Best Documentary Movies of 1977


Pumping Iron

7.3/10 IMDB

Amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests as five-time champion Arnold Schwarzenegger defends his Mr. Olympia title against Serge Nubret and the shy young deaf Lou Ferrigno.

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, Roger Callard, Serge Nubret, Mike Katz, Bud Cort, Joe Weider, Ken Waller, Robbie Robinson ..
Directed by: Robert Fiore, George Butler
Release date: 1977-01-18

Harlan County U.S.A.

8.2/10 IMDB

This film documents the coal miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA.

Starring: Norman Yarborough, Houston Elmore, Phil Sparks, Bessie Lou Cornett, Lois Scott, Sudie Crusenberry, Mary Lou Fergerson, Basil Collins, Florence Reece, Lois Scott ..
Directed by: Barbara Kopple
Release date: 1977-01-23
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Powers of Ten

Powers of Ten

8.0/10 IMDB

A scientific film essay, narrated by Phil Morrison. A set of pictures of two picnickers in a park, with the area of each frame one-tenth the size of the one before. Starting from a view of the entire known universe, the camera gradually zooms in until we are viewing the subatomic particles on a man's hand.

Starring: Philip Morrison ..
Directed by: Charles Eames, Ray Eames
Release date: 1977-06-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : 21 Up

21 Up

8.1/10 IMDB

After another 7 year wait, director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born children from Seven Up! and 7 Plus Seven. The subjects are interviewed as to the changes that have occurred in their lives during the last seven years.

Starring: Lynn Johnson, Tony Walker, Jacqueline Bassett, Charles Furneaux, Bruce Balden, Andrew Brackfield, Neil Hughes, Nicholas Hitchon, Susan Sullivan, John Brisby ..
Directed by: Michael Apted
Release date: 1977-05-09
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : George Carlin: On Location at USC

George Carlin: On Location at USC

7.7/10 IMDB

George Carlin's first ever comedy special, filmed live at the University of Southern California. Here, he talks about monopoly, flying on planes, random thoughts, walking, and other things.

Starring: George Carlin, Shayna Alexander, Brenda Carlin ..
Directed by: Marty Callner
Release date: 1977-04-08
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : La Soufrière

La Soufrière

7.6/10 IMDB

Werner Herzog takes a film crew to the island of Guadeloupe when he hears that the volcano on the island is going to erupt. Everyone has left, except for one old man who refuses to leave.

Starring: Werner Herzog, Edward Lachman, Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein ..
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Release date: 1977-10-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Neil Diamond: I'm Glad You're Here with Me Tonight

Neil Diamond: I'm Glad You're Here with Me Tonight

8.8/10 IMDB

The majestic Neil Diamond live! Prepare to melt.

Starring: Neil Diamond, Linda Press, King Errisson ..
Directed by: Art Fisher
Release date: 1977-11-17
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Take One

Take One

6.7/10 IMDB

Explores the fantasies of a group of men, having them articulate their desires to the camera, then allowing them to live them out in elegant, abstract, and experimental scenes.

Starring: Jeff Addison, Philip Borden, Tony Franco, Sal Guange, Richard Locke, Bill O'Connell, Wakefield Poole, Guillermo Ricardo, Nick Ritter, Glenn Robinson ..
Directed by: Wakefield Poole
Release date: 1977-08-01

The Real Jesus of Nazareth

8.2/10 IMDB

Actor Robert Powell, star of the TV miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth," is on a journey across the Holy Land to discover the real story of the role he played decades ago. Guided by the Gospels and the latest archaeological and historical research, Powell will travel to Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. With the help of scholars and theologians, he will examine Jesus's lost adolescent years, the start and growth of his ministry, and his death and believed resurrection, which would spark the birth of one of the largest religions on the planet.

Starring: Robert Powell, Judd Hirsch, Anne Bancroft, Olivia Hussey, Ernest Borgnine, Valentina Cortese, James Farentino, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, Tony Lo Bianco ..
Directed by: Nigel Levy
Release date: 1977-01-03

ABBA: The Movie

6.4/10 IMDB

A radio DJ in pursuit of an exclusive interview follows ABBA during their mega-successful tour of Australia.

