Best Documentaries You've Ever Seen
January 25, 2024 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for your most favoritest documentary films or documentary series that have really stuck with you.

They can be heartwarming Standalone films like A Man Named Pearl (the story of one man and his incredible topiary garden!) or profoundly moving reflections on troubling times like "Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland" which is a series, or cute family-appropriate favorites like Microcosmos. Just looking to fill up my wintery film queue with a Metafilter Megathread. Thanks Yall!
posted by wowenthusiast to Media & Arts (111 answers total) 135 users marked this as a favorite
Crip Camp!
posted by eirias at 10:01 AM on January 25 [24 favorites]

Keep The River On Your Right. Despite the clickbait-y longer title, this is one of the most sublime documentaries I've ever watched. More on the profound end of the spectrum, probably not family-appropriate for the average family. It's on YouTube (that's the first link), but wiki entry here.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:06 AM on January 25

All The Beauty And The Bloodshed - describing or summarizing this one doesn’t do it justice so I’m not gonna try
Harlan County USA - really incredible coverage of the Harlan County Kentucky coal miners’ strike in 1973
posted by crime online at 10:10 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

Here are a few of my favorites over the past couple of years along with the services I watched them on (I try to watch one documentary movie a week):

Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story - Netflix
Good Night Oppy - Amazon
We Met in Virtual Reality - HBO
All That Breathes - HBO
Still - Apple
Can’t Be Stopped - Kanopy
The Amazing Jonathan Documentary - Hulu
Searching for Sugarman - HBO
AKA Mr Chow - HBO
The Pigeon Tunnel - Apple
Little Richard: I Am Everything - HBO
posted by General Malaise at 10:11 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Seared in my mind is Touching the Void, which melds interviews and reenactments.

Always good to get more recommendations, especially of new releases, but also previously:

- absorbing and family-friendly documentaries (movies or series) of the last few years? (2021)

- Please recommend some light, gentle, funny documentaries (2021)

- Looking for people-focused documentaries made within the last five to ten years or so, available on streaming video--ideally inspiring, uplifting, or (non-violently) mysterious, please! (2018)

- Documentaries that tell a great story while giving you a slice of life? (2016)

- Share your favourite documentary films/series here (2013)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:13 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

I Know That Voice, which discusses voice acting with about a billion of the folks that probably made up your childhood (if you were born in the US, at least).
posted by hanov3r at 10:17 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Genghis Blues
posted by gnutron at 10:24 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

I really liked Kings of Pastry, focusing on three of the pastry chefs trying to achieve MOH status in France during the 2007 cycle of the competition.

I keep thinking of the grief of one of the chefs in the final stage of the exam, and the way the judges gather around him to support him: not all competitions are bitter contests.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:25 AM on January 25

20 Feet From Stardom, about backup singers for famous musicians.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:29 AM on January 25 [13 favorites]

Stevie has lingered in my mind since I watched it two decades ago. It really is superb and devastating.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 10:32 AM on January 25

Anvil: the Story of Anvil.
Searching for Sugar Man.
King of Kong.

All of these are older; all of these are fantastic storytelling. The way I judge that is if the doc is on a topic I don't care about at all, and by the end I care a ton about it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:35 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

I think the best documentary I've ever seen is Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I. Singular, lyrical, humane, extraordinarily personal.
posted by bcwinters at 10:35 AM on January 25 [14 favorites]

I, too, was going to suggest Touching The Void. So good and inspiring what humans are capable of even in direst of circumstances. I was just talking about it with my son last night - we can do the seemingly impossible.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:38 AM on January 25

Came in to say Genghis Blues, but also Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:42 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]

20 Days in Mariupol has stayed in my mind, because it's utterly gut-wrenching to watch. It's really raw; I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for, but it's an important film. It's now an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature Film.
20 Days in Mariupol follows Chernov as he and his Ukrainian AP colleagues become trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, struggling to continue their work documenting atrocities of the Russian invasion. The last international journalists remaining in the city as Russian forces close in, Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko capture what become some of the most defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more. 20 Days in Mariupol draws on Chernov’s daily news dispatches and personal footage of his own country at war. The result is a raw and haunting account of a journalist risking his life to share the truth of the conflict with the world.
posted by Kabanos at 10:44 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]

I think about Minding the Gap astonishingly often given how little connection to the culture/class/gender dynamics of it I have.
posted by minervous at 10:45 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Free Solo, in which the literally incredible Alex Honnold swarms ropeless up El Capitan like a fly up a window pane. Best value for money I have ever got out of a cinema ticket. I was that terror-stricken I was practically break-dancing in my seat.
posted by runincircles at 10:49 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

