Surely you’ve heard of cinema verite? This film movement changed the face of contemporary cinema, offering a raw, documentary feel, even in narrative films.

We’re looking at the influential film movement, listing some of its top films, and taking a deep dive into why this style of filmmaking has captivated audiences and filmmakers alike for decades.

What Is Cinema Verite?

Cinema verite is a unique style of documentary cinema, invented by Edgar Morin, inspired by the work of Dziga Vertov.

It blends improvised storytelling with the artistic use of the film camera to uncover hidden reality or reveal the truth hidden behind conventional reality.

In Voorhees, filmmaker Morin uses everyday objects as subjects and creates an emotional experience through his choice of expressive poses and expression.

He places the subject in unusual and unknown situations, forcing them to confront issues such as love, jealousy, betrayal, power, and despair.



What Is Cinema Verite?

Cinéma vérité is a documentary film style that closely emulates reality. The term was coined in the late 1950s by French filmmaker Jean Rouch, who sought to capture “life unadorned”.

This simple and direct approach has been used by directors such as Frederick Wiseman, D. A. Pennebaker, and Michelangelo Antonioni among others for decades since its inception.

Cinéma vérité is not an easy genre to master; directorial decisions must be made quickly with little time for second-guessing or editing because of the strict adherence to filming what actually happened without any interference from filmmakers themselves.



For many people who love to watch films, what is cinema verite may appear to be a strange term, alien in and of itself?

However, the style that makes this unique genre of film distinctive and interesting is the experimental style, which makes the viewer question the logic and meaning of what is cinema.

By interpreting what is cinema verite in terms of this style, it can be understood that the film is simply a story told in a symbolic and unconventional manner, using images instead of words to communicate ideas.

What Is Cinema Verite?

What is cinema verite (sometimes known as cinéma vérité)? It’s the documentary style of filmmaking that has been around for decades.

It was developed by a group of filmmakers in France during the 1950s and 1960s, who was trying to find a way to make documentaries more character-driven and less about telling facts.

They wanted their films to be more like novels than essays or newspaper articles.


Selected Cinema Verite Films

Cinémavérité is an approach to documentary filmmaking that uses a hand-held camera, natural lighting, and sound.

This type of documentary gives the audience the feeling they are in the scene with people talking, walking around, or doing something.

Cinémavérité is more like a painting than writing because it captures life as it happens without manipulation for dramatic effect.

The following are some cinèma-vèrìtà movies:

  • Don’t Look Back (1967) by D.A Pennebaker.
  • Salesman (1969) by Albert Maysles and David Maysles.
  • Grey Gardens (1975) by Ellen Hovde and Albert Maysles.

Facts About Cinema Verite

Cinema verite is a style of filmmaking that attempts to capture reality ‘as it happens’.

The term was first coined by Jean Rouch in 1954 and the technique was popularized by D.A. Pennebaker with his film “Don’t Look Back” in 1967, which chronicled Bob Dylan’s 1965 British tour.

Verite movies were shot with lightweight portable cameras on location without sound and they recorded everything from instant moments to hours-long scenes, often catching unscripted conversations among family members or friends.

cinema verite

Best Cinema Verite Films

Ever since the first film was shot in cinema verite style, this documentary-style filming technique has been used by many filmmakers with varying results.

If you want to know what films are considered some of the best examples of cinema verite style, then read on!

Breathless (1960)

Breathless is a film that captures the essence of the French New Wave movement. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, the film follows the story of Michel, a charming but reckless criminal who falls in love with an American student named Patricia.

The film’s handheld camera work, jump cuts, and improvisational dialogue give it a raw and spontaneous feel that is still electrifying to this day.

Jean-Paul Belmondo gives an iconic performance as Michel, exuding a cool and effortless charisma that makes him both captivating and dangerous.

The chemistry between him and Jean Seberg’s Patricia is palpable, and their relationship is both romantic and edgy.

The film’s stunning black-and-white cinematography further enhances its moody and atmospheric tone.

Breathless is a film that defies traditional storytelling conventions and embraces experimentation, making it a must-see for cinephiles who appreciate bold and innovative filmmaking.

It’s a classic that still feels fresh and relevant, and it solidifies Jean-Luc Godard’s status as a true cinematic visionary. If you haven’t seen it yet, add it to your watchlist immediately.

