We all love a good documentary. The best documentaries are those that have an engaging narrative and keep you wanting more.

The best documentary movies are the ones that will make you feel as if you were there, witnessing the event first hand.

Documentaries are an excellent source of information and can be a great way to learn about new topics.

If you’re looking for a new documentary to watch or want some recommendations on what’s worth your time and money, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll be covering some of the best documentaries ever made in this post, with links to where you can find them online.

From food documentaries to historic films, this list has something for everyone!

Best Documentaries – The List

Whether you’re looking to buy these movies, or add to your Netflix cue, we have an incredible list of films here that will provide you hours upon hours of entertainment and interesting stories.

Let’s start out the list of the best documentaries with a classic that many consider the greatest documentary film of all time.

Hoop Dreams (1994)

This film tells the story of two young boys named Arthur Agee and William Gates, Jr., who are from a poor neighborhood in Chicago.

The movie follows them through their middle school years, high school years, and adulthood as they both try to escape the life that they have been dealt with.

It tracks each boy’s journey to college basketball fame as well as following their personal lives with girlfriends, family members, and friends along the way.

Hoop Dreams 1994 is an award-winning documentary that follows the lives of Arthur Agee and William Gates, two African American boys from urban Chicago.

The film explores their relationship with basketball as a way to escape poverty. It shows how these young men are caught between the temptations of drug addiction and crime in order to make money, or stay true to their dreams of playing professional basketball.

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Hoop Dreams [Blu-ray]
  • William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates (Actors)
  • Steve James (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

Night and Fog (1955)

Night and Fog is a 20-minute documentary film by Alain Resnais released in 1955. It is about the Nazi concentration camps, their horrors, and their legacy.

The camera follows the director’s night-time walk through an eerie landscape of misty fields as he ponders how to show what cannot be shown.

It then cuts to shots of camp survivors who recount what happened there and are filmed while they tell stories about the past.

Night and Fog has been praised for its innovative use of sound, music, editing techniques, and images that create an intense emotional impact on viewers.

The film is an account of what happened during the Nazi regime, and it has been described as one of the most important films about World War II.

It’s not just a historical document but also a philosophical work that has inspired people to question their beliefs, attitudes, and values.

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Night and Fog (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • n/a (Actor)
  • Alain Resnais (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Gimme Shelter (1970)

The Maysles brothers, Albert and David, were born on October 2nd, 1927. They are best known for directing the documentary films “Salesman” (1969) and “Gimme Shelter” (1970).

Their documentary film Gimme Shelter was released in 1970 and is about The Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway.

Albert and David Maysles’ Gimme Shelter is a 1970 documentary that follows the Rolling Stones from their 1969 tour of England and America to Altamont Raceway in California.

It was originally meant as an hour-long special for ABC News’s newsmagazine 20/20 but it grew into something much bigger.

The film captures the reckless abandon of both the band members – who are shown indulging heavily in sex, drugs, and alcohol – along with their fans.

The movie has been hailed by many critics as one of the most compelling documentaries ever made about rock music because of its depiction of how quickly things can turn bad when you have too much power.

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The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor (Actors)
  • Albert Maysles (Director) - Porter Bibb (Producer)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Salaam Cinema (1995)

Salaam Cinema (Hello Cinema), a 1995 1995 Iranian film directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

In this blend of documentary and fiction, a mob scene breaks out at an open casting call, and director Mohsen Makhmalbaf opts to make a film composed of the aspiring actors’ auditions.

A well-known Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, plans to make a film for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of cinema.

He placed an advertisement in a newspaper in order to hire one hundred actors. He has prepared 1000 application forms, but 5000 people show up.

The result is a riot in which the applicants are trampled on and wounded. Mohsen Makhmalbaf auditions dozens of men and women in front of the camera; their statements, which are by turns funny and touching, reveal the reality of life in Iran.

Salaam Cinema
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Director)

 

BEST DOCUMENTARIES

What Are Documentaries?

A documentary is a nonfiction film that usually focuses on an event, person, or topic. They can also be about the process of filmmaking itself.

The word ‘documentary’ derives from the Latin documentum, meaning “the production of evidence”.

The term originally applied to any work with this purpose; it was only in 1894 that it came to refer exclusively to films that depict actual events.

To reach mass audiences, most documentaries use either a narrative format or an observational one (usually without commentary). Some people prefer these formats because they tend to provide more information than just showing footage.

 

 

Close Up (1990)

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami, the documentary centers around a trial in which filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf is charged with making an illegal film outside of Iran’s borders and distributing it without permission.

The movie was filmed outside of Iran in order to avoid censorship laws that would have prevented him from filming certain scenes inside the country.

It follows his trial as well as the lives of other filmmakers who are also facing charges for their work, such as Jafar Panahi and Tahmineh Milani.

Close Up is not only informative but also engaging due to its focus on what it means to create art under strict governmental control.

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Close-Up (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Hossein Sabzian, Hossain Sabzian, Abolfazl Ahankhah (Actors)
  • Abbas Kiarostami (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Gates of Heaven (1978)

In 1978, a documentary was released called Gates of Heaven. The film is about the pet cemetery business and the people who own them across America.

