Best Documentary Movies of 1979


The Kids Are Alright

8.0/10 IMDB

Through concert performances and interviews, this film offers us a comprehensive look at the British pioneer rock group, The Who. It captures their zany craziness and outrageous antics from the initial formation of the group in 1964 to 1978. It notably features the band's last performance with long-term drummer Keith Moon, filmed at Shepperton Studios in May 1978, three months before his death.

Starring: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Steve Martin, Russell Harty, Tom Smothers, Ken Russell, Melvyn Bragg ..
Directed by: Jeff Stein
Release date: 1979-06-15
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Kitty: Return to Auschwitz

Kitty: Return to Auschwitz

8.5/10 IMDB

Kitty, a Jewish survivor from the Holocaust, is taken back to Auschwitz, where she revives her imprisonment and life under the 3rd Reich

Starring: Kitty Hart-Moxon ..
Directed by: Peter Morley
Release date: 1979-08-29
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Kristallnacht


7.8/10 IMDB

A bewitching, mysterious work of enveloping beauty, the film’s ominous title and a dedication to Anne Frank deeply inform our reading of its haunting subtext.

Starring: Amy Halpern ..
Directed by: Chick Strand
Release date: 1979-11-16
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Giger's Alien

Giger's Alien

8.2/10 IMDB

Documentary about Giger's work for the movie Alien (1979).

Starring: H.R. Giger, Ridley Scott ..
Directed by: H.R. Giger, J.J. Wittmer
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia

Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia

8.2/10 IMDB

John Pilger vividly reveals the brutality and murderous political ambitions of the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge totalitarian regime which bought genocide and despair to the people of Cambodia while neighboring countries, including Australia, shamefully ignored the immense human suffering and unspeakable crimes that bloodied this once beautiful country.

Starring: John Pilger ..
Directed by: David Munro
Release date: 1979-10-30
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Fred Dibnah, Steeplejack

Fred Dibnah, Steeplejack

8.7/10 IMDB

A documentary on the work of Fred Dibnah: scaling and demolishing old factory chimneys from the top, brick by brick, with little safety equipment.

Starring: Fred Dibnah, Deryck Guyler ..
Directed by: Don Haworth
Release date: 1979-09-06
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Reggae Sunsplash

Reggae Sunsplash

7.5/10 IMDB

Combining concert footage and interviews with the performers, Reggae Sunsplash takes an inside look at the biggest reggae music festival in the world.

Starring: Peter Tosh, Bob Marley ..
Directed by: Stefan Paul
Release date: 1979-06-07
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Einstein's Universe

Einstein's Universe

7.6/10 IMDB

A documentary produced in 1979 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Albert Einstein. Narrated and hosted by Peter Ustinov and written by Nigel Calder.

Starring: Peter Ustinov ..
Directed by: Martin Freeth
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Kate Bush - Live at the Hammersmith Odeon

Kate Bush - Live at the Hammersmith Odeon

8.1/10 IMDB

A live performance from Kate Bush's critically and commercially successful The Tour of Life, recorded on May 13th, 1979.

Starring: Kate Bush, Brian Bath, Alan Murphy, Paddy Bush, Ben Barson, Kevin McAlea, Del Palmer, Preston Heyman, Glenys Groves, Liz Pearson ..
Directed by: Keith "Keef" MacMillan
Release date: 1979-05-13
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The War at Home

The War at Home

7.7/10 IMDB

Documentary film about the anti-war movement in the Madison, Wisconsin area during the time of the Vietnam War. It combines archival footage and interviews with participants that explore the events of the period on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus.

Starring: Spiro Agnew, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hubert H. Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara ..
Directed by: Barry Alexander Brown, Glenn Silber
Release date: 1979-12-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Last Of The Blue Devils - The Kansas City Jazz Story

The Last Of The Blue Devils - The Kansas City Jazz Story

7.9/10 IMDB

Documentary film detailing the history of Kansas City jazz.

Starring: Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Dizzy Gillespie ..
Directed by: Bruce Ricker
Release date: 1979-10-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Horror Show

The Horror Show

8.9/10 IMDB

A history of horror movies.

