Best Documentary Movies of 1984
Stop Making Sense
A concert film documenting Talking Heads at the height of their popularity, on tour for their 1983 album "Speaking in Tongues." The band takes the stage one by one and is joined by a cadre of guest musicians for a career-spanning and cinematic performance that features creative choreography and visuals.
Just two years away from turning 30, participants in Michael Apted's documentary series are facing serious questions of identity and purpose, wondering whether they've found their place in the world.
The Times of Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk was an outspoken human rights activist and one of the first openly gay U.S. politicians elected to public office; even after his assassination in 1978, he continues to inspire disenfranchised people around the world.
Taking their camera to the streets of what was supposedly America’s most livable city, filmmaker Martin Bell, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and journalist Cheryl McCall set out to tell the stories of those society had left behind: homeless and runaway teenagers living on the city’s margins. Born from a “Life” magazine exposé by Mark and McCall, “Streetwise” follows an unforgettable group of at-risk children—including iron-willed fourteen-year-old Tiny, who would become the project’s most haunting and enduring face, along with the pugnacious yet resourceful Rat and the affable drifter DeWayne—who, driven from their broken homes, survive by hustling, panhandling, and dumpster diving. Granted remarkable access to their world, the filmmakers craft a devastatingly frank, nonjudgmental portrait of lost youth growing up far too soon in a world that has failed them.
Duran Duran: Sing Blue Silver
In 1984, Duran Duran toured Canada and America. It was their first major tour as headliners in these two countries. Over 79 days, they travelled approximately 18,000 miles and played 51 shows in 43 cities to over 550,000 fans. The entire tour was filmed for this behind the scenes documentary which offers some fascinating and intriguing glimpses into the fun, glamour, agony, ecstasy and ultimate glory of three months on the road. The band is shown thriving on the pressures, psyching themselves up pre-stage and then delivering their all to a thunderous response. The production manager, tour manager, road crew are frequently caught fraught with last minute panics and touring nerves. Hoards of hysterical fans are seen chasing down and beating on the band's limo and with a camera placed inside the car it gives the viewer an insight into how loud and sinister that must have been. And in between all of this comes the great music.
Carlin on Campus
George Carlin hits the boards with the former Hippie-Dippie Weatherman's take on Brooklynese pronunciations of the names of sexually transmitted disease ("hoipes"), plus a prayer for the separation of church and state, feuds between breakfast foods, and the absurdity of wearing jungle camouflage in a desert.
Bruce Lee: The Legend
The Official Golden Harvest tribute to the Master of the Martial Arts Film, Bruce Lee.
King Crimson: The Noise (Live at Frejus)
A concert by King Crimson recorded at the Arena Frejus, France on August 27th, 1982. Track Listing: Waiting Man, Matte Kudasai, The Sheltering Sky, Neil and Jack and Me, Indiscipline, Heartbeat, Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part II and more.
Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember
Now-classic holiday special based around Rogers' and Partons' best-selling album, Once Upon a Christmas.
Love Those Trains
Enjoy the romance of railroads as you ride on the Orient Express, climb the Andes, cross the U.S. on the Salad Bowl Express, and meet the Hobo King, who calls himself "Steamboat." From steam engines to sleek diesels, experience the majesty and adventure of trains past and present. Remember the days when thundering trains bridged the world's continents, nourished the pioneer spirit, ferried our troops to war, and provided politicians with mobile campaign platforms. Then settle into a first-class seat aboard the luxurious Orient Express, and glide through storybook cities from Paris to Istanbul. Celebrate a slice of history and ride the rails of the world. A National Geographic Production.
The Long Night of Lady Day
This acclaimed documentary depicts the sad life of the greatest of all jazz singers, Billie Holiday, a life engraved with personal tragedy and ultimately shortened by drug abuse and alcoholism. Her story and career are portrayed through rare archival film and television appearances, memorable renditions of her greatest songs, and interviews with friends and colleagues.
The Last Sailors: The Final Days of Working Sail
Neil Hollander sailed a ten-meter sailboat nearly 25,000 miles meeting and working alongside those men who still earned their livings using sailboats. This book recalls the authors' experiences with eight surviving craft, all representative of distinct cultures or geographic locations.
Terror in the Aisles
A non-stop roller coaster ride through the scariest moments of the greatest terror films of all time.
I'm Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes - The Man and His Work
Filmmaker Michael Ventura follows Cassavetes around as the actor/director labors on his final film, Love Streams.
World Safari 2
Six years in preparation & three years in filming, World Safari 2 covers one of the largest Australian cattle musters, the wild New Guinea highlands and finally discover the terrorist controlled jungles of South America.
Genesis - The MAMA Tour
Genesis Live - The Mama Tour is a 1985 home video featuring footage from a Genesis concert in February 1984. It was filmed at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England, and directed by Jim Yukich.
With archive film including home movies and FBI surveillance material, the award-winning Crime Inc. tells the true story behind the world's most powerful crime syndicate, the Mob, La Cosa Nostra or The Mafia. Interviews with mob members turned informants, including former boss Jimmy 'The Weasel' Fratianno, reveal the inner workings of the mafia, from the ritual of becoming a "made" man and their code of honor, to the harrowing and detailed descriptions of their work, accompanied by equally graphic images and film footage.
