best documentaries

by rainbowflat | created - 16 Dec 2016 | updated - 23 Mar 2017 | Public

outstanding docos that I've watched since 2012

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1. Ways of Seeing (1972– )

30 min | Documentary, Family

John Berger presents his insights on how people see. Through examples of Art History Berger shows how our very sense of sight has been transformed. By discovering why this is so, according ... See full summary »

Stars: John Berger, Anya Bostock, Eva Figes, Jane Kenrick

Votes: 309

Geez, who writes those blurbs?

2. The Shock of the New (1982– )

60 min | Documentary

A definitive eight part series on the rise and fall of the modern art movement presented by critic Robert Hughes.

Stars: Robert Hughes, Joseph Beuys, Stuart Brisley, Lorraine Chase

Votes: 122

4. Frontline (1983– )
Episode: A Class Divided (1985)

TV-MA | 60 min | Documentary

An expanded edition of William Peters's classic study of the unique eye-color lesson in prejudice and discrimination taught by Iowa schoolteacher Jane Elliott. This new edition continues ... See full summary »

Director: William Peters | Stars: Charlie Cobb, Jane Elliott, Martin Luther King, Judy Woodruff

Votes: 144

About the original 'Wave' blue/brown eyes classroom experiment, and the class reunion.

5. The Nazis: A Warning from History (1997– )

292 min | Documentary, History, War

An examination of how a cultured people could have allowed Adolf Hitler's rise to power.

Stars: Samuel West, Adolf Buchner, Jutta Rüdiger, Günther Ruschin

Votes: 1,456

6. Der Fisch in uns (2014– )

Documentary

Have you ever wondered why the human body looks the way it does? Why we walk on two legs instead of four? Why we can see in color but have a lousy sense of smell? Your Inner Fish delves ... See full summary »

Stars: Neil Shubin, Michael Berryman, Jonathan Bloch, Tom Burbacher

Votes: 320

7. Connections (1978– )

50 min | Documentary, History

Follow James Burke through the history of science and technology in this collection of 10 1-hour episodes, starting with "The Trigger Effect."

Stars: James Burke, Mark Wing-Davey, Ted Burnett

Votes: 912

8. The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

Not Rated | 60 min | Documentary, History

A comprehensive history of the medium and art of motion pictures.

Stars: Mark Cousins, Juan Diego Botto, Aleksandr Sokurov, Norman Lloyd

Votes: 3,604

John Berger and Susan Sontag in conversation.

10. Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Not Rated | 68 min | Documentary, Music

A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.

Director: Dziga Vertov | Star: Mikhail Kaufman

Votes: 19,790

11. Sans Soleil (1983)

Not Rated | 100 min | Documentary, Drama

A woman narrates the contemplative writings of a seasoned world traveler, focusing on contemporary Japan.

Director: Chris Marker | Stars: Florence Delay, Arielle Dombasle, Riyoko Ikeda, Charlotte Kerr

Votes: 8,393 | Gross: $0.03M

12. The Battle of Chile: Part I (1975)

Not Rated | 191 min | Documentary

The chronicle of the political tension in Chile in 1973 and of the violent counter revolution against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

Director: Patricio Guzmán | Stars: Salvador Allende, Abilio Fernández

Votes: 1,039

13. Nostalgia for the Light (2010)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary

91 Metascore

A documentary about two different searches conducted in the Chilean Atacama Desert: one by astronomers looking for answers about the history of the cosmos, and one by women looking for the remains of loved ones killed by Pinochet's regime.

Director: Patricio Guzmán | Stars: Gaspar Galaz, Lautaro Núñez, Luís Henríquez, Miguel Lawner

Votes: 4,234

14. The Pearl Button (2015)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

80 Metascore

Delving into the nearly-religious significance of water, this profound rumination on memory and loss bridges the gap between its mystical origins, Pinochet's coup d'état, and the secret of a mother-of-pearl button at the bottom of the sea.

Director: Patricio Guzmán | Stars: Martín Calderón, Cristina, Patricio Guzmán, Ema Malig

Votes: 1,987

15. Lessons of Darkness (1992)

Not Rated | 54 min | Documentary, War

This film shows the disaster of the Kuwaitian oil fields in flames, with few interviews and no explanatory narration. Hell itself is presented in such beautiful sights and music that one has to be fascinated by it.

