Favorite Documentaries


Okay, so I don’t think this topic’s been made yet: what are your favorite documentaries? I really like hearing about documentaries other people are excited about because a) it means I get to watch good movies and b) sometimes I’ll get to learn more about a social issue, person, or current event that never would have come to my attention had I not watched the movie.

So what are your favorite docs and why?


Alrighty, three docs I think are incredibly compelling for their political effect and narrative structure:

  1. Blackfish, the one about Seaworld’s abuse of their Orcas which was super effective in making lots of people anti-Seaworld.

  2. Touching The Void, a docu-drama about a legendarily disastrous climb up the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes by two young and inexperienced climbers.

  3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a truly impressive narrative of an underdog every-man looking to break the King Kong world record and the ego-maniacal a-hole who stopped him at every turn (It’s beautiful, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it).


Touching the Void? I haven’t seen that one - holy crap. That sounds great.

Does anyone else have any other responses? The documentaries that have made an impact on me so far aren’t usually on the critical consensus lists of best documentaries, which is partly why I’m asking the question (I"m thinking of Streetwise, I Am a Promise, and Tongues Untied in particular). Not that I’m specifically looking for documentaries outside of what’s critically acclaimed or popular…just any recommendations.

Any other responses?


Three come to mind immediately:

  1. Citizenfour - the documentary about Edward Snowden. Perhaps the best documentary I’ve seen to date. It was so good I watched it straight away again after seeing it the first time.

  2. Tim’s Vermeer - a documentary produced by Penn and Teller about a man who is fascinated with Vermeer’s paintings and sets out to see if he can discover the technique Vermeer used and recreate one of his most famous paintings. A really incredible documentary and endlessly fascinating.

  3. Indie Game The Movie - a documentary about indie video game development. It follows a few different gamemakers and their journey and struggles to create and publish their video games. Really interesting and compelling doc.


I’ve only very recently been getting into documentaries and in one in particular has really stood out.

It’s Grey Gardens. I watched it on Hulu. Two “cat ladies” who live in what was once an incredibly nice house. But hard times hit, life quickly went by, and there they are, dreaming of what could have been.

That’s really a poor description but best I can do off the top of my head haha. It’s way more interesting than it sounds!


Thanks for your feedback! Very excited about all of these - I’ve heard Grey Gardens was great. I feel like the Maysles brothers don’t get enough credit for their work in documentary filmmaking.

If anyone has any other choices, please let me know! I actually will follow through on watching them!

PS: Tongues Untied, Streetwise, I Am a Promise, and The Staircase are documentaries that are more under the radar, but each one really made an impact on me. If anyone watches any of these, feel free to PM me and let me know what you thought!


Woah just saw this thread. Words of caution for all of the following films. Some might find them triggering, all I’m sure will find parts of them disturbing. Proceed with caution.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing & The Look of Silence - the two most important docs of the past fifty years, IMO. Saw Oppenheimer talk in LA, and I’d highly recommend listening to his interviews/reading some of his prose after seeing these movies.

Herzog - one of my all time heroes. His films are poetic and unblinking. As he says "The poet must not avert his eyes"
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Grizzly Man
Into the Abyss

Morris - Surreal looks into justice, irony, and American violence.
The Thin Blue Line
The Fog of War
The Unknown Known

Wiseman’s Titticut Follies , a seminal doc in the style of direct cinema. Not easy to watch, but really moving.

Maysles Brother’s Salesman, another direct cinema flick. A little easier to watch, but very sad and will stay with you.

Nick Broomfield’s The Leader, His Driver, and The Driver’s Wife, almost an early predecessor to The Act of Killing, and a very interesting look at how a director can involve his/herself in the narrative.


Great suggestions. Joshua Opphenheimer’s films are at the top of my watch list. Cheers.