What makes a documentary film important? What is it that requires referencing, remembering or even watching from them? Documentary films can be seen as hard-to-watch productions, but over the years, documentaries are becoming a growing reality. Documentary films, which were once seen as something solid and mandatory, have started to top the watch lists in recent years.
The striking, sarcastic and ultimately world-changing films mentioned here touch upon love, death, war, art and all other realities in life. All the films on the list were chosen because they are must-know, critically acclaimed, and historically significant. If you are ready, let’s take a closer look at our list of documentary films together.
1) Hoop Dreams (1994) | IMDb: 8.3
Each school day, African-American teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee meet at St. Joseph High School for 90 minutes.
These two ordinary Chicago boys boldly decide the impossible, to pro basketball glory, in this epic tale of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period by Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert, Hoop Dreams spies on young Arthur Agee and William Gates and their families in their home lives and neighborhoods, while children deal with intense pressures and navigate the complex, competitive world of scholastic athletics.
This enlightening film continues to educate and inspire audiences and is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of American documentary filmmaking.
2) Super Size Me – Inflate Me (2004) | IMDb: 7.2
Super Size Me, one of the first that comes to mind when most people in Turkey think of documentary, reveals how fast food culture affects us all over the world. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock stars as a guinea pig in this movie about the fast food industry. Inspired by America’s obesity epidemic, she’s been on the McDonald’s diet three times a day for thirty days to examine the effects of fast food consumption on the body and mind.
The effects of the experiment are troubling: His body mass increases by 13%, his cholesterol levels skyrocket, fat accumulates in his liver, and he experiences mood swings and loss of libido. Super Size Me will completely change the way you think about food and life. Super Size Me succeeds in being both fun and scary.
She explores how the fast food culture in schools, companies, and politics is driving obesity across the country. Between meals, Spurlock drives around the country and interviews a number of health and nutrition experts, lawyers, school workers, and a surprisingly overweight man who ate more than 19,000 Big Macs but maintained a healthy cholesterol level. We also come across an industry lobbyist who states that consumers need to be educated about nutrition and who surprisingly says we are “part of the problem and part of the solution”.
3) Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance – The Qatsi Trilogy (1982) | IMDb: 8.3
An unusual piece in every way, Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi caused a sensation at the time when it was released in 1983. This debut in the Qatsi Trilogy wordlessly examines the rapidly changing environments of the Northern Hemisphere in an astonishing collage created by director, cinematographer Ron Fricke and composer Philip Glass.
Transferring the audience from one breathtaking vision to the next, Koyaanisqatsi looks at our world from a real and unique perspective, moving from images of untouched nature to images depicting humanity’s addiction to technology. The hypnotic time-lapse photography techniques used in the film embellish this perspective in every sense.
It takes us to places all over the USA and shows us the heavy cost of modern technology on people and the world. Visual tone poetry contains neither dialogue nor audio narration. Koyaanisqatsi is undoubtedly one of the strangest productions on our list of documentary films.
4) When We Were Kings – Fly Like a Butterfly and Sting Like a Bee (1996) | IMDb: 8.0
The year is 1974. Muhammad Ali is 32 years old and is considered by many to be past his prime. George Foreman is ten years younger and is the world heavyweight champion. Organizer Don King wants to make a name for himself and is offering both fighters five million dollars to fight each other; When they accept, all King has to do is find the money.
Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese is found in Suko by King as a willing supporter. “ Rumble in the Jungle ” is set to be a music festival featuring some of America’s best black artists like James Brown and BB King.
Two decades in the making, When We Were Kings presents us with the charm, grace and defiance of Ali in an Academy Award-winning portrait. If you are interested in the world of boxing, When We Were Kings will be the most suitable production of our list of documentary films.
5) Man On Wire – Man On The Wire (2008) | IMDb: 7.7
On August 7, 1974, French tightrope walker Philippe Petit stepped onto a tall wire at the World Trade Center aka the twin towers in New York, which was then illegally placed between the tallest buildings in the world. He was arrested after performing on the wire for nearly an hour, 1,350 feet above Manhattan’s sidewalks.
This entertaining and captivating documentary chronicles Philippe Petit’s “highest” achievement. Man On Wire is a breathtaking production in the field of documentary films.
6) OJ: Made in America (2016) | IMDb: 8.9
OJ Simpson is a name that we often come across in the genre of documentary films. OJ: Made in America is also a history of the rise and fall of OJ, a building block of American culture. Simpson, whose high-profile murder case exposed the extent of American racial tensions and a divided nation, is scrutinized in this documentary. This lawsuit, in which many famous and high-profile names are mentioned, continues to renew itself with new developments and maintain its sensational effect, even after years.
7) Barracks (1992) | IMDb: 8.6
Baraka is a collection of professionally shot photographs of human life and religion. Capturing images of extraordinary moments from around the world, this film covers the diversity of people living on our complex planet today, from daily religious ceremonies to extreme contrasts of extraordinary beauty and brutality.
