Best Documentary Movies of 1961

1.

Symmetry

3.1
7.2/10 IMDB

Symmetry is one of five shorts featured in the film "Mathematical Peep Shows." The collection was made by Charles and Ray Eames for the IBM Mathematica Exhibit which opened in 1961. The degree to which an object is symmetrical is illustrated by the number of different positions in which it can fit into a box of its shape.

Directed by: Charles Eames, Ray Eames
Release date: 1961-03-22
2.

Golden Gloves

3.0
7.8/10 IMDB

A classic NFB documentary about the Golden Gloves boxing tournament, the Canadian amateur's hope for success in the boxing world. This Gilles Groulx film shows three Montreal boxers in training. In behind-the-scenes interviews they talk about their ambitions and what prompted them to take up the sport. - NFB

Directed by: Gilles Groulx
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Terminus
3.

Terminus

2.9
7.1/10 IMDB

This fly on the wall-style documentary from 1961 won an Oscar for best documentary, and shows the changing patterns of human emotions during 24 hours in the life of Waterloo Station.

Starring: Peggy Ashcroft, Gertrude Dickin, Margaret Lacey, Matthew Perry, John Schlesinger ..
Directed by: John Schlesinger
Release date: 1961-12-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : 2n: A Story of the Power of Numbers
4.

2n: A Story of the Power of Numbers

2.9
6.4/10 IMDB

2? is a story about the exponential growth of numbers raised to powers. Part of the Mathematica Peep Shows, one of five films made to accompany the Mathematica: A World of Numbers and Beyond exhibition at the California Museum of Science and Industry and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Directed by: Charles Eames, Ray Eames
Release date: 1961-03-22
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Action J
5.

Action J

2.8
7.1/10 IMDB

Compilation film, tracing the political career of Dr. Hans Globke, allegedly a former Nazi, now Secretary of State in West Germany.

Directed by: Walter Heynowski
Release date: 1961-01-01
6.

Antonio Gaudí

2.8
7.1/10 IMDB

A study of Antoni Gaudí's architecture (especially the Church of the Holy Trinity in Barcelona), his sources of inspiration and his influence on Picasso. (BFI)

Starring: Huw Wheldon ..
Directed by: Ken Russell
Release date: 1961-03-12
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Very Nice, Very Nice
7.

Very Nice, Very Nice

2.8
6.8/10 IMDB

Arthur Lipsett's first film is an avant-garde blend of photography and sound. It looks behind the business-as-usual face we put on life and shows anxieties we want to forget. It is made of dozens of pictures that seem familiar, with fragments of speech heard in passing and, between times, a voice saying, "Very nice, very nice." The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

Directed by: Arthur Lipsett
Release date: 1961-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : They Took Us to The Sea
8.

They Took Us to The Sea

2.7
7.7/10 IMDB

Made for the NSPCC by the noted film director John Krish, They Took Us To The Sea follows a group of children taken by Inspectors of the NSPCC on an outing from Birmingham to Weston-Super Mare.

Directed by: John Krish
Release date: 1961-01-02
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Mr. Hayashi
9.

Mr. Hayashi

2.6
6.2/10 IMDB

Bruce Baillie's Mr. Hayashi might be thought of as a putative East Coast story transformed by a West Coast sensibility. The narrative, slight as it is, mounts a social critique of sorts, involving the difficulty the title character, a Japanese gardener, has finding work that pays adequately. But the beauty of Baillie's black-and-white photography, the misty lusciousness of the landscapes he chooses to photograph, and the powerful silence of Mr. Hayashi's figure within them make the viewer forget all about economics and ethnicity. The shots remind us of Sung scrolls of fields and mountain peaks, where the human figure is dwarfed in the middle distance. Rather than a study of unemployment, the film becomes a study of nested layers of stillness and serenity.

Directed by: Bruce Baillie
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Days of Thrills and Laughter
10.

