Great Documentaries

by fred-sickly | created - 19 Oct 2013 | updated - 29 Mar 2015 | Public

Like documentaries as much as I do? How many of these have you seen? Have you seen any good ones that I left out?

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1. Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary

60 Metascore

An urban mystery unfurls as one man pieces together the surreal meaning of hundreds of cryptic tiled messages that have been appearing in city streets across the U.S. and South America.

Director: Jon Foy | Stars: Justin Duerr, Marc Duerr, Kevin Riley, Abby Miller

Votes: 1,868 | Gross: $0.01M

2. Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003)

TV-PG | 132 min | Documentary, Biography

80 Metascore

Narrated by Sydney Pollack, film critic Richard Schickel's dazzling two-hour plus documentary to one of the towering figures in film: Charles Chaplin. Hardcore Chaplin fans may not find ... See full summary »

Director: Richard Schickel | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Sydney Pollack, Bill Irwin, Norman Lloyd

Votes: 1,239

3. 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: 46,766 | Gross: $2.96M

4. Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011)

Not Rated | 97 min | Documentary

66 Metascore

Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are... See full summary »

Director: Léa Pool

Votes: 640 | Gross: $0.02M

5. Witch Hunt (2008)

Unrated | 91 min | Documentary, Crime

The story of several families who have their lives destroyed when their hometown is whipped into a frenzy by allegations of child molestation.

Directors: Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman | Stars: Jack Cummings, Jackie Cummings, Allen Grafton, Ed Jagels

Votes: 898

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

Not Rated | 150 min | Documentary, Crime, Drama

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: 12,520

7. Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000 TV Movie)

Unrated | 130 min | Documentary, Crime

The case of the West Memphis Three, its questionable circumstances and the parties involved are followed up years later.

Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky | Stars: Damien Wayne Echols, Melissa Byers, Norris Deajon, Tim Sullivan

Votes: 6,527

8. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2011)

Not Rated | 121 min | Documentary, Crime

85 Metascore

A further followup of the case of the West Memphis Three and the decades long fight to exonerate them that finally gained traction with new DNA evidence.

Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky | Stars: Gary Gitchell, Todd Moore, Dana Moore, Pam Hobbs

Votes: 7,580

9. 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: 8,684 | Gross: $0.31M

10. Trumbo (2007)

PG-13 | 96 min | Documentary, Biography

71 Metascore

Through a focus on the life of Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976), this film examines the effects on individuals and families of a congressional pursuit of Hollywood Communists after World War II. ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Askin | Stars: Dalton Trumbo, Joan Allen, Brian Dennehy, Michael Douglas

Votes: 908 | Gross: $7.85M

11. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)

Not Rated | 93 min | Documentary

66 Metascore

A documentary on the workings and beliefs of the self-described "hacktivist" collective, Anonymous.

Director: Brian Knappenberger | Stars: Anon2World, Anonyops, Julian Assange, Aaron Barr

Votes: 8,994

12. De fem benspænd (2003)

Unrated | 90 min | Documentary

79 Metascore

About a filmmaker not only revisiting, but also recreating (not in a conventional sense) one of his first films, The Perfect Human / Det perfekte menneske (1967)

Directors: Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier | Stars: Claus Nissen, Majken Algren Nielsen, Daniel Hernandez Rodriguez, Jacqueline Arenal

Votes: 7,158 | Gross: $0.09M

13. The Yes Men (2003)

R | 83 min | Documentary, Comedy

68 Metascore

Anti-corporate activists travel from conference to conference, impersonating member of the World Trade Organization.

Directors: Dan Ollman, Sarah Price, Chris Smith | Stars: Andreas Bichlbauer, Mike Bonanno, Andy Bichlbaum, Michael Moore

Votes: 5,286 | Gross: $0.20M

14. The Yes Men Fix the World (2009)

87 min | Documentary, Comedy

71 Metascore

Troublemaking duo Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, posing as their industrious alter-egos, expose the people profiting from Hurricane Katrina, the faces behind the environmental disaster in Bhopal, and other shocking events.

Directors: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Kurt Engfehr | Stars: Reggie Watts, Mike Bonanno, Andy Bichlbaum, Richard Ebeling

Votes: 4,767 | Gross: $0.19M

15. The Weather Underground (2002)

Unrated | 92 min | Documentary, History, War

77 Metascore

The remarkable story of The Weather Underground, radical activists of the 1970s, and of radical politics at its best and most disastrous.

