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 1960 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It stars Jean Seberg and Richard Wright.

The film was the second to be produced by an associate of André Bazin, and together with “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (also directed by Godard) it inaugurated the era of French New Wave cinema.

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)

The 1964 film, Faces of November, is a documentary about the John F. Kennedy assassination and its aftermath that was filmed in Dallas on 11/25-11/27/63 and aired on 12/6/63.

It’s a snapshot of America in the days following JFK’s death as captured by Robert Drew and crew – not just professionally trained journalists but also amateurs who happened to be shooting at Dealey Plaza when shots rang out.

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)

The 1961 movie “Chronicle of a Summer” was the first documentary to explore and address the changes in youth culture that were starting to take place during this time.

The film follows three people, one of which is Jean Rouch who is a French ethnographer studying young people’s behavior and attitudes through the lens of cinema.

It also includes snippets from interviews with intellectuals like Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, and Michel Foucault as well as footage from various protests such as those against nuclear testing or police brutality.

Chronicle of a Summer (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Marceline Loridan, Mary Lou Parolini (Actors)
  • Jean Rouch (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Faces (1968)

Faces is a 1968 American drama film directed by John Cassavetes. It also features the director’s mother, Gena Rowlands, and his then-wife, actress Shirley Knight.

The black-and-white motion picture was filmed in New York City and Connecticut with a nonprofessional cast consisting of the friends of Cassavetes and his wife at that time.

Faces tells the story of four middle-class Americans living in New York City who are all on their own personal quests for fulfillment or happiness.

  • 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)

The 1960 movie Primary is one of the first films to depict an African American as a leading character.

Primary was directed by Robert Drew and it tells the story about how John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in West Virginia shaped his views on race relations.

The film is narrated by actor Charles Collingwood, who portrays himself in the film while interviewing people from various backgrounds at different stages during the presidential campaign.

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

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)

The film, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963), is an informative movie that portrays President Kennedy’s decision not to use federal troops in Alabama to enforce school desegregation.


The film was made by the United States Department of Health and Human Services as part of their Public Service Announcements campaign.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Vivian Malone (Actors)
  • Robert Drew (Director) - Gregory Shuker (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Don’t Look Back (1967)

In 1967, there was a movie released called Don’t Look Back. The film captures the life of Bob Dylan during his 1965-66 tour across America and Europe with great accuracy.

It follows him from backstage at concerts to hotel rooms in between songs, capturing a side of Dylan that not many people have seen before.

The film is interesting because it showcases how much Dylan has changed as an artist.

In this time period, he had just come off going electric for the first time and had been working on his Blonde On Blonde album which would later be considered one of the most influential albums ever made by Rolling Stone magazine and Time Magazine among others.

Don't Look Back (The Criteiron Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Bob Dylan- Don't Look Back
  • Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan (Actors)
  • D. A. Pennebaker (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

Titicut Follies (1967)

This film, directed by Frederick Wiseman and filmed at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, has been banned from release in Massachusetts since 1991.

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

High School (1968)

The documentary film, High School (1968) by Frederick Wiseman takes an unvarnished look at life in a typical American high school.

Filmed in 1968 and released in 1969, the movie follows students through their daily activities from classes to extracurricular events as well as scenes of classroom lectures and interactions with teachers.

The movie is not only insightful but also provides a historical record of how people interacted during this time period.

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

Salesman (1968)

Salesman (1968) is a classic film by director Albert Maysles, which follows the lives and careers of four door-to-door Bible salesmen. The film takes an in-depth look at their day-to-day struggles with rejection, lack of motivation, and financial insecurity.

  • 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 (1970) is a movie about the Rolling Stones touring America and England, with special attention paid to their 1969 performance at Altamont.

The film has an informative tone that does not shy away from the violent nature of the concert or other events surrounding it.

Gimme Shelter
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • The Rolling Stones (Actor)
  • David Maysles (Director) - Porter Bibb (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Grey Gardens (1975)

Grey Gardens is a 1975 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles which follows the lives of two reclusive family members, Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (Little Edie), who are descended from one of the most prestigious American families.

The movie begins when Big Edie invites filmmakers Albert and David Maysles to shoot footage for an article about their life in Grey Gardens, their ancestral home since 1833.

Little Edie was living with Big Edie at this time due to mental health issues stemming from childhood trauma.

The house itself had fallen into disrepair after years of neglect following World War II.

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)

The movie, Shadows (1959), is a drama film directed by John Cassavetes and starring Ben Gazzara, Barbara Loden, and Cliff Robertson. The film follows the story of Nick’s life in the Brooklyn slums.

He starts out as a young boy who falls in love with his cousin Catherine. They grow up together not knowing that they are related until she gets pregnant at 16-years old and has an abortion without telling her boyfriend or parents about it.

When she does tell him, he gets mad at her for not being more careful because now he can’t do anything about their future children since they’re cousins.

  • 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 (1993) movie is a documentary about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. It follows the team of strategists, led by James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, as they work their way to victory.

The film was directed by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, who were given unrestricted access to the inner workings of the campaign for over six months in order to produce this insightful look at American politics.

The War Room
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Heather Beckel (Actors)
  • Chris Hegedus (Director) - R. J. Cutler (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

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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