Days of Thrills and Laughter

2.6
7.1/10 IMDB

An appreciative, uncritical look at silent film comedies and thrillers from early in the century through the 1920s.

Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Pearl White, Mabel Normand, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Edna Purviance, Ruth Roland, Harry Langdon ..
Directed by: Robert Youngson
Release date: 1961-03-21
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Adventures on the New Frontier
11.

Adventures on the New Frontier

2.6
6.5/10 IMDB

A look at the daily business of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, with a focus on some of the political issues he faces six weeks into his term.

Starring: McGeorge Bundy, Paul B. Fay Jr., John Kenneth Galbraith, Arthur Goldberg, Richard Goodwin, Albert Gore Sr., Walter W. Heller, Hubert H. Humphrey, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Joseph Julian ..
Directed by: Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, D. A. Pennebaker, Kenneth Stilson
Release date: 1961-03-28
12.

West End Jungle

2.5
5.5/10 IMDB

1961 documentary about the history and seedy reality of the sex industry in London's Soho.

Directed by: Arnold L. Miller
Release date: 1961-12-01
13.

New York Lightboard Record

2.4
5.8/10 IMDB

New Yorkers watch as Norman McLaren's animated promotional film for Canadian tourism plays on the giant pixelboard overlooking Times Square. The caption below the board reads: "Canada... Wonderful World At Your Doorstep". McLaren himself is a member of the crowd.

Starring: Norman McLaren ..
Directed by: Norman McLaren
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : As Nature Intended
14.

As Nature Intended

2.0
4.2/10 IMDB

Three girls on a tour of the English countryside meet up with two young women who introduce them to the joys of life in a nudist camp.

Starring: Pamela Green, Jackie Saltzman, Petrina Forsyth, Bridget Leonard, Angela Jones, Stuart Samuels, Guy Kingsley Poynter, George Harrison Marks ..
Directed by: George Harrison Marks
Release date: 1961-11-30
15.

The Challenge of Ideas

1.9
5.0/10 IMDB

Various celebrities and news-media figures discuss the polarization of politics between the Western Allies of the United States and the Soviet bloc, pointing out the need for vigilance and action to protect democracy in the U.S. and abroad.

Starring: John Wayne, Helen Hayes, Frank McGee, Lowell Thomas, Edward R. Murrow ..
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Freedom?
16.

Freedom?

1.9
8.5/10 IMDB

Documents the period 1919-1922 in Ireland's history, covering the war of independence against the British and the civil war that followed using archive footage from the time, including original newsreel footage.

Starring: Liam Budhlaeir, Aindreas O'Gallchoir, Padraig O'Raghallaigh ..
Directed by: George Morrison
Release date: 1961-10-20
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Mechanized Death
17.

Mechanized Death

1.8
7.9/10 IMDB

The dangers of speeding and reckless driving are illustrated courtesy of bloody accident footage supplied by the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Directed by: Richard Wayman
Release date: 1961-01-01
18.

The Children Were Watching

1.7
7.8/10 IMDB

A harrowing portrait of the struggle for school desegregation in New Orleans against the violent protests of white parents.

Directed by: Richard Leacock
Release date: 1961-02-16
19.

Naked Terror

1.7
7.4/10 IMDB

A documentary on African Zulu tribes narrated by Vincent Price.

Starring: Vincent Price ..
Release date: 1961-08-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Rooftops of New York
20.

Rooftops of New York

1.6
7.5/10 IMDB

Rooftops of New York is a 1961 English language documentary directed by Robert McCarty. He takes his camera up high to look down on the roof tops of New York, to watch vignettes unfold. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

Directed by: Robert McCarty
Release date: 1961-06-22
21.

Girls Girls Girls!

1.6
5.1/10 IMDB

Tania, Primrose and Sandra come to London separately and decide to share a flat together to save money. They find jobs in fashionable industries.

