunayou, Allegoo

Votes: 9,374

9. South of the Border (2009)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary

45 Metascore

A road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements as well as the mainstream media's misperception of South America while interviewing seven of its elected presidents.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Tariq Ali, Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Hugo Chávez

Votes: 2,689 | Gross: $0.17M

10. Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (2000)

R | 93 min | Documentary, Adventure, Romance

63 Metascore

A retired gay anthropologist revisits the native cultures he studied in his youth.

Directors: David Shapiro, Laurie Gwen Shapiro | Stars: Tobias Schneebaum, Norman Mailer, Michael Nelson Rockefeller

Votes: 778 | Gross: $0.35M

11. Psywar (2010)

99 min | Documentary

Psywar explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the elitist theory of democracy; and the relationship between war, propaganda, and class.

Director: Scott Noble | Stars: George Bush, George W. Bush, Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton

Votes: 170

12. When the Mountains Tremble (1983)

Not Rated | 83 min | Documentary

A documentary on the war between the Guatemalan military and the Mayan population, with firsthand accounts by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

Directors: Newton Thomas Sigel, Pamela Yates | Stars: Rigoberta Menchú, Susan Sarandon

Votes: 130

13. Liberia: An Uncivil War (2004 TV Movie)

102 min | Documentary

"Liberia, a nation burdened by its past. America, a nation with no memory at all." In Liberia, the summer of 2003 was pure insanity. A rebel army attempts to overthrow a government run by ... See full summary »

Directors: Jonathan Stack, James Brabazon | Stars: Zubin Cooper, Charles Taylor

Votes: 81

15. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999)

PG-13 | 91 min | Documentary, Biography

78 Metascore

A cinematic portrait of the life and career of the infamous American execution device designer and holocaust denier.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Fred A. Leuchter Jr., Robert Jan Van Pelt, David Irving, Caroline Leuchter

Votes: 5,106 | Gross: $0.50M

16. Marwencol (2010)

Not Rated | 83 min | Documentary, Biography, Fantasy

83 Metascore

After a vicious attacks leaves him brain-damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in "Marwencol", a 1/6th scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard.

Director: Jeff Malmberg | Stars: Mark Hogancamp, Emmanuel Nneji, Edda Hogancamp, Tom Neubauer

Votes: 2,846 | Gross: $0.11M

17. A (1998)

136 min | Documentary

Aum Shinrikyo, the Buddhist sect led by Shoko Asahara and responsible for the 1995 Sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway, becomes the subject of this documentary.

Director: Tatsuya Mori | Star: Hiroshi Araki

Votes: 220

18. Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers (2003)

54 min | Documentary

Looks at the arguments for capitalism and technology, such as greater efficiency, more time and less work, and argues that these are not being fulfilled, and they never will be.

Director: Erik Gandini | Stars: John Zerzan, George W. Bush, Fidel Castro, Kalle Lasn

Votes: 1,393

19. Cocaine Cowboys (2006)

R | 118 min | Documentary, Crime, History

59 Metascore

In the 1980s, ruthless Colombian cocaine barons invaded Miami with a brand of violence unseen in this country since Prohibition-era Chicago - and it put the city on the map. "Cocaine ... See full summary »

Director: Billy Corben | Stars: Jon Roberts, Al Sunshine, Sam Burstyn, Mickey Munday

Votes: 11,685 | Gross: $0.15M

20. Fishing with John (1991)

Not Rated | 152 min | Documentary, Comedy, Sport

Musician John Lurie knows nothing about fishing, but that doesn't stop him from embarking on fishing in exotic locations with friends.

Stars: John Lurie, Willem Dafoe, Nik Tyler, Robb Webb

Votes: 1,208

21. Vernon, Florida (1981)

Not Rated | 55 min | Documentary, Comedy

A documentary on the eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris, Joe Payne

Votes: 2,697

22. The Harder They Come (1972)

R | 120 min | Crime, Drama, Music

Wishing to become a successful Reggae singer, a young Jamaican man finds himself tied to corrupt record producers and drug pushers.

Director: Perry Henzell | Stars: Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw, Ras Daniel Hartman

Votes: 4,790

23. Africa: Blood and Guts (1966)

R | 122 min | Documentary

The cruel acts of animal poaching and violence, executions, and tribal slaughtering, all taking place on the African continent.

Directors: Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi | Stars: Sergio Rossi, Gualtiero Jacopetti, Julius Nyerere, Moise Tshombe

Votes: 1,098

25. Slippin': Ten Years with the Bloods (2005)

Not Rated | 84 min | Documentary

A documentary on five members of one of the world's most notorious gangs, the Bloods.