It examines not just how they operate but also their relationship with owners as well as animal lovers from all over the world.

This doc shows what it takes to run a pet cemetery in an industry that has been around for centuries yet remains one of society’s last taboos.

Even though death is present throughout and at times sadness can be felt, this film brings out some of life’s best moments too: love for pets, the beauty found in nature, and even redemption through forgiveness when past wrongs are finally put to rest.

Gates of Heaven
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Lucille Billingsly, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts (Actors)
  • Errol Morris (Director) - Errol Morris (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The Hour of the Furnaces (1968)

In 1968, Argentina was in a state of chaos. The military dictatorship had taken over the government and many people were being oppressed by their new leaders.

In response to this, an influential group of artists called “Los 12” came together to create a film that would give voice to their country’s struggle for liberation. This is the story behind The Hour of the Furnaces.

The hour of the furnaces refers not only to the time when workers are laid off from factories but also refers back to events during Argentina’s

Dirty War in which leftists were captured and killed by death squads named after their place of origin (e.g., Campo de Mayo).

In 1968, the Hour of the Furnaces was published. The book is a collection of essays written by various authors about their experiences in Argentina and Chile with Marxist revolutionary movements.

It also includes contributions from Brazilian social theorist Paulo Freire, an advocate for educational reform.

The contributors to this work are not listed as they were all underground at the time of publishing due to being persecuted by authorities in both countries.

The Hour of the Furnaces 1968 is a documentary film by directors Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas about the student protests in France on May 10th, 1968.

The events are seen through the eyes of Spanish and French students who took part in that day’s demonstrations.

It was filmed at an experimental cinema studio called “Hour of the Furnaces” which was located at Almeda Cornejo Street in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It features interviews with Pierre Hervé (member of Unified Socialist Party), René Viénet (writer and filmmaker), and members of La Jeunesse Communiste.

Streetwise (1984)

Photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark and director Mark Bell travel the streets of Seattle, where they take a harrowing look at the lives of young members of the city’s homeless population.

The teenagers they follow come from broken families and have resorted to drug use, crime and prostitution.

The two follow the teens as they attempt to survive on the streets and also deal with their complex, dysfunctional home lives — and cling to one another to achieve a sense of family.

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Streetwise / Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell (The Criterion Collection)
  • Ewayne, D., Blackwell, Erin, Im, K. (Actors)
  • Bell, Martin (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

The Five Obstructions (2003)

For the first time ever, director Lars von Trier has chosen to break his own “Golden Rule” of never revealing details about his films.

He wants people to watch this movie with as little information as possible. The only thing he will tell you is that it’s a documentary based on an original idea by him and Jørgen Leth.

It consists of five filmed versions of the same event: one set in Africa, one in Europe, and three in Asia.

Each version has its own obstructions that lead to different outcomes for the characters involved. Von Trier won’t reveal what these obstructions are or how they’re connected but he promises they’ll be interesting!

The film consists of five different parables about filmmaking, with each section representing one of the “obstructions” in film-making; money, equipment, space, time, and talent.

There are many ways filmmakers can get funding for their films but some people don’t have any other options than to ask family members or friends for help.

However, not everyone has enough connections to find someone who wants to invest in them so it’s important for filmmakers to come up with creative solutions like crowdfunding platforms or fundraising events that they can attend.

The film was created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Dogme 95.

Von Trier has been known for his confrontational style of filmmaking since he began making movies at the age of 18 years old.

The film consists entirely of footage taken from other films and television programs which are then edited together to form a new narrative according to von Trier’s specifications.

The Five Obstructions
  • Arenal, Jacqueline, Bauchau, Patrick, Christensen, Bent (Actors)
  • Leth, Jørgen (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

The Gleaners and I (2000)

The Gleaners and I is a documentary by Agnes Varda.

The film follows the lives of three gleaners or people who collect what others have thrown away.

What starts as an intriguing look at these underappreciated individuals soon becomes a commentary on societal wastefulness that will leave you in awe.

The film is made in an observational style where Varda does not offer much commentary on this practice or the gleaners themselves but instead lets them speak for themselves.

Filmed mostly at night, it captures the physical act of gleaning with footage from France, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, and America.

The gleaners are often portrayed as humble but dedicated individuals toiling away under the moonlight for their fellow citizens.

The tone of this documentary is informative, as it seeks to show viewers the reality of poverty in France.

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The Gleaners and I
  • The Gleaners And I
  • François Wertheimer, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski (Actors)
  • Agnès Varda (Director) - Agnès Varda (Writer) - Agnès Varda (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Up (series starting 1964)

The Up series of documentary films follows the lives of ten males and four females in England beginning in 1964 when they were seven years old.

The first film was titled Seven Up!, with later films adjusting the number in the title to match the age of the subjects at the time of filming. The documentary has had nine episodes—one every seven years—thus spanning 56 years.

The children were selected for the original program to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the expectation that each child’s social class would determine their future.

The Complete Up Series
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Tony Walker, Andrew Brackfield, Lynn Johnson (Actors)
  • Michael Apted (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Director Alex Gibney is a world-renowned documentary filmmaker and has won numerous awards for his work.

