Best Documentary Movies of 2011

1.

Samsara

6.0

Samsara is a word that describes the ever turning wheel of life. It is a concept both intimate and vast - the perfect subject for filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, whose previous collaborations include Chronos and Baraka, and who, in the last 20 years, have travelled to over 58 countries together in the pursuit of unique imagery. Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation that will transform viewers in countries around the world as they are swept along a journey of the soul. Through powerful images pristinely photographed in 70mm and a dynamic music score, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of the nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.

Starring: Marcos Luna, Putu Dinda Pratika, Puti Sri Candra Dewi, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi
Directed by: Ron Fricke
Release date: 2011-09-16
2.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

5.7

Revered sushi chef Jiro Ono strives for perfection in his work, while his eldest son, Yoshikazu, has trouble living up to his father's legacy.

Starring: Jiro Ono, Masuhiro Yamamoto, Yoshikazu Ono, Daisuke Nakazama, Hachiro Mizutani
Directed by: David Gelb
Release date: 2011-06-11
3.

Frozen Planet

5.4

Frozen Planet takes you on the ultimate polar expedition. This landmark 7-part series brings to the screen the two most remote and least hospitable areas on the planet: the frozen wildernesses of the Arctic and Antarctic. And yet, despite environments where temperatures reach minus 70 degrees Celsius and the sun doesn't shine for half the year, life flourishes. Prime attention is given to seals, penguins, and polar bears, but there's a great deal more: from slugs, snails, and caterpillars to minke whales, beluga whales, and narwhals, from seabirds and cod gathering by the millions to wolves tracking bison and caribou. There are breathtaking shots of the landscape as well, and portraits of the human element.

Release date: 2011-10-26
4.

Into the Abyss

5.2
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In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (who was scheduled to die eight days after his interview with Herzog), legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog achieves what he describes as "a gaze into the abyss of the human soul." As he's so often done before, Herzog's investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory.
Starring: Jason Burkett, Werner Herzog, Michael Perry, Jeremy Richardson, Kristen Willis
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Release date: 2011-11-11
5.

Life in a Day

4.8

A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on the 24th of July, 2010.

Starring: Cindy Baer, Moica, Caryn Waechter, Drake Shannon
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald, Zillah Bowes
Release date: 2011-01-27
6.

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward

4.8

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, by director Peter Joseph, is a feature length documentary work which will present a case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society. This subject matter will transcend the issues of cultural relativism and traditional ideology and move to relate the core, empirical "life ground" attributes of human and social survival, extrapolating those immutable natural laws into a new sustainable social paradigm called a "Resource-Based Economy".

Starring: Robert Sapolsky, Gábor Máté, Richard G. Wilkinson, James Gilligan, John McMurtry
Directed by: Peter Joseph
Release date: 2011-01-15
7.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

4.8
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A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.
Starring: Morgan Spurlock, Peter Berg, Paul Brennan, Ralph Nader, Brett Ratner
Directed by: Morgan Spurlock
Release date: 2011-04-22
8.

Jackass 3.5

4.6

Jackass 3.5 is a 2011 sequel to Jackass 3D, composed of unused footage shot during the filming of Jackass 3D and interviews from cast and crew

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Ryan Dunn, Dave England, Preston Lacy, Bam Margera
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
Release date: 2011-08-03
9.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey

4.4
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The Story of Film: An Odyssey, written and directed by award-winning film-maker Mark Cousins, is the story of international cinema told through the history of cinematic innovation. Five years in the making, The Story of Film: An Odyssey covers six continents and 12 decades, showing how film-makers are influenced both by the historical events of their times, and by each other. It provides a worldwide guided tour of the greatest movies ever made; an epic tale that starts in nickelodeons and ends as a multi-billion-dollar globalised digital industry. Described as a love letter to the movies, Cousins visits the key sites in the history of cinema; from Hollywood to Mumbai; from Hitchcock s London to the village where Pather Panchali was shot, and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors including Stanley Donen, Kyoko Kagawa, Gus van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Claire Denis, Bernardo Bertolucci, Robert Towne, Jane Campion and Claudia Cardinale.
Starring: Mark Cousins, Jean-Michel Frodon, Cari Beauchamp, Agnes de Mille
Directed by: Mark Cousins
Release date: 2011-09-03
10.