Directors: Sam Green, Bill Siegel | Stars: Lili Taylor, Pamela Z, Jim Lange, Evan White

Votes: 3,207 | Gross: $0.56M

16. We Live in Public (2009)

Unrated | 91 min | Documentary

69 Metascore

A documentary focusing on the life of dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris, and his exploits over the last decade.

Director: Ondi Timoner | Stars: Josh Harris, Tom Harris, Carlos Alvarez, David Amron

Votes: 1,652 | Gross: $0.04M

17. Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008)

TV-PG | 90 min | Documentary

A chronicle of the life, work and mind that created the Cthulhu mythos.

Director: Frank H. Woodward | Stars: Robin Atkin Downes, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Guillermo del Toro

Votes: 1,164

18. How to Draw a Bunny (2002)

90 min | Documentary

78 Metascore

Interviews with Christo, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein, Judith Malina, James Rosenquist and others help illuminate the life and work of Warhol contemporary Ray Johnson.

Director: John W. Walter | Stars: Joseph Ialacci, Richard Feigen, Frances Beatty, Mort Janklow

Votes: 513 | Gross: $0.00M

19. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

R | 87 min | Documentary, Comedy, Crime

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: 56,398 | Gross: $3.29M

20. The Art of the Steal (2009)

Unrated | 101 min | Documentary

75 Metascore

Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

Director: Don Argott | Stars: Julian Bond, David D'Arcy, Richard Feigen, Richard H. Glanton

Votes: 2,047 | Gross: $0.54M

21. Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)

Not Rated | 106 min | Documentary, Biography, History

74 Metascore

A documentary that follows the Serbian performance artist as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Directors: Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre | Stars: Marina Abramovic, Ulay, Klaus Biesenbach, David Balliano

Votes: 4,961 | Gross: $0.09M

22. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary

74 Metascore

Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while... See full summary »

Director: Tamra Davis | Stars: Jean Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger

Votes: 1,669 | Gross: $0.26M

23. Rivers and Tides (2001)

TV-G | 90 min | Documentary

82 Metascore

Portrait of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose specialty is ephemeral sculptures made from elements of nature.

Director: Thomas Riedelsheimer | Stars: Andy Goldsworthy, Anna Goldsworthy, Holly Goldsworthy, James Goldsworthy

Votes: 2,050

24. Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)

Unrated | 99 min | Documentary, Crime

78 Metascore

Examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary filmmaker Roman Polanski's sudden flight from the United States.

Director: Marina Zenovich | Stars: Andrew Braunsberg, Richard Brenneman, Douglas Dalton, Marilyn Beck

Votes: 4,478 | Gross: $0.06M

25. Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011)

TV-14 | 93 min | Documentary, Biography, History

76 Metascore

'Bobby Fischer Against the World' is a documentary feature exploring the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. The drama of Bobby Fischer's career was undeniable, ... See full summary »

Director: Liz Garbus | Stars: Bobby Fischer, David Edmonds, Anthony Saidy, Susan Polgar

Votes: 6,133

26. Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch (1997 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Biography

From an early age, David Lynch was inspired by the arts and the warm inner glow that comes with the pursuit of creative expression. "Pretty as a Picture:The Art of David Lynch" examines how... See full summary »

Director: Toby Keeler | Stars: Patricia Arquette, Angelo Badalamenti, Robert Blake, Mel Brooks

Votes: 691

27. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Biography

71 Metascore

In 2001 Jack Cardiff (1914-2009) became the first director of photography in the history of the Academy Awards to win an Honorary Oscar. But the first time he clasped the famous statuette ... See full summary »

Director: Craig McCall | Stars: Jack Cardiff, Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall

Votes: 1,011 | Gross: $0.02M

28. Visions of Light (1992)

92 min | Documentary, History

Cameramen and women discuss the craft and art of cinematography and of the "DP" (the director of photography), illustrating their points with clips from 100 films, from Birth of a Nation to... See full summary »

Directors: Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy, Stuart Samuels | Stars: Conrad L. Hall, John Bailey, Vilmos Zsigmond, Charles Lang

Votes: 2,744 | Gross: $0.80M

29. First Position (2011)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary

72 Metascore

A documentary that follows six young dancers from around the world as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.

Director: Bess Kargman | Stars: Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty

Votes: 3,108 | Gross: $1.10M

30. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope (2011)

PG-13 | 88 min | Documentary

64 Metascore

A behind-the-scenes look at the fans who gather by the thousands each year in San Diego, California to attend Comic-Con, the world's largest comic book convention.

