General Question

Aethelwine's avatar

What is your favorite documentary film?

Asked by Aethelwine (42961points) January 25th, 2009 from iPhone

My personal favorite (there are many) is American Movie, a story about an amateur filmmaker struggling to produce his latest horror flick.

What is yours?

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46 Answers

figbash's avatar

Grey Gardens, hands down.

KrystaElyse's avatar

I luurve documentaries. Sicko, the UP series, Planet Earth, Bowling for Columbine, Grey Gardens, An Inconvenient Truth, Super Size Me…the list can go on.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Ooh, I have to see Grey Gardens!

At the mo’, it’s the Up series by Michael Apted.

vindice's avatar

American Movie is great…I also dig The Kid Stays in the Picture

Bluefreedom's avatar

It’s really too difficult for me to pick just one because my list is so long. Here are a few that spring to mind though:

On Native Soil
Incident At Oglala – The Leonard Peltier Story
On Any Sunday
The Endless Summer
Broken Rainbow
Absolutely Positive
The War Tapes
Return With Honor
America: Freedom to Facism
Who Killed the Electric Car?

KrystaElyse's avatar

Oh oh, and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. That one was great.

girlofscience's avatar

At my grad school, we have a student-run, informal “documentary club”! We get together every other Wednesday to watch documentaries.

I also love American Movie!

Nazi Pop Twins is also fascinating.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Standing in the Shadows of Motown is my number 2.

PupnTaco's avatar

Grey Gardens is good. I also like Helvetica.

peedub's avatar

My Best Fiend and pretty much everything by Les Blank.

Anything and Everything Ulrich Seidl has done, but especially Animal Love.

tennesseejac's avatar


This challenging and provocative documentary takes a look on all sides of the infamous F-word. Its taboo,obscene and controversial, yet somehow seems to permeate every single aspect of our culture-from Hollywood, to the schoolyard to the Senate floor in Washington D.C.

tennesseejac's avatar

if you like crossword puzzles check out:

amanderveen's avatar

Sharkwater – more people should check it out. :o)

kapuerajam's avatar

The tv documentary BBC has on Lomography

ibadt's avatar

American Movie was great! I wonder whatever happened to those guys?

El_Cadejo's avatar

Anything made by the BBC is usually pretty damn awesome. But Planet Earth and Blue Planet are definitely up there in my favorites.

Blondesjon's avatar

Escape From New York

Until I watched this powerful film I too believed Snake Plisskin to be dead.

steve6's avatar

The War – Ken Burns

kevbo's avatar

Nick Broomfield has some excellent documentaries, including: Kurt [Cobain] and Courtney, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, and one about the female seriel killer in Florida (the same that “Monster” was based on).

“Sherman’s March” is a classic. It was supposed to be about General Sherman’s march across the South and ends up being a collage of southern characters.

“When the Levees Broke” and Kamp Katrina” are good ones about New Orleans and Huuricane Katrina.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks for the input so far everyone. I love documentaries and was hoping for something new. Sounds like Grey Gardens it is.

can you believe I’ve never heard of it?

For all you American Movie fans: “It’s alright, it’s ok, there’s something to live for… Jesus told me so!”

sndfreQ's avatar

The King of Kong was a recent favorite; also a bit more obscure was a doc from the ‘80s called Sherman’s March.

PupnTaco's avatar

Oh yeah, Wordplay. And I just watched Man on Wire.

King of Kong is my number one, I knew I was forgetting something!

Bri_L's avatar

The Line King

mij's avatar

Ten Canoes by Rolf De Heer about Australian aboriginals in Arnhem Land.
Another favourite if your into music is, Desperate Man Blues – Discovering the roots of American Music.
Off The Rails – A love story about trains in New Zealand, if your into trains this is for you…

ark_a_dong's avatar

The Union: documentary on marijuana and it’s place in the black market, especially in BC, Canada. A real eye-opener for most I suppose.

augustlan's avatar

Planet Earth and An Inconvenient Truth.

galileogirl's avatar

I love the Ken Burns Civil War and War but the documentary that brings tears to my eyes is Dear America, Letters from Viet Nam.

ssteward's avatar

I second ‘Man on Wire’. Also, I really liked ‘Grizzly Man’

Aethelwine's avatar

@galileogirl Ken Burns is great. I really enjoyed his documentary about Lewis & Clark.