Jim Allison: Breakthrough. He's the reason my son in law is alive today!
posted by LaBellaStella at 10:51 AM on January 25

Short but sweet in the footsteps of RedBull documentary [20m] about, and incl interview with, Gwen Moffat, British rock climber, who turned 99 on 24Jul23.
posted by BobTheScientist at 10:52 AM on January 25

Seven Up!, and the rest of the "Up" series, has lifted and shattered me at times. Then Bowling for Columbine and The Fog of War.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:58 AM on January 25 [17 favorites]

When I saw The Fog of War in high school it felt like part of my brain turned on for the first time.
posted by telegraph at 10:59 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Capturing the Friedmans
King of Kong
Crip Camp
Jesus Camp
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Man on Wire
Queen of Versailles
posted by coraline at 11:02 AM on January 25 [10 favorites]

Came here for Man on Wire, favorited coraline's
posted by drdanger at 11:04 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:08 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Culloden innovative 1960s docu-drama about the battle. Linked to on YT.
posted by rongorongo at 11:09 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Was hoping to be the first to mention Culloden! Fantastic film.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:17 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Have you seen the classic Attenborough series? Life on Earth, Living Planet, Trials of Life? Superb epic and groundbreaking viewing.
posted by runincircles at 11:21 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Touching the Void
The Act of Killing
The Thin Blue Line
Time Indefinite
The Gleaners and I
posted by dobbs at 11:23 AM on January 25 [3 favorites]

My favorite documentary is Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line. Remarkable not only for its execution, but because it saved a man from execution.

(After that, watch The Last Broadcast, which I believe was inspired by Morris's film.)

My favorite documentary series is James Burke's Connections.
posted by SPrintF at 11:24 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Spellbound - about the 1999 Spelling Bee Championship
Tim's Vermeer - a man's quest to recreate a master's painting
posted by XtineHutch at 11:29 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]

Brother's Keeper
posted by Windopaene at 11:49 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

All of these have streaming options you can find on

A Life on the Farm - A strange story from Somerset, England about a filmmaking farmer and the inspiring legacy of his long-lost home movies.

Gates of Heaven - Errol Morris documentary about the men who run a pet cemetery, and the men and women who bury their pets.

Faces, Places - Director Agnès Varda and photographer/muralist JR journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.

Chop & Steele - When childhood friends turned professional comedians, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett book their gag strongman routine on unsuspecting morning news shows, their pranks go viral and land them in federal court with a vengeful media conglomerate.

And as ever, F for Fake, Orson Welles' cinematic essay on fraud, is probably my favorite movie.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:51 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]

I really enjoyed Wordplay, about crossword puzzle fans. (Wordplay trailer)
posted by kristi at 11:53 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Oh! also loved My Octopus Teacher (trailer)
posted by kristi at 11:56 AM on January 25 [9 favorites]

I'm seconding the earlier recommendation for Stevie. It's very good if perhaps difficult to watch.

I also quite enjoyed Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. It's like a real-life version of This is Spinal Tap. You don't have to be a fan of Metallica to enjoy the movie.

A couple of other favorites:

Last Days Here, about death metal singer Bobby Liebling and his battle to quit drugs (again, you don't have to be a metalhead to enjoy the movie).

You're Gonna Miss Me, about a musician's unlikely recovery from severe mental illness.
posted by alex1965 at 12:11 PM on January 25

Plants Behaving Badly. Murder, mayhem, sex, and lies in the world of plants.
posted by Dolley at 12:13 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Vernon, Florida - Errol Morris. Has "is this real?" vibes. Currently on Criterion Channel and AMC+ in the US. Also check your library system for physical media.

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History - Australian doc about the history and consequences of the introduction of cane toads to Australia as a pest control measure. Informative and cheeky. On Criterion Channel and Kanopy in the US, which is a free service offered by many library systems.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:14 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

The BBC's Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland really stayed with me. It lets people tell their own stories from all sides of the conflict. I grew up (in England) through this period and I learnt a huge amount.

I'd also recommend Three Identical Strangers and ideally to watch it knowing nothing more about it.