Starring: Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Robert Hughes, Tom Oliver, Bruce Barry, Stig Anderson, Calvin Cross, Ivar Dahlbom ..
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Release date: 1977-12-15
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Beatles at Shea Stadium

The Beatles at Shea Stadium

8.2/10 IMDB

The Beatles at Shea Stadium is a fifty-minute-long documentary of the Beatles' 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York, the highlight of the group's 1965 tour.

Starring: John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Ed Sullivan ..
Release date: 1977-08-06
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : One More Effort, Chinamen, if you want to be revolutionaries!

One More Effort, Chinamen, if you want to be revolutionaries!

8.1/10 IMDB

Unlike his earlier films "Can Dialectics Break Bricks?" and "The Girls of Kamare", which "detourned" drama films, in this one, Viénet uses a great variety of sources (particularly archive footage of People's Republic of China leaders) to compose a political documentary sharply critical of Mao's legacy in China. The title is a reference to the pamphlet "Français, encore un effort si vous voulez être républicains" featured in "Philosophy in the Bedroom" of Marquis de Sade.

Directed by: René Viénet
Release date: 1977-10-01

The Grateful Dead Movie

7.8/10 IMDB

Released in 1977 and directed by Jerry Garcia, is a film that captures performances from the Grateful Dead's October 1974 five-night stand at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. This end-of-tour run marked the beginning of an extended hiatus for the band, with no shows planned for 1975. The movie also faithfully portrays the burgeoning Deadhead scene. The film features the "Wall of Sound" concert sound system that the Dead used for all of 1974.

Starring: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Donna Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh ..
Directed by: Jerry Garcia, Leon Gast
Release date: 1977-06-02
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Charleen or How Long Has This Been Going On?

Charleen or How Long Has This Been Going On?

7.4/10 IMDB

In Charleen, documentarian Ross McElwee looks at the life of a North Carolina poet and teacher who acts as a muse to a motley crew of artists and musicians.

Starring: Ross McElwee, Charleen Swansea ..
Directed by: Ross McElwee
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Dressing for Pleasure

Dressing for Pleasure

7.3/10 IMDB

Documentary about fetish clothing scene in 70s Britain.

Starring: Pamela Rooke, Malcolm McLaren, Helen Wellington-Lloyd ..
Directed by: John Samson, Mike Wallington
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Caudillo


7.1/10 IMDB

Caudillo is a documentary film by Spanish film director Basilio Martín Patino. It follows the military and political career of Francisco Franco and the most important moments of the Spanish Civil War. It uses footage from both sides of the war, music from the period and voice-over testimonies of various people.

Starring: Carlos Revilla, Francisco Franco ..
Directed by: Basilio Martín Patino
Release date: 1977-10-14
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews

Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews

8.0/10 IMDB

This program, culled from the over 28 hours of interview footage between Sir David Frost and U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, was originally broadcast in May of 1977. Never before, nor since, has a U.S. President been so candid on camera. Even more intriguing is the fact that Nixon agreed to appear on camera with no pre-interview preparation or screening of questions.

Starring: David Frost, Richard Nixon ..
Directed by: Jorn H. Winther
Release date: 1977-05-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Elvis in Concert

Elvis in Concert

7.8/10 IMDB

Elvis In Concert is a posthumous 1977 TV special starring Elvis Presley. It was Elvis' third and final TV special, following Elvis (aka The '68 Comeback Special) and Aloha From Hawaii. It was filmed during Presley's final tour in the cities of Omaha, Nebraska, on June 19, 1977, and Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 21, 1977. It was shown on CBS on October 3, 1977, two months after Presley died. It is one of the few videos of Elvis which remain unlikely to ever be released for home viewing and is only available in bootleg form.

Starring: Elvis Presley, James Burton, John Wilkinson, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, Charlie Hodge, J.D. Sumner ..
Directed by: Dwight Hemion
Release date: 1977-10-03
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Mother of Many Children

Mother of Many Children

7.4/10 IMDB

This film is an album of Native womanhood, portraying a proud matriarchal society that for centuries has been pressured to adopt different standards and customs. All of the women featured share a belief in the importance of tradition as a source of strength in the face of change.