90s_kid's avatar

Ruby Bridges is always an interest to me. I can’t remember the other one I looove….Oooh what was it?!

MacBean's avatar

Since I hate repeating answers, I’ll just say that some good ones have been mentioned so far (Jesus Camp scared me!) and add a few new ones, with the Netflix summaries:

Capturing the Friedmans – “A family in crisis is “captured” through real home video. The Friedmans, an average upper-middle-class Jewish family in Great Neck, NY, found their world turned upside down when the father and son were charged with child molestation in 1987. The media inundated the airwaves with coverage of the alleged crime, but some of the best footage was shot by the family themselves—seen publicly for the first time in this documentary.”

The Celluloid Closet – “Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this acclaimed documentary takes its name from Vito Russo’s groundbreaking book. The filmmakers examine the subtext of more than 100 Hollywood movies—including Spartacus, Rope and Thelma and Louise—and chart the cinematic journey of lesbian and gay characters. Film clips are paired with director, producer and actor interviews featuring, among others, Gore Vidal, Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.”

Children Underground – “This Oscar-nominated documentary explores the tragic policy decision by Romanian dictator Nicolei Ceaucescu to outlaw contraceptives and encourage his impoverished populace to have more children. Thousands of children were born to broken or dysfunctional families in a nation mired in political and economic instability, resulting in a large and rapidly growing population of homeless children (more than 20,000 estimated) in the city of Bucharest.”

The Murder of Emmett Till: American Experience – “Considered a catalyst for America’s civil rights movement, the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till (and the events after his death) is explored in this documentary. While visiting the Deep South, Till whistled at a white woman, an act for which he was brutally killed. Activists got organized after Till’s mother let national newspapers run pictures of her mangled son, the trial ended in acquittal, and the federal government failed to intervene.”

Paragraph 175 – “Actor Rupert Everett provides the narration for this disquieting documentary that shines a light on the Third Reich’s vicious persecution of male homosexuals during World War II. The title comes from an arcane, 1871 German statute making sodomy punishable by incarceration (with the ultimate goal to eradicate gays completely). Only a handful of survivors—now frail and withered—remain to recount their traumatic tales in this poignant film.”

Transgeneration – “This absorbing gender-bending documentary series captures a year in the life of four college students who’ve made the commitment to transition from their birth sex despite the difficult consequences. Follow along as Lucas writes a letter explaining her decision to become a man, Raci seeks illegal hormones on the black market, Gabbie celebrates his surgery with a preop dinner party and T.J. plans a trip to Cyprus, Greece, to visit her parents.”

My review of Children Underground can be found here and the ones for Transgeneration, Paragraph 175 and The Celluloid Closet are here.

tennesseejac's avatar

seriously, Fuck .
it puts up a terrific argument that FUCK is the greatest word EVER

SuperMouse's avatar

On a lighter note there is American Mullet. That’s some brilliant documentary film making.

@90’s kid, isn’t 8 Mile a fictional film based on a true story?

90s_kid's avatar

Yeaah, but still, it is pretty much true. If you think about it, no documentary is 100% true.

steve6's avatar

A good one is damn close to 100%.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

chicago 10, no doubt. very original, and intense to boot.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

Expelled: No Intellegence Allowed. I’ll follow Ben Stein anywhere.

sahID's avatar

@shpadoinkle_sue I absolutely agree about Expelled. Eye opening and disturbing to say the least. Besides Ben Stein totally gets how to narrate a documentary so it flows coherently and makes sense.

Three other favorites of mine include:
Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s probing examination of what happened on that day, and, lightly, why.
Loose Change 9/11, the documentary that delves far, far deeper into what really happened, especially in New York City.
What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole (Ultimate Quantum Edition), the documentary that starts by asking the viewers “How far down the rabbit home do you want to go?” and then proceeds to attempt to explain reality by disassembling everything we thought we knew, while also showing how the quantum world connects to human behavior.

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