100 Greatest Movie Documentaries/50 Greatest Documentary Filmsby jordanhores | created - 09 Oct 2015 | updated - 8 months ago | Public
This list is a list of best documentaries in modern cinema, (1970s-present,) based on topic, diversity, critical reception, accolades, cultural impact, historical importance, cinematography, direction and popularity. Excluding ones that have been critically panned/negative reviews and entertaining celebrity biographies.
- Instant Watch Options
- Movies or TV
- IMDb Rating
- In Theaters
- On TV
- Release Year
2. The Cove (2009)
PG-13 | 92 min | Documentary, Crime
Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Votes: 45,736 | Gross: $0.87M
4. Waste Land (2010)
Not Rated | 99 min | Documentary
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.
Votes: 8,062 | Gross: $0.19M
5. The Act of Killing (2012)
Not Rated | 117 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime
A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
Votes: 31,953 | Gross: $0.49M
6. March of the Penguins (2005)
G | 80 min | Documentary, Family
In the Antarctic, every March since the beginning of time, the quest begins to find the perfect mate and start a family.
Votes: 53,995 | Gross: $77.44M
7. Anne Frank Remembered (1995)
PG | 117 min | Documentary, Biography, War
Using previously unreleased archival material in addition to contemporary interviews, this academy award-winning documentary tells the story of the Frank family and presents the first ... See full summary »
Votes: 924 | Gross: $1.31M
11. Restrepo (2010)
R | 93 min | Documentary, War
A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.
Directors: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger | Stars: The Men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Juan 'Doc Restrepo, Dan Kearney, LaMonta Caldwell
Votes: 21,131 | Gross: $1.33M
13. The Salt of the Earth (2014)
PG-13 | 110 min | Documentary, Biography, History
The life and work of photographer Sebastião Salgado, who has spent forty years documenting deprived societies in hidden corners of the world.
Votes: 17,755 | Gross: $1.34M
14. Last Days in Vietnam (2014)
Not Rated | 98 min | Documentary, History, War
During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, ... See full summary »
Votes: 3,539 | Gross: $0.47M
16. The Square (2013)
Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, News
A group of Egyptian revolutionaries battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience.
Votes: 8,151 | Gross: $0.12M
17. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
PG | 96 min | Documentary, News
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment.
Votes: 78,175 | Gross: $23.81M
18. Dirty Wars (2013)
Not Rated | 87 min | Documentary, Crime, Mystery
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America's expanding covert wars.
Votes: 8,770 | Gross: $0.38M
20. How to Survive a Plague (2012)
Not Rated | 110 min | Documentary, History, News
The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.
Votes: 3,560 | Gross: $0.13M
21. Five Broken Cameras (2011)
Not Rated | 94 min | Documentary, War
A documentary on a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army.
Votes: 5,542 | Gross: $0.11M
22. Hell and Back Again (2011)
Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary, Action, History
What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home? Hell and Back Again is a cinematically revolutionary film that asks and answers these questions with a power and ... See full summary »
Votes: 2,154 | Gross: $0.04M
23. Undefeated (2011)
PG-13 | 113 min | Documentary, Sport
Chronicles three underprivileged students from inner-city Memphis and their volunteer coach who tries to help them beat the odds on and off the field.
Votes: 6,499 | Gross: $0.56M
25. Which Way Home (2009)
Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary
"Which Way Home" is a feature documentary film that follows unaccompanied child migrants, on their journey through Mexico, as they try to reach the United States. We follow children like ... See full summary »
Director: Rebecca Cammisa
Not Rated | 92 min | Documentary
"The Most Dangerous Man in America" is the story of what happens when a former Pentagon insider, armed only with his conscience, steadfast determination, and a file cabinet full of ... See full summary »
Votes: 2,186 | Gross: $0.45M
28. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
G | 99 min | Documentary
Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there.
Votes: 16,356 | Gross: $0.94M
29. Man on Wire (2008)
PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Biography, History
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".
Votes: 50,099 | Gross: $2.96M
32. Taxi to the Dark Side (2007)
R | 106 min | Documentary, Crime, News
Alex Gibney exposes the haunting details of the USA's torture and interrogation practices during the War in Afghanistan.
Votes: 14,059 | Gross: $0.27M
35. Deliver Us from Evil (2006)
Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime
Documentary about Father Oliver O'Grady, a Catholic priest who was relocated to various parishes around the United States during the 1970s in an attempt by the Catholic Church to cover up his rape of dozens of children.
Votes: 9,472 | Gross: $30.58M
36. Murderball (2005)
R | 88 min | Documentary, Sport
Quadriplegics, who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs, overcome unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Votes: 9,602 | Gross: $1.52M
37. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
R | 110 min | Documentary, Biography, History
A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall.
38. Darwin's Nightmare (2004)
107 min | Documentary
A documentary on the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania's Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.
Votes: 5,241 | Gross: $0.20M
39. Twist of Faith (2004)
TV-MA | 87 min | Documentary
A man confronts the trauma of past sexual abuse as a boy by a Catholic priest only to find his decision shatters his relationships with his family, community and faith.
Votes: 788 | Gross: $0.00M
R | 85 min | Documentary, Biography, News
Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city's notorious red light district.
Votes: 15,240 | Gross: $3.41M
41. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Not Rated | 107 min | Documentary, Biography
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.
Votes: 22,740 | Gross: $3.12M
PG-13 | 107 min | Documentary, Biography, History
Votes: 21,993 | Gross: $4.20M
45. Promises (2001)
106 min | Documentary
Several Jewish and Palestinian children are followed for three years and put in touch with each other, in this alternative look at the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. The three filmmakers ... See full summary »
Votes: 2,515 | Gross: $0.24M
46. LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001 TV Movie)
89 min | Documentary
This documentary follows a Mississippi Delta school district and a single Delta family as they struggle against the crippling effects of poverty in the wake of more than one hundred years of slavery.
47. Children Underground (2001)
Not Rated | 104 min | Documentary