Recently, he released an HBO film called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Beliefs that explores how people are drawn into Scientology by its promises of self-fulfillment and happiness while being unaware of the consequences.

The film features interviews with former members of the Church who detail abuse they endured under church leader David Miscavige.

Gibney was inspired to make this film because he had been following news stories about allegations against Scientologists like actor Tom Cruise and John Travolta, which raised questions in him about whether anything could be true or if it were all just tabloid fodder for sensationalism.

The film is about former members of the Church Of Scientology and their complicated relationship with it.

Alex’s previous work includes films on Enron, Lance Armstrong, and Wikileaks among many others.

He also directed We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks which premiered at Sundance 2013 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature that year.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, John Travolta (Actors)
  • Alex Gibney (Director) - Alex Gibney (Writer) - Lawrence Wright (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Loss Is to Be Expected (1992)

Love blooms in an unlikely way as an Austrian widower observes the daily activities of a Czech woman from a neighboring village.

Loss Is to Be Expected ( Mit Verlust ist zu rechnen ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Germany ]
  • Loss Is to Be Expected ( Mit Verlust ist zu rechnen )
  • Loss Is to Be Expected
  • Mit Verlust ist zu rechnen
  • Paul Hutterová, Vladimir Kundrát, Rusena Machaloyá (Actors)
  • Ulrich Seidl (Director) - Loss Is to Be Expected ( Mit Verlust ist zu rechnen ) (Producer)

When We Were Kings (1996)

This documentary is about the rise and fall of boxing. It’s a lot more than just a sports story, it also captures the essence of America in its golden era (post World War II).

The film goes through some history that leads up to this point and then follows Muhammad Ali as he fights Joe Frazier in what would become known as “The Fight of the Century.”

This was one of many fights that took place during this time; however, it was by far the most important fight at that time.

Leon Gast does an excellent job capturing how much more there was to these matches than just two people fighting each other for money.

They were not only battles between two fighters but battles for black Americans’ rights on a broader scale.

The film follows three notable heavyweights: Larry Holmes (WBA Heavyweight Champion), Muhammad Ali (former WBC Heavyweight Champion), and Michael Spinks (World Boxing Council Light-Heavyweight Champion).

We see them as they are rising through the ranks of professional boxing before their eventual fall from grace.

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When We Were Kings (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Muhammad Ali: When We Were Kings
  • Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King (Actors)
  • Leon Gast (Director) - David Sonenberg (Producer)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Stories We Tell (2012)

The stories we tell can be a reflection of who we are and how we want to present ourselves.

This idea is explored in the documentary Stories We Tell, by Canadian director Sarah Polley.

The film is about her family history and takes viewers on a journey through the lives of her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and more.

It tells us that even though there may not always be an easy answer for why things happen the way they do, it doesn’t stop people from trying to make sense of their pasts.

This documentary examines how we remember events from different perspectives, as well as our personal biases that affect what we choose to include or leave out.

The film also features interviews with family members who share their memories and thoughts on certain stories about their childhoods – this gives viewers insight into the process of creating one’s own narrative for themselves and others in order to make sense of life experiences.

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Stories We Tell
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Michael Polley, Harry Gulkin, Susy Buchan (Actors)
  • Sarah Polley (Director) - Sarah Polley (Writer) - Anita Lee (Producer)
  • Spanish, English (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Waltz With Bashir, a 2008 documentary film by Ari Folman, follows the director’s quest to understand his experience in the 1982 Lebanon War.

The movie is told through interviews with Israelis and Palestinians who were involved in or affected by the war. It explores how memories are constructed and how they can be distorted over time.

Through these discussions, it becomes clear that no one has an absolute truth about what happened during this war — the events of which remain fiercely contested to this day.

Waltz With Bashir is an interesting look at memory and history from a different perspective than we have seen before. It is an animated documentary that tells the story of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and subsequent events in Beirut.

He felt it was important to document his experiences as part of war history so future generations would have more than one perspective on what happened during this time period.

Waltz With Bashir
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ron Ben-Yishai, Ari Folman, Ronny Dayag (Actors)
  • Ari Folman (Director) - Ari Folman (Writer) - Ari Folman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Sherman’s March (1986)

Ah, one of my personal favorite documentaries!

In the documentary Sherman’s March, Ross McElwee journeys through the south to document different people and their reactions to Sherman’s march.

He interviews many people who were affected by the war including a woman who was raped in her home during the Civil War.

Sherman’s March is a documentary by Ross McElwee that follows his journey down the path of General Sherman and examines the effects of war on North Carolina.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1986 and won the best documentary at Sundance Film Festival.

He then moves on to talk about how he got over these feelings and found peace within himself.

This transformation happened when he started looking at things more positively, such as reflecting on all that his father had taught him throughout their relationship.

The film is both sad and poignant because it provides an intimate look into one man’s struggle with grief while providing practical advice for those going through similar experiences themselves.