Director: Werner Herzog | Star: Werner Herzog

Votes: 4,699

16. 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: 48,261 | Gross: $3.17M

17. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016)

PG-13 | 98 min | Documentary

76 Metascore

Werner Herzog's exploration of the Internet and the connected world.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Elon Musk, Lawrence Krauss, Lucianne Walkowicz, Kevin Mitnick

Votes: 10,617 | Gross: $0.59M

18. Gates of Heaven (1978)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Lucille Billingsley, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts, Dan Harberts

Votes: 4,965

19. Sherman's March (1985)

Not Rated | 157 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

Ross McElwee sets out to make a documentary about the lingering effects of General Sherman's march of destruction through the South during the Civil War, but is continually sidetracked by ... See full summary »

Director: Ross McElwee | Stars: Ross McElwee, Dede McElwee, Ross McElwee Jr., Patricia Rendleman

Votes: 2,169

The 2nd of a trilogy. The first, First Contact, is about the first white men to visit a particular valley in New Guinea, in the 1930s. Features a lot of original footage. The second two movies are about the half white-half native son of the leader of that expedition and his efforts to run a coffee plantation, while dealing with his immediate neighbours, his own people, still living the traditional way. Amazing "between two worlds" struggle, two worlds that can't really mix. (And everywhere, it's the white people world that destroys the native world.)

21. Black Harvest (1992)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary

Joe Leahy is the half-caste son of one of the first explorers of the Papua New Guinean interior. His relations with the local Ganiga tribe who work his coffee plantation on their land are ... See full summary »

Directors: Robin Anderson, Bob Connolly | Star: Joe Leahy

Votes: 171

22. Facing the Music (2001)

89 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

77 Metascore

Add a Plot

Directors: Robin Anderson, Bob Connolly | Stars: Anne Boyd, Winsome Evans, The Renaissance Players, The Song Company

Votes: 87

23. 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: 7,497 | Gross: $0.22M

Understanding Brazil 101

24. Secrets of the Tribe (2010)

TV-14 | 110 min | Documentary

The field of anthropology goes under the magnifying glass in this fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and '70s, a steady stream of anthropologists ... See full summary »

Director: José Padilha | Stars: Robert Borofsky, Jesus Cardozo, Napoleon A. Chagnon, Marie Isabel Eguillor

Votes: 323

Understanding Anthropologists 101

25. Citizenfour (2014)

R | 114 min | Documentary, Biography, Thriller

88 Metascore

A documentarian and a reporter travel to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden.

Director: Laura Poitras | Stars: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney, Jacob Appelbaum

Votes: 47,907 | Gross: $2.80M

26. McLibel (2005)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary

81 Metascore

McLibel is the story of two ordinary people who humiliated McDonald's in the biggest corporate PR disaster in history.

Directors: Ken Loach, Franny Armstrong | Stars: Helen Steel, Dave Morris, Bruce Alexander, Anita Anand

Votes: 2,022 | Gross: $0.00M

27. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

PG | 103 min | Documentary

80 Metascore

A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike.

Director: Barbara Kopple | Stars: Norman Yarborough, Houston Elmore, Phil Sparks, John Corcoran

Votes: 4,253

28. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)

Unrated | 74 min | Documentary

81 Metascore

In April 2002, an Irish film crew is making a documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, when a coup from the opposition is made.

Directors: Kim Bartley, Donnacha O'Briain | Stars: Hugo Chávez, Pedro Carmona, Jesse Helms, Colin Powell

Votes: 2,303

29. How to Start a Revolution (2011)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Biography, History

HOW TO START A REVOLUTION is the remarkable untold story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp, the world's leading expert on non-violent revolution. This new film (from first time ... See full summary »

Director: Ruaridh Arrow | Stars: Robert Helvey, Jamila Raqib, Gene Sharp

Votes: 241

30. Merchants of Doubt (2014)

PG-13 | 96 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

A documentary that looks at pundits-for-hire who present themselves as scientific authorities as they speak about topics like toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and climate change.

Director: Robert Kenner | Stars: Frederick Singer, Naomi Oreskes, Jamy Ian Swiss, Sam Roe

Votes: 3,334 | Gross: $0.19M

31. The Corporation (2003)

Not Rated | 145 min | Documentary, History

73 Metascore

Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance.

Directors: Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott | Stars: Mikela Jay, Rob Beckwermert, Christopher Gora, Nina Jones

Votes: 19,587 | Gross: $1.88M

32. 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: 5,541 | Gross: $0.20M

33. 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: 5,079 | Gross: $0.19M

34. The Century of the Self (2002– )

235 min | Documentary

80 Metascore

A documentary about the rise of psychoanalysis as a powerful means of persuasion for both governments and corporations.