Breathless (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg (Actors)
  • Jean-Luc Godard (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Faces Of November (1964)

Faces of November is an exquisite documentary that captures the essence of the political and social upheavals of the 1960s in America.


The film is a compilation of black and white footage taken during the month of November 1963, when some of the most significant events in American history occurred.

The film begins with the peaceful and idyllic scenes of a small town in America, but soon transitions into the chaos and turmoil that gripped the nation during the month of November 1963.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subsequent mourning and funeral processions, and the aftermath of these events are all captured in stark detail throughout the film.

What makes Faces of November stand out is the way it captures the mood of the people during this time.

There is a palpable sense of shock, grief, and disbelief that permeates the film.

The juxtaposition of the peaceful scenes of everyday life with the chaos and confusion of the political events is masterfully done.

The film is not just a historical document but also a poetic and artistic expression of the emotions and experiences of the people during this tumultuous time in American history.

The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack and the emotive use of slow motion and black and white cinematography add to the overall power and impact of the film.

The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates (Primary / Adventures on the New Frontier / Crisis / Faces of November) (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • John F. Kennedy, George Wallace, Robert F. Kennedy (Actors)
  • Robert Drew (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Chronicle Of A Summer (1961)

Chronicle of a Summer is a pioneering documentary that explores the lives and perspectives of a group of Parisians during the summer of 1960.

Directed by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, this film is a true masterpiece of the cinéma vérité style.

The film opens with interviews of various people on the street, asking them the simple question, “Are you happy?”

The answers are varied and thought-provoking, setting the tone for the rest of the film.

From there, we follow the lives of several individuals, including a factory worker, a student, an African immigrant, and a sociologist.

Their stories are interwoven with one another, creating a rich tapestry of life in Paris during the early 1960s.

What sets this film apart is the way it involves the audience in the filmmaking process.

The filmmakers are not content to simply observe their subjects; they actively engage with them, asking questions, and even challenging their beliefs.

This creates a sense of intimacy and authenticity that is rare in documentaries.

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Faces (1968)

Faces is an unflinching portrayal of the breakdown of a marriage and the human emotions that come with it.

Director John Cassavetes’ use of natural lighting, improvisation, and close-ups create an intimate and raw experience for the viewer.

The film follows the lives of two couples, Richard and Maria, and John and Jeannie, as they navigate their relationships and their own personal demons.

The performances by the cast, including John Marley, Lynn Carlin, and Gena Rowlands, are nothing short of mesmerizing, capturing the complexity and fragility of human relationships.

Cassavetes’ exploration of the human psyche is both bold and unapgetic,ving our within.

Faces is a film that will leave you pondering the complexities of love, marriage, and the human experience long after the credits roll.


  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Marley, Gena Rowlands, Lynn Carlin (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Maurice McEndree (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Primary (1960)

Primary is not just a documentary, it’s a time capsule that captures the essence of American politics at a crucial moment in history.

The film follows the Democratic primary race between Senator John F. Kennedy and Senator Hubert H. Humphrey in Wisconsin, as they try to win over voters and secure the nomination.

What makes Primary stand out is its intimate and raw footage, shot in black and white by filmmaker Robert Drew and his team.

We see Kennedy and Humphrey on the campaign trail, interacting with voters, strategizing with their teams, and delivering speeches.

The camera is so close to them that we almost feel like we’re in the room with them, experiencing the highs and lows of the political process.

The film also sheds light on the media’s role in politics, as journalists and photographers swarm around the candidates, trying to capture every moment.

We see the power of TV ads and the impact of newspaper endorsements, giving us a glimpse into how campaigns were run in the pre-social media era.

Despite its narrow focus on one primary race, Primary manages to capture the bigger picture of American democracy and the challenges of running for office.

It’s a gripping and insightful film that still resonates today, reminding us of the power of politics and the importance of staying engaged.

If you’re a fan of political documentaries, Primary is a must-watch.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey (Actors)
  • Robert Drew (Director) - Robert Drew (Writer) - Robert Drew (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment is a powerful and timely documentary that offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most pivotal moments in American civil rights history.

Directed by Robert Drew and featuring footage shot by a young D.A. Pennebaker, the film is a remarkable document of the events surrounding the integration of the University of Alabama in 1963.

The film captures the tension and drama of the moment, as Governor George Wallace stands in the doorway of the university to block the enrollment of two African American students.