Starring: Alanis Obomsawin ..
Directed by: Alanis Obomsawin
Release date: 1977-09-18
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Making of Star Wars

The Making of Star Wars

7.4/10 IMDB

Learn the incredible behind-the-scenes story of how the original Star Wars movie was brought to the big screen in this fascinating documentary hosted by C-3PO and R2-D2 which includes interviews with George Lucas and appearances by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.

Starring: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, George Lucas, William Conrad, Gary Kurtz, Kenny Baker, Peter Diamond, Garrick Hagon ..
Directed by: Robert Guenette
Release date: 1977-09-16
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Police Tapes

The Police Tapes

7.3/10 IMDB

The Police Tapes is a 1977 documentary about a New York City police precinct in the South Bronx. The original ran ninety minutes and was produced for public television; a one-hour version later aired on ABC. Filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond spent three months in 1976 riding along with patrol officers in the 44th Precinct of the South Bronx, which had the highest crime rate in New York City at that time. They produced about 40 hours of videotape that they edited into a 90-minute documentary.

Starring: Charles Rydell, Anthony Bouza ..
Directed by: Susan Raymond, Alan Raymond
Release date: 1977-01-02

Scenes from the Class Struggle in Portugal

7.3/10 IMDB

Combining newsreel footage, still photographs, interviews, and analytical narration, this documentary focuses on the antifascist, anti-imperialist efforts of labor groups, peasants, and working-class soldiers to liberate Portugal from the control of the government of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

Starring: Philip J. Spinelli ..
Directed by: Robert Kramer, Philip J. Spinelli
Release date: 1977-10-11

Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter

7.2/10 IMDB

This film gives an intimate look at a way of life of which most of us have seen only glimpses. Dance was once at the heart of Yupik Eskimo spiritual and social life. It was the bridge between the ancient and the new, the living and the dead and a person's own power and the greater powers of the unseen world.

Directed by: Leonard Kamerling, Sarah Elder
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : 11 x 14

11 x 14

7.2/10 IMDB

65 shots making up a cryptically alluded-to narrative: a lesbian couple's Midwest travels, a hitchhiking young man's journeys, the story of a man who may be having an affair.

Directed by: James Benning
Release date: 1977-03-17
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Shetland Experience

The Shetland Experience

6.5/10 IMDB

The environmental measures taken by the oil industry at the Sullom Voe terminal in the Shetlands.

Starring: Eric Porter ..
Directed by: Derek Williams
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Canal Zone

Canal Zone

7.4/10 IMDB

CANAL ZONE is about the people who live and work in the Panama Canal Zone and shows both the operation of the Canal and the various governmental agencies — business, military, and civilian — related to the functioning of the Canal and the lives of the Americans in the zone. The film includes sequences of ships in transit, the work of special canal pilots, aspects of the civil government, work of the military, and the social, religious and recreational life of the Zonians.

Directed by: Frederick Wiseman
Release date: 1977-06-13
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Union Maids

Union Maids

7.0/10 IMDB

Three women labor activists in America tell their stories of organizing in the 1930s.

Directed by: Julia Reichert, Jim Klein, Miles Mogulescu
Release date: 1977-02-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Gizmo!


7.7/10 IMDB

A documentary about some of the thousands of inventions that did things we never thought needed doing, or in ways we never considered doing them. A respectful, yet humorous tribute to the inventors whose vision, however far-reaching, was just a little off the mark.

Starring: Frank Richards, Milt Moss ..
Directed by: Howard Smith
Release date: 1977-09-16
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives

Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives

8.0/10 IMDB

More than two dozen men and women of various backgrounds, ages, and races talk to the camera about being gay or lesbian. Their stories are arranged in loose chronology: early years, fitting in (which for some meant marriage), coming out, establishing adult identities, and reflecting on how things have changed and how things should be.