Director: Morgan Spurlock | Stars: Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Eli Roth, Seth Rogen

Votes: 2,608 | Gross: $0.03M

31. 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: 6,234 | Gross: $0.30M

32. Rock School (2005)

R | 93 min | Documentary, Music

67 Metascore

At the real life School of Rock a group of misfit kids get in touch with their inner rock star.

Director: Don Argott | Stars: Tucker Collins, Will O'Connor, C.J. Tywoniak, Napoleon Murphy Brock

Votes: 960 | Gross: $0.06M

33. Young@Heart (2007)

PG | 107 min | Documentary, Music

75 Metascore

A documentary on a chorus of senior citizens from Massachusetts who cover songs by Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, Sonic Youth, and other unexpected musicians.

Directors: Stephen Walker, Sally George | Stars: Joe Benoit, Helen Boston, Louise Canady, Elaine Fligman

Votes: 3,700 | Gross: $3.96M

34. How to Survive a Plague (2012)

Not Rated | 110 min | Documentary, History, News

86 Metascore

The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

Director: David France | Stars: Peter Staley, Larry Kramer, Iris Long, Bob Rafsky

Votes: 3,324 | Gross: $0.13M

35. Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)

PG | 86 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

The story of the Disney Renaissance, an incredibly prolific, successful and prestigious decade lasting from 1984 to 1994 that saw the fallen Walt Disney Animation Studios' unexpected progressive triumphant return to excellence.

Director: Don Hahn | Stars: Roy Edward Disney, John Lasseter, Michael Eisner, Don Hahn

Votes: 2,007 | Gross: $0.08M

36. Unknown White Male (2005)

PG-13 | 88 min | Documentary, Biography

65 Metascore

The true story of Doug Bruce who woke up on Coney Island with total amnesia. This documentary follows him as he rediscovers himself and the world around him.

Director: Rupert Murray | Stars: Doug Bruce, Rupert Murray

Votes: 999 | Gross: $0.12M

37. When We Were Kings (1996)

PG | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

83 Metascore

A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.

Director: Leon Gast | Stars: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown

Votes: 13,332 | Gross: $2.67M

38. Pumping Iron (1977)

PG | 85 min | Documentary, Sport

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: 18,640

39. Winnebago Man (2009)

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: 4,268 | Gross: $0.18M

40. Wordplay (2006)

PG | 94 min | Documentary

73 Metascore

An in-depth look at The New York Times' long-time crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his loyal fan base.

Director: Patrick Creadon | Stars: Will Shortz, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart, Merl Reagle

Votes: 3,490 | Gross: $3.12M

41. Word Wars (2004)

Unrated | 80 min | Documentary, Comedy

61 Metascore

A look at the obsessive world of competitive Scrabble.

Directors: Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo | Stars: Joe Edley, Matt Graham, Marlon Hill, Joel Sherman

Votes: 1,611 | Gross: $0.06M

42. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) (2010)

Not Rated | 116 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

68 Metascore

The life and work of the enigmatic folk rock singer-songwriter.

Director: John Scheinfeld | Stars: Gerry Beckley, Lee Blackman, Perry Botkin Jr., Ray Cooper

Votes: 1,264 | Gross: $0.03M

43. Imagine: John Lennon (1988)

R | 100 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

A biography of the rock music star.

Director: Andrew Solt | Stars: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Paul McCartney, George Harrison

Votes: 3,987 | Gross: $3.75M

44. Let It Be (1970)

G | 81 min | Documentary, Music

The filmed account of the Beatles's attempt to recapture their old group spirit by making a back to basics album, which instead drove them further apart.

Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg | Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Votes: 4,576

45. Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (2005)

PG-13 | 105 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

68 Metascore

A documentary on the legendary singer-songwriter, with performances by those musicians he has influenced.

Director: Lian Lunson | Stars: Leonard Cohen, Bono, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright

Votes: 1,950 | Gross: $1.04M

46. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)

PG-13 | 110 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

77 Metascore

Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.

Director: Jeff Feuerzeig | Stars: Daniel Johnston, Mabel Johnston, Bill Johnston, Laurie Allen

Votes: 7,985 | Gross: $0.33M

47. 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: 9,749 | Gross: $5.02M

48. 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: 10,340

49. Rock the Bells (2006)

Not Rated | 103 min | Documentary, Music

70 Metascore

An inside look at what it took to bring the Wu-Tang Clan together for their final performance at the Rock the Bells Hip-Hop festival.

Directors: Denis Henry Hennelly, Casey Suchan | Stars: Chali 2na, D.J. Abilities, Babu, Jerome Baldwin

Votes: 335