President John F. Kennedy, determined to uphold the law and ensure the students’ right to attend the university, sends in the National Guard to escort them to their classes.

What makes Crisis so remarkable is its use of cinema vérité techniques to capture the immediacy and authenticity of the events as they unfold.

The filmmakers were granted unprecedented access to the President and his advisors, allowing them to capture the high-stakes negotiations and decision-making that went into the crisis’s resolution.

But more than that, the film is a powerful indictment of the racism and segregation that were still prevalent in American society at the time.

The footage of Governor Wallace and his supporters is chilling, a reminder of the hatred and fear that drove so much of the opposition to civil rights.

In the end, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment is a testament to the power of documentary filmmaking to capture history in the making.

With its thrilling narrative, stunning visuals, and important social message, it’s a film that remains as relevant today as it was nearly sixty years ago.


  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John Kennedy, George Wallace, Robert Kennedy (Actors)
  • Robert Drew (Director) - Robert Drew (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Don’t Look Back (1967)

Don’t Look Back is a documentary film that captures the iconic musician Bob Dylan during his 1965 tour of England.

The film, directed by D.A. Pennebaker, is a mesmerizing portrayal of Dylan’s artistic genius and his enigmatic personality.

The documentary is a must-watch for any Bob Dylan fan, as it offers a glimpse into the making of his iconic music and his complex personality.

The film is shot in black and white, which adds to its visual allure and captures the essence of the 1960s era.

Pennebaker’s documentary is not just a concert film, but a character study of Dylan himself.

The film provides an intimate look into Dylan’s interactions with his fans, journalists, and fellow musicians.

It’s fascinating to see how Dylan’s music affected the people around him and how he reacted to their responses.

The film’s highlight is the performance of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” where Dylan is seen flipping cue cards with the lyrics on them.

This scene became one of the most iconic moments in music history and is still imitated to this day.

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Titicut Follies (1967)

Titicut Follies is a documentary film that delves into the harsh realities of mental health institutions in the United States.

Directed by Frederick Wiseman, the film takes place in the Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts, where patients deemed criminally insane are being held.

The film is a raw and unfiltered look into the harsh realities of life inside these institutions. Wiseman’s camera captures everything from the dehumanizing treatment of patients to the callous attitudes of the staff towards them.

The scenes of patients being force-fed and restrained are difficult to watch, but they are an important reminder of the inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in the past.

The film is a powerful indictment of the system that allowed these abuses to occur, and it still resonates today.

Wiseman’s documentary style allows the audience to experience the as they unfold, without any commentary or editorializing.

This approach makes the film feel like a time capsule, capturing a moment in history that is both uncomfortable and necessary to confront.

Titicut Follies [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - France ]
  • French (Subtitle)
  • French (Publication Language)

High School (1968)

High School is a raw and unfiltered documentary that takes us a journey through the lives of students at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.

Directed by Frederick Wiseman, this film is a powerful and poignant glimpse into the American education system during a time of great social and political change.

The film masterfully captures the daily struggles and triumphs of high school students, from the mundane rituals of the classroom to the intense emotional rollercoaster of teenage life.

Wiseman’s fly-on-the-wall approach allows us to witness the stark realities of the students’ lives, from their struggles with authority and conformity to their budding desires for rebellion and self-expression.

What truly sets High School apart, however, is its unapologetic honesty.

The film doesn’t shy away from showcasing the harsh realities of high school life, from the cruel social hierarchies to the stark racial and economic divides that exist within the school’s halls.

But at the same time, it also captures the beauty and resilience of the students, their unwavering spirit and determination to overcome the challenges they face.


High School
  • For home viewing
  • Frederick Wiseman (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

Salesman (1968)

Salesman is a raw and unflinching look at the life of door-to-door Bible salesmen in the late 1960s.

Directed by the Maysles brothers, who are famous for their cinema verite style, Salesman is a documentary that captures the struggles of four salesmen as they try to make a living selling Bibles to people who may or may not be interested.

The film is a fascinating study of the American Dream, as the salesmen are all striving for success and financial stability, but are constantly met with rejection and disappointment.

The Maysles brothers capture their frustration and desperation with a stark realism that is both uncomfortable and riveting.

What makes Salesman such a compelling watch is the way it forces the viewer to confront their own complicity in the American capitalist system.