Stars: Adam Curtis, Ann Bernays, Robert Reich, Alfred Pritz

Votes: 4,232

35. 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: 7,223 | Gross: $0.78M

36. 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: 29,307

37. 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: 49,287 | Gross: $2.96M

38. Land of Look Behind (1982)

90 min | Documentary, Music

i would like to watch the movie.so much have been said. so much i expect.

Director: Alan Greenberg | Stars: Micalon Stevenson, Jammy Galloway, Louie Lepkie, Mutabaruka

Votes: 98

39. Intangible Asset No. 82 (2008)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary, Music

The search for an enigmatic South Korean shaman, and the inspiration found on the journey, renews a jazz musician's faith in the power of music.

Director: Emma Franz | Stars: Simon Barker, Dong-won Kim, Bae Il-Dong, Sung-dok Jeong

Votes: 50

40. Between the Folds (2008)

G | 56 min | Documentary

Depicts a cast of fine artists and eccentric scientists (from MIT and NASA) who have devoted their lives to the unlikely medium of modern origami. Through their determination to reinterpret... See full summary »

Director: Vanessa Gould | Stars: Erik D. Demaine, Martin L. Demaine, Vincent Floderer, Miri Golan

Votes: 775

41. Revolution OS (2001)

85 min | Documentary, Comedy

46 Metascore

While Microsoft may be the biggest software company in the world, not every computer user is a fan of their products, or their way of doing business. While Microsoft's Windows became the ... See full summary »

Director: J.T.S. Moore | Stars: Linus Torvalds, Richard M. Stallman, Eric Raymond, Bruce Perens

Votes: 2,285 | Gross: $0.00M

42. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

Not Rated | 105 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

72 Metascore

The story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz, who took his own life at the age of 26.

Director: Brian Knappenberger | Stars: Aaron Swartz, Tim Berners-Lee, Cindy Cohn, Gabriella Coleman

Votes: 14,388 | Gross: $0.05M

43. Facebookistan (2015 TV Movie)

59 min | Documentary

"Like" it or not, Facebook wants you to share everything, but how much information are they willing to share with you?

Director: Jakob Gottschau | Stars: Mark Zuckerberg, Max Schrems, Peter Øvig Knudsen, Rebecca MacKinnon

Votes: 109

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

PG-13 | 79 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

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: 33,255 | Gross: $0.68M

45. That's Not Funny (2014)

90 min | Documentary, Comedy, History

That's Not Funny is an examination of the history of taboo subjects and controversy in comedy, and one comedy fan's heartfelt and passionate defense of an art form.

Director: Mike Celestino | Star: Mike Celestino

Votes: 110

46. 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: 6,050 | Gross: $0.43M

47. Kumaré (2011)

Not Rated | 84 min | Documentary

60 Metascore

A documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. At the height of his popularity, the Guru Kumaré must reveal his true identity to his disciples and unveil his greatest teaching of all.

Director: Vikram Gandhi | Stars: Vikram Gandhi, Toby, Greg, Molly

Votes: 4,497 | Gross: $0.13M

This is fascinating, much better than it seems it's going to be, or could possibly be. An Indian-American guy (also the director of the movie!) sets up in the U.S. as Kumaré, a Hindu guru direct from India, with the help of 2 female assistants. He develops his doctrines and practices as he goes, all-too-aware of the ridiculousness of the world he has entered. He acquires a small band of devotees, whose lives he seems to actually make better, in many ways. He knows eventually he will have to reveal his true identity, that it's all been a lie...and yet when he does, it's a continuation of exactly his teachings. He's been telling them all along that he's not a guru, that he's a fake etc. His followers mostly don't feel betrayed, as he obviously cares a lot for them, and somehow he has become their actual guru. A beautiful story, which the director/Kumaré was obviously touched by, himself. Gee it's such a car crash moment when he 'comes out' as a fake. I think he set out to discover that there was nothing to gurus, but ended up discovering what a powerful thing and responsibility it is - by being one himself! (I've long been a fan of quite a few Hindu gurus myself - Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, the estadounidenses Ram Dass & Gangaji - and have gotten a lot from various New Age writers, so I'm sympathetic to both sides of the atheist/religion divide here.)

48. The Gleaners & I (2000)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

Varda films and interviews gleaners in France in all forms, from those picking fields after the harvest to those scouring the dumpsters of Paris.

Director: Agnès Varda | Stars: François Wertheimer, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski

Votes: 4,999 | Gross: $0.15M



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