Top Urban Planning Films

by bauerku | created - 05 Feb 2013 | updated - 04 Aug 2014 | Public
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1. City of God (2002)

R | 130 min | Crime, Drama

79 Metascore

In the slums of Rio, two kids' paths diverge as one struggles to become a photographer and the other a kingpin.

Directors: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund | Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Matheus Nachtergaele, Phellipe Haagensen

Votes: 658,763 | Gross: $7.56M

Life in favelas of Rio de Janeiro

2. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2011)

Not Rated | 79 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

Destroyed in a dramatic and highly-publicized implosion, the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex has become a widespread symbol of failure amongst architects, politicians and policy makers. ... See full summary »

Director: Chad Freidrichs | Stars: Slyvester Brown, Irvin Dagen, Elmer Fiedler, Robert Fishman

Votes: 766 | Gross: $0.04M

Public Housing, social justice, Modernist architecture

3. Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006)

PG | 92 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

A documentary that investigates the birth and death of the electric car, as well as the role of renewable energy and sustainable living in the future.

Director: Chris Paine | Stars: Martin Sheen, Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Reverend Gadget

Votes: 11,918 | Gross: $1.68M

Transportation, environment, GM, oil industry

4. Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980)

58 min | Documentary

This highly influential film in architecture and planning circles by William H. Whyte analyzes the success and failures of urban spaces. Observing the natural order of spaces and the way ... See full summary »

Director: William H. Whyte | Star: William H. Whyte

Votes: 136

William Whyte classic. Time-lapse photography. Research methods. Plazas.

5. Urbanized (2011)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary

A documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers.

Director: Gary Hustwit | Stars: Rem Koolhaas, Jan Gehl, Ricardo Scofidio, Norman Foster

Votes: 1,953

Transportation, public space, community, affordable housing, and the urbanization in developing countries

6. e2: The Economies of Being Environmentally Conscious (2006– )
Episode: Adaptive Reuse in the Netherlands (2007)

TV-G | 26 min | Documentary

Dutch planners tap into their innate design sensibility and the industrial landscape to create a sustainable development in Amsterdam's abandoned dockyards, Borneo Sporenburg. Offering an ... See full summary »

Director: Tad Fettig | Star: Brad Pitt

Votes: 6

7. Leimert Park: The Story of a Village in South Central Los Angeles (2006)

88 min | Documentary

An extraordinary group of artists and musicians, in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, create an underground arts movement and transform a community.

Director: Jeannette Lindsay | Stars: Busdriver, Kamau Daaood, Dale Davis, Richard Fulton

Votes: 13

8. Sprawling from Grace (2008)

82 min | Documentary

With more than 250 million cars and trucks on the road and the demand for oil out pacing the Earth's ability to supply it, have we now become slaves to this unsustainable freedom?

Director: David M. Edwards | Stars: Thomas S. Ahlbrandt, Justin Barr, Dena Belzer, George W. Bush

Votes: 61

9. A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil (2006 Video)

Not Rated | 52 min | Documentary

There is hope! This inspirational documentary shows a city where urban solutions are not just theory, but a reality. The film shows innovations in the areas of transportation, recycling, ... See full summary »

Director: Giovanni Vaz Del Bello | Stars: Jaime Lerner, Cassio Taniguchi, Nicolau Klüppel, Carlos Ceneviva

Votes: 24

10. Radiant City (2006)

93 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

60 Metascore

An examination of the nature of modern suburbia.

Directors: Jim Brown, Gary Burns | Stars: Daniel Jeffery, Bob Legare, Jane MacFarlane, Ashleigh Fidyk

Votes: 459

11. New Urban Cowboy: Toward a New Pedestrianism (2007)

83 min | Documentary

On a sweltering day in August 2001, a stranger appeared in a crime-ridden Florida neighborhood known as "Cracktown." Armed only with his big ideas and determination, artist/urban designer/... See full summary »

Directors: Michael E. Arth, Blake Wiers | Stars: Maya Petkova Arth, Michael E. Arth, Sophia E. Arth

Votes: 7

12. Taken for a Ride (1996)

52 min | Documentary

How the American auto industry engineered the demise of city public-transit systems.

Director: Jim Klein | Stars: Jim Klein, Renee Montagne, Bradford Snell, Joe Alfonsie

Votes: 110

Demise of the Streetcar. GM

13. The New World (2011)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary

This controversial epic, banned by the Vatican for over twenty years, New World is set in the 16th century. A priest decides to plot with an artist to create an icon of the Virgin Mary, ... See full summary »

Director: Jaan Tootsen | Star: Jaan Tootsen

Votes: 74

Estonian documentary film about New World Society, a citizens’ initiative in Tallinn, Estonia that aims to remake neighbourhoods and change peoples' lives.