We see these salesmen trying to sell a product that they don’t necessarily believe in, to people who don’t necessarily need it, all in the name of making a sale.

It’s a sobering reminder of the darker side of the American Dream.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt, James Baker (Actors)
  • Albert Maysles (Director) - Albert Maysles (Writer) - Albert Maysles (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Gimme Shelter (1970)

Gimme Shelter is a gripping and intense documentary film that captures the chaotic and violent events of the infamous Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, the film provides a raw and unflinching look at the dark side of the counterculture movement of the late 1960s.

The film begins with footage of the Rolling Stones on tour, showcasing their incredible musical talent and the adoration of their fans.

But as the film progresses, tensions start to rise as the band plans a free concert at Altamont Speedway in California.

The concert quickly turns into a nightmare as violence erupts, culminating in the tragic murder of a young man by the Hells Angels, who were hired as security.

What makes Gimme Shelter so powerful is its ability to capture the raw emotions of the people involved, from the band members to the concert-goers.

The film is a visceral experience that puts you right in the middle of the chaos, and the haunting image of the murder is one that stays with you long after the film has ended.

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Grey Gardens (1975)

Grey Gardens is a masterpiece of cinema verité that captures the eccentric lives of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, the Aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

This documentary, directed by Albert and David Maysles, is a fascinating glimpse into the isolated lives of these two women living in a decaying mansion in East Hampton, New York.

The film is a captivating portrait of the Beales, who have become reclusive and estranged from the outside world.

The Maysles brothers expertly capture the daily routines of the Beales, from their arguments and banter to their love of music and dance.

The film is an intimate and unflinching look at their lives, showcasing their eccentricities and idiosyncrasies with a delicate touch.

The Beales are endlessly fascinating, and the Maysles brothers’ camera never judges or sensationalizes their lives.

Instead, the film allows the Beales to tell their own story through their words and actions. The result is a haunting and poignant portrait of two women living on the fringes of society.

Grey Gardens is a remarkable achievement in documentary filmmaking that showcases the power of cinema to capture the essence of the human experience.

It is a must-see for anyone interested in the art of documentary filmmaking and a captivating look into the lives of two unforgettable women.


Grey Gardens
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Drew Barrymore, Jessica Lange, Jeanne Tripplehorn (Actors)
  • Michael Sucsy (Director) - Michael Sucsy (Writer) - Lucy Barzun Donnelly (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Shadows (1959)

Shadows is a raw and authentic portrayal of life in New York City during the late 1950s, directed by John Cassavetes.

This film explores the struggles and complexities of a group of young adults, all trying to find their place in the world while grappling with issues of race, identity, and belonging.

Cassavetes’ use of handheld cameras and natural lighting adds to the film’s gritty and intimate feel, making the audience feel like they are right there with the characters as they navigate their way through the city.

The performances are also stunning, with the cast delivering powerful and nuanced portrayals of their characters.

One of the most striking aspects of Shadows is its unflinching portrayal of race relations.

This film is not afraid to confront the realities of racism and prejudice, and does so with a sensitivity and thoughtfulness that is both powerful and refreshing.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ben Carruthers, Lelia Goldoni, Hugh Hurd (Actors)
  • John Cassavetes (Director) - John Cassavetes (Writer) - Maurice McEndree (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

The War Room (1993)

The War Room is a captivating documentary that takes us behind the scenes of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, the film provides an intimate look at the inner workings of a political campaign and the people who make it happen.

The film is beautifully shot and expertly edited, capturing the intensity and excitement of the campaign trail.

The filmmakers use a fly-on-the-wall approach, allowing us to witness the highs and lows of the campaign as they unfold in real time.

The documentary also features candid interviews with key players in the campaign, including James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, who provide insight into their roles and the strategies they employed.

What makes The War Room so compelling is how it humanizes the political process.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama and spectacle of a presidential campaign, but this film reminds us that it’s ultimately about people and their stories.

We see the toll that the campaign takes on the staff, the sacrifices they make, and the moments of triumph and heartbreak that make it all worth it.


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How Did The Verite Film Expand Across The Globe

The Verite Film has been a phenomenon in many different countries.

It is the first of its kind to be released and was able to expand across the globe due to its strong branding and powerful messaging.

The film tackles topics such as sexual assault, which are often taboo subjects that people are afraid or embarrassed to talk about openly.

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