From earlier mentions +1 for Man on Wire and The Barkley Marathons.
posted by crocomancer at 12:23 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

The Sparks Brothers was a delightful film about a band that almost almost became insanely famous. Music is great too.
posted by *s at 12:32 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]

My Left Foot is brilliant.
posted by Enid Lareg at 12:32 PM on January 25

Waste Land, about workers at the landfill in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dark Horse, about a Welsh village whose citizens pool their money to buy a racehorse

Born Into Brothels, about the children of sex workers in the red light district of Kolkata, India

51 Birch Street. Best viewed without knowing anything about it.

Stories We Tell, by actor/filmmaker Sarah Polley about her family’s secrets.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:44 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]

Another vote for 7-Up and the rest of the series (14-Up, 21-Up...), and also Crip Camp.

The most harrowing, gripping and heartbreaking documentary I've ever seen is Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father.
Excellent but do not watch if you don't want to be utterly crushed and heartbroken for a small group of strangers.

Forks Over Knives
One of a handful of things watched that convinced me to switch to a whole food plant-based diet.
posted by Glinn at 12:46 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Etre et Avoir stays with me, some 20 years later

Dear Zachary stays with you, but it's a gut-punch

edit to say: someone beat me to it! just be careful, it's a tough watch
posted by elkevelvet at 12:50 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

If you really want to dig in old-school (like, if you're snowed in for a month), The World at War is old-fashioned in its historiography now, but amazing in its breadth of coverage and the interviews it got.

Astounded to see no mention of Paris is Burning yet!
posted by praemunire at 12:52 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]

The Act of Killing remains the most visceral film I've ever seen. Nauseatingly immediate, in the way that it forces you to empathize with a mass murderer as he gradually starts to understand the enormity of his actions. Highly recommended.
posted by fifthrider at 12:59 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]

The Work: "Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, three men from the outside participate in a four-day group-therapy retreat with a group of incarcerated men for a real look at the challenges of rehabilitation."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:22 PM on January 25

Great post, lots of great suggestions here but no one has posted The Search for General Tso. I was so surprised at how incredibly interesting this was, and I've often wondered if there's a similar story to tell about Mexican restaurants (which are now as ubiquitous as chinese restaurants)
posted by bluesky43 at 1:22 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Tell Me My Name
posted by tristeza at 1:23 PM on January 25

Elvis 56, Free Solo, Man on Wire, Hoop Dreams, 13th, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, They Shall Not Grow Old, Harlan County USA, Hotel Terminus, When We Were Kings, Into the Arms of Strangers, Still, 20 Feet from Stardom.
(My Left Foot isn’t a doc.)

Am Academy voter, work in this field.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:25 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]

Say Amen, Somebody (1982) and The Shakedown (2018) are two that came to mind that I didn't see listed here yet
posted by sc114 at 1:31 PM on January 25

I had known of this film for a while and ultimately found it on the video app from my local public library. Strong recommendation for you to utilize this service from your local public library. Sorry for the sidebar.

Titicut Follies.

I was stunned at this film. It is shot in a prison/faciltiy for the criminally insane in the early 1960's. It is a time capsule of horrific treatment of these people and what passed as treatment. The droll discussion of CSA. It really blew my mind. I couldn't look away. Amazing film.
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:45 PM on January 25

The Errol Morris mentions are reminding me, if you can find somewhere to watch episodes of his series First Person those are all really good!
posted by crime online at 1:46 PM on January 25

America: Lost And found, from 1979, about The Depression. Part 1 used to be available in the Internet Archive but I can't find it there now. More recently, Part 2 is on Youtube.

Also this American Experience documentary about Coney Island from 1991.
posted by Rash at 2:10 PM on January 25

I absolutely adored Herb & Dorothy, which is about a seemingly ordinary NYC couple who collected a museum's worth of modernist art.

The Wolfpack, about siblings sequestered inside their NYC apartment for most of their lives.

And one about the Donner Party that is incredibly dark and sad and has lodged itself in a deep part of my brain for over 30 years.
posted by missmobtown at 2:17 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

My Life as a Turkey
Happy People

Both not disturbing or shocking. Really lovely.
posted by beccaj at 2:32 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Dead River Rough Cut, about beaver trappers in rural Maine in the 70's;
Ben's Mill, about a Mill (and Ben);
Around Cape Horn, an old sailor narrated his home movies taken on one of the last great sailing ships;
Burden of Dreams, about Herzog's trials filming Fitzcarraldo. My Best Fiend is also pretty good.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 2:57 PM on January 25

Seconding Titicut Follies. It'll leave an impression. Anything by Fred Wiseman is worth watching.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 3:02 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Bathtubs Over Broadway on Netflix
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 4:25 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]

The Sweatbox is a documentary about the making of the Disney film The Emperor's New Groove that gives an unusually honest look behind the scenes at how Disney execs were making decisions about animated films at that time. It pays particular attention to the film's soundtrack, as Sting (yes, that Sting!) was originally brought on board to write the songs, and did so with the agreement that his wife, Trudie Styler, could make a documentary about the project.

