The Best Documentary Films of All Time

by smay-stjohn | created - 5 months ago | updated - 2 months ago | Public

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1. Free Solo (2018)

PG-13 | 100 min | Documentary, Sport

83 Metascore

Alex Honnold attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan.

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi | Stars: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin, Cheyne Lempe

Votes: 36,641 | Gross: $17.54M

2. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

R | 120 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

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: 135,367 | Gross: $21.24M

3. Long Strange Trip (2017)

R | 238 min | Documentary

78 Metascore

A look at the 30-year career of The Grateful Dead.

Director: Amir Bar-Lev | Stars: John Perry Barlow, Tom Constanten, Sam Cutler, Jerry Garcia

Votes: 1,019

4. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

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

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: 59,111 | Gross: $3.97M

5. Man on Wire (2008)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography, History

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: 49,704 | Gross: $2.96M

6. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

R | 122 min | Documentary, Drama, War

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: 122,798 | Gross: $119.19M

7. 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: 48,671 | Gross: $3.17M

8. The Last Waltz (1978)

PG | 117 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

88 Metascore

A film account and presentation of the final concert of The Band.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robbie Robertson, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Van Morrison

Votes: 14,792 | Gross: $0.32M

9. Roger & Me (1989)

R | 91 min | Documentary

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: 24,881 | Gross: $6.71M

10. Stop Making Sense (1984)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary, Music

89 Metascore

An innovative concert movie for the rock group The Talking Heads.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: David Byrne, Bernie Worrell, Alex Weir, Steven Scales

Votes: 11,041 | Gross: $5.02M

11. Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Not Rated | 83 min | Documentary, Biography, Mystery

75 Metascore

A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one of the most accomplished street photographers.

Directors: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel | Stars: Vivian Maier, John Maloof, Daniel Arnaud, Simon Amédé

Votes: 12,148 | Gross: $1.51M

12. Life Itself (2014)

R | 121 min | Documentary, Biography

87 Metascore

The life and career of the renowned film critic and social commentator, Roger Ebert.

Director: Steve James | Stars: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel, Martin Scorsese

Votes: 14,165 | Gross: $0.81M

13. Blackfish (2013)

PG-13 | 83 min | Documentary, News

83 Metascore

A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite | Stars: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg, Dean Gomersall

Votes: 57,122 | Gross: $2.06M

14. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

PG | 96 min | Documentary, News

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: 77,796 | Gross: $23.81M

15. The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009)

TV-MA | 86 min | Documentary

A year in the life of the White family, well known for Jesco White, the star of the "Dancing Outlaw" documentary.

Director: Julien Nitzberg | Stars: J. Parker Bazzle II, Big & Rich, Ponty's Camper, Derek Wayne Castle

Votes: 3,312

16. Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (1987)

PG | 120 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

This documentary movie covers two concerts at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri, to celebrate Chuck Berry's 60th birthday, and also discusses his life and career.

Director: Taylor Hackford | Stars: Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Ingrid Berry

Votes: 1,142 | Gross: $0.72M

17. Muscle Shoals (2013)

PG | 111 min | Documentary, Biography, History

75 Metascore

A documentary that celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the signature sound he developed in songs such as "I'll Take You There", "Brown Sugar", and "When a Man Loves a Woman".

Director: Greg 'Freddy' Camalier | Stars: Rick Hall, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Candi Staton

Votes: 3,290 | Gross: $0.70M

18. 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: 22,462 | Gross: $7.83M

19. Festival Express (2003)

R | 90 min | Documentary, History, Music

85 Metascore

The filmed account of a large Canadian rock festival train tour boasting major acts like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Band.

Directors: Bob Smeaton, Frank Cvitanovich | Stars: Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, The Band, Rick Danko

Votes: 2,063 | Gross: $1.17M

20. The King (II) (2017)

R | 107 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, a musical road trip across America in his 1963 Rolls Royce explores how a country boy lost his authenticity and became a king while his country lost her democracy and became an empire.

Director: Eugene Jarecki | Stars: Alec Baldwin, Tony Brown, James Carville, Rosanne Cash

Votes: 671 | Gross: $0.26M

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

PG-13 | 79 min | Documentary, Biography

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: 33,416 | Gross: $0.68M

22. American Masters (1985– )
Episode: No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)

Not Rated | 359 min | Documentary, Biography

A chronicle of Bob Dylan's strange evolution between 1961 and 1966 from folk singer to protest singer to "voice of a generation" to rock star.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Bob Dylan, B.J. Rolfzen, Dick Kangas, Liam Clancy

Votes: 10,652

23. Winnebago Man (2009)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

71 Metascore

Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of - after cursing his way through a Winnebago sales video, Rebney's outrageously funny outtakes became an underground sensation and ... See full summary »

Director: Ben Steinbauer | Stars: Jack Rebney, Ben Steinbauer, Keith Gordon, Nick Prueher

Votes: 4,459 | Gross: $0.18M

24. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

TV-MA | 94 min | Documentary

77 Metascore

A behind-the-scenes look at how Jim Carrey adopted the persona of idiosyncratic comedian Andy Kaufman on the set of Man on the Moon (1999).

