Best Documentary Movies of 1953
The Living Desert
The Living Desert was the first feature-length film in Disney’s True-Life Adventures series of documentaries focusing on zoological studies; the previous films in the series, including the Academy Award-winning Seal Island, were short subjects. The documentary was filmed at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. Most of the wildlife shown in the film was donated to what would soon become the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The film was inspired by 10 minutes of footage shot by N. Paul Kenworthy Jr., a doctoral student at the University of California at Los Angeles. Kenworthy’s footage of a battle between a tarantula and a wasp intrigued Disney, who funded a feature-length production following the lives of diverse desert species. Disney was highly supportive of Kenworthy’s work and its impact on nonfiction filmmaking, stating, “This is where we can tell a real, sustained story for the first time in these nature pictures.”
Set to a classic Duke Ellington recording "Daybreak Express", this is a five-minute short of the soon-to-be-demolished Third Avenue elevated subway station in New York City.
A Is for Atom
General Electric sponsors this explanation of atomic energy, detailing some of its uses besides the bomb. Using animation and an off-screen narrator, the film describes the atom, elements and isotopes, the discovery of transmutation, experiments in artificial transmutation, and the reasons for the power of nuclear fission. The film argues that now, besides war, the atomic age holds promise for energy, farming, medicine, and research. The promise of the atomic age will depend on human wisdom.
The Conquest of Everest
A documentary of the first successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest. New Zealand's Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay climb Mount Everest in 1953.
The Alaskan Eskimo
Oscar Winning short documentary
The Sea Around Us
Irwin Allen explores the mysteries of the deep blue sea in this Technicolor documentary. Based on Rachel L. Carson's famous study, this Oscar winning project investigates everything under the sea, from sharks, whales and octopuses to microscopical creatures and their coexistence in this vast underwater world.
Acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick's first film made in color. The documentary focuses on the benefits of membership to the Seafarers International Union.
Lindsay Anderson's early documentary film of a British amusement park, the irony of its manufactured fun on full display.
The Elephant Will Never Forget
A fond farewell to London's trams - whose peculiarly endearing qualities were discovered only at the threat of their disappearance.
A sometimes uncomfortable marriage between fact and fiction, this film is part documentary and part drama, mixing actual war footage with reenactments in which real veterans of the Korean War portray members of a platoon sent out on a reconnaissance mission near the end of the conflict. Though peace is imminent, violence unexpectedly erupts. A day that begins with the calm and mundane is transformed into a heated battle that typifies the cruel and unpredictable nature of war.