Best Documentary Movies of All Time

1.

O.J.: Made in America (2016)

6.3

A chronicle of the rise and fall of O.J. Simpson, whose high-profile murder trial exposed the extent of American racial tensions, revealing a fractured and divided nation.

Starring: O.J. Simpson, Marcia Clark, Francis Lee Bailey, Peter Hyams, David Zucker
Directed by: Ezra Edelman
Release date: 2016-05-20
2.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

6.2

Fred Rogers used puppets and play to explore complex social issues: race, disability, equality and tragedy, helping form the American concept of childhood. He spoke directly to children and they responded enthusiastically. Yet today, his impact is unclear. Have we lived up to Fred's ideal of good neighbors?

Starring: Fred Rogers, François Scarborough Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Negri, Kailyn Davis
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Release date: 2018-06-08
3.

Senna (2010)

6.1

Senna's remarkable story, charting his physical and spiritual achievments on the track and off, his quest for perfection, and the mythical status he has since attained, is the subject of Senna, a documentary feature that spans the racing legend's years as an F1 driver, from his opening season in 1984 to his untimely death a decade later.

Starring: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams, Ron Dennis, Viviane Senna
Directed by: Asif Kapadia
Release date: 2010-10-07
4.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

6.0

In 2001, Andrew Bagby, a medical resident, is murdered not long after breaking up with his girlfriend. Soon after, when she announces she's pregnant, one of Andrew's many close friends, Kurt Kuenne, begins this film, a gift to the child.

Starring: Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby, Kathleen Bagby, Shirley Turner
Directed by: Kurt Kuenne
Release date: 2008-10-31
5.

Baraka (1992)

6.0

This is a paralyzingly beautiful documentary with a global vision: an odyssey through landscape and time, that is an attempt to capture the essence of life.

Directed by: Ron Fricke
Release date: 1992-09-15
6.

The Cove (2009)

6.0

The Cove tells the amazing true story of how an elite team of individuals, films makers and free divers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate the hidden cove in Japan, shining light on a dark and deadly secret. The shocking discoveries were only the tip of the iceberg.

Starring: Joe Chisholm, Mandy-Rae Cruikshank, Charles Hambleton, Simon Hutchins, Kirk Krack
Directed by: Louie Psihoyos
Release date: 2009-07-31
7.

Samsara (2011)

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
8.

Earthlings (2005)

6.0

Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by: Shaun Monson
Release date: 2005-09-24
9.

Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

5.9

Takes us to locations all around the US and shows us the heavy toll that modern technology is having on humans and the earth. The visual tone poem contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and the exceptional music by Philip Glass.

Starring: Lou Dobbs, Ted Koppel
Directed by: Godfrey Reggio
Release date: 1982-04-28
10.

Hoop Dreams (1994)

5.9

Every school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee travel 90 minutes each way from inner-city Chicago to St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominately white suburban school well-known for the excellence of its basketball program. Gates and Agee dream of NBA stardom, and with the support of their close-knit families, they battle the social and physical obstacles that stand in their way. This acclaimed documentary was shot over the course of five years.

Starring: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Steve James
Directed by: Steve James
Release date: 1994-09-12
11.

Inside Job (2010)

5.9

A film that exposes the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.

Starring: Matt Damon, William Ackman, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jonathan Alpert
Directed by: Charles Ferguson
Release date: 2010-10-08
12.

Planet Earth II (2016)

5.9

David Attenborough presents a documentary series exploring how animals meet the challenges of surviving in the most iconic habitats on earth.

Release date: 2016-11-06
13.

Blackfish (2013)

5.8

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

Starring: Dean Gomersall, Samantha Berg, John Jett, John Hargrove, Carol Ray
Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Release date: 2013-06-07
14.

Citizenfour (2014)

5.8

In June 2013, Laura Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion.

Starring: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, William Binney, Barack Obama
Directed by: Laura Poitras
Release date: 2014-10-24
15.

The Corporation (2003)

5.8

Since the late 18th century American legal decision that the business corporation organizational model is legally a person, it has become a dominant economic, political and social force around the globe. This film takes an in-depth psychological examination of the organization model through various case studies. What the study illustrates is that in the its behaviour, this type of "person" typically acts like a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience. Furthermore, we see the profound threat this psychopath has for our world and our future, but also how the people with courage, intelligence and determination can do to stop it.

Starring: Jane Akre, Ray Anderson, Maude Barlow, Chris Barrett, Michael Moore
Directed by: Mark Achbar
Release date: 2003-09-10
16.

Before the Flood (2016)

5.8

A look at how climate change affects our environment and what society can do prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems, and native communities across the planet.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Elon Musk
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Release date: 2016-10-21
17.

13th (2016)

5.8

An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.

Starring: Jelani Cobb, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Michelle Alexander, Cory Booker
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Release date: 2016-10-07
18.

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

5.8

A chronicle of the production problems — including bad weather, actors' health, war near the filming locations, and more — which plagued the filming of Apocalypse Now, increasing costs and nearly destroying the life and career of Francis Ford Coppola.

Starring: Francis Ford Coppola, Eleanor Coppola, John Milius, George Lucas, Sam Bottoms
Directed by: Eleanor Coppola, Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper
Release date: 1991-09-06
19.

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

5.8

Errol Morris's unique documentary dramatically re-enacts the crime scene and investigation of a police officer's murder in Dallas.

Starring: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson
Directed by: Errol Morris
Release date: 1988-08-28
20.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

5.8

Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.

Starring: Kip Andersen
Directed by: Keegan Kuhn, Kip Andersen
Release date: 2014-07-01

Also check Best documentary movies of 2019.

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