Robert Klein: Child of the 50's, Man of the 80's
1984 Live Recording from campus of New York University.
The Mind of a Murderer: Part 1
A look into the mind of one of the Hillside Strangler murderers, Kenneth Bianchi.
Inquiry. The Great British Housing Disaster
The documentary set out to investigate, not the well-chronicled social problems of 1960s council housing, but the origins of how they came to be built so poorly that thousands later needed to be demolished.
Bette Midler: Art or Bust
The Divine Miss M is featured in a concert filmed at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, at the culmination of her most recent cross-country tour which was known as "De Tour". This live recording was a combination of footage from both September 10 and 11, 1983. Set against a Renaissance art background and outfitted in a rainbow array of costumes, Midler sings and performs her uninhibited stage antics.
The Making of 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'
A documentary following the various stages in the production of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Soldiers in Hiding
A portrait of several Vietnam War veterans living "off the grid." Upon returning home from the war, these men found themselves unable to exist in normal society due to the lasting psychological scars from Vietnam, and, subsequently, chose to live a life of solitude and survival in the American wilderness.
Henson's Place: The Man Behind the Muppets
Trace the life and career of visionary puppeteer Jim Henson through this fascinating documentary, which profiles the creative genius's early endeavors in college, his incredible contributions to "Sesame Street" and the creation of "The Muppet Show." In addition to interviews with Henson, his wife, Jane, and close collaborator Frank Oz, this in-depth special also offers viewers a peek inside the magical Henson Workshop.
Video Rewind: The Rolling Stones' Great Video Hits
Video Rewind by The Rolling Stones is a compilation of video clips recorded between 1972–1984. Instead of just presenting unrelated clips and videos just strung together, it uses a framing 'story', featuring Bill Wyman and Mick Jagger, directed by Julien Temple and includes some video directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. It was first released in 1984 on the VHS, Laserdisc, and CED Videodisc format by Vestron home video.
New York City's Stonewall Inn is regarded by many as the site of gay and lesbian liberation since it was at this bar that drag queens fought back against police June 27-28, 1969. This documentary uses extensive archival film, movie clips and personal recollections to construct an audiovisual history of the gay community before the Stonewall riots.
Among the Wild Chimpanzees
In 1960 Jane Goodall set out for Tanzania's remote Gombe Stream Game Reserve to study the behavior of man's closest living relative, the chimpanzee. With dedication and perseverance she earned the trust of a wild chimp community, and gradually they revealed their individual personalities and the rich tapestry of their daily life. This program looks at two landmark decades of Jane Goodall's work, including her dramatic discovery of chimpanzees making and using tools.
Lulu in Berlin
Vérité documentarian Richard Leacock’s LULU IN BERLIN features one of the few long interviews ever done with actor Louise Brooks. It took place in her apartment in Rochester, New York, in 1971.
Hackers: Wizards of the Electronic Age
All interviews in this documentary were shot over a long weekend at a 1984 hacker conference by the Whole Earth Catalog editors Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelley in Sausalito, California. The event itself (the hacker conference) was inspired by Steven Levy's classic book "Hackers - Heroes of the Computer Revolution"
Burroughs: The Movie
An exploration of Burroughs’ life story, as told by Burroughs himself along with many of his contemporaries, including Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Francis Bacon, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith, Terry Southern, and William Burroughs Jr.
American Dreams (Lost and Found)
Scrolling excerpts from the diary of George Wallace's would-be assassin Arthur Bremer at screen bottom, Hank Aaron cards and ephemera from his entire career up top, and alternating audio clips of popular songs and highlights from the news throughout Aaron's career.
Another State of Mind
Another State of Mind is a documentary film made in the summer of 1982 chronicling the adventure (and misadventure) of two punk bands – Social Distortion and Youth Brigade – as they embark on their first international tour. Along the way they meet up with another progressive punk band, Minor Threat, whom they hang out with at the Dischord house for about a week near the end of their ill-fated tour.
A documentary on the inhabitants of South Williamsburg, New York, whose lives are explored through the testimony of five inhabitants of the Brooklyn neighborhood. In the late 70s and early 80s, Los Sures was one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. In fact, it had been called the worst ghetto in America. Diego Echeverria's film skillfully represents the challenges of its time: drugs, gang violence, crime, abandoned real estate, racial tension, single-parent homes, and inadequate local resources. The complex portrait also celebrates the vitality of this largely Puerto Rican and Dominican community, showing the strength of their culture, their creativity, and their determination to overcome a desperate situation.
The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God
They called themselves the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, but because of their ecstatic dancing, the world called them Shakers. Ken Burns creates a moving portrait of this particularly American movement, and in the process, offers us a new and unusually moving way to understand the Shakers.
Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets
In this spectacular exploration you'll take a journey through the 4,000-year history of mankind's relationship with the Grand Canyon. Discover the earliest inhabitants of the Canyon whose lives are still shrouded in mystery. Travel with Spanish explorers as they become the first Europeans to uncover the Canyon's awesome beauty. Ride along in the re-enactment of US explorer John Wesley Powell's expedition down the raging Colorado River, when nine crew members risk their lives to become the first to travel the length of the Canyon by boat. Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets will take you into the rarely visited side canyons filled with hidden waterfalls and unusual wildlife. Experience the Canyon as never before: soaring over the rim and flying through some of the most inspiring scenery on Earth.
The two directors meander through rural Mississippi in search of the spirit of local music and society. Highlights the heritage of William Faulkner, the role of Black churches, and gospel and blues music.
The Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is a 1984 American short documentary film directed by Roger M. Sherman. The film posits that in the next 30 years, 20% of all forms of life will cease to exist. It argues that it can be for good business to save the environment: discoveries in the plant, animal, and microbiology worlds show that what you might think of as unimportant could be the cure to a major disease, save an entire species of plant, or ward off pests. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Iron Maiden: Behind The Iron Curtain
Shot during Maiden's historic tour of Poland and other parts of the Eastern Bloc in 1984, featuring interviews, live and offstage footage, capturing the atmosphere of this remarkable journey behind the Wall at the height of the Cold War.
Hookers on Davie
Filmmakers Holly Dale and Janis Cole explore the culture of Davie Street, located in the underbelly of Vancouver, where dozens of prostitutes work and live every day. Surprisingly, they find that the sex trade there is stable and largely non-violent, and that the women who work on Davie Street meet daily to discuss safety and health issues and don't use pimps. The film also includes candid interviews with the prostitutes and footage of negotiations with potential clients.
In Heaven There Is No Beer?
A joyous romp through the dance, food, music, friendship, and even religion of the Polka. The explosive energy and high spirits of the polka subculture are rendered with warmth and dedication to scholarship in this journey through Polish-American celebrations. Polka stars like Jimmy Sturr, Eddie Blazonzyck and Walt Solek are featured.
A documentary on the history on mankind's attempts to reach high speeds. Starting with the invention of the bicycle, going on to sports cars, cars with jet engines, rocket-powered cars, attempts to break the sound barrier, and rocket-engine airplanes. Each achievement is documented by title card indicating the speed reached in miles per hour.
Strong Kids, Safe Kids
Strong Kids, Safe Kids was put together because so many of us are concerned about the horrible potential dangers our kids face every day. Sexual molestation and abduction are an unfortunate part of our times. And as loving parents, it's up to us to teach our kids to stay safe. It's like teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street... only it's a whole lot trickier. That's where Strong Kids, Safe Kids comes in. This film brings all of the problems - and questions - out in the open. It talks to you and your kids one-on-one. The material is frank and to the point. But presented so entertainingly with music and humor that it's a delight for the whole family to watch together. Again and again.
Woody Guthrie: Hard Travelin'
A warmhearted memorial to the folk singer whose songs galvanized organizers and guitar-pickers across the United States. Part biography, part travelogue and part hootenanny, it follows the singer's son, Arlo Guthrie, as he retraces his father's steps and collects reminiscences from his father's family, friends and musical partners.
The Ties That Bind
The Ties That Bind is an experimental documentary about the filmmaker's mother, who was born and lived in southern Germany from 1920-1950. Through a mixture of personal anecdote and social history, she describes the rise of Nazism, the war years, and the Allied occupation, during which she met her future husband, an American soldier. The Ties That Bind breaks with the usual format of war documentaries, thus allowing a different portrait of the individual to emerge, while it reflects on the current political situation in America and the filmmaker's activities in relation to those issues.
America and Lewis Hine
Documentary about early 20th-century photographer Lewis Hine, who helped to expose grim working conditions in American factories and mines, especially the abuse and exploitation of children by their employers. Later, he became the official photographer for the construction of the Empire State Building.
Donald Duck's 50th Birthday
Donald is shown in both animated and costumed form, interacting with emcee Dick Van Dyke and other cast members. The film not only shows Donald's life, but also depicts an extensive international tour that Donald went on in 1984 as well as showing various celebrities of the day wishing Donald happy birthday. The tour culminates in a parade in Donald's honor at Disneyland.
The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War
This documentary examines the experiences of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, using interviews with survivors more than 50 years later. First, the film sets the context with the rise of Fascism. Then, in 1936, Spain's military revolts against the elected government, and the U.S. and Europe agree not to intervene. In response, volunteers snuck past border guards into Spain to fight with the Republicans. The men and women veterans describe the perils of reaching Spain, limited training, responsibilities of command thrust on the very young, deprivations of a soldier's life, lack of matériel, horrible rates of casualties, and ultimate vindication at the end of World War II.
Big Wave is a documentary directed by Walt Mulconery and published on May 25, 1984 that presents the types of outdoor and risky sports present on the west coast of the United States such as paragliding, surfing, skydiving, bmx or the BASE jumping together with others, going from Hawaii to Texas through California to present them.
The Spirit of Charles Lindbergh
Orson Welles sits in his chair behind his typewriter where he sends a message out to his dying friend Bill Cronshaw: a passage from the journal of Charles Lindbergh.
Spalding Gray's Map of L.A.
Spalding Gray comes to LA to perform a set of monologues.