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Top 100 Best Documentary Movies

Updated on August 1, 2013

Greatest Documentary Films

Documentary movies were there in early 1900s when there were only two main genres - comedy and horror.Documentary movies were mainly made to keep records and for historical value.However after the World War II was over.The meaning of documentary was changed.Documentaries become popular as they were able to show the reality of the subject they were made on.

Many documentaries were made on Mother earth, Environment, World War, Corruption and politics.However it was in late 80s when Michael Moore took documentaries to the next level.He made documentary movies that were not only critically acclaimed but were also financially successful.Though these movies had some social message conveyed yet they were made in lesser number due to Economic loss and shortage of budget.

Moore's movies inspired many young directors.They took documentaries as an art of film making,experimentation and to notice the change in taste of audience.It is now a popular film making practice.

I am admirer of documentary movies.So,here i compiled a list of 100 greatest documentary movies ever made.The list was not easy to make and after a lot of research and analysis i concluded the following list.Also i have picked out my 10 favorite documentary films.

If you find any of your favorite documentary film missing,then do let me know in comments.

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Top 10 Documentary Movies

Here is the list of my personal favorite 10 best Documentary films.

# 10. Exit Through The Gift Shop - The world's first Street Art disaster movie.

Description :-

Exit through gift shop is a documentary film directed by street artist Bansky. The film follows Thierry Guetta who finds out that his cousin is a world famous street artist. Thierry has a habit of carrying camera everywhere and shooting himself every single second. He meets street artist Banksy who lives anonymous life. He tries to shoot him but the camera turns to him and he finds a artist in himself. if you've seen the movie you would surely doubt the authenticity of the film. Many critics claim till today that the film was just a made up and not a real documentary. However Banksy claimed that everything in the film was real. The film was loved by critics and audience alike. The film was not easy to make as editors have to make a meaningful film from 10,000 hours of video.Exit through gift shop was even nominated for Academy awards.

Director :- Banksy

Star-Cast :- Banksy,Thierry Guetta

Plot :- A documentary on how a gift shop owner finds the secret identity of a world famous street artist.

# 9. Senna - The end (crossed out) truth is near.

Description :-

Ayrton Senna was a Brazillian formula one race driver who won the F1 World championship thrice.Senna is based on his life and director Asif Kapadia used archival footage of Senna and interviews of his close friends and family members. The film was loved by every other person and got high acclaim. Senna died in a race in San Marino Grand prix,when his car lost balance and crashed with a concrete barrier. The film is really touching and presented as it is, i can't comment more. RIP Senna.

Director :- Asif Kapadia

Star-Cast :- Ayrton Senna

Plot :- Life, Death and Legacy of Ayrton Senna

# 8. Inside Job - The film that cost $20,000,000,000,000 to make

Description :-

Narrated by Matt Damon, Inside Job is documentary film that focuses on late 2000s economic crisis. Lately there have been several movies that focused on the financial crisis but none was as provoking as Inside Job. The film examines the economic growth of America till 90s and then its fall. Inside Job interviews many people from different fields, from a psychotherapist to Treasury Secretary, from bank managers to George W. Bush's economic adviser. I must praise director Charles Ferguson and his team that researched a lot to come up with accurate data and stats. Their questions to senior leaders were straight and provoking. Charles focused on deregulation of Banks, how our economy was before Regan's era and how it changed since late 80s.The end makes us despair as we find out that there is no one whom we can trust. The economic sector isn't run by all good people. There are many who are just making themselves rich while keeping world economy on stake.The film won Academy Award for best documentary film in 2011.

Director :- Charles Ferguson

Star-Cast :- Matt Damon

Plot :- Documenting the reasons of Late 2000s financial crisis.

# 7. The Cove - Shallow Water. Deep Secret.

Description :-

I always love movies that make us aware about environment, about the changes in it and about flora fauna conservation. The cove is one such film which centers around wide spread hunting of Dolphin in Japan and the ill effects of Dolphin meat. I was surprised to see that around 23000 dolphins are killed every year in Japan. How could some one kill such a cute and friendly animal? They don't posses threat. Moreover there are various natural threats and ill effects to sea life which are briefly discussed in the cove. The film document Taiji Dolphin hunting drive in Japan and shows the cruel means of hunting dolphins. The film was acclaimed by critics and world wide. Though few panned it for stats in accuracy and use of camera , yet it was able to win the Best Documentary Picture Academy award in 2010.

Director :- Louie Psihoyos

Star-Cast :- Louie Psihoyos, Richard O'barry

Plot :- A Documentary on a Dolphin hunting Drive in Taiji, Japan.

# 6. Sicko - Get Well Soon

Description :-

Michael Moore did it again. With his highly successful and acclaimed film Sicko, Moore exposed the health care industry in America. The facts state that there are millions of Americans who doesn't have insurance and those who have are either victim of fraud or are rarely treated well during the health insurance claim. Moreover the patients are charged much more than the expenses. Moore compared American health care services with other developed countries like France, Britain and Canada. Moore drew contrasts that how the health care system is a puppetry of corrupt people. The film raised controversies too but over all it was loved by audience and critics and was even one of the high grossing documentary film.