Ever since I saw the doc I've been salty about the fact that we were deprived of an Eartha Kitt musical number.

Note that this doc can be difficult, but not impossible, to find online.
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 4:56 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]

Sherman’s March” was meant to be about Confederate general William Tecumseh Sherman, but it insists on being about something else entirely. Delightful.
posted by baseballpajamas at 5:03 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Summer of Soul. Summer of Soul. Summer of Soul.
posted by fedward at 5:04 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]

I loved Rivers and Tides, about artist Andy Goldsworthy. His art is beautiful, and because it's made from natural materials, can give the mistaken impression that it's simple or easy to make. This documentary is full of beauty and gives a clear idea of exactly how much hard work and effort goes into it. So, so good.
posted by Sublimity at 5:06 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]

Two suggestions!

"Hands on a Hardbody" is a documentary that captures the human drama centered around a competition in Longview, Texas. The film chronicles an endurance contest where contestants place their hands on a brand-new hardbody truck. The last person to take their hands off wins the vehicle. We get an up-close look at the physical and psychological limits of the competitors as they battle fatigue and the elements, all for the chance to drive away with their American dream. Available on:
Amazon Prime Video
Google Play Movies & TV

"Do I Sound Gay?" delves into the stereotypes and cultural questions surrounding the "gay voice." The filmmaker, David Thorpe, embarks on a personal journey to understand why he despises the sound of his own voice and the cultural implications that come with it. Featuring interviews with linguists, celebrities, and other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the film explores the complexities of linguistic patterns and how they tie into identity and societal expectations. Available on:
posted by acridrabbit at 5:10 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

The one documentary that has really stayed with me, despite only having watched it once, is Grizzly Man.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:16 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart
Standing In The Shadows of Motown
posted by pdb at 5:26 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Horace Ove's film of James Baldwin (and Dick Gregory) speaking at the West Indian Students' Centre, London, 1969. (CW: the title.) I've watched it a dozen times. Baldwin and Gregory are brilliant. I've learned a lot from the film.
posted by philfromhavelock at 5:32 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

The Imposter is a documentary best experienced going in knowing as little as possible, but if you want to know more you can click the link to its IMDB page.
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 5:33 PM on January 25

Buck (2011) - “ An examination of the life of acclaimed 'horse whisperer' Buck Brannaman, who recovered from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert in the interactions between horses and people.”

Sweetgrass (2009) - “In the summer of 2003, a group of shepherds took a herd of sheep one final time through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, in the extreme north-west of the United States. It was a journey of almost three hundred kilometres through expansive green valleys, by fields of snow, and across hazardous, narrow ridges - a journey brimming with challenges. The aging shepherds do their very best to keep the hundreds of sheep together; the panoramic high mountains are teeming with hungry wolves and grizzly bears.”

Summaries from IMDb. I guess I have a thing for old cowboys. These have stuck in my mind.

+1 on Anvil, Metallica, Dear Zachary, My Life as a Turkey, Man on Wire, and Grizzly Man, and Frederick Wiseman movies (loved “City Hall” (2020) recently)
Fantastic Fungi (2019) on Netflix
There’s a French documentary that I was riveted by called “10th District Court” (2004) but I don’t see it streaming anywhere. Maybe it will come to streaming but I think I remember renting it from Netflix on DVD, so maybe not.
posted by SomethinsWrong at 5:44 PM on January 25

Lots of great suggestions -- Grizzly Man, The Act of Killing, and The Gleaners and I all *rewired* my brain, cannot recommend each enough.

I also want to throw in some recommendations for less traditionally narrative documentaries. Frederick Wiseman has been making meandering, nearly unstructured fly-on-a-wall studies of particular places and groups for decades, and they're all moving and funny and surprising celebrations of humanity. City Hall and In Jackson Heights are my favorites but they're all great. Even more abstract is the work of Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Throw on Leviathan or De Humani Corporis Fabrica, sit back, and soak in the experience.
posted by LeeLanded at 6:16 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

I watched Daughter from Danang without knowing anything about it, and I was caught off guard by the unexpected twist in the middle of the movie.
posted by akk2014 at 6:46 PM on January 25

The recent HBO documentary Last Stop Larrimah is much more than a true-crime doc. It's a fascinating character study of the type of individuals who would live in an Outback Australian town of just 12 people (actually, 11 people after one of them disappears).

