Best Documentaries

by ciaranabel | created - 27 Nov 2013 | updated - 19 Nov 2014 | Public
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1. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

82 Metascore

A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend's ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

Director: Kurt Kuenne | Stars: Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby, Kathleen Bagby

Votes: 30,319

2. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001)

PG-13 | 91 min | Documentary, Sport

76 Metascore

Documentary about the pioneering 1970s Zephyr skating team.

Director: Stacy Peralta | Stars: Sean Penn, Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Jeff Ament

Votes: 11,573 | Gross: $1.29M

3. 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: 6,150 | Gross: $0.43M

4. Bus 174 (2002)

R | 122 min | Documentary, Crime

83 Metascore

Documentary depicts what happened in Rio de Janeiro on June 12th 2000, when bus 174 was taken by an armed young man, threatening to shoot all the passengers. Transmitted live on all ... See full summary »

Directors: José Padilha, Felipe Lacerda | Stars: Sandro do Nascimento, Rodrigo Pimentel, Luiz Eduardo Soares, Anonymous

Votes: 7,615 | Gross: $0.22M

5. Chernobyl Heart (2003)

39 min | Documentary, Short

This Academy Award-winning documentary takes a look at children born after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster who have been born with a deteriorated heart condition.

Director: Maryann DeLeo | Stars: William Novick, Adi Roche

Votes: 680

6. High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell (1995 TV Movie)

TV-14 | 60 min | Documentary

Documents 18 months in the lives of three crack addicts in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Directors: Maryann DeLeo, Richard Farrell | Star: Dicky Eklund

Votes: 656

7. 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: 25,568 | Gross: $0.90M

8. 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: 50,240 | Gross: $2.96M

9. Occupation 101 (2006)

90 min | Documentary

A thought-provoking and powerful documentary film on the current and historical root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. political involvement.

Directors: Abdallah Omeish, Sufyan Omeish | Stars: James Akins, Arik Ascherman, Bishop Barltlett Jr., Phyllis Bennis

Votes: 1,682

10. Small Town Ecstasy (2002 TV Special)

85 min | Documentary

Scott's a 40-year-old preacher's son and a raver, enamored by marijuana and the synthetic drug Ecstasy, who puts his children's future at risk through his lassez faire approach to child-rearing.

Director: Jay Blumenfield

Votes: 247

11. Style Wars (1983 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 69 min | Documentary, Music

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: 2,508

12. The Bridge (I) (2006)

R | 94 min | Documentary, Drama

58 Metascore

Filmmakers use hidden cameras to capture the various suicide attempts at the Golden Gate Bridge - the world's most popular suicide destination. Interviews with the victims' loved ones describe their lives and mental health.

Director: Eric Steel | Stars: Eric Geleynse, Chris Brown, Susan Ginwalla, Caroline Pressley

Votes: 10,536 | Gross: $0.18M

13. Dispatches (1987– )
Episode: Undercover Mosque (2007)

48 min | Documentary, News

Investigative journalist, Bobby Pathak, has investigated a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations that claim to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other ... See full summary »

Director: Andrew Smith | Stars: Bobby Pathak, Rosie Rowell

Votes: 19

15. World War 1 in Colour (2003– )

372 min | Documentary, History, War

Documentary using computer colorized footage from World War I to give the audience the feel of how it really looked back during the war.

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Arthur Barraclough, Arthur Halestrap, Harry Patch

Votes: 650

16. The Death of Yugoslavia (1995– )

50 min | Documentary, History

This captivate documentary covers the struggles of the Yugoslavian people during the collapse of their country, and the subsequent wars to finally find hope with the signing of the Final Peace Accords.

Stars: Slobodan Milosevic, Franjo Tudjman, Borisav Jovic, Momir Bulatovic

Votes: 841

17. 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: 14,154 | Gross: $2.67M

18. Don't Look There

Horror, Mystery, Thriller | Pre-production

A female clinical psychologist's life spirals out of control as she assists the police hunt a serial killer and she treats a new patient.

Director: Richard Zelniker | Stars: Kristin Minter, Natalie Alyn Lind, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Kenny Johnson

19. Trouble the Water (2008)

Unrated | 93 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning.

Directors: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin | Stars: Michael Brown, George W. Bush, Julie Chen Moonves, Ray Nagin

Votes: 1,872 | Gross: $0.52M

20. Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War (1999)

Unrated | 165 min | Documentary, War

55 Metascore

A clear and critical look at Western intervention in the Balkans leading to the civil wars in Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

Directors: George Bogdanich, George Bogdanich | Star: Sanya Popovic

Votes: 230

21. Home (I) (2009)

Not Rated | 120 min | Documentary, Drama, Family

47 Metascore

With aerial footage from fifty-four countries, 'Home' is a depiction of how Earth's problems are all interlinked.

Director: Yann Arthus-Bertrand | Stars: Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Glenn Close, Jacques Gamblin

Votes: 20,768

22. 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: 45,845 | Gross: $0.87M

23. Baraka (1992)

Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary

A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.

Director: Ron Fricke

Votes: 33,946 | Gross: $1.33M

24. Night and Fog (1956)

Not Rated | 32 min | Documentary, Short, History

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: 15,964

25. Crips and Bloods: Made in America (2008)

Not Rated | 93 min | Documentary, Crime

With a first-person look at the notorious Crips and Bloods, this film examines the conditions that have lead to decades of devastating gang violence among young African Americans growing up in South Los Angeles.