Starring: Jack Jackson, Tania Mallet, Sandra Le Brocq ..
Directed by: Michael Winner
Release date: 1961-06-30
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : The Legend of Rudolph Valentino
22.

The Legend of Rudolph Valentino

1.6
7.0/10 IMDB

A documentary of Hollywood's first great Latin Lover, the contradictions in his personal life, and his premature death.

Starring: Frank Gallop, Jean Acker, Gilbert M. Anderson, Agnes Ayres, John Barrymore, Richard Barthelmess, Vilma Banky, Irene Castle, Vernon Castle, Charlie Chaplin ..
Directed by: Graeme Ferguson, Saul J. Turell
Release date: 1961-05-24
23.

Experiment Under London

1.6
7.0/10 IMDB

One of six films which examine in depth the work involved in this great engineering project. As they are of a technical nature, they were only available for showing to suitable audiences. In preparation for the construction of the new Victoria / Walthamstow line two experimental lengths of tunnels are driven using different lining materials. The film shows in considerable detail the aligning of the cutting equipment, the operation of the shield and cutters and the two techniques of lining.

Directed by: James Ritchie
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : The Unknowns of the World
24.

The Unknowns of the World

1.6
7.0/10 IMDB

Les inconnus de la terre starts like a traditional feature film: in the beginning of the film all the leading roles are given a short introduction. This is followed by a number of interviews, in which the makers unashamedly appear themselves. They include an interview with a lonely shepherd and one with three unmarried brothers who try to run the parental farm for better or worse. Notwithstanding the fact that this mode of interviewing has now become classical, les inconnus de la terre works rather refreshingly. The film is more than just an enumeration of problems. In an honest way it shows the ties of those involved to the land and to nature, in addition to being a plea for the modernization of French agriculture.

Starring: M. Beaufils, Famille Cheyla, Gilles Quéant ..
Directed by: Mario Ruspoli
Release date: 1961-01-02
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : The Days of Whisky Gap
25.

The Days of Whisky Gap

1.6
7.1/10 IMDB

Rousing tales of the North-West Mounted Police are brought to life through photos and artists' sketches. In 1873, the North-West Mounted Police were established to maintain law and order in the North-West Territories. They undertook a trek from Fort Dufferin, south of Winnipeg, to Fort Whoop-up, near present-day Lethbridge, Alberta. The force raised the flag and proclaimed the Queen's Law, ensuring that the Canadian West would not become a lawless, American-style frontier.

Starring: Stanley Jackson ..
Directed by: Colin Low
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Haunted England
26.

Haunted England

1.6
6.8/10 IMDB

Calm down dear, it's only an apparition! A picturesque travelogue takes a creepy turn in this delightfully kitsch look at famous haunted castles across England, directed by Michael Winner. Filmed in beautiful Eastmancolor, this fun, spooky short sees Anne Boleyn trailing the gardens of Norfolk's Blickley Hall, while Wild Lord Edric, betrayed by William the Conqueror, roams the Stiperstones. Elsewhere, Lord Bath welcomes a clairvoyant to investigate Longleat's Grey Lady.

Starring: Tom Corbett, Irene Culyer, Bill Grant, Bill Grant, Vera Gregory, David Jacobs, Jimmy Jacobs, David Lee, Kenneth Lewis, Emlyn Rees ..
Directed by: Michael Winner
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Cradle of Genius
27.

Cradle of Genius

1.4
6.2/10 IMDB

Cradle of Genius is a 1961 Irish short documentary film directed by Paul Rotha on the history of the Abbey Theatre. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Starring: Eileen Crowe, Maureen Delany, Barry Fitzgerald, Siobhán McKenna ..
Directed by: Paul Rotha
Release date: 1961-09-25
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Stranger In The City
28.

Stranger In The City

1.4
5.6/10 IMDB

Look out for landmarks as you frequent London's steamiest and seamiest 1960s nightspots in this voyeuristic venture deep inside the Big Smoke. See what was showing at La Continentale cinema on Tottenham Court Road, slip into a seedy strip club, cut a rug to some cool jazz, and pay a virtual visit to the birthplace of British rock 'n' roll, legendary Soho music venue The 2i’s Coffee Bar. The 2i's Coffee Bar, established in 1956, was run by two Australian ex-wrestlers, Ray Hunter and Paul Lincoln (aka Doctor Death). The tiny stage downstairs was where many of the first wave of British rock 'n' rollers - including Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and Adam Faith - gave some of their earliest shows.

Directed by: Robert Hartford-Davis
Release date: 1961-01-01
29.

Wild Highlands

1.4
6.5/10 IMDB

The flora and fauna of the Scottish highlands, including footage of ospreys, and stags in Argyle.

Starring: Stephen Murray ..
Directed by: Ian Ferguson
Release date: 1961-01-02
30.

Sea Sprites

1.4
5.9/10 IMDB

A National Film Board of Canada production about synchronized swimmers.

Starring: Barbara Monaghan, Sandra Marks, Denise Courteau ..
Directed by: Roger Blais
Release date: 1961-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Nudist Life
31.

Nudist Life

1.2
5.2/10 IMDB

Finally! A film that dares to explore the intricate complexities and subtle social structure of Nudist Life in the early sixties!

Starring: Frank Decker, Mary Line ..
Directed by: Maurice H. Zouary
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Hollywood: The Selznick Years
32.

Hollywood: The Selznick Years

1.0
6.6/10 IMDB

Henry Fonda hosts this retrospective on the career and films of iconic filmmaker David O. Selznick, who epitomized the era of the auteur producer in the 30s and 40s.

Starring: Henry Fonda ..
Release date: 1961-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : After Mein Kampf
33.

After Mein Kampf

0.9
3.7/10 IMDB

Starring: Jonathan Farwell ..
Directed by: Ralph Porter
Release date: 1961-08-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Festival in Puerto Rico
34.

Festival in Puerto Rico

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

This short documentary features Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester as she sings at the Festival Casals, a musical event founded by the great Spanish cellist and conductor Pablo Casals and sponsored annually by the Puerto Rican government. Part concert film, part tourism film, Festival in Puerto Rico offers viewers candid glimpses of mid-20th century Puerto Rico intercut with performance footage of Forrester and her husband, violinist-conductor Eugene Kash.

Starring: Maureen Forrester, Eugene Kash, Alexander Schneider, Pablo Casals ..
Directed by: Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor
Release date: 1961-01-01
35.

Eyes of a Child

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

A BAFTA award nominated documentary film about life at Dorton House, a residential school for blind children in the UK.

Directed by: Henry Lewes
Release date: 1961-01-01
36.

Let My People Go

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

A BAFTA award winning documentary looking at apartheid in South Africa and the Sharpville massacre.

Starring: John Orchard, John Krish ..
Directed by: John Krish
Release date: 1961-06-26
37.

The Travolators

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Approximately 40,000 people use the Waterloo & City Underground line every day. For years they had walked to and from the platforms at the Bank by a steep passage known as the 'Drain'. But know, they can ride up and down on the first moving pavements in Europe - the Travolators. This film shows the construction of the Travolators which was achieved without disrupting normal traffic.

Directed by: Tony Thompson
Release date: 1961-01-02
38.

Fata Morgana

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Fata Morgana is the train that arrives in Milan coming from the south of Italy. It is the train of the “southern” migrants. They arrive with packages, luggage, wives, children, in the hope of the economic boom. But there is no place for them and the city pushes them to the periphery. Few manage to find work, but new men keep coming every day.

Directed by: Lino Del Fra
Release date: 1961-10-01
39.

O for Oxygen

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

A BAFTA award nominated documentary looking at the original identification and subsequent uses of oxygen.

Directed by: John Armstrong
Release date: 1961-12-14
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Breaking the Language Barrier
40.

Breaking the Language Barrier

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

The Air Force Thunderbirds present air shows for civilians in Southeast Asia as a gesture of U.S. goodwill.

Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : The Man in Gray
41.

The Man in Gray

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

The Man in Gray is a 1961 Italian short documentary film produced by Benedetto Benedetti. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Directed by: Miro Grisanti, Pino Zac
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : David
42.

David

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

During the fertile early years of Drew Associates following the breakthrough of Primary, came this seldom-seen portrait of David Allen, a jazz trumpeter struggling in the Santa Monica drug rehabilitation center Synanon House. Pennebaker’s love of music drew him to David and the film prefigures later portraits such as Dont Look Back. He teamed with Life photographer William Ray and producer Gregory Shuker.

Directed by: D. A. Pennebaker, Gregory Shuker, William Ray
Release date: 1961-01-01
43.

La Cathédrale Engloutie

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

A documentary study of a series of works by Welsh painter, Ceri Richards, inspired by the 1910 piano prelude, La Cathédrale Engloutie, by French impressionist composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Starring: Bryan Robertson, Kathleen Long ..
Directed by: Dudley Shaw Ashton
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Primitive Paradise
44.

Primitive Paradise

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

A documentary following famed explorer Lewis Cotlow traveling into the heart of New Guinea in search of unknown tribal cultures.

Directed by: Lewis Cotlow
Release date: 1961-05-26
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Here at the Water's Edge
45.

Here at the Water's Edge

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Leo Hurwitz’s film, Here At The Water’s Edge, features the 1960 New York City’s waterfront. Made with photographer Charles Pratt, the film is a cinematic poem to the people who work on the water. Pratt, who largely financed the film, made it possible for Leo to use his vision as an artist and filmmaker while the blacklist still over-shadowed his life and ability to work in other areas. Here At The Water’s Edge, a film without narration, draws our attention to the often-neglected life in, on and around water – as well as bringing into view what workers on the water give us. Leo, in his own work, was always concerned with seeing what is happening in spaces in the world where others fail to look.

Directed by: Charles Pratt, Leo Hurwitz
Release date: 1961-10-10
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Thigh Line Lyre Triangular
46.

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular

0.0
5.5/10 IMDB

Birth footage of one of Brakhage's children.

Starring: Jane Brakhage ..
Directed by: Stan Brakhage
Release date: 1961-11-07
47.

Walk in My Shoes

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Nominated for Emmy for "Program of the Year." First look at the lives of Negros on American television - in their own word. Produced/Directed by Nicholas Webster, co-written by Webster an Louis Lomax.

Starring: James Farmer, Dick Gregory, Malcolm X, Percy Sutton, Ernest Washington ..
Directed by: Nicholas Webster
Release date: 1961-09-19
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Flash, The Teenage Otter
48.

Flash, The Teenage Otter

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Created for Walt Disney Presents television series then expanded by popular demand into a full feature, Flash, the Teenage Otter follows one of Disney’s most beloved animal stars as he strikes out from his home at a Wisconsin wildlife sanctuary to see the wider world with all of its wonders and perils.

Starring: Walt Disney, Winston Hibler ..
Directed by: Hank Schloss
Release date: 1961-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1961 : Ballad of the Colorado Ute
49.

Ballad of the Colorado Ute

0.0
0.0/10 IMDB

Featuring stylized visual storytelling, this rarely seen film by famed experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage was produced for the Colorado Department of Public Relations and is one of two films (the other being "Colorado Legend") to explore Colorado myths. This film tells the story of the Ute people and the tension between the youth, “the Braves”, and an elder, “Smoking Water”. The cultural objects were provided by the University of Colorado Museum and Denver Art Museum.

Starring: Fred Arthur ..
Directed by: Stan Phillips
Release date: 1961-01-01
50.

Thassos

0.0
7.1/10 IMDB

Documentary about Thassos

Directed by: Takis Kanellopoulos
Release date: 1961-01-01

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