Ron Fricke’s 1992 documentary The Barracks offers a welcome cinematic relief. He challenges cinematic conventions in an exhilarating experiment that takes us on an epic visual journey to see the wonders of the world. The Barracks are as enchanting as Hogwarts, as large as the kingdom of Gondor, but presenting a real, non-fiction wonderland without the need for vast expanses of CGI trickery. Baraka is one of the first interesting productions that comes to mind when documentary films are mentioned.
8) Samsara (2011) | IMDb: 8.5
Filmed in nearly five years in twenty-five countries on five continents, Ron Fricke’s Samsara takes us through diverse worlds of holy lands, disaster zones, industrial complexes and natural wonders. Samsara is a Tibetan word meaning “the ever-turning wheel of life”.
It is used in Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism to mean “the repeated cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth “. For Fricke and his producer collaborator Mark Magidson, Samsara is a continuation of the meditative imagery they used in “The Barracks” (1992), which intensely explores the strangeness and wonder of our planet.
Both films underline the sharp contrast between the awe-inspiring world of nature and human will with their cinematography. If you are particularly interested in interesting documentary films, we strongly recommend that you watch this magical documentary after watching Baraka.
9) Dominion (2018) | IMDb: 9.0
An Australian documentary film reveals how and in what ways animals are abused by humanity. Revealing the dark side of modern animal agriculture through drones, hidden cameras and handheld cameras, the feature film explores the morality and validity of our dominance over the animal kingdom. After watching Dominion, you will begin to question your daily life. Bringing a new breath to the genre of documentary films, this production is presented by many famous names, especially Joaquin Phoenix and Sia.
10) Grizzly Man (2005) | IMDb: 7.8
There are limits in nature, but the man you will see in this documentary lived beyond these limits for thirteen years.
Werner Herzog’s documentary about “Grizzly Man” Timothy Treadwell and thirteen summers in a National Park in Alaska were actually footage of one man’s attempt to protect grizzly bears. The film is framed with unique images and a glimpse into the souls of people who sacrificed themselves for nature. This is a devastating yet enlightening look at grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October 2003 while living among endangered animals in Alaska.
11) Häxan – Witches (1922) | IMDb: 7.7
Häxan, one of the ancient documentaries released in 1922 for moviegoers, is actually a work inspired by the Malleus Malleficarum, or Witch Hammer, a book written about witches in the Middle Ages.
Grave robbery, torture, possessed nuns and an evil cult: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that medieval witches suffered the same hysteria as psychiatric patients of the early 1900s.
But the movie itself is far from serious – instead, it’s a witch’s cauldron of gruesome, nasty, dark humor. Christensen’s mix-and-match approach to the genre combines gothic horror and documentary filmmaking to deliver an experience like no other in the history of cinema.
12) Waltz With Bashir – Waltz with Bashir (2008) | IMDb: 8.0
‘Waltz with Bashir’ is a devastating animated film that tries to reconstruct how and why thousands of innocent civilians were massacred because those with the power to stop them failed to act. It’s hard to say why they didn’t act. Didn’t they see? Were they not aware?
Director and Israeli army veteran Ari Folman interviews friends and veterans about their memories of the 1982 Lebanon war and specifically the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut. The use of animation allowed Folman to paint personal memories and dreams.
13) Icarus – Icarus (2017) | IMDb: 7.9
As director Bryan Fogel investigates the hidden world of illegal doping in sport, renegade Russian scientist Dr. He connects with Grigory Rodchenkov. Fogel and Rodchenkov are getting closer, despite the shocking allegations that dozens of Skype calls, urine samples, and ill-administered hormone injections have placed Rodchenkov at the center of Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping program.
14) Stories We Tell – The Stories We Tell (2012) | IMDb: 7.6
What is the truth? What is true? What do we remember? Using home movies, photographs and interviews, Sarah Polley explores the life of her mother, a creative but secretive woman. But when talking to relatives, his interest lies in the big picture of what families hold for real.
Canadian actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley delves into some secrets about her mother and interviews a group of family members and friends whose credibility varies according to their impact on events remembered in different ways; Meanwhile, a string of questions remains to be answered, as memory is always changing, and the discovery of truth often depends on who is telling the story.
15) LA 92 (2017) | IMDb: 8.2
More than twenty-five years after the beating of Rodney King sparked a wave of protests, riots and fires in Los Angeles, the underlying combustible conditions that led to this eruption of violence remain.
In 1992, in Los Angeles, after a short car chase, police pulled the unarmed Rodney King out of his car and brutally beat him. The event was recorded by a photographer living nearby and its video released to the news media, spawning an unprecedented series of marches, protests and riots. Academy Award winners Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s critically acclaimed film, LA 92, chronicles King’s arrest, beating, trial and subsequent events that shook the city of Los Angeles, in news footage and stills from that era.
16) Demirkırat: The Birth of a Democracy (1991) | IMDb: 8.9
We wouldn’t be able to add a documentary from Turkey to our list. Demirkırat, one of the most important productions in the history of Turkish documentary filmmaking, brings the Turkish political history together with Mehmet Ali Birand’s breathtaking storytelling.