Director: Stacy Peralta | Stars: Jim Brown, Tony Muhammad, Kershaun Scott, Forest Whitaker

Votes: 2,577 | Gross: $0.07M

26. Nature's Most Amazing Events (2009– )

49 min | Documentary

This is a documentary series looking at the most dramatic wildlife spectacles on our planet. We see the impact of the melting of the arctic ice in the summer, the annual return of the ... See full summary »

Stars: David Attenborough, Joe Stevens, Tom Fitz, Mike Holding

Votes: 2,879

27. Planet Earth (2006)

TV-PG | 538 min | Documentary

Emmy Award-winning, 11 episodes, five years in the making, the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC, and the first to be filmed in high definition.

Stars: David Attenborough, Sigourney Weaver, Huw Cordey, Doug Allan

Votes: 155,166

28. The Blue Planet (2001)

TV-G | 389 min | Documentary

Mammoth series, five years in the making, taking a look at the rich tapestry of life in the world's oceans.

Stars: David Attenborough, Pierce Brosnan, Jason Roberts

Votes: 30,491

29. Life in Cold Blood (2008)

Documentary

A nature documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, that looks at the evolution and habits of amphibians and reptiles.

Star: David Attenborough

Votes: 2,508

30. Life (2009)

TV-G | 473 min | Documentary

David Attenborough's legendary BBC crew explains and shows wildlife all over planet earth in 10 episodes. The first is an overview of the challenges facing life, the others are dedicated to... See full summary »

Stars: Oprah Winfrey, David Attenborough, Doug Allan, Barrie Britton

Votes: 35,557

31. 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: 49,371 | Gross: $3.17M

32. Carandiru (2003)

R | 145 min | Drama, Crime

71 Metascore

Brazilian MD Drauzio Varella starts AIDS prevention in Brazil's largest prison, Carandiru, in São Paulo, where the population is nearly double its 4,000 maximum. Doc learns from experience ... See full summary »

Director: Hector Babenco | Stars: Enrique Diaz, Wagner Moura, Caio Blat, Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos

Votes: 16,856 | Gross: $0.21M

33. Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)

Not Rated | 76 min | Crime, Drama, History

40 Metascore

A series of grisly events that took place in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, between 1890 and 1900 are dramatized.

Director: James Marsh | Stars: Ian Holm, Jeffrey Golden, Jo Vukelich, Marcus Monroe

Votes: 1,353

34. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006–2007)

TV-MA | 255 min | Documentary

An examination of the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Stars: Darleen Asevedo, Jay Asevedo, Shelton Shakespear Alexander, Lee Arnold

Votes: 4,019

35. Favela Rising (2005)

TV-14 | 80 min | Documentary

65 Metascore

A man emerges from the slums of Rio to lead the nonviolent cultural movement known as Afro-reggae.

Directors: Matt Mochary, Jeff Zimbalist | Stars: Andre Luis Azevedo, José Júnior, Michele Moraes, Anderson Sa

Votes: 620

36. Cutting Edge (1990– )
Episode: My Street (2008)

Documentary

One street. 116 households. What goes on behind closed doors? Happy stories. Sad stories. Hopeful stories. Remarkable stories. It could be any street but this is My Street.

Director: Sue Bourne

38. To Be and to Have (2002)

Not Rated | 104 min | Documentary, Family

87 Metascore

A documentary portrait of a one-room school in rural France, where the students (ranging in age from 4 to 11) are educated by a single dedicated teacher.

Director: Nicolas Philibert | Stars: Georges Lopez, Alizé, Axel Thouvenin, Guillaume

Votes: 7,318 | Gross: $0.78M

39. Mum, Heroin and Me (2008 TV Movie)

50 min | Documentary

Add a Plot

Director: Jane Treays

Votes: 12

40. Tyson (2008)

R | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

83 Metascore

A mixture of original interviews, archival footage, and photographs sheds light on the life experiences of Mike Tyson.

Director: James Toback | Stars: Mike Tyson, Mills Lane, Trevor Berbick, Cus D'Amato

Votes: 11,803 | Gross: $0.89M

41. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

R | 93 min | Documentary, Crime

71 Metascore

Nick Broomfield's second documentary about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, focusing on her mental state on death row.

Directors: Nick Broomfield, Joan Churchill | Stars: Aileen Wuornos, Nick Broomfield, Terry Humphreys-Slay, Leitha Prather

Votes: 6,088 | Gross: $0.10M

42. Biggie and Tupac (2002)

R | 108 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

63 Metascore

Documentary on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the East Coast/West Coast, hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997.

Director: Nick Broomfield | Stars: The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Nick Broomfield, Russell Poole

Votes: 4,394 | Gross: $0.09M

43. Yellowstone (2009– )

50 min | Documentary

Filmed over the course of a year in Yellowstone, this documentary tracks the area's wildlife as they grapple with life and death within one of America's last remaining wilderness regions.

Stars: Peter Firth, Jeff Henry, Dick Powell, Mary Beth Schwartz

Votes: 1,596

44. 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: 25,568 | Gross: $0.90M

45. Tsunami: Caught on Camera (2009 TV Movie)

90 min | Documentary

A minute-by-minute account of the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami told through amateur video footage of people who were there.

Director: Janice Sutherland | Stars: Shonti Breisch, Jai Breisch

Votes: 258

46. Trench Town: The Forgotten Land (2007 Video)

52 min | Documentary, War

Trench Town, Jamaica, is the most famous ghetto in the World. Immortalised by Bob Marley it is now one of the most dangerous places on the planet. This film examines how the people survive ... See full summary »

Director: James Ewart

Votes: 9

47. Unreported World (2000– )

Documentary

8.4