Directors: Joachim Schroeder, Tommy Sowards | Stars: K.K. Calvin, Jumbo Chris, Dig Dug Douglas, C.K. Michael Johnson

Votes: 220

26. Man on Wire (2008)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

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: 48,280 | Gross: $2.96M

27. Jesus Camp (2006)

PG-13 | 87 min | Documentary

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: 24,971 | Gross: $0.90M

28. Waste Land (2010)

Not Rated | 99 min | Documentary

78 Metascore

On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro is Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, where men and women sift through garbage for a living. Artist Vik Muniz produces portraits of the workers and learns about their lives.

Directors: Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, João Jardim | Star: Vik Muniz

Votes: 7,931 | Gross: $0.19M

29. Anarchism in America (1983)

75 min | Documentary

A colorful and provocative survey of anarchism in America, the film attempts to dispel popular misconceptions and trace the historical development of the movement. The film explores the ... See full summary »

Directors: Steven Fischler, Joel Sucher | Stars: Paul Avrich, Jello Biafra, Murray Bookchin, Emma Goldman

Votes: 146

30. Hoop Dreams (1994)

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

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: 21,814 | Gross: $7.83M

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

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

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: 21,171 | Gross: $4.19M

32. Grizzly Man (2005)

R | 103 min | Documentary, Biography

87 Metascore

A devastating and heart-rending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzly bears in Alaska.

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

Votes: 47,262 | Gross: $3.17M

33. Winged Migration (2001)

G | 89 min | Documentary

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: 11,011 | Gross: $10.76M

34. Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005)

R | 96 min | Documentary, Music

73 Metascore

An examination of the heavy metal music subculture that tries to explain why, despite the longevity and popularity of the genre, fans are marginalized and ridiculed for their passion.

Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Jessica Joy Wise | Stars: Tom Araya, Gavin Baddeley, Blasphemer, Randy Blythe

Votes: 10,888

35. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, History

A documentary of the successful career and assassination of San Francisco's first elected gay city supervisor.

Director: Rob Epstein | Stars: Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Anne Kronenberg, Tory Hartmann

Votes: 5,111 | Gross: $0.01M

36. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (2011)

PG | 80 min | Documentary

71 Metascore

The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet - the heart and soul of Elmo - Kevin Clash.

Director: Constance Marks | Stars: Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Oz, Bill Barretta

Votes: 6,345 | Gross: $0.30M

37. Savage Man Savage Beast (1975)

Unrated | 94 min | Documentary, Adventure, Drama

A notorious mondo film depicting unbelievable and bizarre rituals, animal killing and cruelty, and people being killed and eaten, all by either animals or humans against each other or themselves.

Directors: Antonio Climati, Mario Morra | Stars: Giuseppe Rinaldi, Pit Dernitz

Votes: 298

38. Big River Man (2009)

100 min | Documentary

68 Metascore

Martin Strel attempts to cover 3,375 miles of the Amazon River, the longest continuous swim in history.

Director: John Maringouin | Stars: Matthew Mohlke, Borut Strel, Martin Strel

Votes: 1,460

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

G | 99 min | Documentary

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: 15,770 | Gross: $0.94M

40. Wheel of Time (2003)

Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary

65 Metascore

Wheel of Time is Werner Herzog's photographed look at the largest Buddhist ritual in Bodh Gaya, India.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: The Dalai Lama, Lama Lhundup Woeser, Takna Jigme Sangpo, Matthieu Ricard

Votes: 1,984

41. The City (I) (1939)

43 min | Documentary, Short

Visionary documentary that contrasts the conditions of life in small towns and in the industrialized cities, starting with a brief portrait of pre-industrial United States, then moving into... See full summary »

Directors: Ralph Steiner, Willard Van Dyke | Star: Morris Carnovsky

Votes: 256

42. The Cove (2009)

PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Crime

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: 44,519 | Gross: $0.87M

43. Project Nim (2011)

PG-13 | 93 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

Tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s.

Director: James Marsh | Stars: Nim Chimpsky, Stephanie LaFarge, Herbert Terrace, Wer LaFarge

Votes: 7,854 | Gross: $0.41M

44. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

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: 19,318 | Gross: $1.21M

45. Into the Abyss (2011)

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

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: 14,646 | Gross: $0.22M

46. Restrepo (2010)

R | 93 min | Documentary, War

85 Metascore

A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.

Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger | Stars: The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Juan 'Doc Restrepo, Dan Kearney, LaMonta Caldwell

Votes: 20,068 | Gross: $1.33M

47. Armadillo (2010)

Not Rated | 105 min | Documentary, War

72 Metascore

In February of 2009, a group of Danish soldiers accompanied by documentarian Janus Metz arrived at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Metz and ... See full summary »

Director: Janus Metz

Votes: 8,802 | Gross: $0.01M

48. The War Tapes (2006)

Not Rated | 97 min | Documentary, War

77 Metascore

Called up for service in Iraq, several members of the National Guard were given digital video cameras. This film, edited from their footage, provides a perspective on a complex and troubled conflict.

Director: Deborah Scranton | Stars: Zack Bazzi, Duncan Domey, Ben Flanders, Mike Moriarty

Votes: 1,198 | Gross: $0.25M