Director: Chris Smith | Stars: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Milos Forman, Peter Bonerz

Votes: 19,568

25. The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir (2014)

85 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

A documentary that explores Bob Weirs life, through the Grateful Dead, Ratdog, and his childhood.

Director: Mike Fleiss | Stars: John Perry Barlow, Chuck Berry, Neal Cassady, John Coltrane

Votes: 1,113

26. The Tillman Story (2010)

R | 94 min | Documentary, Biography, Mystery

86 Metascore

Pat Tillman never thought of himself as a hero. His choice to leave a multimillion-dollar football contract and join the military wasn't done for any reason other than he felt it was the ... See full summary »

Director: Amir Bar-Lev | Stars: Pat Tillman, Josh Brolin, Mary Tillman, Russell Baer

Votes: 4,366 | Gross: $0.80M

27. 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: 20,905 | Gross: $1.33M

28. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography

85 Metascore

An exploration of the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children's television host, Fred Rogers.

Director: Morgan Neville | Stars: Fred Rogers, Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers

Votes: 17,615 | Gross: $22.61M

29. The Dawn Wall (2017)

Not Rated | 100 min | Documentary, Adventure, Biography

81 Metascore

In an unbelievable story of perseverance, free climber Tommy Caldwell and climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson attempt to scale the impossible 3000ft Dawn Wall of El Capitan.

Directors: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer | Stars: John Branch, Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson

Votes: 8,244 | Gross: $0.07M

30. Catfish (2010)

PG-13 | 87 min | Documentary, Drama, Mystery

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: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Angela Wesselman-Pierce

Votes: 38,832 | Gross: $3.23M

31. Meru (2015)

R | 90 min | Documentary, Action, Adventure

77 Metascore

Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi | Stars: Conrad Anker, Grace Chin, Jimmy Chin, Amee Hinkley

Votes: 12,918 | Gross: $2.33M

32. Snow on Tha Bluff (2011)

R | 79 min | Crime, Drama

The story of Atlanta robbery boy and crack dealer, Curtis Snow, who stole a camera from some college kids in a dope deal and made a documentary about his life.

Director: Damon Russell | Stars: Curtis Snow, Young Blo, Curtis Lockett, Poncho Perez

Votes: 2,233

33. West of Memphis (2012)

R | 147 min | Documentary, Crime

80 Metascore

An examination of a failure of justice in the case against the West Memphis Three.

Director: Amy Berg | Stars: Jason Baldwin, Damien Wayne Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Michael Baden

Votes: 9,333 | Gross: $0.31M

34. Gimme Shelter (1970)

GP | 91 min | Documentary, Music, Thriller

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: 9,896 | Gross: $0.25M

35. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

PG-13 | 96 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

81 Metascore

In 1980 New York, three young men who were all adopted meet each other and find out they're triplets who were separated at birth. But their quest to find out why turns into a bizarre and sinister mystery.

Director: Tim Wardle | Stars: Robert Shafran, Michael Domnitz, Howard Schneider, Ellen Cervone

Votes: 16,801 | Gross: $12.32M

36. Team Foxcatcher (2016)

TV-14 | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

Documentary filmmaker Jon Greenhalgh examines the life of Dave Schultz, a professional wrestler who was part of 'Team Foxcatcher', funded by multi-millionaire John du Pont.

Director: Jon Greenhalgh | Stars: Dan Chaid, John du Pont, Dave Schultz, Mark Schultz

Votes: 4,024

37. Last Breath (2019)

90 min | Documentary

A deep sea diver is stranded on the seabed with 5 minutes of oxygen and no hope of rescue. With access to amazing archive this is the story of one man's impossible fight for survival.

Directors: Richard da Costa, Alex Parkinson | Stars: Duncan Allcock, Duncan Allcock, Kjetil Ove Alvestad, Stuart Anderson

Votes: 1,854

38. Tickled (2016)

R | 92 min | Documentary, Mystery

76 Metascore

Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn't stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.

Directors: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve | Stars: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, Marko Realmonte, Kevin Clarke

Votes: 14,134 | Gross: $0.61M



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