A documentary on Turkish political history, about the multi-party period, the Democratic Party government and the May 27 coup. Eyewitness interviews with journalists, civil servants, politicians and family members are also included in the documentary. In fact, these interviews are often given directly by the perpetrators of these historical events.
A 32. Demirkırat, which is a day series, is actually the beginning of the Turkish political history documentaries that will follow. 32nd again after finishing this series. You can continue to get to know our political history closely with documentaries of Gün, such as 12 March and Özallı Yıl.
17) The Last Dance – The Last Dance (2020) | IMDb: 9.1
A 10-part documentary that tells the untold story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty with rare, never-before-seen images and sounds from the 1997-98 championship season, plus over 100 interviews with famous figures and basketball’s biggest names.
In the documentary, you have the opportunity to listen to stories about Michael Jordan from many legendary names who have made NBA history. Shedding light on Michael Jordan’s NBA performance and his emotional bond with the Chicago Bulls, Last Dance reveals that many of the dramatic events behind these stories are actually very different from what one might think.
18) Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb – Secrets of Sakkara (2020) | IMDb: 7.2
This documentary follows a team of local archaeologists who explore never-before-discovered passages, wells and tombs, and brings together the secrets of Egypt’s most important discovery in Saqqara in nearly 50 years.
19) Three Identical Strangers (2018) | IMDb: 7.6
New York, 1980. Three complete strangers discover by chance that they are identical triplets, separated at birth. The joyful meeting of 19-year-olds brings them international fame, but it also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives and could change our understanding of human nature forever.
20) Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) | IMDb: 8.4
Fred Rogers used puppets and games to explore complex social issues: race, disability, equality, and tragedy helped form the American concept of childhood. He spoke directly to the children, and the children enthusiastically answered him. Today, however, its impact is still unclear. Have we achieved Fred’s ideal of good neighbors?
21) Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey – A Metalsmith’s Journey (2005) | IMDb: 8.1
The film discusses the origins and origins of many subgenres of metal, including New Wave of British Heavy Metal, power metal, Nu metal, glam metal, thrash metal, black metal and death metal. Dunn uses a family tree-type flowchart to document some of the most popular metal subgenres. The film also explores various aspects of heavy metal culture.
22) Food, Inc. – Food Inc. (2008) | IMDb: 7.8
You will never look at food the same way again. Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner examines how giant corporations are taking over all aspects of the food chain in the United States, from the farms where our food is grown, to the chain restaurants and supermarkets where it’s sold.
Narrated by author and activist Eric Schlosser, the film features interviews with average Americans about their eating habits, commentary by food experts like Michael Pollan, and disturbing footage shot in large-scale animal processing plants.
23) Earthlings – Earthlings (2005) | IMDb: 8.7
Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, Earthlings describes the daily practices of the world’s largest industries, all based on animals for profit.
24) Until The Light Takes Us – Until The Light Takes Us (2008) | IMDb: 7.1
It chronicles the history, ideology, and aesthetics of Norwegian black metal, a musical subculture notorious for its unique musical and visual aesthetic as well as for a string of murders and church arson. This documentary is the first film ever to truly shine a light on a movement that has been shrouded in rumors and disguised as false and shallow depictions. Featuring exclusive interviews with the musicians themselves, Until The Light Takes Us explores every aspect of the controversial black metal movement that has captured the world’s attention.
25) Burden of Dreams – The Weight of Dreams (1982) | IMDb: 7.9
Amazon rainforest, 1979. The crew of Fitzcarraldo (1982), a film directed by German director Werner Herzog, soon encounters problems of casting, tribal struggles and accidents, among many other setbacks; but when it’s nothing compared to dragging a big steamer up a mountain, Herzog adopts a certain crazy way to make his vision a reality.
For nearly five years, famed German documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately sought to complete Fitzcarraldo, one of the most ambitious and challenging films of his career, which tells the story of a man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle.
Documentary filmmaker Les Blank is made even more dangerous by Herzog’s determination to shoot the most daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence that requires hundreds of native Peruvians to fly a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a mountaintop. , caught the development of this production. The result is an extraordinary documentary of the filmmaking process and a unique take on the determined mission of one of cinema’s most fearless directors.
26) Gates of Heaven – Gates of Heaven (1978) | IMDb: 7.4
In the mid-1970s, Morris, who had never made a movie, read newspaper articles about the financial collapse of the Foothill Pet Cemetery in Los Altos, California. After many legal troubles, the dead animals were dug up and moved to Bubbling Well Pet. Memorial Park in Napa Valley. Thinking there might be a movie about these events, Morris went to interview director of photography Ned Burgess and the first cemetery’s paraplegic operator, Floyd McClure, and the Calvin Harberts family of Bubbling Well.
The documentary film they made; It has become an underground legend and a litmus test for viewers who can’t decide whether it’s serious or satirical, funny or sad, sympathetic or sarcastic. Morris has become one of America’s best-known documentarians, with productions such as “The Thin Blue Line”, “A Brief History of Time” and his new album “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control”. But “The Gates of Heaven” cannot be classified by itself, it remains in a provocative, seductive category.
Other content you should check out:
This post is also available in: Türkçe