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Documentaries Worth Watching - Some of the best Documentaries of the 2000s

Updated on December 20, 2009

Some great documentaries

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Only a handful...

There are many wonderful documentaries which exist, and this list only begins to cover some of the more famous and well known documentaries. It is a work in progress, which hopefully will be updated as I come across more wonderful documentaries worth watching. I haven't seen all of these documentaries, but I made this list for myself as well as for others, so I can remember which ones are worth watching in the near future.

If you know any which should be added, feel free to suggest them in the Comments section, and I will attempt to get them added.

Stories of life, loss and triumph

Murderball (2005)

Murderball is a new form of rugby, played in wheelchairs with full-contact ferocity. This film is from the perspective of the US team, a team of young men, most of whom have spinal injuries. We meet these team members and their families, and follow a fierce rivalry between this US team and the Canadian team – which is coached by a former US team member.

Spellbound (2002)

The Scripps Howard spelling bee is a national championship competition which takes place in Washington DC. This film follows the lives of eight youth as they work to win their local spelling bees in order to qualify for this national spelling bee. This follows their efforts and the stress they face as the competition is whittled away, and they face more difficult challenges.

My Architect: A Son's Journey (2003)

Nathaniel is the illegitimate son of a world-famous architect Louis Kahn. Khan had two children with two different women, neither of which were his wife. Nathanial always hoped his father would live with him and his mother, however this never happened and Kahn died with Nathanial was 11. This documentary follows Nathanial as he travels the world visiting his father’s buildings, and meeting his fathers colleagues, students, and children.

Capturing the Friedmans (2002)

Professor Arnold Friedman is arrested for possession of child pornography. Further investigation discovers that he, along with his eighteen year old son, molested his young students during their private computer classes. This situation tears apart the family as they suffer through these trying times.

Man on Wire (2008)

This film documents “the artistic crime of the century” – when on August 7th, 1974 Philippe Petit danced on a wire strung between New York’s twin towers. After nearly an hour he was arrested, taken for psychological testing, and taken to jail. Through interviews and archival footage his story is told.

Taxi to the Dark Side (2008)

An innocent Afghan taxi drivers torture and death in 2002 sets this film which exams the changes after September 11th in the US policy towards suspects in the war on terror. The stories of abuse at Bargram Air Base, Abu Ghraib, and Guantamo bay are told through footage and first hand stories from soldiers and their attorneys. The techniques and terror tactics to obtain information are examined.

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy (2005)

The “Scottsboro Boys” case occurred in Alabama in 1931. In this case, 9 young black men were tried and convicted in the rape of two white women. Overwhelming evidence indicated that they were falsely accused, and one woman later admitted no rape had actually occurred. This is one of the first cases which drew attention to the ‘legal lynchings’ that occurred in the South when blacks were accused of crimes.

Sound and Fury (2002)

The Sound and Fury follows three generations of extended families, each of which has a family member who is deaf. It follows the challenges faced by the availability of cochlear implants – a new medical technology which could potentially allow deaf people to be able to hear.

Murder on a Sunday Morning (2003)

A youth is charged with the murder of 65 year old Mary Ann Stephens. She was shot in the head, in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn in Jacksonville Florida, right in front of her husband’s eyes. Brenton Butler is arrested, 15-year old who was formally identified by the only eye-witness, Mr. Stephens, and Butler signs a confession. It seems like another messed up youth case, until the defence comes into the hands of Patrick McGuinness. McGuinness is faced with the boy who proclaims his innocence, and, with bruises to his face and thorax, claims he was forced to confess by detectives Williams, Glover and Darness. It is up to McGuiness to battle for his clients rights and accuse those truly responsible.

LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001)

After over 100 years of past slavery in Mississippi, this African-American family tells their stories of life, poverty, loss, and future uncertainties.

Enron: The smartest guys in the room

American Politics and Life

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the room (2006)

This is the tale of riches to rags, as Enron takes a dive from the seventh largest US company, to bankruptcy within a year. This story focuses on those most troubled by this decline, those who lost their jobs, suicide, and other human drama. We also hear from President Bush how great these guys are.

Bowling for Columbine (2003)

Michael Moore examines the astronomical number of people killed by firearms in America. For a developed country without civil war, why is this number so high? He sets out to find out why this is. Conventional answers include availability of guns, violent entertainment, violent national history… however this answers are not sufficient in solving this problem. He continues his examination, and visits the neighbours to the north, for further comparisons.

The Corporation (2005)

The Corporation takes an interesting approach to analyzing Corporations – by comparing them to the psychological definition of a psychopath. Corporations are considered a person with regards to the law. If this is the case, could they not be psychologically diagnosed with the same criteria as a person? This film analyzes Corporations using the same criteria a psychologist would use to diagnose a psychopath.

Sicko (2007)

Sicko is a Michael Moore documentary focusing on the dysfunctional American health care system. Specifically in regards to the American health care system operating for profits, and not with a focus towards saving lives. The American health care system is then compared t the health care systems of Canada, the United Kingdom, and France. He continues by showing the corrupt political system, and shows how prisoners in Guantanamo receive better medical treatment. Throughout the movie he is seeking help for volunteers of the September 11th rescue mission, ultimately receiving free health care in Cuba

The Garden (2008)

A 14 acre community garden lies in South Central Los Angeles, and is the largest of its kind in the US. It began as a means of healing after the LA riots in 1992. Since then, the miracle of growing ones own food, and the connectedness of community, has developed in one of the US’s most blighted neighbourhoods. This film documents the struggle of these urban farmers and the City of LA who wants to evict them.

Non-Americans, and Non-America topics (Sorry - I don't know how else to title this section)

Children Underground (2003)

In the underground of Bukharest lives children without parents. The makes of this documentary went to live with them, so show the stories of a number of lost children struggling to make it through their everyday lives.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of Kindertransport (2001)

In 1938 and 1939, nearly 10,000 children were sent by their German, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian parents to safety in England. Foster families took in these children, and many raised them for the duration of the war. To those families who are lucky enough to be able to be reunited after the war, the children are to return to parents they may have hardly known.

Long Night's Journey into Day (2008)

Four stories of Apartheid in South Africa are told, from the perspective of the Truth and Reconciliation commission. After all the murders and deaths from all sides, can one learn to forgive when the truth comes out?

Born into Brothels (2005)

A dark side still remains in the growing prosperity of India. This film chronicles Calcutta’s red light district, by inspiring and teaching a group of children, who are the children of prostitutes, to use cameras to photograph the truth of their daily lives. Some children excel with their new art, and have potential of a life beyond the poverty they were born into.

Daughter from Danang (2004)

“Operation Babylift” occurred in 1975, and occured when many thousands of orphans from the Vietnam War were brought to the United States. Daughter from Danang is their story. It is a story of reunification of mothers and daughters, families, and the story of tracing ones roots.

Balseros (2005)

This is the story of seven Cuban families who risk their lives to attempt to make it to America, on their homemade rafts. Balseros is the slang term for Cuban rafters, and 50 000 of these Balseros set out for Florida, on homemade rafts, through shark infested water. Many of them were picked up by the US coast guard, and spent more than a year in Guantanamo.

Promises (2004)

An examination of the conflicts in Jerusalem, this film follows the lives of seven local children, some of whom are Jewish, and the others are Palestinian. These children are later put in touch with each other. They tell their stories of growing up within Jerusalem, and we see how deep rooted the problems of the Middle East have become.

War/Dance (2008)

The directors of this film follow a group of children who live in a refugee camp, while they complete to win Uganda‘s National Music Competition. These children return to their former homes with the camera, to tell their stories. They later go onto to Kampala for their dance competition.

Iraq in Fragments (2006)

This film documents the life of ordinary Iraqis, and looks to examine the larger trends within society. By examining post-war Iraq, we see how the country is faced with pulled in all directions by religion and ethnicity.

Climate and Nature Documentaries

Encounters at the End of the World (2008)

A handful of people have dedicated their lives to the cause of science, in Antarctica. We see the quirks of these people who have dedicated their lives to such studies as neutrinos, or of those who milk mother seals as part of their studies. We also meet an individualistic penguin, so will be facing certain death by taking off from the others.

An Invoncenient Truth (2006)

Al Gore’s commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change is highlighted in this film. Many thought provoking facts regarding the environment are presented, in a gripping and haunting way.

March of the Penguins (2005)

The Emperor’s penguin’s life cycle is portrayed in this documentary. These animals leave the ocean for a 20 day march to a place called “Oamack”. At Oamack, they select their mates, procreate, and a few months later, once their offspring have grown, they head back to the sea. After four years, these off spring follow in the footsteps of their parents and make their voyage to Oamack.


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    • profile image

      Brooke 7 years ago

      This a good list. I can think of so many more. I'll have to go look at my history on netflix to give exact titles. But off the top of my head... 'Food Inc.', really anything by micheal moore, jesus camp, hell house....I wish I could think of all the titles I'm thinking of. But those are a few. :)

    • ysdata profile image

      ysdata 8 years ago from Dover, Delaware

      Great list of Documentaries. I'm going to bookmark this one for later.