Sherman's March
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Alexandra Anthony, Ted Bogosian, Marilyn Levine (Actors)
  • Ross McElwee (Director) - Ross McElwee (Writer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014)

Nick Broomfield, the famed documentarian and director of some of the most controversial documentaries such as “Kurt & Courtney” and “Battle for Haditha”, has released his newest film entitled “Tales of the Grim Sleeper.” The film is an examination of one serial killer’s reign over a decade-long span.

From 1985 to 2007, Lonnie Franklin Jr. raped and killed more than ten women in Los Angeles County.

Nick Broomfield’s documentary examines how this man was able to go undetected by law enforcement for so long while acting out his gruesome fantasies on these innocent victims.

It tells the story of Lonnie Franklin Jr., aka The Grim Sleeper, who terrorized Los Angeles from 1985 to 2007 with his serial killings and rapes of over 10 women, most of whom were African American.

Tales of The Grim Sleeper
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Lonnie Franklin Jr., Chris Franklin (Actors)
  • Nick Broomfield (Director) - Nick Broomfield (Writer) - Marc Hoeferlin (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Solar Mamas (2012)

When it comes to solar energy, we often think of the United States as the main player.

However, a new documentary film called “Solar Mamas” explores how women in developing countries are using solar power to provide electricity for their families and communities.

The film follows three women from different areas of Africa who were given a solar panel and taught how to install it themselves:

Jehane Noujaim who lives in Cairo, Mona Eldaief from Tunisia, and Agnes Nkusi from Uganda.

Each of them went on to teach others how to install panels too so they can all have access to this inexpensive source of renewable energy that will help lift them out of poverty.

In the documentary, Solar Mamas (2012), Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim profile a group of women in rural Egypt who are using solar panels to provide electricity for their homes.

The film follows these women as they go through an intensive three-month course on renewable energy before becoming certified “Solar Mamas.” These women not only learn how to install and repair solar panels but also how to teach others about this new technology.

This film is an incredible example of empowering women through education and job training initiatives that will have long-term benefits for communities everywhere!

Solar Mamas
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mona Eldaief (Director) - Mette Heide (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Virunga (2014)

After watching the documentary Virunga, you may never look at nature in the same way. The film tells a story of hope and tragedy that is all too familiar to those who live in this region.

As one interviewee says, “people are dying because they want to save gorillas.”

Indeed, the conflict over oil exploration has claimed more lives than any other aspect of Congo’s civil war.

The people have been forced from their homes due to violence or fear for their safety, but despite it all, they remain hopeful about saving this beautiful country and its wildlife.

The documentary Virunga, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, explores the wildlife of Congo’s Virunga National Park.

This film is a story about the people who are protecting endangered mountain gorillas from extinction and other threats to their habitat in the African nation.

It showcases the beauty of the Congo and its national park.

The film explores the conflict between conservation and natural resource exploitation in a country that has never known peace since independence.

It is an emotional story about people whose lives have been shaped by war for generations and how they are now fighting to preserve one of Africa’s most precious resources: oil.

Five Broken Cameras (2011)

Emad Burnat is a Palestinian farmer who lives in the West Bank. For five years, he and his family were continuously harassed by Israeli soldiers.

His cameras captured these events as they unfolded and made it possible for him to tell his story of what it’s like to live life under occupation.

“Five Broken Cameras” gives viewers an inside look at the daily struggles Palestinians face living in a land that doesn’t belong to them.

Emad captures both the violence inflicted on him and his fellow villagers along with moments of joy from birthdays, weddings, and celebrations – all of which are fleeting as their homes are constantly threatened by demolition orders or violent raids from Israeli troops.

It documents their lives during five years between 2005 and 2010, including demonstrations against Israel’s occupation…

The film won a 2012 Sundance Film Festival award, it won the Golden Apricot at the 2012 Yerevan International Film Festival, Armenia, for Best Documentary Film, won the 2013 International Emmy Award, and was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award.

5 Broken Cameras [DVD]
  • English (Subtitle)

Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

The Man with a Movie Camera is an experimental documentary film by Dziga Vertov, shot in Moscow and Petrograd from 1929-1930.

It has no plot or storyline but instead uses a series of shots to give the viewer a sense of what life is like in these cities during this time period.

The movie was groundbreaking for its use of editing techniques that created fast-paced imagery.

What makes Man with a Movie Camera so unique is how it combines aspects of art with those of journalism to create something greater than either form alone could ever hope to achieve on their own.

Man with a Movie Camera
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Mikhail Kaufman (Actor)
  • Dziga Vertov (Director) - Dziga Vertov (Writer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Le Sang des Bêtes (1949)

Franju’s 1949 film Le Sang des Bêtes, or “Blood of the Beasts” in English, is a stunning visual account of animal slaughter.

The director exposes and documents the brutal reality of meat production by presenting it as an unblinking horror show that must be seen to be believed.

This documentary-style film was one of Franju’s first attempts at filmmaking after he had been trained as a painter and sculptor.

He gained access to some of France’s most notorious slaughterhouses with his camera crew in tow and documented everything from cows being skinned alive for leather upholstery to pigs being slaughtered for their pork bellies without anesthesia.

The film reveals all mannerisms and methods used on animals during slaughtering operations.