14. Next: A Primer on Urban Painting (2005)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary

A worldwide culture develops around graffiti art.

Director: Pablo Aravena

Votes: 75

16. New York: A Documentary Film (1999– )

600 min | Documentary, History

Ric Burns (brother of the famed documentarian Ken Burns) presents an exhaustive history of New York City from the settling of the area by the Dutch to the attack by terrorists nearly 400 ... See full summary »

Stars: David Ogden Stiers, John Steele Gordon, Kenneth Jackson, Robert A.M. Stern

Votes: 817

17. The Big Uneasy (2010)

Not Rated | 98 min | Documentary

54 Metascore

Follows three remarkable people--the leaders of two scientific investigation teams, and one whistleblower--as they reveal the true story of why New Orleans flooded.

Director: Harry Shearer | Stars: Harry Shearer, John Goodman, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Coolidge

Votes: 123

18. Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)

Not Rated | 84 min | Documentary, Biography, History

76 Metascore

A profile of the noted and extraordinarily cheerful veteran New York City fashion photographer.

Director: Richard Press | Stars: Bill Cunningham, Anna Wintour, Michael Kors, Editta Sherman

Votes: 4,937 | Gross: $1.51M

19. The Parking Lot Movie (2010)

PG | 74 min | Documentary

63 Metascore

The Parking Lot Movie is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. The film follows a select group of parking lot attendants and their strange rite of passage... See full summary »

Director: Meghan Eckman | Stars: Patrick Baran, John Beers, Chris Farina, Tyler Magill

Votes: 1,814

20. 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

21. Mother: Caring for 7 Billion (2011)

Not Rated | 60 min | Documentary, News

Mother, the film, breaks a 40-year taboo by bringing to light an issue that silently fuels our largest environmental, humanitarian and social crises - population growth. Since the 1960s the... See full summary »

Director: Christophe Fauchere | Stars: Esraa Bani, Albert Bartlett, Lester Brown, Martha Campbell

Votes: 126


Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy

The story of a 14-acre urban farm in South Central Los Angeles, the low-income families who farmed it for 12 years, and the struggle they faced when real estate developers decide to redevelop the land.

23. Trouble the Water (2008)

Unrated | 93 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning.

Directors: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin | Stars: Michael Brown, George W. Bush, Julie Chen Moonves, Ray Nagin

Votes: 1,868 | Gross: $0.52M


24. My Winnipeg (2007)

Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

84 Metascore

Fact, fantasy and memory are woven seamlessly together in this portrait of film-maker Guy Maddin's home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Director: Guy Maddin | Stars: Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage, Louis Negin, Amy Stewart

Votes: 4,588 | Gross: $0.16M

25. 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

NYC Homeless. Railroad tunnels.

26. Ikiru (1952)

Not Rated | 143 min | Drama

A bureaucrat tries to find a meaning in his life after he discovers he has terminal cancer.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin'ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka

Votes: 60,552 | Gross: $0.06M

A bureaucrat who learns he is dying of stomach cancer unexpectedly finds a sense of purpose in his life by cutting through red tape to get a park built for neighborhood children.

27. Brazil (1985)

R | 132 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

88 Metascore

A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error and becomes an enemy of the state.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond

Votes: 178,095 | Gross: $9.93M

28. Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City (2010)

56 min | Documentary

Few individuals have had more impact on the American city than architect and planner Daniel Hudson Burnham. In the midst of late nineteenth century urban disorder, Burnham offered a ... See full summary »

Director: Judith McBrien

Votes: 12

29. The City (II) (1939)

20 min | Documentary, Short

An analysis of the development of London

Director: Ralph Elton | Stars: Charles Bressey, Herbert Hodge

Votes: 16

1939 housing issues

Slum clearance and the construction of new housing in Philadelphia.

31. Detroit on Fire 2010 (2010 Video)

46 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

A look at the vacant home/arson problem in the city of Detroit, through the eyes of the Detroit Firefighters who face Devil's Night every night.

Director: Constance York

Detroit City on the Move

And after the King riots in 1968, the city residents were on the move to the suburbs. Such high hopes for the city in the mid 1960's. Has there been a major American city that has fallen harder than Detroit?

Community Growth and Crisis

Every Planner should watch this film. This is a documentary about homebuilders decrying unplanned urban sprawl. Their solution? Planned Unit Developments, Cluster Zoning, Flexible zoning controls and Pro Land Use laws... if only we had listened.