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Julie Adams, Richard Arlen, James Arness, Lionel Atwill, Martin Balsam, John Barrymore, Ernest Borgnine ..
Directed by: Richard Schickel
Release date: 1979-02-06
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : New York Portrait, Chapter I

New York Portrait, Chapter I

7.2/10 IMDB

Hutton's most impressive work ... the filmmaker's style takes on an assertive edge that marks his maturity. The landscape has a majesty that serves to reflect the meditative interiority of the artist independent of any human presence. ... New York is framed in the dark nights of a lonely winter. The pulse of street life finds no role in NEW YORK PORTRAIT; the dense metropolitan population and imposing urban locale disappear before Hutton's concern for the primal force of a universal presence. With an eye for the ordinary, Hutton can point his camera toward the clouds finding flocks of birds, or turn back to the simple objects around his apartment struggling to elicit a personal intuition from their presence. ... Hutton finds a harmonious, if at times melancholy, rapport with the natural elements that retain their grace in spite of the city's artificial environment. The city becomes a ghost town that the filmmaker transforms into a vehicle reflecting his personal mood.

Directed by: Peter B. Hutton
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Soft Fiction

Soft Fiction

7.4/10 IMDB

Chick Strand's SOFT FICTION is a personal documentary that brilliantly portrays the survival power of female sensuality. It combines the documentary approach with a sensuous lyrical expressionism. Strand focuses her camera on people talking about their own experience, capturing subtle nuances in facial expressions and gestures that are rarely seen in cinema.

Starring: Amy Halpren, Beverle Houston, Karen Amend, Melissa Lou Beal, Simone Gad, Johanna Demetrakis, Cathy Freeman, Hedy Sontag, Victoria Mudo, Cynthia Mac Adams ..
Directed by: Chick Strand
Release date: 1979-11-16

The Wobblies

7.4/10 IMDB

"Solidarity! All for One and One for All!" With that slogan, the Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies, took to organizing unskilled workers into one big union and changing the course of history. This award-winning film airs a provocative look at the forgotten American history of this most radical of unions, screening the unforgettable and still-fiery voices of Wobbly members--lumberjacks, migratory workers, and silk weavers--in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Starring: Charles Rydell, Anthony Bouza ..
Directed by: Stewart Bird, Deborah Shaffer
Release date: 1979-09-15

UFOs: It Has Begun

7.2/10 IMDB

A documentary exploring the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrial beings. Hosted by the LEGENDARY Rod Serling. This was considered his "coming out the closet" in regards to his deep belief in UFOs just before his death from cancer.

Starring: Rod Serling, Burgess Meredith, José Ferrer, Jacques Vallée ..
Directed by: Ray Rivas
Release date: 1979-01-01

The Patriot Game

7.6/10 IMDB

The film's introduction covers Ireland's history from British colonization to the territory's division in 1922. THE PATRIOT GAME then details the events of the decade that began in 1968. Through powerful portraits of rebellion and eyewitness accounts of killings and such massacres as the infamous "Bloody Sunday," the film shows the IRA at work - much of it filmed clandestinely - as they argue their cause which, in this country and in most of the world, has gone unheard.

Directed by: Arthur MacCaig
Release date: 1979-06-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : ABBA: In Concert

ABBA: In Concert

8.0/10 IMDB

ABBA's 1979 tour of North America and Europe, with emphasis on performances at Wembley Arena, London.

Starring: Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Tomas Ledin, Birgitta Wollgård, Liza Öhman, Ola Brunkert, Anders Eljas, Rutger Gunnarsson ..
Directed by: Urban Lasson
Release date: 1979-12-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : 80 Blocks from Tiffany's

80 Blocks from Tiffany's

7.6/10 IMDB

This 1979 documentary depicts the daily life of gangs in the South Bronx. It deals primarily with two African American and Puerto Rican gangs known as the "Savage Skulls" and the "Savage Nomads".

Starring: Louis Gigante ..
Directed by: Gary Weis
Release date: 1979-01-01

The Pythons: Somewhere in Tunisia, Circa A.D. 1979

7.3/10 IMDB

Ten years ago exactly, more or less, give or take a day or two, six young men sat down, or maybe stood, or perhaps some of them just lounged, and wrote the first episode of a new series called Owl Stretching Time. They were called Graham Chapman , John Cleese, Terry Gilliam , Eric Idle,Terry Jones and Michael Palin and later both they and the series became known as Monty Python 's Flying Circus . Today they are the best known British comedy group in the world, famous from Cathay to Kathmandu, from Sydney to Sidcup (except in Japan where the programme is called The Gay Boys' Dragon Show ... say no more). To commemorate their tenth anniversary a BBC team tracked them down in the deserts of Tunisia where they were filming their Life of Brian and almost persuaded them to examine the genesis, the genius and the gender of Monty Python.

Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Carol Cleveland, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Spike Milligan, Iain Johnstone ..
Release date: 1979-06-20
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Best Boy

Best Boy

7.8/10 IMDB

In this documentary, the director follows the day-to-day activities of his retarded, middle-aged cousin Philly, over a three-year period.

Directed by: Ira Wohl
Release date: 1979-10-05
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist

7.4/10 IMDB

This Academy Award-winning documentary short Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces the career of Paul Robeson through his activism and his socially charged performances of his signature song, “Ol’ Man River.”

Starring: Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier ..
Directed by: Saul J. Turell
Release date: 1979-10-29
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Buggles: Video Killed the Radio Star

The Buggles: Video Killed the Radio Star

6.8/10 IMDB

A music video from The Buggles from their hit single "Video Killed the Radio Star".

Starring: Trevor Horn, Hans Zimmer, Geoff Downes ..
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Nails


7.2/10 IMDB

This Oscar-nominated documentary short tracks the shift in the relationship of an individual to his work between the 19th century and today. Focusing on how nails are made, we first see a blacksmith laboring at his forge, shaping nails from single strands of steel rods. The scene then shifts from this peaceful setting to the roar of a 20th century nail mill, where banks of machines draw, cut, and pound the steel rods faster than the eye can follow.

Directed by: Phillip Borsos
Release date: 1979-01-01

Boston Fire

6.7/10 IMDB

BOSTON FIRE finds grandeur in smoke rising eloquently from a city blaze. Billowing puffs of darkness blend with fountains of water streaming in from offscreen to orchestrate a play of primal elements. The beautiful texture of the smoke coupled with the isolation from the source of the fire erases the destructive impact of the event. The camera, lost in the immense dark clouds, produces images for meditation removed from the causes or consequences of the scene. The tiny firemen, seen as distant silhouettes, gaze in awe, helpless before nature’s power.

Directed by: Peter B. Hutton
Release date: 1979-04-30
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Shellshock Rock

Shellshock Rock

7.4/10 IMDB

John T. Davis’ first in a trilogy of films (including Protex Hurrah (1980) and Self-Conscious Over You (1981)) exploring the Belfast filmmaker’s local subculture and American cultural influence. It provides a look at the burgeoning punk scene in Northern Ireland, featuring early footage of bands such as Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, Protex, The Outcasts, and Rhesus Negative, among others. (from:

Starring: Jake Burns, Henry Cluney, Brian Faloon, Terry Hooley, Ali McMordie, Terri Hooley ..
Directed by: John T. Davis
Release date: 1979-01-01

The Prophecies of Nostradamus

7.5/10 IMDB

An examination of the prophecies and predictions of the 16th-century mystic Michel Nostradamus.

Starring: John Waters, Kirk Alexander, Richard Butler ..
Directed by: Paul Drane
Release date: 1979-01-01

No Maps on My Taps

7.5/10 IMDB

The remarkable spirit of tap dancers and their history provides a joyous backdrop for intimate portraits of hoofers Sandman Sims, Chuck Green, and Bunny Briggs.

Starring: Sandman Sims, Chuck Green, Bunny Briggs, Lionel Hampton ..
Directed by: George T. Nierenberg
Release date: 1979-10-31
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Man You Loved to Hate

The Man You Loved to Hate

7.1/10 IMDB

The Man You Loved To Hate blends revealing interviews, rare photographs, and clips from von Stroheim's legendary and lesser-known works to create a fascinating tribute to one of American cinema's most complex artists.

Starring: Edward Binns, Erich von Stroheim, Marcel Dalio, Paul Kohner, Leonard Spigelgass, Samuel Marx, Valerie Germonprez, Irving Thalberg, Paul Ivano, Harold Henderson ..
Directed by: Patrick Montgomery
Release date: 1979-08-19
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Encounter with Disaster

Encounter with Disaster

7.9/10 IMDB

Depicts assorted natural and human disasters, including the crash of the Hindenburg (1937), earthquakes in Alaska (1964) and Long Beach (1933), the LeMans auto racing crash at which 82 people were killed (1955), Hurrican Camille (1964), the eruption of the Mt. Etna volcano (1971), a tornado (1974), the collapse of Idaho's Teton Dam (1976), the sinking of the Andrea Doria (1956) and the Texas City explosion which devastated Galveston (1947).

