Some of the commercial and mainstream movies do provide some insight, but as a viewer if you feel the need for a better understanding of the world through motion pictures, you should turn to Documentary movies. Not only are these mostly insightful, they can be entertaining as well if the topic pertains to the viewer’s area of interest.
Here is my list of top 10 documentary movies based on critical and public reception:
#10 Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
This is a documentary film about Nirvana’s front man and 90’s rock icon: Kurt Cobain. The film’s title takes its name from a musical collage created by the man himself with a 4-track cassette recorder.
This documentary was heavily praised by critics for the humanized portrayal of Kurt Cobain which was quite unlike previous works on the same topic.
#9 Walking with Dinosaurs (1999)
This BBC documentary was made in collaboration with renowned palaeontologists and showed Dinosaurs in a light that was only seen previously in mainstream feature films. The film used animatronics and CGI to recreate the ancient dinosaurs. This series has won two BAFTA awards and three Emmy awards.
#8 Grizzly Man(2005)
This documentary movie made by Werner Herzog is made from real footages from bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell’s adventures and features the chronicles of his life. Timothy Treadwell was killed by a bear in 2003 and the documentary in association with Discovery was made after his footage was recovered.
#7 Into the Abyss (2011)
Yet another Werner Herzog documentary, this one features the life of Michael Perry, a young man convicted of murder and the days leading upto his execution. This documentary offers an exclusive look into how the death penalty affects the life of the loved ones of the convicted and the intense pain surrounding the ordeal of dealing with one’s imminent death. This is a deep yet fair observation of the death penalty and the people sentenced, and the people they leave behind.
#6 The Central Park Five (2012)
This is a documentary about one of the most bizarre cases of miscarriage of justice where five teenagers in New York were convicted of a heinous crime that they did not commit. They spent 6-13 years in prison after which the real culprit confessed to the crime and their innocence was confirmed.
#5 The Blue Planet(2001)
David Attenborough has narrated many critically acclaimed documentaries including this epic video documentation about the history of the world’s oceans . The underwater filming involved in this documentary features species that had never been filmed before. This documentary has won many Emmy and and BAFTA TV awards.
#4 Planet Earth (2006)
This is another BBC documentary narrated by Attenborough and it is considered to be the best documentary on nature. It took five years to make and it is the most expensive documentary ever made by BBC. This series was released to huge critical acclaim and won a series of awards for it’s impeccable cinematography.
#3 The thin blue line
This documentary is along the lines of the Central Park Five as it covers the life of Randall Adams who was wrongly convicted of murdering a policeman. Randall spent 12 years in prison and some of that time on death row. What makes this documentary special is that it had significant impact on the case and led to Randall’s release. This is widely considered to be one of the best crime documentaries ever made.
#2 Man with a movie camera (1929)
Named as the best documentary of all time by Sight and Sound in 2014 ,this documentary is the most unique on this list in the sense that it is silent and has no story. This is a depiction of everyday-life in Soviet Russian cities in the 1920s but what makes the film ground breaking is the techniques employed by it’s maker Dziga Vertov such as slow motion, self-reflexive visuals, split screens etc.
#1 Shoah (1985)
This documentary by Claude Lanzmann is narration of the Holocaust through the accounts of witnesses,survivors and even perpetrators. The film primarily constitutes Lanzmann’s visits to German holocaust affected areas in Poland. Much of the footage was was recorded using hidden cameras. This documentary has garnered huge critical acclaim and even sparked a few controversies as well.
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