What are the BEST documentaries you have ever seen?

aberry89aberry89 California
I love, love, LOVE good documentaries. What are you favorites?
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  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    The first one that comes to mind is Man On Wire, about a French guy who walked on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in NYC back in the 70s. Beautiful film.

    Errol Morris's The Fog Of War is a warts-and-all treatment of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, architect of some of the more sinister things the US gov't has done. McNamara sat for the film and spoke, and you can see where he is truly regretful and seeking forgiveness. I'm still not sure whether Morris and the film forgive him, but that's what makes it so fascinating.

    Ken Burns should be in a category all his own. His stuff is top-notch: engaging and human but very detailed and historic. I most enjoyed Prohibition and the episodes of Baseball that covered the last 40 years or so.

    Trekkies, just because. Also PBS produced a documentary called The Battle Over Citizen Kane; it's been released as a bonus feature on Kane DVDs and Blurays. It's fascinating for film buffs, fans of Orson Welles (who comes off looking like a total badass), or anyone interested in pop culture from that era.
    [Deleted User]
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    edited January 2015
    Good recommends :) Thanks. I think one doc that will always stay with me is "Baraka" If you had to send a documentary into space to represent humans and the world - that's the one I would send. And I love that there is no dialogue, makes it feel all that more universal. Totally enrapturing from start to finish.
  • DeeDee Adelaide
    All the usual ones like Ken Burns and Errol Morris. Also the Louis Theroux ones, I'll watch anything he does.

    I really liked Food, Inc. - I have a mild interest in food production. I also thought Bowling For Columbine was great, but I'm a hardcore lefty so it spoke to me.

    The most memorable one I ever saw - and I don't know its name because I just caught it on TV one night randomly - was from the 80s or early 90s about the Indianapolis. A lot of the survivors were interviewed and it was really moving to hear their stories. I had not ever heard of what happened before I saw it and I have remembered a lot of the doco quite clearly many years later.

    Oh, and the Up series.
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    edited January 2015
    Oh man, too many to list. I'll try to stick to the lesser known docs, since I'm sure the mainstream greats will show up in the thread no matter what.

    The Parking Lot Movie - Hands down one of my favorites, and easily the best documentary about parking lots and parking lot attendants. Ha ha. Seriously though, it's one of those documentaries that takes a rather simple subject, and extracts every ounce of existentialism out of it.

    Streetwise - This one is hard to watch. It's about teenagers involved in the blue collar hustling life in mid-eighties Seattle. Everything from child prostitution to child drug use is covered in this one. Not a happy story here, but there is a reasons it has a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

    The Dirty States of America - If you don't like southern rap, or hip hop/rap in general, you might skip this one. If you do though, you'll be hard to pressed to find a better documentary about this largely overlooked sub-genre of hip hop and culture. The quality is spotty at times, but I'd say that adds to the charm more than anything.

    I'm sure I'll think of more later, but these three are what come to mind right off the bat. Also, I second Louis Theroux. Pretty much everything he does is awesome.

    steph_b
  • Great thread. Yes, the Up series is fantastic. Also liked Man on a Wire.

    One that I mentioned to A. Ron (and I really wish he'd watch it because I think he would like it, judging from what I know of his tastes) is American Movie. Sooo good.

    Off the top of my head:
    Brother's Keeper

    Those Paradise Lost docs--the ones about the kids who were supposedly railroaded for a satanic ritual murder? I haven't watched them, but I know they are supposed to be really good.

    Ever heard of Titicut Follies by Frederick Wiseman. The real American Horror Story about patients in an "insane asylum."

    What else...hmm...

    Oh! I just saw a great one: Twenty Feet from Stardom, about background singers. Fantastic!

    The Kid Stays in the Picture, about the producer Robert Evans.

    Crumb, about the acclaimed comic artist.

    That's all for now. There are so many great ones I'd be here all day trying to think of them!
    [Deleted User]
  • ksa1001ksa1001 Plano, TX
    Hands down favorite documentary is Dear Zachary (available on netflix)

    Others of note:

    Brooklyn Castle
    The Central Park Five
    Women Aren't Funny
    Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
    Exit Through The Gift Shop
    20 Feet From Stardom
    Sicko
    That Guy...Who Was In That Thing
    When We Were Kings
    Facing Ali
    steph_b[Deleted User]
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    edited January 2015
    @ksa1001‌ Is there a bad Muhammad Ali documentary out there? I've seen the two you listed, as well as "a.k.a. Cassius Clay" and "I Am Ali." All of them are top notch (the two I named were released 44 years apart, and I like them equally), but I guess if anything it just goes to show how awesome of a subject Ali is. Easily one of my favorite celebrities of all time.
  • pavlovsbellpavlovsbell Brooklyn, NY
    Another vote for Man On Wire. A few other notable ones off the top of my head are:

    The Square
    Restrepo
    Blackfish
    Inside Job
    Trouble the Water
    March of the Penguins
    Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • The Wire, that is a documentary on the drug war in America right?
  • ElisaElisa Los Angeles
    My nephew watches all the oscar documentary nominees each year on Netflix and says it is quite worthwhile.
  • ksa1001ksa1001 Plano, TX
    edited January 2015

    @ksa1001‌ Is there a bad Muhammad Ali documentary out there? I've seen the two you listed, as well as "a.k.a. Cassius Clay" and "I Am Ali." All of them are top notch (the two I named were released 44 years apart, and I like them equally), but I guess if anything it just goes to show how awesome of a subject Ali is. Easily one of my favorite celebrities of all time.