The Art of Flight

4.3

Iconic snowboarder Travis Rice and friends redefine what is possible in the mountains. Experience the highs, as new tricks are landed and new zones opened, alongside the lows, where avalanches, accidents, and wrong-turns strike.

Starring: Travis Rice, Nicolas Muller, Mark Landvik, Jake Blauvelt, Pat Moore
Directed by: Curt Morgan
Release date: 2011-09-08
11.

Pearl Jam: Twenty

4.3

Carved from over 1,200 hours of footage spanning the band’s career, Pearl Jam: Twenty is the definitive portrait of Pearl Jam. Part concert film, part intimate insider-hang, and part testimonial to the power of music.

Starring: Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Matt Cameron
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Release date: 2011-09-20
12.

How to Die in Oregon

4.3

In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. At the time, only Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands had legalized the practice. 'How to Die in Oregon' tell the stories of those most intimately involved with the practice today -- terminally ill Oregonians, their families, doctors, and friends -- as well as the passage of an assisted suicide law in Washington State.

Starring: Harry Bruton, Ray Carnay, Cody Curtis, Paul Darley
Directed by: Peter Richardson
Release date: 2011-01-23
13.

Queen: Days of Our Lives

4.2

In 1971, four college students got together to form a rock band. Since then, that certain band called Queen have released 26 albums and sold over 300 million records worldwide. The popularity of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon is stronger than ever 40 years on. But it was no bed of roses. No pleasure cruise. Queen had their share of kicks in the face, but they came through and this is how they did it, set against the backdrop of brilliant music and stunning live performances from every corner of the globe. In this film, for the first time, it is the band that tells their story. Featuring brand new interviews with the band and unseen archive footage (including their recently unearthed, first ever TV performance), it is a compelling story told with intelligence, wit, plenty of humor and painful honesty.

Starring: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Roy Thomas Baker
Directed by: Matt O'Casey
Release date: 2011-05-29
14.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge

4.2
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By vividly recounting the TT's legendary rivalries and the Isle of Man's unique road racing history, this 3D feature documentary discovers why modern TT riders still risk their lives to win the world's most dangerous race. The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is the greatest motorcycle road race in the world, the ultimate challenge for rider and machine. It has always called for a commitment far beyond any other racing event, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice in their quest for victory. A story about freedom of choice, the strength of human spirit and the will to win. It's also an examination of what motivates those rare few, this elite band of brothers who risk everything to win.
Starring: Jared Leto, Guy Martin, Ian Hutchinson, John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop
Directed by: Richard De Aragues
Release date: 2011-04-22
15.

Foo Fighters: Back and Forth

4.2

FOO FIGHTERS BACK AND FORTH chronicles the 16 year history of the Foo Fighters: from the band's very first songs created as cassette demos Dave Grohl recorded during his tenure as Nirvana's drummer, through its ascent to their Grammy-winning, multi-platinum, arena and stadium headlining status as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

Starring: Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel
Directed by: James Moll
Release date: 2011-04-05
16.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

4.2

A series of films about how humans have been colonized by the machines we have built. Although we don't realize it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.

Release date: 2011-06-06
17.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

4.2

Director Martin Scorsese profiles former Beatle George Harrison in this reverent portrait that mixes interviews and archival footage, featuring commentary from the likes of Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono.

Starring: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Release date: 2011-09-02
18.

Prohibition

4.2
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The story of the American activist struggle against the influence of alcohol, climaxing in the failed early 20th century nationwide era when it was banned.
Release date: 2011-10-02
19.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

4.1

Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.

Starring: Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz, Fran Brill
Directed by: Constance Marks
Release date: 2011-10-21
20.

Five Broken Cameras

4.1
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Five broken cameras – and each one has a powerful tale to tell. Embedded in the bullet-ridden remains of digital technology is the story of Emad Burnat, a farmer from the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which famously chose nonviolent resistance when the Israeli army encroached upon its land to make room for Jewish colonists. Emad buys his first camera in 2005 to document the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. Over the course of the film, he becomes the peaceful archivist of an escalating struggle as olive trees are bulldozed, lives are lost, and a wall is built to segregate burgeoning Israeli settlements.
Starring: Emad Burnat, Mohammed Burnat, Soraya Burnat
Directed by: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi
Release date: 2011-11-23

Also check Best documentary movies of 2010.

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