Directed by: Rob Epstein, Nancy Adair, Andrew Brown, Lucy Massie Phenix, Peter Adair, Veronica Selver
Release date: 1977-01-31

Punk in London

6.8/10 IMDB

A visual record of London punk life in the late '70s, filled with never-before-seen live concert footage and commentary from the Clash, the Jam, X-Ray Spex and the Electric Chairs.

Starring: Gaye Black, Kevin Rowland, Paul Simonon, Paul Weller, Bob Geldof, Poly Styrene, Paul Dean, Lora Logic ..
Directed by: Wolfgang Büld
Release date: 1977-12-02
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?

Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?

7.3/10 IMDB

Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? is a 1977 documentary film about Dorothy and Bob DeBolt, an American couple who adopted 14 children [12 at the start of filming], some of whom are severely disabled war orphans -- in addition to raising Dorothy's five biological children and Bob's biological daughter. The film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1978.

Starring: Sydney Walker, Henry Winkler ..
Directed by: John Korty
Release date: 1977-12-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Gay USA


7.3/10 IMDB

Shot on one day by 25 different cameramen across the USA under the co-ordination of Arthur J. Bressan Jr. this film documents Gay Pride parades across the United States in the late 70s.

Starring: Stuart Loomis, Pat Parker ..
Directed by: Arthur J. Bressan, Jr.
Release date: 1977-08-27
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : One Way Boogie Woogie

One Way Boogie Woogie

7.0/10 IMDB

Sixty one-minute shots with no camera movement. This tension between painterly and cinematic space is not only experienced as an intellectual contrast but is also felt as a dialectic between permanence and impermanence.

Directed by: James Benning
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Children of Theatre Street

The Children of Theatre Street

7.1/10 IMDB

A documentary on the Kirov School of Ballet in Russia, narrated by Princess Grace of Monaco.

Starring: Grace Kelly, Angelina Armeiskaya, Michaela ?erná, Galina Mezenzewa, Lena Voronzova ..
Directed by: Robert Dornhelm, Earle Mack
Release date: 1977-05-09
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : I'll Find a Way

I'll Find a Way

6.9/10 IMDB

I'll Find a Way is a 1977 short documentary directed by Beverly Shaffer. It is about nine-year-old Nadia DeFranco who has spina bifida. The film won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.

Directed by: Beverly Shaffer
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Running Fence

Running Fence

7.4/10 IMDB

Second in the series by the Maysles brothers documenting the monuments/sculptures of Christo, whose art projects are landscape-scaled, and more "pop" performance art designed to question how we relate to art in the public sphere, especially when it's as oblique, non-political (at least, that is what he would claim), and neutral as running a fence through a landscape.

Starring: Christo, Jeanne-Claude ..
Directed by: Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, David Maysles
Release date: 1977-10-01

Animated Motion: Part 4

5.9/10 IMDB

In this fourth film, Norman McLaren explains and illustrates composite motion, where two of the categories of motion occur simultaneously in one action, such as the motions of jointed or pivoted parts (as occur in animal and human movements). Also shown is a human gesture with increasing amounts of emotion; and finally, the phenomenon of 'strobing' in animation is examined.

Directed by: Grant Munro, Norman McLaren
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Bass on Titles

Bass on Titles

6.7/10 IMDB

Explores the visual art of Saul Bass and his contributions to film credits.

Starring: Saul Bass, Herbert Yager ..
Directed by: Saul Bass
Release date: 1977-12-31

Animated Motion: Part 3

5.9/10 IMDB

The third in a series of five colour films that offer an introduction to the basic techniques of film animation. McLaren explains and demonstrates different aspects of movement that are essential to the animator’s art. In this case it is the pause and irregular movement.

Directed by: Grant Munro, Norman McLaren
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Alternative 3

Alternative 3

6.8/10 IMDB

Purporting to be an investigation into the UK's contemporary "brain drain", Alternative 3 uncovered a plan to make the Moon and Mars habitable in the event of climate change and a terminal environmental catastrophe on Earth.

