Documentaries present a fantastic way for us to learn about our world, a way to raise awareness and sometimes even the ability to expose corruption and atrocity. The power of the documentary should not be overlooked and some documentary-films and TV series provide some of the best film and television making out there. Here we will look at the top 10 documentaries that you must see.
10 Supersize Me
Supersize Me is one of the top 10 documentaries in terms of the impact it had at the time as it tried to draw attention to the unhealthy fast-food industry and particularly McDonlad’s. In the documentary Morgan Spurlock spends 30 days eating only McDonald’s. While the experiment is spurious (that much overeating of any substance would be dangerous), the film started a debate that has undoubtedly changed the industry for the better.
9 An Inconvenient Truth:
At the time of its release, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was considered a highly enlightening call to arms. Subsequently both the politician and the documentary has received flack for some inaccurate science and unfounded claims (and hypocrisy on the part of the creator), but this is nevertheless certainly one of the top 10 documentaries in recent times in terms of its influence alone.
8 When We Were Kings
When We Were Kings has a fascinating subject – the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman which was perhaps the greatest event in the history of boxing. The documentary follows the build up to the event as well as much of the fight itself and displays the formidable personality of Ali.
7 A Brief History of Time
This entry to the top 10 documentaries is a documentary about physicist Stephen Hawking featuring biographical interviews with friends and relatives along with an overview of his works. A highly inspiring individual – despite near total paralysis and several other challenges throughout his life Stephen Hawking has contributed hugely to the world of physics and particularly to our understanding of black holes.
6 Living With Michael Jackson
One of the must-see documentaries if only for the controversy it caused at the time, but also because of the fascinating time-capsule character study of Michael Jackson. While the documentary has been criticized for lack of objectivity and it is perhaps not an example of great documentary making – its one of the top 10 documentaries in terms of the attention it has had since.
Crumb, by Terry Zwigoff, is a documentary that examines the eccentric Robert Crumb – artist, illustrator, musician and founder of the underground comix movement. The documentary shows how his personal life was reflected in his art and is considered a moving film and one of the top 10 documentaries by many sources.
In this unusual 1994 documentary series we follow four different individuals in extraordinary circumstances – a bank robber, a terrorist, a bullied school child and a gay man trying to cure himself through Christianity. The stories themselves are fascinating, but so too is the underlying message – by applying the dramatic structure observed by Euripides in the deconstruction of the stories – director Jessica Yu attempts to illustrate that a narrative dramatic structure underpins human experience.
3 March of the Penguins
March of the Penguins is the highly-popular French documentary film which follows emperor penguins of Antartica on their journeys between the ocean and the mainland. The documentary took a year for the two isolated cinematographers to shoot, but that hard work resulted in one of the top 10 documentaries and a slew of awards.
2 Jesus Camp
Jesus Camp is a 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary that unconvered teens being taught to go into trances, crusade and even die in the name of Jesus. The documentary is so objective in its portrayal that it is praised by some fundamentalists (seeing the children as missionaries) and by those who this this as exposing the dark side of religious fanaticism.
1 Enemies of the People
Enemies of the People is a fantastic documentary that exposes atrocities and genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. In it, the journalist Thet Sambath gains an interview with Pol Pot’s second in command Nuon Chea after gaining the trust of former Khmer soldiers. Apart from this, what makes Enemies of the People one of the top 10 documentaries is the personal element – with Thet Sambath having witnessed the murder of his Father and the forced marriage of his Mother to a Khmer Rouge Coldier before escaping Cambodia himself in 1979.