Blood Of The Beasts (Le Sang Des Betes)
  • Unknown (Actor)
  • Georges Franju (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

The War Game (1965)

The War Game is a British film that was completed in 1965 by director Peter Watkins.

This documentary-style film, about the build-up to and aftermath of nuclear war, was filmed in a mock-documentary style with actors playing the parts of various characters.

The film has an unconventional structure featuring three different endings: one where all life dies out as a result of nuclear fallout; one where governments develop into totalitarian regimes following World War III; and finally, one with mankind rebuilding from scratch after surviving World War III.

Each end provides insight on what could happen if we do not find a way to prevent these things from happening and act now before it’s too late.

Shot in 1965 with only five actors and technical crew members on location in London, this film was commissioned by the BBC to warn its viewers about the dangers of nuclear weapons; but instead, it was banned because they feared that showing such an apocalyptic scenario might be seen as too unpatriotic.

The War Game
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ian Ellis, Joseph Robinson (Actors)
  • Mai Zetterling (Director) - Mai Zetterling (Writer) - Mai Zetterling (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Amy (2015)

The documentary film Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2015.

The film is a biography of British singer-songwriter and musician Amy Winehouse. It follows her life from 2006 to 2011.

This captivating story has been told through many interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues as well as archival footage of performances that show what an influential musician she was before her death at age 27 on July 23rd, 2011 due to alcohol poisoning.

The audience will learn about the personal struggles Amy Winehouse dealt with while being one of the most popular figures in music today.

The movie’s tone is mostly informative, but there are some moments that feel more personal as if we were watching through someone else’s eyes rather than those of his crew or friends.

In many ways, this makes it easier for viewers to obtain insight into Winehouse’s life because they can see everything from her perspective instead of just hearing about it secondhand from others who knew her less well than he did.

It also provides another layer to the story because we get a chance to learn Amy.

Amy
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett, Mark Ronson (Actors)
  • Asif Kapadia (Director) - Adam Barker (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Iraq in Fragments (2006)

James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments is a documentary film that follows some of the Iraqi people and their lives as they try to rebuild their country after years of war. It includes footage from Baghdad, Basra, Fallujah, and other cities across Iraq.

The film was shot between 2003-2005 during the early stages of reconstruction.

This post will review the documentary by James Longley on Iraq in Fragments including its background, tone, audience, and more.

While much of the media coverage focuses on violence, this film takes you inside Iraqi society and shows what it means to be an Iraqi citizen today.

The film provides insight into the complexities of living through war – from coping with poverty, unemployment, and daily bombings, to maintaining family ties and connections between communities divided by sectarian divisions.

In addition to interviews with ordinary Iraqis across Baghdad, Fallujah, and Kurdistan, the film also features commentary from journalists like John Burns (New York Times) who have reported extensively on Iraq for years.

Iraq In Fragments [DVD]
  • Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English subtitles.
  • English (Subtitle)

Buena Vista Social Club (1999)

The Buena Vista Social Club, a group of Cuban musicians who performed together in the ’90s, was brought to international attention by Wim Wenders’ 1999 documentary film about them.

The film followed their reunion concert at Carnegie Hall and depicted their music as a means of speaking for Cuba’s experience with globalization and U.S. cultural imperialism.

This film captures the struggles and triumphs of these men as they reunite in Cuba, and tells stories about music, love, and life.

The film is an example of how music can transcend borders and cultures under difficult circumstances through its power to unite people around shared experiences both past and present.

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Buena Vista Social Club (The Criterion Collection)
  • Ry Cooder, Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González (Actors)
  • Wim Wenders (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: G (General Audience)

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

In 1988, Errol Morris released the documentary “The Thin Blue Line” investigating a police officer’s murder in 1976.

The film presents evidence that the wrong man was convicted of killing Officer Robert Wood and features interviews with many people involved in this case.

To this day, more than 30 years later, it is still debated if Randall Adams was wrongly convicted or not.

In 1990, Adams became the first person to be exonerated by DNA testing, and following his release, he filed a civil suit against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade Jr., Morris’ original target for prosecution (in which he lost), and others who were part of the investigation into his wrongful conviction.

It also looks into how police brutality can lead innocent people like Adams to be falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

This film has been praised by many as one of the best documentaries ever made and has even been added to school curriculums in some states across America.

Sale
The Thin Blue Line [Blu-ray]
  • Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose (Actors)
  • Errol Morris (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Bowling for Columbine (2002)

In the documentary Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore discusses gun violence in America.

He explores how gun manufacturers profit from fear in order to continue making money off their products.

The film looks at what is driving American culture to constantly be on the lookout for danger, even if it doesn’t exist.

The film examines why the United States has so many gun-related deaths and whether or not guns are necessary for protection.

It also points out some ways in which America could improve its gun policy such as implementing stricter background checks and banning high-capacity magazines that allow shooters to fire long bursts without stopping to reload their weapon.

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Bowling for Columbine (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Michael Moore (Actor)
  • Michael Moore (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

Global Report (1981)

A documentary made by Peter Armstrong and Peter Adamson offering an alternative account of 1981, reporting on stories from the mainstream world. This is one of six stories on different themes told by people in their own words.

The report provides a sobering account of our planet’s resources and future prospects.