I also loved Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street. It might be hard to find, though. It used to be available for free on Youtube, but I can't find it there anymore. The movie is difficult to watch, but what might make it easier is knowing that some of the people in the movie made surprising recoveries and are doing well now (sorry for the mild spoiler).
posted by akk2014 at 6:52 PM on January 25

I totally forgot to mention Grey Gardens.
posted by pdb at 6:53 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]

There are so many good ESPN 30 for 30 docs. I enjoy most sports but even if you don't, docs like OJ Made in America and Once Brothers are just very good human, social, and cultural stories.
On a very different note, I have also watched The Overnighters at least five times.
posted by fies at 7:24 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

ohhhhhh if we're talking 30 for 30's we have to talk about The Two Escobars and Hillsborough.
posted by pdb at 7:31 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Very recent, but the three-part Netflix series American Nightmare is excellent, with lots of twists and turns. It's best to avoid reading anything about it before you watch it. While it's technically a true-crime documentary, it also has important things to say about social issues (sorry for being vague, but I don't want to give anything away).
posted by akk2014 at 7:35 PM on January 25

The Painter and the Thief is outstanding. It's a documentary about the unexpected friendship that develops between an artist and the man who was arrested for stealing her paintings. Very well done.
posted by alex1965 at 7:55 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

woah... no mention of Murderball... about a paraplegic rugby team that plays in wheelchairs... really beautiful/brutal
posted by kokaku at 8:05 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is such a great list, and adding another one Taming the Garden which is available at libraries, amazon, apple.

So good. so so good.
posted by wowenthusiast at 9:20 PM on January 25

I have recently been enjoying the docuseries Welcome to Wrexham, which chronicles the efforts of Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney to purchase a struggling Welsh football club and then get the team promoted within the ranks of the English football league.

While the Hollywood angle provides a certain bit of amusement, the real heart of the series is the people of Wrexham, and what the team means for their community.
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 9:38 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Hype! is one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. It covers the rise and fall of the Seattle music scene of the 80’s and 90’s. It has enough big bands to keep it interesting, and will turn you on to a bunch of bands you probably didn’t know about.
posted by soy_renfield at 11:01 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Touching the Void, if you don't mind a suspenseful survival story. I was just telling someone about it today.
posted by Spokane at 12:57 AM on January 26

Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie - there are more thoughtful and introspective documentaries about the subject, but this one is seared into my brain. It's made up of footage from atomic weapons tests, ever escalating in size and scale, with a heavy focus on image and music. There are talking heads and narration, but it tends to stick to facts about the tests and their effects rather than commentary as such.

It's horrific and beautiful. I can't say it's a fun watch and it always puts me in a bit of an existential mood afterwards, but it is profoundly compelling.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:09 AM on January 26

I still think of the kids from Mad Hot Ballroom from time to time and hope they have the great deal of happiness that they deserve. A totally charming film.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:55 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

The Bridge, about suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:11 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This fantastic Ask and megathread have been added to the Side/Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 7:31 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]

The Fandom

Even the best-intended looks at the furry fandom from the outside tend to be surface level with a focus on dispelling stereotypes. The Fandom comes from deep inside and covers the fandom I know, not just the fursuits, which are a good and valid but tiny part of it.
posted by Kye at 7:34 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

Let The Fire Burn is tremendous and painful. From imdb: "A history of the conflict of the city of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization MOVE that led to the disastrously violent final confrontation in 1985."
posted by epj at 8:19 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]

“Sherman’s March” was meant to be about Confederate general William Tecumseh Sherman, but it insists on being about something else entirely. Delightful.