Director :- Michael Moore

Star-Cast :- Tucker Albrizzi and Tony Benn

Plot :- A Documentary on the Health and Medicine industry of America.

# 5. March Of The Penguins - In the harshest place on Earth, love finds a way

Description :-

I was moved by the feelings depicted in the film. We should learn from animals that what love is and what does a family means. The film follows emperor penguins who select a breeding ground on ice sheet that does not melt in summer and is hard enough to sustain a colony of penguins. They breed in winters and at that time water and food is near about 70 miles away from the breeding ground. The female penguins lays eggs and soon leaves for water source to find food for the younger one. Meanwhile the male penguin take cares of the egg. The film follows how Penguins starve themselves and walks for months just to feed their kid while protecting themselves from sea predators. The theme really touched me and the most fantastic thing about the film was that it was narrated from penguin's point of view. The film won the Academy award for best documentary film in 2005.

Director :- Luc Jacquet

Star-Cast :- Morgan Freeman, Charles Berling

Plot :- The breeding cycle of penguins and how they survive under extreme conditions.

# 4. An Inconvenient Truth - A Global Warning

Description :-

Back in 1980s, Al gore become famous when he raised the issue of environmental changes and the role of human in it. He brought the issue to United states house of Representatives. Many liked his ideas while some slammed it as politically inspired. In 1992 he wrote a book 'Earth in Balance'. At the end of the decade he changed his focus to US President elections but when he lost to George W. Bush, he returned to his environmental activities. He organized campaigns through out US to aware citizens about global warming (he used slide show which included several facts and stats). Inspired from his campaign, Producer Laurie David decided to turn the slide show in to a major feature film. Al gore approved David for the film and together they came out with documentary ' An Inconvenient Truth'. The film received critical acclaim and commercial success. Several Critics panned the film for exaggerating the ill effects of Global warming and presenting wrong facts. Except one or two points made in the film, everything else was real and based on scientific studies. Don't see it as a political campaign, the man gained nothing but respect.

Director :- Davis Guggenheim

Star-Cast :- Al Gore

Plot :- How Al gore spread global warming awareness in whole world.

# 3. Super Size Me - The first ever reality-based movie ... everything begins and ends in 30 days!

Description :-

Morgan Spurlock's Super size me criticizes the fast food industry and our growing addiction to it. Fast food culture has affected almost every nation. When was the last time you ate boiled or raw vegetables? Processed food has changed our eating habits and those are not at all healthy. To show the dark side of fast food processing industries, Spurlock subjects himself for a 30 days diet of McDonald. His metabolism,stamina, physique and mental health is reduced while his cholesterol, headaches and body fat increases rapidly. He was once even asked to stop the experiment as his body was getting more prone to serious health problem. Though he completed the experiment and the result was obvious. Spurlock wasn't trying to be a superhero or role model. All he was trying to point out our eating habits and the obvious results we will face if we don't change it. Spurlock presented a over seen topic with humor and stats.

Director :- Morgan Spurlock

Star-Cast :- Morgan Spurlock, Daryl Isaacs and Lisa Ganjhu

Plot :- Morgan Spurlock tests himself against McDonald's fast food for a month.

# 2. Fahrenheit 9/11 - Controversy... What Controversy?

Description :-

Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest grossing documentary film of all time.it is also credited as being the most controversial documentary film of all time.Michael was criticized earlier for factual errors in his documentaries.But with Fahrenheit 9/11 he was all loaded up with minute observations,facts and a lots of Questions. Moore slammed Bush presidency and questioned that Why US attacked Iraq when there was no link up between Al Qaida and Iraq? The film wasn't just on Patriotism,it was on Humanity. An attack from terrorists led to a war by Government and the only thing that was changed was common people's lives.It turned from bad to worst.Fahrenheit 9/11 leaves us speechless as we question ourselves that what we are fighting for? Michael moore was awarded Palme D'or and People's Choice award for the film.

Director :- Michael Moore

Star-Cast :- Michael Moore, George W. Bush and Ben Affleck

Plot :- Michael Moore's take on the events after 9/11,US war on Iraq and Bush's Presidency.

# 1. Bowling for Columbine - One nation Under the gun

Description :-

Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbina is the best documentary film ever.Not only it was critically acclaimed but it is also one of the most watched Documentary film.The film stars Michael moore himself.Michael's film was inspired from Columbine High school Massacre that took place in 1999.The infamous massacre was carried out by 2 students of the same school.They killed 34 students and injured many.After the Gun fires they shot themselves in head.Moore's film focuses on why Americans love Gun so much?Why they are ready to kill one other without giving a second thought? He also showed about a 6 year old boy who was shot down near moore's house. Michael's approach toward movie was 'observational' and it raises questions that are still unanswered.

Director :- Michael Moore

Star-Cast :- Michael Moore, Charlton Heston and Marilyn Manson

Plot :- A Documentary that focuses on Gun control and violence in America.

Your Favorite Documentary Film

Which of the above Documentary film Is your favorite?

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Shout about your favorite documentary film - Anyone Can Comment

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    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I like all the documentary films produced by Ken Burns.