    Yeah he was quite an outspoken person.
    I haven't seen those two you mentioned, I'll need to add them to my "to do" list.
    I personally loved George Foreman's' portion of "Facing Ali"
    The fact that he clearly had such respect for someone who literally made him the "dope" of the rope-a-dope was very interesting and the footage/stills were great.
  • ksa1001ksa1001 Plano, TX
    Kids for Cash is another one that I really liked. Very moving and sad overall. It's also on Netflix.
  • DeeDee Adelaide
    I saw both Crumb and Sicko at film festivals many years ago - both really interesting but I never want to see either of them again!
  • I don't watch a ton of documentaries, but I really enjoyed the Beatles Anthology series (I'm a big Beatles fan to qualify). My wife and I also like the more nature leaning stuff and really liked the Planet Earth series a lot.

    @FrakkinToaster‌ also mentioned the first thing that came to my mind which was The Fog of War. I remember that one being really interesting.
    Also, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is totally ridiculous and a whole lot of fun. I'm pretty sure they made a crappy knock-off later, but the original rules.
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    edited January 2015
    "Cutie and the Boxer" was magnificent. Awesome filmmaking and storytelling through documentary footage. So, so much heart in that one, makes me cry everytime.

    Some docs about films and filmmaking...

    "Room 237" - documentary about interpretations of The Shining is pretty interesting. I don't hold to to most of what they say was Kubrick's intention, but it's just amazing what the human being is able to gleen and interpret from image.

    "Reel Injun" - About how Native American's are portrayed in film through history. Really, really interesting. And it's really cool by the end to see a community that has been so defined by other's, to finally get make films that define themselves.
  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    @aberry89‌ oh yeah, Room 237 was amazing! I love the moon landing stuff.
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    edited January 2015
    @FrakkinToaster It's incredible to me that people still believe that conspiracy theory... I guess because it makes for such a good story! I feel like Kubrick did throw in a few apollo stuff just to mess with people. because the conspiracy theory says he was rumored to have shot footage for the moon landing. because yeah...get this super famous director for our top secret moon footage which is basically just a camera on a tripod shot???? oh people.
  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    Are there still people who don't believe we landed on the moon? I wonder how many people show up to the meetings?
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas

    The Wire, that is a documentary on the drug war in America right?

    In the words of the late, great Pimp C: "Oz ain't prison and The Wire ain't dope."

    Seriously, as much as I love The Wire, for as much as it gets right, it gets as much or more wrong.
    steph_b
  • ksa1001ksa1001 Plano, TX

    The Wire, that is a documentary on the drug war in America right?

    In the words of the late, great Pimp C: "Oz ain't prison and The Wire ain't dope."

    Seriously, as much as I love The Wire, for as much as it gets right, it gets as much or more wrong.
    A UGK reference...NICE...
  • FlashGordonFlashGordon Leeds, UK
    edited January 2015
    @DoctorBell‌ I just think it's the most realistic portrayal of the interplay between the police, politicians & gangs i've seen. Where do you feel it get's it the most wrong, just curious not saying you're wrong.
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS FOR The Wire

    @FlashGordon‌ It is, but mostly in terms of people's actions, motives, and overall mentalities. It's the actual set up of the drug dealer side that is a little too simplified at times. Not to get to spoilerey, but a good example would be the character of Mike McArdle aka White Mike from season 2. The idea that Ziggy is separated from multinational importers of millions of dollars of heroin by only one middle man who stands on a street corner all day is kind of laughable. Another example would be the notion that the vast majority of kingpins in a city would sit in meetings together and share a common drug connection is far fetched. Actual drug crews are much smaller and disjointed; especially in the modern era.
  • DeeDee Adelaide
    edited January 2015
    Speaking of docos, how excited are we for the new Alex Gibney Scientology one? (You in danger, girl.)

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/bombshell-scientology-film-revealed-alex-764849
    steph_b
  • FreddyFreddy Denton, Texas
    Haven't heard of this yet, but if it's about Scientology, I won't miss it.
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    @Dee I am really looking forward to "Going Clear" I am fascinated by the politics of religion - and I think it goes on in most religions, so Scientology is no different. It's amazing this movie even got made, considering how secretive the Scientology church is.
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    I can't believe "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" hasn't gotten more play in this thread. Easily in my top 5 favorite documentaries of all time, and quite possibly the number 1.
    PiilaniJR
  • aberry89aberry89 California
    @WarpFox Yes!! Jiro Dreams of Sushi was amazing, great doc! But whatever you, do NOT watch that movie when you are hungry but it's too late to go out and get sushi because it will be torture.
  • I had a chance to talk to Morgan Spurlock just after he made 'Super Size Me'. Not your normal documentary, but, I've always liked that one.
  • ksa1001ksa1001 Plano, TX
    WarpFox said:

    I can't believe "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" hasn't gotten more play in this thread. Easily in my top 5 favorite documentaries of all time, and quite possibly the number 1.

    [Raises hand] I did :-) gold star for me
  • WarpFoxWarpFox Nashville, TN
    Ah, ha! Sorry @ksa1001 I didn't see it in the middle of your list up there.

    But yes, can we talk about how goddamn good that doc is? I can't decide if it makes me want to eat nothing but sushi ever again, or to swear it off completely unless I can have something that's up to par with Jiro's.
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