Union General Sherman is spinning in his grave, I'm sure
posted by elkevelvet at 8:28 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]

Oh one more direction to go in... Several directors are making super interesting mixes of documentary and narrative film these days, hard to describe but often with real people placed in "fictionalized versions of their own milieu" as one review called it. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, Dry Ground Burning, and Tangerine are examples, and all really really powerful, fascinating, funny movies.
posted by LeeLanded at 8:47 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

If you have Disney+, find Into The Grand Canyon with Peter McBride and Kevin Fedarko (Fedarko also wrote another fantastic Grand Canyon book called The Emerald Mile.) Two guys set out to hike the entire length of Grand Canyon. It's fascinating and there's also just jaw dropping shots, McBride is *very* good with a camera. (I might be biased, because hiking down GC is my happy place, and every time I watch it I start wanting to go back so badly.)
posted by azpenguin at 10:02 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]

Ten Meter Tower - 15 minutes, delightful, previously
posted by Iteki at 12:26 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]

Your Fat Friend is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It's just gotten distribution in the UK and will hopefully be available to watch everywhere soon.
posted by tangosnail at 1:28 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]

A great one not mentioned yet is Bill Cunningham New York. Really powerful to spend the length of a film with someone living their best life.
posted by Rinku at 4:28 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]

films of Mads Brugger, particularly The Ambassador and The Red Chapel.
some more Errol Morris: Standard Operating Procedure, Fast Cheap and Out of Control, Mr. Death
some more Werner Herzog: Little Dieter Needs to Fly, White Diamond, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Lessons of Darkness, The Land of SIlence and Darkness, Fata Morgana
Whores' Glory (2011)
The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987)
Salesman (1969)
Slasher (2004)
posted by dunhamrc at 10:08 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]

posted by fellorwaspushed at 9:39 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]

Just to close the loop, this thread was mentioned at Hacker News:
posted by wenestvedt at 10:11 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]

Best Worst Movie A child actor in the hilariously bad B-movie Troll 2, now grown up, reunites with his costars as the film becomes a cult phenomenon.
Winnebago Man The cantankerous but oddly charismatic man behind a pre-YouTube viral video.
Raiders! Three teenagers film a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980s Mississippi.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:39 PM on January 27

The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner, in which champion ski-jumper Walter Steiner is determined to show officials that the tracks they've constructed are too dangerous, and he demonstrates this by making longer and longer jumps. I watch it every four years when I get bored with the coverage of the Winter Olympics.

Surprised nobody's yet mentioned American Movie.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is about the "outsider" artist and musician and his struggles with mental illness.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:43 PM on January 27

if a tree falls
posted by finally at 2:12 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]

Brimstone & Glory
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:28 PM on January 27

Oh oh also Leaning Into the Wind and +1 for Sherman’s March (my cousin is in it!) and Grizzly Man
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:33 PM on January 27

Response by poster: lmao at some commenter on hacker news referring to metafilter as "borderline unreadable" . Thanks, y'all- this list rules!
posted by wowenthusiast at 5:32 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]

I sent my non mefite film buff brother this thread and he responded with this list of 25 documentaries complete with trailers. He turned me on to Brimstone & Glory which I recommended above and is totally visually amazing. Enjoy!

























posted by mygothlaundry at 8:29 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]

This Film Is Not Yet Rated, about the MPAA rating system, streaming on Netflix. Content warning for (thoughtful) discussion of sexual violence and also some nudity, since it's partly about how much more harshly the MPAA treats sex vs. violence.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is maybe only for horror nerds (like me!) but it is the most deep-dive and beautiful horror documentary I've ever seen. Streaming on Shudder.
The Realms Of The Unreal, about outsider artist Henry Darger, available on YouTube.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:28 AM on January 28

Citizenfour. I will never forget watching Ed Snowden’s face as he grapples with the weight and scope of what he is about to do to the world, to all of his loved ones, and to himself. Still gives me chills when I think about it.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 11:57 AM on January 28

Hearts and Minds, about the US war in Vietnam, an Oscar-winner in 1975.
posted by diodotos at 7:00 PM on February 1

Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg is my favorite doc about a city. Very lyrical and surreal, really gives you a sense of the place.

Chris Marker's entire filmography is worthwhile, but I would recommend Sans Soleil for a really beautiful, abstract essay film about all kinds of things, including the nature of memory and what it means to travel and absorb differences between cultures. I'd also strongly recommend Grin Without a Cat if you're interested in leftist politics.

Dan Fleischer-Camp's Fraud plays with the documentary form in a shocking and evocative way. Look nothing up before you watch it.

Here's a brand new one: Chris Bell's 2023 documentary series Miss Me Yet is a great found-footage collage of the entire GW Bush era. It's dark nostalgia, really puts you back in a terrible time and place. Excellent editing on this one.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 12:30 PM on February 2

« Older Cat illustrators on Instagram   |   How likely are we to get same-sex marriage in... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments