This page shows you the list charts. By default, the movies are ordered by how many times they have been marked as a favorite. However, you can also sort by other information, such as the total number of times it has been marked as a dislike.
This list consists of the 124 movies featured in the “That’s Entertainment!” compilation documentary series, plus those three films: “That’s Entertainment!” (1974), “That’s Entertainment, Part II” (1976) and “That’s Entertainment! III” (1994).
This list consists of the 117 movies featured in the 1995 compilation documentary “The Celluloid Closet”.
See also: "The Celluloid Closet: The Book"
In documentary filmmaking, truth is almost always filled with lies.
It’s just the nature of the form, really—of any filmmaking at all, for that matter. Even a home video recording, if you’ve ever made or watched or starred in one, is marred by manipulation: Whether you’re aware you’re being “watched” or not, your truth is a sort of surreal quilt of camera placement, cuts and atmosphere, totally mitigated by the lens and then, further down the food chain, the ultimate observer. If you know you’re being watched, you act accordingly; if you don’t, the recording may carry a subtle tone of voyeurism, of intrusiveness—the feeling that something isn’t quite right.
And yet, from direct cinema to Dogme 95, truth has always been an idealistic goal for many filmmakers, and not necessarily the purity of it, but the translation of its most deeply held essentials. Arguably, documentary filmmaking has always been at the forefront of that aim, though during much of its primordial beginnings—especially throughout the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s—documentary filmmakers trolled truth as if it was yet another stuffy branch of bourgeoisie power.
In Land Without Bread (1933), Luis Buñuel parodied the white guilt of popular travelogue docs of the time, pointing out that sadness and economical devastation existed in Spain itself—no need to travel to some faraway land. In Nanook of the North (1922), the life of an Inuit clan was notoriously messed with. And Man with a Movie Camera (1929) pretty much just made a bunch of shit up. Their goals weren’t to leave truth unfondled, but to say that an unfondled truth is an unexplored one: shallow and meaningless.
Once Jean Rouche, Frederick Wiseman, D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles, however, pioneered and then defined throughout the 1950s and ’60s what came to be known as cinéma vérité, documentary filmmaking shouldered the burden of truth, resolving to allow life to operate on its own, brushed only briefly by the manipulative fingers of the filmmaker. This was coupled with advances in filmmaking technology, notably that equipment became lighter, and more mobile. In turn, crews shrank, and coverage became paramount. That Nick Broomfield’s films are filmed with a minute crew on minute budgets, or that Oscar-winning Searching for Sugar Man (2012) was captured partly on an iPhone camera, means that today, as it is with most art, anyone can be a documentary filmmaker.
Which isn’t a bad thing. Because truth belongs to the people, by definition—it is ours to shape and hone and mold into something that enriches each of our lives and each of our worldviews however we see fit. That the following list leans heavily on films released in the past five years isn’t a coincidence, nor is it a factor of some shortsighted list-making. Instead, it points directly to our increased capacity to capture, reproduce and respect truth. If anything, we’re coming full circle.
Will the truth set you free? Probably not, but we believe the following 100 documentaries are the all-time greatest attempts to find out.
Patricia Aufderheide's list from 'Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction' - part of the highly regarded series from Oxford University Press.
"These documentaries have been widely seen and discussed, and have been in many cases at the center of controversies; in other cases they have provided valuable teaching resources. They are all accessible for renting or buying for your private collection. You can use the index in this book and other books mentioned in the references, imdb.com, your local library, Netflix, Google, and the Library of Congress to find out more about why these films have attracted attention and esteem. Viewing this collection will set you up nicely with a context to watch your latest favorite, argue with the list, and build your own top one hundred."
Taking Pictures (1996) (http://aso.gov.au/titles/documentaries/taking-pictures/)
Various documentaries about association football / soccer / voetbal / fussball / fútbol.
- Includes shorts
- Does not include series and miniseries (e.g. "A History of Football")
- Official movies of the World Cup, Champions League etc. are not included (e.g. G'olé!)
- "Official history" documentaries are not included (e.g. "Everton F.C Official History")
- Straight up match clips, season reviews and goal compilations (apart from Lumiére's Football (1897)) are not included.
- Commercials (e.g. the TMB Panyee FC commercial made by TMB Bank) are not included.
Sadly, quite a few football documentaries (City! & The Impossible Job to mention two) are missing from imdb, so this list is some distance from being "complete". Still, if you have ideas for documentaries to add, write a comment.
Many of these films are rather easy to find on youtube. However, I have not seen all and therefore do not know how accessible all the entries are, some seem rather obscure based on the number of votes on imdb.
The greatest documentaries ever made, as voted by 103 directors including John Akomfrah, Thom Andersen, Michael Apted, Clio Barnard, Sophie Fiennes, Amos Gitai, Paul Greengrass, José Luis Guerin, Isaac Julien, Asif Kapadia, Sergei Loznitsa, Kevin Macdonald, James Marsh, Joshua Oppenheimer, Anand Patwardhan, Pawel Pawlikowski, Nicolas Philibert, Walter Salles and James Toback…
(La batalla de Chile counts for 3 entries)
In 2007, in commemoration of their 25th Anniversary, the IDA asked their members to name their Top 25 documentaries of all time. This is the consensus Top 25, representing a range of styles, sensibilities and eras.
This year, Weiner and O.J.: Made in America reminded us just how ambitious (and binge-worthy) documentaries could be. Here are our picks for the 21 best documentaries ever made—plus some recs from their directors.