The Global Report is a collection of essays taken from various authors who share their research and findings on topics related to Earth’s natural resources with the goal of raising awareness about environmental issues throughout the world.

Topics range from “the prospect for food shortages”, to “the demand for water” and many others that all tie into our environment.

This report has been called one of the most important pieces of non-fiction ever published, due to its ability to capture the scope and complexity involved in global resource consumption while providing solutions for how we can combat potential disasters before they happen.

The Queen of Versailles (2012)

In 2009, a recession hit the United States. Home prices dropped and many people lost their jobs.

However, in 2007, billionaire David Siegel was building his dream home: The Queen of Versailles.

He had purchased the plot of land for $24 million and planned to build this 8000 square meter mansion on it with all the bells and whistles he could think of including:

  • a bowling alley,
  • an indoor basketball court,
  • two large swimming pools that would be fed by waterfalls from outside sources (including one waterfall that would feed into a pool from Lake Butler),
  • 12 bedrooms each with its own private bathroom,
  • plus 14 more bathrooms within the house itself,
  • but even so, there were still plans for 2 more wings to be added if they could afford them…

The Queen of Versailles is an eye-opening look at how far some people will go for wealth and fame.

It’s also a cautionary tale about what can happen when that pursuit becomes all-consuming.

The Queen of Versailles
  • Jackie Siegel, David A. Siegel, Victoria Siegel (Actors)
  • Lauren Greenfield (Director)
  • Spanish (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Blackfish (2013)

If you love documentaries, are interested in animal rights activism, or have an interest in the entertainment industry then this film is a must-see.

The documentary Blackfish explores the past and present of killer whales at SeaWorld. This film goes beyond just capturing their beauty to explore how they became killers and why it’s important for people to know about them. It will change your perspective on these majestic creatures forever.

They explore the idea of whether or not keeping such intelligent creatures confined to tanks for entertainment purposes can be justified.

The film reveals how the largest animals on earth, capable of living over 100 years and reaching up to 30 feet long, have been reduced to performing stupid tricks for human amusement.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite documents the human-orca connection as well as broader issues about animal welfare, corporate responsibility, and environmental sustainability.

Blackfish
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kim Ashdown, Ken Balcomb, Samantha Berg (Actors)
  • Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Director) - Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Writer) - Manuel V. Oteyza (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Some Kind of Monster (2004)

Some Kind of Monster is a documentary film about Metallica’s struggles in the mid-1990s.

It follows the band through the recording process for their album “Load” and “ReLoad”, dealing with issues such as frontman James Hetfield’s alcoholism, drummer Lars Ulrich’s drug abuse, and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett’s struggle to find his place in the band.

The film was directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

The film follows the band as they deal with their personal demons in order to make it through one more album tour.

As we watch them struggle with mental illness, drug abuse, family problems, and their own feelings about fame; we also see their evolution from being an angry metal band screaming about how screwed up society is to becoming a well-respected group that doesn’t just play music but gives back to its fans.

It won three awards at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival including the Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award, and Filmmakers Trophy.

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Metallica-Some Kind of Monster
  • Metallica- Some Kind Of Monster
  • Metallica (Actor)
  • Metallica (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

When the Levees Broke (2006)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and its devastation, filmmaker Spike Lee released a documentary about the storm in 2006.

The film follows people’s lives before and after the storm. It also shows how government officials failed to help residents get out of harm’s way.

This documentary has been described as “an unflinching look at America’s worst natural disaster.”

It won an Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Special in 2007 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2008.

When the Levees Broke
  • Lee, Spike (Director)

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

While preparing a documentary about children’s birthday party entertainers, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki learned that one of his subjects, professional clown David Friedman, was the son and brother of two men who had been convicted of child sexual abuse in a high-profile 1980s criminal trial.

Using home videos made by the Friedman family before and during the trial, as well as new interviews, Jarecki explores the conflicting stories of the accused, the alleged victims, and the investigators.

Capturing the Friedmans
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Arnold Friedman, Elaine Friedman, David Friedman (Actors)
  • Andrew Jarecki (Director)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Grizzly Man (2005)

In the 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man, Werner Herzog documents the life of Timothy Treadwell. He was a self-proclaimed activist and conservationist who had been living in grizzly territory for over thirteen summers.

The film is edited from footage that he filmed himself with his girlfriend Amie Huguenard before they were brutally killed by one of the bears in 2003.

The movie follows Treadwell’s final summer with his friend Kathy as he spends time capturing footage of what he believes to be a “miracle bear.”

His body was found inside a sleeping bag with those of his girlfriend Amie Huguenard.

Werner Herzog is a German filmmaker who has been making movies since the 1960s. His films are often about people who live in remote areas, and he himself says that they “often have to be taken from a distance.”

Grizzly Man is one of his most acclaimed films, which tells the story of Timothy Treadwell’s life as well as his death while living with grizzly bears in Alaska.

It is not for the faint of heart: it contains many graphic scenes depicting animals killing humans, but if you can stomach it, this film will change your perspective on nature forever.

We could have chosen any number of fantastic Herzog documentaries on this list of the best documentaries of all time. We strongly consider Grizzly Man to be one of Herzog’s best ever documentary films.

Grizzly Man [Blu-ray]
  • Werner Herzog (Narrator)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

The 3 Rooms of Melancholia (2004)

This sophisticated documentary is divided into three chapters, each represented by a room whose atmosphere is determined by one predominant emotion.

With very few words but plenty of eloquent cinematography, the film touches upon basic emotional and mental states. In the first room, “Longing,” we follow young boys, obedient cadets at a military school in St. Petersburg.

Primarily from dysfunctional families, these teenagers would rather be anywhere than here. Just by observing their morning rituals, the school’s rigid discipline, and their way of interacting, we get a notion of their enormous solitude.

One of the boys shifts the story to the second room, “Breathing,” where we witness the hopeless lives of the people of Grozny, Chechnya.

The last room, “Remembering,” crosses the border to the neighboring province of Ingushetia, where people fight out their own tragedy.

With a keen eye for detail (especially human faces), precise timing, and a soundtrack that combines vocals from the Orthodox Church with folk and classical music, director Pirjo Honkasalo creates a multilayered, poetic film.

The 3 Rooms Of Melancholia [Italian Edition]
  • documentario (Actor)
  • pirjo honkasalo (Director)
  • Italian (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: G (General Audience)

Pina (2011)

The 2011 documentary Pina is a cinematic exploration of the world through the lens of renowned choreographer Pina Bausch.

Wim Wenders, who directed the film, captures Bausch’s work in both dance and theater productions as well as her interactions with people from all walks of life and international artists.

This movie sets out to explore how art impacts our lives by exploring its beauty on stage, its power to unite cultures and communities around the globe, and its ability to create a shared experience for those in attendance.

The documentary follows many different stories with common themes that are interwoven into one cohesive narrative: they all show us what it means to live a full life filled with creativity, passion, love, and curiosity.

The film won the Golden Globe for Best Documentary in 2012.

Pina
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Regina Advento, Malou Airaudo, Ruth Amarante (Actors)
  • Wim Wenders (Director) - Wim Wenders (Writer) - Wim Wenders (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Into Eternity (2010)

The film, Into Eternity, is a documentary about the construction of the Onkalo nuclear waste repository in Finland.

The goal of this project was to find an appropriate geological location for storing high-level radioactive waste.

This storage facility has been designed to last up to 100,000 years and will be monitored by robotic probes that are sent out every 10 years.

In this time period, there may be some major changes on Earth such as climate change or environmental disasters which can lead us back into pre-industrial times where humans were living without many luxuries but now we have grown accustomed to modern-day life with electricity, running water, and all other aspects of our current culture.

The film follows Michael Madsen as he tours this construction site with other engineers, scientists, and builders.

The viewer is able to see how they are doing everything in their power to make sure this project goes off without a hitch.

Into Eternity (2010) ( Entos tis aioniotitas ) ( Onkalo - säteilevä hauta ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Netherlands ]
  • Into Eternity (2010) ( Entos tis aioniotitas ) ( Onkalo - säteilevä hauta )
  • Into Eternity (2010)
  • Entos tis aioniotitas
  • Onkalo - säteilevä hauta
  • Timo Äikäs, Carl Reinhold Bråkenhjelm, Mikael Jensen (Actors)

Le Joli Mai (1963)

Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May), Chris Marker, and Pierre Lhomme were all on the search for a new way of understanding and capturing life.

They found it in photography. In 1963, they created a film that documented the May day celebrations in Paris through still photographs and sounds.

This piece is considered to be one of the most influential works of art from this era as it opened up new possibilities for both filmmakers and photographers alike with its mixture of genres.

Marker was an avant-garde filmmaker who used experimental techniques while Lhomme was a photographer who strove to capture moments without them being staged or manipulated by him so that he could present reality as truthfully as possible.

The combination of shots with natural sounds and music creates a magical atmosphere that transports you to this moment in history.

It is both fascinating and thought-provoking to watch as this celebration carries on for three days.

You can’t help but feel happy for these people who are celebrating their freedom, which they fought so hard for through war and bloodshed.

Le Joli Mai ( A Film by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme) [DVD]
  • English, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

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

Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill are two independent filmmakers who have been making documentaries for over 50 years.

Their most recent documentary is called Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.

This film follows the life of Aileen Wuornos, from her abusive childhood to her death by lethal injection at Florida State Prison on October 9th, 2002.

Aileen Wuornos is a woman who was sentenced to death for killing seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990.

The film explores how Wuornos became a serial killer through interviews with family members such as her brother Keith and mother Diane; inmates at various jails where she served time; fellow prostitutes; detectives assigned to the case.

As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that there are many unanswered questions about Aileen’s life that will never be answered because they died with her on October 9th, 2002.

Monster / Aileen - Life and Death of a Serial Killer [DVD]
  • Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern (Actors)
  • Joan Churchill (Director) - Patty Jenkins (Writer)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

The Power of Nightmares (2004)

The Power of Nightmares is a documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis.

It shows how the fear and anxiety of Westerners, particularly American neoconservatives, after the September 11 attacks has been manipulated to further certain political goals.