Directed by: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Release date: 1979-03-07
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Manoeuvre


6.8/10 IMDB

MANOEUVRE follows a U.S. infantry tank company through NATO’s annual fall manoeuvres in Western Europe. One purpose of these war games is to test how quickly and effectively U.S. reinforcements can come to the aid of NATO forces stationed in Europe. The various stages of the training exercise, including defensive and offensive tactics, and hypothetical wins and losses are seen from the point of view of a company fighting a simulated, conventional, non-nuclear ground and air war.

Directed by: Frederick Wiseman
Release date: 1979-06-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Secret Life of Plants

The Secret Life of Plants

7.2/10 IMDB

A documentary about the study of plant sentience with original music by Stevie Wonder. Utilizing time-lapse photography, the film proposes that plants are able to experience emotions and communicate with the world around them.

Starring: Ruby Crystal, John Ashley Hamilton, Eartha Robinson, Peter Tompkins, Elizabeth Vreeland ..
Directed by: Walon Green
Release date: 1979-12-09
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Chott el-Djerid (A Portrait in Light and Heat)

Chott el-Djerid (A Portrait in Light and Heat)

6.4/10 IMDB

A documentary short in Chott el-Djerid.

Directed by: Bill Viola
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Making of 'Nosferatu'

The Making of 'Nosferatu'

6.7/10 IMDB

Werner Herzog discusses the making of "Nosferatu" on set.

Starring: Werner Herzog, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, Klaus Kinski, Roland Topor, Jacques Dufilho ..
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Release date: 1979-10-06
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Punk Can Take It

Punk Can Take It

6.6/10 IMDB

Julien Temple's wartime documentary parody "Punk Can Take It" (1979) - a theatrically released promo for the UK Subs, complete with narration by BBC voice-over veteran John Snagge - paints a glorious picture of England in a punk rock "identity crisis". Punk morale was higher than ever before. Punks were fused together not by fear, but by a surging spirit of revenge, immortality, and the courage never to submit or yield. This proved that punk won't go away and that punks themselves are becoming younger and nastier everyday. They have no time for the precarious thrills of nostalgia nor for its trivial rules.

Starring: Julia Binstead, Edward Tudor-Pole, Helen Wellington-Lloyd, UK Subs, John Snagge ..
Directed by: Julien Temple
Release date: 1979-12-30
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Town Bloody Hall

Town Bloody Hall

7.3/10 IMDB

Norman Mailer and a panel of feminists — Jacqueline Ceballos, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston, and Diana Trilling — debate the issue of Women's Liberation.

Starring: Norman Mailer, Jacqueline Ceballos, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston, Diane Trilling, Susan Sontag, Betty Friedan, Elizabeth Hardwick ..
Directed by: Chris Hegedus, D. A. Pennebaker
Release date: 1979-04-03

The Beaver Kid

7.7/10 IMDB

A short documentary about the exploits of "Groovin' Gary", a performer that filmmaker Harris happened upon while filming for a Salt Lake City, Utah news station.

Starring: Groovin' Gary ..
Directed by: Trent Harris
Release date: 1979-09-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Dirt


6.8/10 IMDB

From motorcycles to Swamp buggies; from Pike Peak to Baja California - "Dirt" covers the motorsports world of off-road racing and competitions. There is humor, drama, and suspense in this light-hearted view of off-pavement competition

Starring: Bobby Ferro, Billy Fuentes, Elliot M. Kaplan, Bobby Unser Jr. ..
Directed by: Eric Karson
Release date: 1979-03-12
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Tally Brown, New York

Tally Brown, New York

7.6/10 IMDB

Tally Brown, New York is a 1979 documentary film directed, written and produced by Rosa von Praunheim. The film is about the singing and acting career of Tally Brown, a classically trained opera and blues singer who was a star of underground films in New York City and a denizen of its underworld in the late 1960s. In this documentary, Praunheim relies on extensive interviews with Brown, as she recounts her collaboration with Andy Warhol, Taylor Mead and others, as well as her friendships with Holly Woodlawn, and Divine. Brown opens the film with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and concludes with “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide.” The film captures not only Tally Brown’s career but also a particular New York milieu in the 1970s.

Starring: Tally Brown, Paul Ambrose, Edward Caton, Divine, Gil Fontaine, Elizabeth Kashy, Robert Kashy, Taylor Mead, Magdalena Montezuma, Rosa von Praunheim ..
Directed by: Rosa von Praunheim
Release date: 1979-05-04
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Terror and the Time

The Terror and the Time

6.3/10 IMDB

Documentary about repressive violence in colonial Guyana.

Starring: Martin Carter, Eusi Kwayana, Cheddi Jagan ..
Directed by: Rupert Roonaraine, The Victor Jara Collective
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Electric Blue 001

Electric Blue 001

5.8/10 IMDB

Hosted by Fiona Richmond (who also conducts on-street interviews), this features newsreel and 35mm coverage of the world's most disastrous series of automotive fatalities at the Indianapolis 500, several video centerfolds, a Nude Wives special, a profile of photographer David Williams, a segment on Joan Collins and the adult cartoon Snow White and the Seven Perverts. Note: Electric Blue 001 in the UK is a completely different video than Electric Blue 001 in the U.S. The latter is hosted by Marilyn Chambers, features entirely different scenes and was released in 1983.

Starring: Fiona Richmond, David Williams, Joan Collins ..
Directed by: Adam Cole
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Moonraker: 007 in Rio

Moonraker: 007 in Rio

6.5/10 IMDB

Original 1979 short promotional production featurette for the James Bond movie Moonraker (1979) featuring interview and behind the scenes footage.

Starring: Roger Moore, Albert R. Broccoli, Lois Chiles, Lewis Gilbert ..
Directed by: Michel Parbot
Release date: 1979-01-01

Canada Vignettes: Wop May

7.2/10 IMDB

This short animated film is about Wop May, one of Canada's leading bush pilots in the 1920s.

Starring: Donald Brittain ..
Directed by: Blake James
Release date: 1979-01-01

Del Mero Corazón

6.9/10 IMDB

A lyrical journey through the heart of Chicano culture as reflected in the love songs of the Tex-Mex Norteña music tradition. Shipped as a bonus film on the Chulas Fronteras video.

Directed by: Les Blank, Maureen Gosling
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Tattooed Tears

Tattooed Tears

6.9/10 IMDB

An intimate, hands on encounter with a maximum security juvenile correctional facility in Chino California.

Directed by: Joan Churchill, Nick Broomfield
Release date: 1979-01-09
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : All Women Have Periods

All Women Have Periods

7.4/10 IMDB

The purpose of this film isn't entirely known but I suspect it's targeted at the parents with a mentally disabled child who want to educate her about menstruation. It shows what's likely a real family in which the youngest girl has down syndrome discussing periods and the older sister demonstrating the correct use of a pad.

Directed by: Carla Brandberg
Release date: 1979-05-30
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Koryo Celadon

Koryo Celadon

5.7/10 IMDB

Koryo Celadon remains one of the high points of world art. This Korean pottery style, which was at its peak in the 12th Century A.D., and called by the Chinese "one of the ten most wonderful things in the world," was a truly major achievement in the field of ceramics. Its most important element was its delicate green glaze, a secret formula now lost. As simple and elegant as Koryo Celadons appear, they were the result of intricate craftsmanship that often employed up to four inlays.

Directed by: Paul Raimondi
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : Canada Vignettes: Woolly Mammoth

Canada Vignettes: Woolly Mammoth

5.8/10 IMDB

An animated film showing a woolly mammoth and its offspring. These animals lived on the Canadian tundra over ten thousand years ago.

Starring: Stan Peters ..
Directed by: Bill Maylone
Release date: 1979-01-01
Best Documentary Movies of 1979 : The Killing Ground

The Killing Ground

5.7/10 IMDB

1979 documentary film written by Brit Hume. The film portrays environmental and human health effects of toxic waste dump-sites in Niagara, New York and other locations.

Starring: Brit Hume ..
Directed by: Tom Priestley, Steve Singer
Release date: 1979-01-01

The Bermuda Triangle

5.4/10 IMDB

Documentary on with strange goings-on in the 'devil's triangle'.

Starring: Brad Crandall, Ed Fry, Ron Jackson, Warren J. Kemmerling, Fritz Leiber Jr., Harriet Medin, Glenn Morshower, Arthur Roberts, Clement von Franckenstein, Warren Munson ..
Directed by: Richard Friedenberg
Release date: 1979-01-24

Also check Best documentary movies of 1980.

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