My Top 25 Documentaries of All Time

by williewonkabar | created - 05 Apr 2012 | updated - 05 Apr 2012 | Public

After looking at all the films I've rated here on IMDB, I have realized that when its all said-and-done, Documentaries must be favorite genre of all......

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1. Nanook of the North (1922)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary

In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle.

Director: Robert J. Flaherty | Stars: Allakariallak, Alice Nevalinga, Cunayou, Allegoo

Votes: 9,907

2. The Last Waltz (1978)

PG | 117 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

88 Metascore

A film account and presentation of the final concert of The Band.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robbie Robertson, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Van Morrison

Votes: 14,942 | Gross: $0.32M

3. Waste Land (2010)

Not Rated | 99 min | Documentary

78 Metascore

On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro is Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, where men and women sift through garbage for a living. Artist Vik Muniz produces portraits of the workers and learns about their lives.

Directors: Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, João Jardim | Star: Vik Muniz

Votes: 8,062 | Gross: $0.19M

4. Genghis Blues (1999)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary

San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva.

Director: Roko Belic | Stars: Richard Feynman, B.B. King, Kongar-ol Ondar, Paul Pena

Votes: 1,240 | Gross: $0.32M

5. Music Is the Weapon (1982)

Not Rated | 54 min | Documentary, Music

FELA KUTIis to African music what Bob Marley is to reggae: its prophet. All contemporary forms of black music, from funk to electronic, owe something to the irresistible groove of the ... See full summary »

Directors: Jean-Jacques Flori, Stéphane Tchalgadjieff | Stars: Fela Kuti, Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II

Votes: 195

6. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Not Rated | 100 min | Documentary, History, Music

93 Metascore

The Los Angeles punk music scene circa 1980 is the focus of this film. With Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X.

Director: Penelope Spheeris | Stars: Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks

Votes: 3,176

7. Children Underground (2001)

Not Rated | 104 min | Documentary

85 Metascore

A profile of homeless Romanian children who were born victims of the nation's reckless population growth policy during its communist era.

Director: Edet Belzberg | Stars: Cristina Ionescu, Mihai Alexandre Tudose, Violeta 'Macarena' Rosu, Ana Turturica

Votes: 2,139

8. The Gleaners & I (2000)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

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

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

Votes: 5,301 | Gross: $0.15M

9. Dark Days (2000)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

75 Metascore

A cinematic portrait of the homeless population who live permanently in the underground tunnels of New York City.

Director: Marc Singer | Star: Marc Singer

Votes: 6,140 | Gross: $0.43M

10. The Atomic Cafe (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, History

Disturbing collection of 1940s and 1950s United States government-issued propaganda films designed to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.

Directors: Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty | Stars: Paul Tibbets, Harry S. Truman, W.H.P. Blandy, Brien McMahon

Votes: 3,735 | Gross: $0.02M

11. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary

74 Metascore

Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while... See full summary »

Director: Tamra Davis | Stars: Jean Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger

Votes: 1,894 | Gross: $0.26M

12. Marwencol (2010)

Not Rated | 83 min | Documentary, Biography, Fantasy

82 Metascore

After a vicious attack leaves him brain-damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in "Marwencol", a 1/6th scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard.

Director: Jeff Malmberg | Stars: Mark Hogancamp, Emmanuel Nneji, Edda Hogancamp, Tom Neubauer

Votes: 3,225 | Gross: $0.11M

13. Seven Up! (1964 TV Short)

40 min | Documentary, Short, Biography

A group of seven-year-old British children from widely ranging backgrounds are interviewed about a range of subjects. Director Michael Apted plans to reinterview them at seven-year ... See full summary »

Director: Paul Almond | Stars: Douglas Keay, Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield

Votes: 3,203

14. The Art of the Steal (2009)

Unrated | 101 min | Documentary

75 Metascore

Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

Director: Don Argott | Stars: Julian Bond, David D'Arcy, Richard Feigen, Richard H. Glanton

Votes: 2,168 | Gross: $0.54M

15. American Movie (1999)

R | 107 min | Documentary, Comedy

84 Metascore

Documentary about an aspiring filmmaker's attempts to finance his dream project by finally completing the low-budget horror film he abandoned years before.

Director: Chris Smith | Stars: Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Tom Schimmels, Monica Borchardt

Votes: 16,019 | Gross: $1.16M

16. Grey Gardens (1975)

PG | 95 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.

Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer | Stars: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers

Votes: 11,049 | Gross: $0.03M

17. Shoah (1985)

Not Rated | 566 min | Documentary, History, War

99 Metascore

Claude Lanzmann's epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors.

Director: Claude Lanzmann | Stars: Simon Srebnik, Michael Podchlebnik, Motke Zaïdl, Hanna Zaïdl

Votes: 7,753 | Gross: $0.02M

18. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Not Rated | 107 min | Documentary, Biography

90 Metascore

Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.

Director: Andrew Jarecki | Stars: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman, Elaine Friedman

Votes: 22,745 | Gross: $3.12M

19. Step Into Liquid (2003)

PG | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

72 Metascore

Surfers and secret spots from around the world are profiled in this documentary.

Director: Dana Brown | Stars: Laird Hamilton, Layne Beachley, Dan Malloy, Robert August

Votes: 2,527 | Gross: $3.67M

20. A Man Named Pearl (2006)

G | 78 min | Documentary

63 Metascore

A Man Named Pearl tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar. It offers a message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can ... See full summary »

Directors: Scott Galloway, Brent Pierson | Star: Pearl Fryar

Votes: 293 | Gross: $0.20M

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

PG-13 | 79 min | Documentary, Biography

83 Metascore

Die-hard gamers compete to break world records on classic arcade games.

Director: Seth Gordon | Stars: Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Mark Alpiger, Adam Wood

Votes: 33,570 | Gross: $0.68M

22. Crumb (1994)

R | 119 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

93 Metascore

An intimate portrait of controversial cartoonist Robert Crumb and his traumatized family.

Director: Terry Zwigoff | Stars: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Charles Crumb, Maxon Crumb

Votes: 17,205 | Gross: $3.17M

23. Spellbound (2002)

G | 97 min | Documentary, Comedy, Thriller

80 Metascore

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

Director: Jeffrey Blitz | Stars: Angela Arenivar, Ubaldo Arenivar, Jorge Arenivar, Scott McGarraugh

Votes: 11,650 | Gross: $5.73M

24. Still Bill (2009)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

76 Metascore

A portrait of soul legend Bill Withers.

Directors: Damani Baker, Alex Vlack | Stars: Bill Withers, Clarence Avant, Benorce Blackmon, Cornell Dupree

Votes: 547

25. The Cats of Mirikitani (2006)

Not Rated | 74 min | Documentary

73 Metascore

Documentary about red-beret-ed Jimmy Mirikitani, a feisty painter working and living on the street, near the World Trade Center, when 9/11 devastates the neighborhood. A nearby film editor,... See full summary »

Director: Linda Hattendorf | Stars: Linda Hattendorf, Jimmy Mirikitani

Votes: 710



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