In this 2004 BBC documentary series, Adam Curtis explores the idea that nightmares can be used as a powerful tool in manipulating people’s fears to achieve desired outcomes.

It covers the rise of radical Islam and terrorism in the West from 1979-2001.

From Osama Bin Laden to Al Qaeda, Curtis argues that “the idea of terror is an illusion.”

He also examines how these groups were fueled by Western governments’ fears.

The film explores the history of Islamist terrorism and argues that its power comes from our own fears and desires through a “strangely compelling” set of stories told in the style of a thriller.

Sisters in Law (2006)

Kim Longinotto is an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Her 2006 film, Sisters in Law, follows the lives of two women who are both involved in law enforcement in different parts of Thailand.

One woman’s job is to monitor female prisoners inside Thai prisons while the other works as an officer with a drug enforcement task force.

These two professional women experience complicated and intense situations throughout their careers but are able to find common ground through sisterhood.

In 2006, Kim Longinotto released Sisters in Law, a documentary following the work of women’s rights activist and lawyer Naila Kabeer.

The film captures the daily life of 9 female lawyers working to promote human rights for Bangladeshi women.

The film follows these advocates as they meet with clients and conduct interviews at their offices.

It also includes footage from the courtroom where these lawyers fight against honor killings, child marriage, rape, and other injustices committed against women in Bangladesh.

The documentary explores how this legal system is different from Western law systems by showing that it relies primarily on Islamic family law rather than secular laws or international treaties.

Sisters In Law
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Vera Ngassa, Beatrice Ntuba (Actors)
  • Kim Longinotto (Director) - Kim Longinotto (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Man on Wire (2008)

A documentary film about a French tightrope walker who takes his life in his hands by walking between two towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. The man’s name is Philippe Petit and he was just 23 years old at the time and had been practicing for eight years before he walked across a rope that was only 1/2 inch wide.

He took on this feat without any safety harnesses or nets to catch him if something were to go wrong.

His motivation for attempting such an insane stunt?

To show the world that anything is possible with enough focus and dedication to your goal.

This documentary is compelling because it shows how one person can accomplish something that seems so difficult.

It also gives insight into the life of someone who has done things like this before and makes you wonder what else they might be capable of doing with their life if given the chance.

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Man on Wire
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau (Actors)
  • James Marsh (Director) - Philippe Petit (Writer) - Andrea Meditch (Producer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1998)

Little Dieter Needs to Fly is a film by Werner Herzog about a boy who is born in West Germany during the aftermath of World War II, but has never been able to leave his country because he’s allergic to everything.

The movie Little Dieter Needs to Fly is about the true story of a man who was shot down in Vietnam then spent over five years as a prisoner of war.

Werner Herzog, the director, had been researching this topic for many years and when he finally found Dieter Dengler he knew that his documentary would be an important one.

The tone throughout the film from both narration and interviews with Dengler is often humorous but also serious at times.

Overall it’s not just a look into what prisoners of war go through during their captivity, but it’s also a memoir of how they were able to maintain their humanity even after being so dehumanized by those who captured them.

A few years ago, Werner Herzog directed Little Dieter Needs to Fly. The film tells the story of a German boy who is lost in the jungle and must find his way home.

This documentary was unique because it was filmed with one camera and no crew in order to create an intimate feeling between the viewer and what is happening on screen.

Little Dieter Needs To Fly
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Werner Herzog, Dieter Dengler, Eugene Deatrick (Actors)
  • Werner Herzog (Director) - Werner Herzog (Writer) - Lucki Stipetić (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Shoah (1985)

Shoah is a documentary film about the Holocaust.

It was directed by French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and it took him 10 years to make.

The film’s running time is nine hours long, without any editing whatsoever. This documentary tells the story of how Jewish people were killed during World War II and what happened to those who survived in camps like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen.

The 1985 film, Shoah is a nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust that documents the efforts of filmmaker Claude Lanzmann to interview survivors and witnesses. The film was initially released in French with no subtitles or narration as Lanzmann believed it should be an “unmediated” document of what occurred during this time period.

The name Shoah comes from a Hebrew word meaning “catastrophe” or “calamity” which was used for the biblical story of Noah’s Ark and has been adopted by Jews to refer to the holocaust.

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Shoah (Criterion Collection)
  • None (Actor)
  • Claude Lanzmann (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

China: Beyond the Clouds (1994)

Beyond the Clouds is a 1994 documentary which is about rural life in Yunnan province, China. Yunnan Province is located in Southwest China which has a vast territory, magnificent mountains and rivers, and abundant natural resources.

Besides, there are 26 minorities of China living in Yunnan Province and every minority has its own particular customs and habits.

Following the lives of ordinary Chinese residents of the old quarter of a city.

A kindly doctor, a disabled child ‘little sparrow’ gossiping elderly ladies and middle makers.

A fascinating and gentle series from filmmaker Phil Angland.

China: Beyond the Clouds
  • Lisa Lu (Actor)
  • English (Publication Language)

Best Documentaries – Wrapping Up

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best documentaries of all time. Have we missed out your favorite documentary film? Let us know right here below in the comments section.