Starring: Tim Brinton, Gregory Munroe, Carol Hazell, Shane Rimmer, Richard Marner, Alec Linstead, David Baxt, Norman Chancer, Anthony Roye, Patsy Trench ..
Directed by: Christopher Miles
Release date: 1977-06-20

Animated Motion: Part 2

5.7/10 IMDB

In this short animation film, Norman McLaren presents the first 3 of the 5 categories of motion: constant, accelerated and decelerated. Various types of acceleration and deceleration are demonstrated, and examples are shown of how these types of motion may be applied in regard to gesture, gravity and perspective.

Directed by: Grant Munro, Norman McLaren
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : World Safari

World Safari

8.3/10 IMDB

World Safari is a documentary film released in 1977 made from footage of Alby Mangels and John Field's six year journey around 56 countries and four continents in the 1970s. Includes a motorcycle trip across Australia, living with Buddhist monks, selling life insurance on the side of the road, and getting lost in a two-cylinder DAF van while crossing the Sahara desert.

Starring: Alby Mangels, John Field ..
Directed by: Alby Mangels
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey

The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey

6.5/10 IMDB

The Divided Trail: A Native American Odyssey is a 1978 American short documentary film directed by Jerry Aronson. Filmed over eight years, this chronicles the personal and political hardships faced by three Chippewa Indians. It was nominated in 1978 for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Directed by: Jerry Aronson
Release date: 1977-10-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : The Japanese Part 2: The Blind Swordsman

The Japanese Part 2: The Blind Swordsman

6.6/10 IMDB

A documentary about the character created for a series of Japanese films starring Shintaro Katsu. There are behind-the-scenes interviews on the set of the subsequent television series featuring the character.

Starring: Shintar? Katsu, John Nathan ..
Directed by: John Nathan
Release date: 1977-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : First Edition

First Edition

6.0/10 IMDB

First Edition is a 1977 American short documentary film about the Baltimore Sun directed by Helen Whitney. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Directed by: Helen Whitney
Release date: 1977-01-01

Mao by Mao

7.4/10 IMDB

A film-détournement biography of Mao Tse-tung in which the life of the recently deceased Great Helmsman is told in his own words, using quotes culled from various Red Guard publications. The rise to power of the film's namesake appears as the inevitable outcome of a dialectical logical. Or so the voice-over might lead one to believe. If the usual practice of détourned films is for the soundtrack to undermine the image, here the reverse occasionally takes place. The images critique Mao's words. They show that which, even in the official visual record of the times, the narrative elides. The film is dedicated to Li Yhi Zhe, the nominal author of a famous Democracy Wall critique of the Maoist state.

Starring: Mao Zedong ..
Directed by: René Viénet, Wu Xing-ming, Francis Deron
Release date: 1977-05-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Chitrakathi


7.1/10 IMDB

Chitrakathi is about the folk artists of western India who narrate with the help of leather puppets. Mani takes us to the sleepy Konkan coastal village and introduces us to the family that has preserved this unique art for several centuries.

Directed by: Mani Kaul
Release date: 1977-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : White Rock

White Rock

7.1/10 IMDB

British documentary filmmaker and producer Tony Maylam reinvigorated the sports documentary genre with WHITE ROCK, an idiosyncratic and utterly engaging account of the XII Olympic Winter Games Innsbruck 1976. He did so by placing music (by organ and synth wunderkind Rick Wakeman) front and center, and by using Hollywood star James Coburn as a "guide for the uninitiated."

Starring: James Coburn ..
Directed by: Tony Maylam
Release date: 1977-01-29

Discovering Railways

6.2/10 IMDB

Part of BFI collection "The Age of the Train."

Directed by: C. David Lochner
Release date: 1977-01-02
Best Documentary Movies of 1977 : Bukovsky


6.1/10 IMDB

Alan Clarke's documentary about Soviet writer and dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who had left the Soviet Union in 1976 after years spent in their prisons and psychiatric wards. The film was completed in 1977 but never broadcast, subject only to private screenings. The documentary appears publicly for the first time as a special feature of the BFI's 'Dissent and Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC (1969-1989)' box set, alongside 50 minutes of outtakes.

Starring: Vladimir Bukovsky, Tom Stoppard, Viktor Fainberg ..
Directed by: Alan Clarke
Release date: 1977-01-01

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