We asked our regular contributors through e-mail, What is the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched? We got many interesting responses. Here are some of them. We have just copied and pasted their responses, not editing them in any way.
1. Finding Vivian Maier.
Guy buys a box of negatives from a storage auction, finds thousands of extremely old, breathtaking photos that no one has ever seen.
He uses the pictures to piece together the story of the photographer.
2. Does Planet Earth count? Cause nothing can top 20 hours of it.
3. The up series.
Follows kids at the age of 7 up to 50+. Started in the 50’s and was updated every 7 years. Amazing to see the nature vs. nature argument in front of your own eyes. Also, http://truefilms.com/ lists top documentaries by category.
4. Going Clear.
It’s about people who escape from Scientology.
5. Winter on Fire.
It’s about how a student protest in Ukraine turned into a revolutionary movement. A lot of it is real footage as it unfolds. Seeing protesters gunned down by their government as it happened shook me.
6. The Jinx: The Life & Deaths of Robert Durst. I love true crime and this is the best documentary I’ve seen in that genre.
Very different but also amazing is Touching the Void. Really gripping.
A scandal/sports documentary that in real-time, evolves into a Russian assassination conspiracy.
8. The Barkley Marathons. The story of a grueling footrace based on the escape of James Earl Ray, MLK’s assassin.
Crips and Bloods: Made in America. It shows the history of violence and gangs in south LA. Very eye-opening.
9. Flight From Death.
An award-winning documentary about one of the most empirically tested ideas in psychology that sprung out of a Pulitzer Prize winning book.
The basic idea is fear of death drives some immortality project in all of us, ranging from religion(particularly fundamentalist religion) to fame to politics to procreation. When we feel our immortality project is under assault (for example, just hearing about someone who disagrees with our religion), we react with the same kind of violent emotions we would have if our lives were under attack. It also works the other way: When we are reminded of death, we become less tolerant of the “other”.
It’s basically the closest thing we have to a metatheory of motivation and shows our death anxiety is largely responsible for things as important as building civilizations and making war. It’s obviously not comprehensive (we’re far too complex to always boil down to one motivation), but the effect shows up an amazing number of places.
10. Fog of War.
Robert McNamara reflects on what he learned from his roles in WWII, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. Fascinating!!!