33. Sesame Street (1969– )

TV-Y | 55 min | Animation, Short, Adventure

On a special inner city street, the inhabitants, human and muppet, teach preschool subjects with comedy, cartoons, games, and songs.

Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney, Jerry Nelson

Votes: 11,059


Wide Open Spaces

Life in the Country and the City

Garden in the City

Sno-Cones in the City

34. Baraka (1992)

Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary

A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion.

Director: Ron Fricke

Votes: 33,795 | Gross: $1.33M

35. Samsara (I) (2011)

PG-13 | 102 min | Documentary, Music

65 Metascore

Filmed over nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, and shot on seventy-millimetre film, Samsara transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders.

Director: Ron Fricke | Stars: Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Puti Sri Candra Dewi, Putu Dinda Pratika

Votes: 30,499 | Gross: $2.67M

36. Metropolis (1927)

Not Rated | 153 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

98 Metascore

In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

Votes: 148,223 | Gross: $1.24M

37. EPCOT (1967)


Walt Disney himself hosts a television documentary presenting his last project E.P.C.O.T. (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow)

Star: Walt Disney

Votes: 78

38. The Car of Tomorrow (1951)

6 min | Animation, Short, Comedy

A series of demonstrations of the kind of motoring accessories we'll all take for granted in the future...

Director: Tex Avery | Star: June Foray

Votes: 392

39. Detropia (2012)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary

68 Metascore

A documentary on the city of Detroit and its woes, which are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base.

Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady | Stars: Noah Stewart, Rachele Gilmnore, Michael Wanko, Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra

Votes: 1,491 | Gross: $0.36M

40. Food, Inc. (2008)

PG | 94 min | Documentary, News

80 Metascore

An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.

Director: Robert Kenner | Stars: Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Richard Lobb, Vince Edwards

Votes: 48,175 | Gross: $4.42M

41. Dirt! The Movie (2009)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary

The only remedy for disconnecting people from the natural world is connecting them to it again.

Directors: Bill Benenson, Gene Rosow, Eleonore Dailly | Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Logan, Vandana Shiva, Fritjof Capra

Votes: 450

42. King Corn (2007)

Unrated | 88 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from ... See full summary »

Director: Aaron Woolf | Stars: Bob Bledsoe, Earl L. Butz, Dawn Cheney, Ian Cheney

Votes: 1,903 | Gross: $0.08M

43. Food (II) (2011)

13 min | Short, Comedy, Horror

On a dare, a young girl enters a supposedly abandoned house. She soon finds herself being chased by a cannibalistic chef.

Director: Noah Schachter | Stars: Michael O'Neil, Asher Schachter, Audrey Schachter, Leora Schachter

Food Films

44. Food Matters (2008)

Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary

Food Matters examines how the food we eat can help or hurt our health. Nutritionists, naturopaths, doctors, and journalists weigh in on such topics as organic food, food safety, raw foodism, and nutritional therapy.

Directors: James Colquhoun, Carlo Ledesma | Stars: Vicky Blewitt, Ian Brighthope, Jerome Burne, Phillip Day

Votes: 4,513

45. Ingredients (2009)

Not Rated | 73 min | Documentary

American food is in a state of crisis. Obesity and diabetes are on the rise, food costs are skyrocketing, family farms are in decline and our agricultural environment is in jeopardy. ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Bates | Stars: Anthony Boutard, Jean-Paul Courtens, Eddie Eagle, John Eveland

Votes: 163

46. The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary

78 Metascore

The epic tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer. Castigated as a pariah in his community, Farmer John bravely transforms his farm amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and arson. He ... See full summary »

Director: Taggart Siegel | Stars: John Peterson, Anna Nielsen, John Edwards, Lester Peterson

Votes: 596 | Gross: $0.01M

47. The Greenhorns (2010)

Not Rated | 40 min | Documentary, Biography

Armed with a camcorder, farmer-filmmaker-activist Severine von Tscharner Fleming spent two years crisscrossing America, meeting and mobilizing a network of revolutionary young farmers ... See full summary »

Director: Severine von Tscharner Fleming | Star: Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Votes: 8

Monoculture, monopoly, cheap food and poor diets-- these are the consequences of an agricultural system gone awry, driven by policy and corporate control. Here we are, unhealthy.

48. Fish Meat (2012)

Not Rated | 29 min | Documentary, Adventure, News

The age of fish meat is here. Our hunger for seafood grows and grows but the seas are running out of fish. But what exactly is farmed fish? Where does it come from, and how is it made? Two ... See full summary »

Director: Joe Cunningham | Stars: Ted Caplow, Andy Danylchuk

49. The Wire (2002–2008)

TV-MA | 59 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller