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Ask HN: What are some of the best documentaries you've seen?
650 points by rasulkireev 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 555 comments
This questions has been asked before [0][1][2], but I'm thinking that in the last 4 years something new and exciting has been created or discovered.

If you could describe in a couple of words why you mentioned what you mentioned, that would be fantastic.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18085765

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18537512

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18271167




The Death of Yugoslavia (1996) [1] [2]. Won the BAFTA and Peabody awards that year.

It's a BBC documentary in six episodes about the conflict that caused the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the wars in the Balkans.

It stands out among many documentaries for being a truly dispassionate moment-to-moment record of events. No sensationalism, no grand-standing, just the facts.

If you're tired of the Netflix style of documentary — lots of talking heads quickly edited together for sound bites, dramatic music, re-enactments — then this is for you. Sadly, too few documentaries are produced in this style anymore.

Edit: Looks like the episodes are on YouTube [3].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Yugoslavia

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00gfbpy

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj9Zw5fN3rE&list=PLdw7wnKe0w...


I really can't stand the new Netflix style documentaries as you call them. Like, there's no coherent sentence or point being made by the speaker when it's literally not even full sentences just parts of sentences being strung together. It's really disorienting and obviously any nuance that the original interviewee was trying to get across is completely lost when every word they say is taken out of context into whatever the point is that the editors wanted to make. How are people enjoying this?


I suppose it's all because of the topic or the content itself. They try to use any technique to keep the view and to make it longer. They sometimes build miniseries from something that could be an hour max.


Sort of loosely related.

when I first streamed netflix years ago - my queue was full of 5-star movies and shows to watch.

As I worked my way through my queue I developed a pattern. Everything I hadn't watched became 5-star documentaries.

I would develop "documentary fatigue" where there were so many well-documented, well produced and important issues to learn about, that I would quickly saturate and at that point I wouldn't watch documentaries anymore.

I would literally put 2-star scifi movies with unbelievable monsters or cataclysms before all the 5-star documentaries.


What do you mean by 5-star? 5 on netflix? imdb?

Is there a good example of this style?


The Netflix documentary "13th" comes to mind. At about the 19 minute mark:

Speaker 1: The election of ronald reagan was in many ways transformative in a negative sense

Speaker 2: President Richard Nixon was the first to coin the term "a war on drugs" but president ronald reagan turned that rhetorical war into a literal war

Reagan: It's back to school time for america's children, and while drug and alcohol abuse cuts across all generations, it's especially damaging to our young people on whom our future depends

Speaker 2: The modern war on drugs was declared by ronald reagan in 1982

Reagan: As we mobilize for this national crusade, I'm mindful that drugs are a constant temptation for millions:

Speaker 3: Popular opinion polls of the day show that it wasn't an issue for most people in the United States. But reagan was determined to put this onto the agenda to define it as a problem

Reagan: A war against drugs is a war of individual battles

Speaker 3: Reagan used his wife for example in this "just say no" campaign

Reagan: She has helped so many of our young people to say no to drugs. Nancy, much credit belongs to you

Clip of 80s anti drug commercial: This is your brain. This is drugs (cracks egg into pan). This is your brain on drugs.

Speaker 4: I joined it. And some people said...

I think that's a pretty decent example


There is this satire of Netflix documentaries that sums the style:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BUrNe3Vhtk


I just came here to suggest the same, since I just watched it recently again. Coming from a Bosnia and born just before the war, it was really chilling watching it. I think it portrays the conflict in Balkans in some neutral and fair way.

Interesting story: during the high school, in 2006-2008, we weren't allowed to have lectures about the war. That didn't stop our history class teacher to play us this documentary. We would watch it during the class and it would take us couple of classes to finish, since it's pretty long.

Also, the full documentary is here [1] and not segmented like OP's link.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVUg-VoPAeA&ab_channel=Triac...


I just watched this while traveling in Croatia and Bosnia, and I thought it was an incredible documentary! It's also very interesting that it was made only 6 month after the Dayton Accords ended the war. It gives you a very in-the-moment view of events. Definitely worth checking out!


+1 An amazing documentary. It presents the war from unbiased perspective. Something that I wasn't able to get (been living there, including during the war). Learnt so much from it.


None of the documentaries related to this war paint an objective picture of what happened, everyone has a dog in the fight.


Didn't a guy putting a bottle in his ass start the demise of Yugoslavia? Do they mention him at all?


To save everyone one Google search: [1]. It is/was apparently not clear if the guy was masturbating or being assaulted - that's the point of the story.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%90or%C4%91e_Martinovi%C4%8...


Unfortunately that style of documentaries far predates Netflix.

Fortunately, there are also more good documentaries being produced than ever!


“The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis.

https://youtu.be/eJ3RzGoQC4s

It goes through each decade of the 1900s and explains how Freud’s psychology and the new field of marketing completely reshaped society. For the first time in my life I feel like I understood the “why” of how things work in American society. This film is probably best if you’re age 40+ and actually remember some of the events.


+1 for any Curtis documentary. They aren't something you necessarily need to agree with to enjoy. Most of them involve him attempting to stitch together an over-arching narrative for events of our time.


Also see The Loving Trap for explanation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1bX3F7uTrg


Haha, came here to post this. it's a short explaier about Curtis, less than favourable. It does make you laugh though:)


Yup. Curtis does a great job of explaining unintended consequences, humans being wrong, the world is far more complex than you know.


Same here. I love watching them. They are very entertaining but don't care if his theme is sensible or not.


Amazed given the site we are on nobody mentions "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" by Curtis.

I loved it, even being in the industry at the center of the topic.

However the narrative is judged, it at least has a spark I find has died in our own.


I was really pleased to find this on The Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/all-watched-over-by-machines-of-...

Adam Curtis is great.

I recommend even looking into his older material, such as The Mayfair Set (won a BAFTA Award in 2000). Another older documentary of his that I recommend is The Way of All Flesh (1997) which is a rather remarkable story on HeLa cells with a depth I hadn't encountered before. To give you an idea of the subject matter, here's a quote from Wikipedia:

"HeLa cell contamination has become a pervasive worldwide problem – affecting even the laboratories of many notable physicians, scientists, and researchers, including Jonas Salk. The HeLa contamination problem also contributed to Cold War tensions. The USSR and the USA had begun to cooperate in the war on cancer launched by President Richard Nixon, only to find that the exchanged cells were contaminated by HeLa."

Some of his material is viewabled on BBC iPlayer if you have access to that. His older material can be challenging to find. You can download his complete collection via torrents.


I really enjoy Adam Curtis’s documentaries, including “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind” but I always have to be careful watching any of his content because it tends to make me feel depressed.


I don't mind a bit of Adam Curtis, largely for the soundtracks. Still hugely enjoy this though https://www.tomscott.com/infinite-adam-curtis/


https://youtu.be/x1bX3F7uTrg obligatry response whenever anything by Adam Curtis is offered up. Sorry, I'm largely of the opinion that it is (well made) boomer-aimed catastrophe porn designed to give the viewer a smug sense of having "esoteric knowledge".


There is some truth to this parody, but there is also a lot to learn from Century of Self, if you weren't already aware of, say, Edward Bernaise and his role in American society. Now his doc HyperNormalisation, I took nothing away from it, but oh boy was it an amazing way to spend the evening. The music and imagery is fricking amazing.


i think you should watch it again. i feel like it has become significantly more relevant since it was released.


Nearly anything can be parodied in such a way to apparently diminish thentarget of the parody.


> boomer-aimed catastrophe porn designed to give the viewer a smug sense of having "esoteric knowledge"

I'll just balance it out with some TED optimism porn.


opens arms



Adam Curtis likes the parody.


I thought I was the only one feeling this way.


Yeah, I tend to agree.

I've watched a couple and they ask pretty good questions if the answers he gives require some additional research/critical thinking/knowledge of history.

The last documentary I watched, Hypernormalization, seemed to give platform to and justify the need for _more_ individualism via Trump-esque critique on Leftist ideologue. That is totally fine, but I can see how people can watch his documentaries accept many of the leaps in logic.


https://arquivo.pt/wayback/20151114022454/http://laurenceten...

Is a much more worrying link that should be obligatory when he comes up.

Curtis is heavily linked to the "Living Marxism" crowd, who started as the journal of the "Revolutionary Communist Party" in the UK which mutated into "Spiked" the extreme right-wing libertarian clique that pop up everywhere in the UK press. And appear to be some kind of personality cult around a guy who co-wites some of the documentaries.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Furedi

He appears to be some weird Tony Blair/Jordan Peterson hybrid.

> George Monbiot has elicited an admission from the managing editor of Spiked Online that they have received $300,000 in funding from the Charles Koch Foundation,[11] a fact not declared on their website.[12] He has accused Furedi of overseeing extreme right-wing libertarian campaigns "against gun control, against banning tobacco advertising and child pornography, and in favour of global warming, human cloning and freedom for corporations". Monbiot also accuses him of leading entryism of ex-RCPers into "key roles in the formal infrastructure of public communication used by the science and medical establishment", to pursue an agenda in favour of genetic engineering.[13] The journalist Nick Cohen has described the RCP as a "weird cult"[14] whose Leninist discipline, disruptive behaviour and selfish publicity-seeking have remained unaltered during the various tactical shifts in the face it presents to the wider world.[15]

Someone should make a documentary about them, how do you go politically from actively celebrating the deaths of British soldiers to pushing for Brexit? There's got to be some amazing back story in that, and there's loads of "No way" moments.


I have to put in a word for Kenneth Clark's series called Civilisation. There's also a book. You can find all the episodes on YouTube with a simple search. They have almost all of them in a playlist but for some weird reason the first episode was deleted from the playlist, but exists separately on YouTube so you can still watch all the episodes.


I watched it when I was 20 and it changed my life.


This is a work of art--I must say though that I remember thinking of his subject as a bit of a mirror for his work: in the first episode he remember him talking about propaganda in its many forms, and then getting the impression that he was using those exact techniques on the viewer within the documentary itself.

This would only be hypocritical if he claimed in the doc that the techniques weren’t effective or were unethical. Honestly I haven’t seen it recently enough to know if he does this, just saying.

I like it but frankly don't get a solid 'revelation' out of it. Hypnotic, that's about it (for me).


I thought how individualism is just something that was marketed uppon us was pretty powerful. Also how medical science became more about grouping symptoms than understanding where those things originated from.


  individualism (...) was marketed uppon us
Maybe but I tend to favor materialistic explanations before anything 'concerted'. So I'd say individualism was always here but blossomed fully when abundance came.


One should immediately watch “Human Resources” after this one.

Be prepared to feel rage and depression, but it’s so damn informative.


"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiro_Dreams_of_Sushi

If you're a developer / engineer you'll admire the professionalism. And more importantly value proposition of your work.


I think Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a fantastic documentary and recommend it also.

I came away with a different impression, in that I certainly don't admire or want to share Jiro's attitude to work, because the perfection-at-all-costs approach looked like it had a pretty devastating fallout on his wife and his two sons. It's a fascinating documentary in that you'll either come away saying "how inspirational!" or "I'm running 100 miles away from that", and that's interesting in itself.


I agree to with you on the cost of perfectionism - I also didn't care for how women were treated at the restaurant (seating arrangements etc), but like you mentioned it's a fantastic documentary.

I think for me, I came out thinking "damn I truly do may be only 25% dedication to my craft".


It was probably a typo, but just in case English is your second language: We tend to use "don't care for" or "didn't care for" in this context.

If you say "I didn't care for the way women were treated..", it expresses disapproval.

We use "don't/didn't care about" to mean exactly the opposite. "I didn't care about" means that it doesn't matter to you at all.


Thanks for the feedback - yes I'm not a native English speaker (I'm trilingual)


It's a weird quirk, now that I think about it, as a native English speaker. It's only a change in present / past tense and the preposition, but communicates something completely different.

I guess reflecting on something external is always assumed in the past tense (I didn't care for...), while reflecting on ones own opinions (I don't care for...) suggests personal belief.

And "for" (external) vs "about" (self) intensifies the above.

But there aren't any real logistical or constant rules for why the above is, in English. :(


It's a little odd yes, but I think it counts as a phrasal verb? (https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/phrasal-verbs-list.ht... - eg. "throw out" vs. "throw up")

I've been learning Russian lately and re-discovering English through my lessons. Phrasal verbs are very present in Russian (as prepositions mainly), and I didn't realize how when I learned English they kind of came to me naturally and now I'm having such a hard time with them.

But when you think about it, phrasal verbs are fucking weird. For example, the various particles you can put after "send" (send out, send in, send up, send down, send away, send for, send into) are all various synonyms of "dispatching"; whereas "turn" as a phrasal verb is WAY more diverse (turn out, turn in, turn up, turn down, turn away, turn into, turn for: all different meanings).


I often use past tense because in my tribe (Kalenjin for those interested)- when you do historical commentary you don't interject with your current feelings. You say what you felt then (e.g while watching the documentary) unless you talking about how you feel now vs then. It's very contexual.

Rules in English can be confusing [1] ;)

[1] - https://youtu.be/kXH3HDE9Czo


I gather most people from eastern or central Africa are polyglot and much better at switching languages than I am. On behalf of English, I apologize for its irregularity. ;)

So in your first language, how would you express the idea of "I saw a documentary in the past, felt some way at the time, and now feel a different way?" To the extent translation is possible.

Languages fascinate me. Especially in terms of the constructs or concepts they can or can't express.


If you use present tense then it’s how you feel now with no reference when you started feeling so. Past tense implies you felt so then and you still feel so now (linear feeling is assumed). If your feelings have changed then you say how you felt originally and qualify it for the present (now I feel).


as someone that lived in Japan for over a decade I found it made up. The documentary people could have picked almost any indie sushi restaurant in Japan. I'm not sure what made Jiro special

I agree tho it's a good documentary for seeing someone taking their work so seriously and the fallout from it as well as for seeing how much work might go into certain kinds of food prep and therefore making me appreciate it more.


I think the Michelin three star rating for the restaurant is why it was picked. A line I remember and found hilarious was that Jiro’s place was the only three star restaurant without its own bathroom.


I just watched “10 years with Miyazaki” and had the exact same sentiments.


you may well be correct but society would be a lot less advanced if not for the works of 'unbalanced' individuals


In a way I do agree with you. See Newton, Einstein, MLK, Jobs, Musk, all have (arguably) revolutionary impacts on the world and yet they didn't do much for their family life. It is not commendable, and yet, it does seem to be the case that certain individuals who pursue their work above all else end up with qualitative progress in their fields.


One documentary that demonstrates finding flow (happiness) in work is Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011), which is the story of Japanese master chef Jiro Ono, who is a Shokunin, an expert craftsman who strives for perfection and feels great fulfillment and joy from yearning to improve bit by bit. He explains it thusly,

"You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably. […] . Even at my age, after decades of work, I don’t think I have achieved perfection. But I feel ecstatic all day. I love making sushi. That’s the spirit of the Shokunin."

From:

https://moviewise.substack.com/p/going-through-an-existentia...


And after watching that, I would recommend the Documentary Now! episode Juan Likes Rice and Chicken.


That was an hilarious parody! Thanks


What do you mean by value proposition? I don't remember seeing much that would apply to my work.


The waiting list is like a year long - even with high cost! Most of us would devalue our craft by opening up bigger restaurant or even multiple locations.

For me that translated to valuing my craft enough that people are willing to wait for and pay for it at whatever cost I set.


I would say it’s mostly an attitude around quality that is likely applicable to any sort of craftsmanship.


Just finished watching it, it was great. Thanks for the suggestion!


The greatest documentary to me is not a film but a series - The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski.

It charts the cultural and technological milestones that brought humanity to where it is today. Well, the 1970s rather than today, since it is quite old. However don't let that put you off! It is a BBC documentary of the highest calibre. David Attenborough commissioned its production.

Bronowski is an incredible, if unusual, presenter - he has an interesting history (he personally knew Einstein, Von Neumann, and others), is knowledgeable in many fields, and doesn't waste a word. His off the cuff monologue at Auschwitz where some of his family died at the hands of the nazis is both heart-wrenching and profound. But thays just one of many incredible moments.

I have watched this countless times, and am always struck by the scope, scale, and beauty of the production.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ascent_of_Man


I watched The Ascent of Man when it first came out - I was probably 8 or 9 at the time.

That scene at Auschwitz where he walks into the pond is burned into my memory:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltjI3BXKBgY

Edit: It was many years later that I noticed the reference to Leo Szilard, reminding me of this quote from The Making of the Atomic Bomb:

"In London, where Southampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin again in early afternoon. When Szilard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Szilard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woes, the shape of things to come..."


I'm not sure how I originally came across it, it was certainly well before my time. But I'm glad I did. It is incredibly dense - especially when compared to today's TV shows - but perfectly understandable. Bronowski's passion for the subject matter is evident at all times, and his humanist take on science lends an endearing quality.

That's a beautiful excerpt, thanks for sharing.


I doubt if I actually took very much in from watching it - other than wanting to be a scientist! My dad seemed to thing getting me to watch it would be good for me.

However, I still remember that scene nearly 50 years later.


That moment when he stands in front of the remnants of Auschwitz, kneels down, reaches into the sludge of ashes and says, “We need to touch people”.

It would be an Ask HN in and of itself to ask: What broadcaster today, YouTube or otherwise, comes even close in education, trust in the intelligence of their audience, and sheer balls?


I'd love contribute to that thread. I'd suggest ~10am PST on a Tuesday, as that seems to be the best time for threads to get going. I'd love to have some more heroes to put up on the wall for kiddos.

As for the question: I'd say Hodan Nalayeh who was killed by Al-Shabab in 2019. Her work in Jubaland is sorely missed these days. She was more of a journalist/influencer/founder though, so I'm not sure if it totally fits.


I posted it. Didn't get any traction though. Maybe you should try. I think it would be a great thread. Just a matter of timing and luck.

There's an accompanying booklet which comes with the DVD box set that explains how in most other scenes he does many takes, but for that scene in Auschwitz he does it in one, unscripted. Truly a powerful moment.

I'd love to see such a thread! I personally can't think of anyone comparable to Bronowski given those criteria. But even someome in the same ballpark would be interesting to hear about


Ok then. Tuesday at ten it is.

Gary Hustwits design trilogy:

Helvetica - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helvetica_(film)

“about typography and graphic design, centered on the eponymous typeface.”

Objectified - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectified

“examining the role of everyday non-living objects, and the people who design them, in our daily lives.”

Urbanized - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanized

“discusses how cities are designed, and it features interviews with urban planners and architects“

They are beautifully made films, and he interviews some of the most influential designers of the last century.

It funny how many times I’ve told people to watch Helvetica and they have just looked at me and asked how there could be a film about a “font”. It’s so much more, the films really cover design methodology and how it influences our every day lives.


Of you like the Helvetica story then try the excellent episode "Jonathan Hoefler: Typeface Design" on the Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design


Another masterpiece of his is https://www.hustwit.com/rams and I'm quoting directly from the website:

> Rams is a documentary portrait of Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers alive, and a rumination on consumerism, sustainability, and the future of design.

I watched it during initial COVID lockdown when Gary offered it for free for 24 hours it was an amazing experience to watch...and I'm a programmer, not a designer (LOL!) and loved it like crazy!


These are some of my favorites. I have Helvetica and Objectified posters in my house.


Yes, same here. I have the objectified poser above my desk.


How dare you objectify a poser!


The World at War - BBC documentary series about WWII. Shows humanity simultaneously at it's best and worst.

The Vietnam War - Ken Burns documentary series. Very balanced and sobering take on the Vietnam war, events leading to the Vietnam war, and unrest in the US during that period.

The Fog of War - Errol Morris doc about Robert McNamara.

The Salt of the Earth - Doc about photographer Sebastião Salgado

Alone in the Wilderness - Dick Proenneke films himself building and living in a remote cabin in Alaska

Also can't go wrong with Adam Curtis.


Any of Ken Burns' documentaries are good, The Civil War and Vietnam being two of the best. Even his take on Prohibition and Baseball are very watchable.


I loved the Civil War, and I think the quality of Vietnam was great too, but it made me so angry I had to stop watching it. I am not of an age where I was in danger of going, but I had siblings that were. They luckily did not go.

I liked his Jazz one too.


> I loved the Civil War, and I think the quality of Vietnam was great too, but it made me so angry I had to stop watching it.

I'm just curious - what particularly made you angry about it?

My father served in the military, but was posted as a medical orderly to West Germany rather than Vietnam at the time, this was in the early 70's. He tended to some of the wounded guys getting repatriated after getting physical therapy, and said the experience had destroyed far more lives than just KIAs on the battlefield.


> what particularly made you angry about it

There were lots of things all pointing to essentially the same issue; the fact "we" (I'm American) _KNEW_ that it was almost certainly unwinnable and kept it going despite all the facts and just kept throwing young people at the problem.

And partially because it was my country doing it. The lack of transparency and outright lying. It's something I need to just get over I guess; it's what gov'ts do.


I'm really surprised Ken Burns isn't higher in this thread.

Basically anything he made is a gem (though Civil War could use a slight correction these days, mainly because all the work done on the consequences - "Reconstruction" by PBS would probably be a good complement).


Just finished Dick Proenneke’s books, which the movie was based on. Such a great read that sounds boring - reading a guy’s journal as he lived alone in Alaska for nearly 30 years - but it felt like a warm blanket each time I’d dip into the books.

Want to note that he didn’t like the documentary. He felt it was too staged and inauthentic and didn’t use his voice as the voiceover. He mentioned that he wouldn’t do it again if asked.


In a similar vein to Dick Proenneke's book, have a read of "An Island to Oneself" by Tom Neale. It's about a guy who lived alone on a remote island in the Pacific. Incredibly calm and peaceful book about living a life completely removed from the endless complications of modern life. It's out of print but pretty sure you can download it as an ebook.


Sorry to nitpick but The World at War is Thames Television. I think they became ITV.

I also used to think it was BBC because of the quality and dignity of the production, I wouldn't be surprised to hear some people claim this is an example of the Mandela effect.


Yes it was originally made by Thames Television. Now only available on DVD as far as I can tell.


They can be found on DailyMotion.

https://www.dailymotion.com/brutalcombat/videos


You are correct.


Love seeing Dick Proenneke mentioned here. My grandpa (also named Dick) built a hunting cabin with Proenneke on the adjacent lot.

Both structures are still there at Twin Lakes, and are operated by Alaska State Parks now.

We have some cool photos and stories from that time.


Similar to "Alone in the Wilderness" I recommend a recent doco series "The Last Alaskans". Unlike most recent reality/doco style shows it's not the usual melodramatic, exaggerated rubbish. The characters speak for themselves and its allowed to "breathe". The TV series is inspired by the book "The Final Frontiersman" by Heimo Korth. Heimo is one of the characters in the series.


The fog of war is amazing.


I'd be more careful when using the word "amazing".

I agree that technically it's well done, but IMO it leaves too much space to McNamara to write his own narrative.

McNamara's role in the escalation of Vietnam War and the U-turn he did in the Senate hearings towards the end of his term as Secretary of Defense is something he IMO never properly tried to reflect upon...


He's still a human being and I think he showed incredible reflection. It is apparent that the events of the past still weigh on him. I came out with more respect than I had going in. The Vietnam war was a tragedy.

For a different view look at the Rumsfeld doc. Rumsfeld doesn't give a single inch but I probably wouldn't either if being asked about a still ongoing conflict.


Well, comparison to Rumsfeld is just setting the bar too low.

Don't take me as saying that Fog of War is bad or that McNamara is completely missing self reflection. Far from it. On first seeing some 15 years ago I have been impressed as well.

It's only over the years as I kept finding more and more about just how much responsibility for Vietnam does McNamara bear that I found that he's somehow trying to present himself as a technocrat without much in the way of a moral responsibility. Sort of a Nuremberg defense by steering clear of the ethical aspects almost altogether.


The World at War was actually produced by Thames TV for ITV, not the BBC, back in the days when they made documentaries. It’s an excellent series though. Laurence Olivier is a great narrator.


Is that actually Dick building the cabin, or is it a reenactment based on his diary/book?


He filmed (and narrated) himself, AFAIK.


Oh cool


Fires of Kuwait - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tUzkF_Dp8M

A first hand account of the firefighters who were sent to cap the oil wells that Saddam set on fire during his attempt to invade the country.

Senna https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aPLOQeSHrM The story of famed F1 driver. I'm not a racing fan but this one was amazing.

Apollo 11 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Co8Z8BQgWc Completely new footage was found of the complete Apollo 11 mission. The best doc of the space race, by far.


I would also recommend Moon Machines[0] for an amazing in-depth experience of the Apollo program:

Part 1: The Saturn V Rocket

Part 2: The Command Module

Part 3: The Navigation Computer

Part 4: The Lunar Module

Part 5: The Space Suit

Part 6: The Lunar Rover

Available on vimeo[1] and youtube.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Machines

[1] https://vimeo.com/673970849


For a poetic treatment of the fires of Kuwait, see Lessons of Darkness by Werner Herzog:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104706/

Trailer: https://youtu.be/vMIM-ma2juo


Ive got that one on my watchlist, as well as Baraka once I find somebody with an 8k setup.


Yep, love it, too. But definitely more of an acquired taste.


If you like documentaries about the space race, the Washington Post has a fantastic podcast series called "Moonrise" (https://www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/).


I would also recommend Senna. I don't care for F1 or racing at all but I couldn't stop watching because it was so gripping.


+1 on Fires of Kuwait, I saw that in a theater in the `90's and I've never forgotten the shot that starts at 2:28 in the YT video although it is minor in comparison to more recent footage (from Beirut and Ukraine for example).


> A first hand account of the firefighters who were sent to cap the oil wells that Saddam set on fire during his attempt to invade the country.

Just watched the first few minutes and this line strikes me as inaccurate, just based on other things I've read/watched about Saddam's burning of oil wells:

"In a final act of vengeance, Saddam ordered the detonation of almost 700 oil wells"

I could be misinformed, but wasn't Saddam using the burning oil wells to limit visibility from above once it became clear he was doomed as long as the eyes in the sky were unimpeded? AIUI it wasn't some purely vengeful act.


You may be right, but it really has no bearing on this film/story at all. I just rewatched some of it and forgot how amazing the cinematography is!


5 years old - https://www.alphagomovie.com/

It's extremely well done and shows how Google beat the best Go player with AI to the surprise of everyone, especially those native to Asia, where Go is part of spiritual ideas and practices. They were certain the machine would fail and when it won with moves of sublime beauty the entire Go community was stunned and humbled. The movie says it was China's "Sputnik moment"


The Up Series[0]. It's a series that follows a group from children from age 7 through old age, and it's still going (in theory - the creator died last year). Seeing entire lives compressed into a few hours was very impactful to me.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/The-Up-Series/dp/B074MGWDPF


The Wikipedia description may be more informative:

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_(film_series)>


Can’t upvote this enough. It’s fascinating what happens to each of the kids as some of them drop out of the series and then come back later. I hope it lives on past Michael Apted’s death in 2021.


Already so many good recommendations here, so just a few I enjoyed but haven't seen mentioned:

— This excellent 2013 re-working of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle (not a proper doc, but if you like Adam Curtis, you'll probably like this). If you like to consider whether the world we've built is good for us, look no further: https://vimeo.com/60328678

— Pump Up The Volume, a 2001 BBC doc about the rise of House music. Maybe the best work on this topic ever produced, covering the early years as disco evolved into Daft Punk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_Hz6FQyVJ8

— Paris Is Burning, a slice-of-time doc about the 80's Ballroom drag scene in NYC. You can see the roots of many elements of popular culture documented here, shown through performances and conversations featuring some of the stars of the scene at that time. This one's on HBOMax these days, but I'm sure it can be found elsewhere online.


Paris Is Burning is such a fantastic documentary. I can't recommend it enough. Such a vivid look into this unique gay community, with all the memorable characters. Also a great slice of NYC in the 80's.


Nate Harrison's "Can I get an Amen?" on the history of the Amen break: https://archive.org/details/NateHarrisonCanIGetAnAmen


"pump up the volume" is also a cool movie about high school pirate radio

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pump_Up_the_Volume_(film)


Exit Through the Gift Shop - an amusing documentary about somebody trying to find Banksy (a street artist), and much more, supposingly directed by Banksy himself.

There is some debate if it is documentary or not (the story is almost too good), but it seems the evidence suggests it is real.

EDIT: sorry, I missed the "last 4 years" part in the question. This film is older than that.


I still think about the final line from banksy often, paraphrasing here:

“I use to encourage everyone to make art. I don’t do that much anymore.”


Definitely this, my subconscious can't let go of the question as to whether this documentary is an exquisitely elaborate hoax or a rare capture of a "truth is stranger than fiction".

And if the goal was to create that confusion... meta-wow.


Masterpiece, one of my top 3 films about art, along with “Achilles and the Tortoise” and “Vincent and Theo”


The Act of Killing - it's hard to even describe the premise. Its a present-day (2012) profile on participants in the 1960s mass killings in Indonesia. An absolutely brutal look into human nature.


It is hard to describe this doco in any way that does it justice. Fascinating, compelling, horrifying, disgusting, surreal. The breadth of discussion it opens up both on the individual events it covers and the implications for humanity.

I have never seen a movie like this before and I doubt I ever will again. It is in a total category of its own.


I watched that shortly after release. Very memorable. It was quite bizarre to hear someone freely discuss his day job of murdering people in such a casual context.


I could not finish that documentary, it was too brutal.

It reminded me of the movie Man Bites Dog which was just a parody, https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0103905/


> fter release. Very memorable. It was quite bizarre to hear someone freely discuss his day job of murdering people in such a casual context.

Sadly this is pretty common https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem#:~:tex....


This, extremely interesting and unique documentary.


"Searching for Sugar Man" (2012) took the Oscar that year and for good reason.

If you like cultural/arts/music stuff, just go watch it.

protip: don't read up on it before since nearly any write-up may include spoilers. Not even the liner notes on whatever streaming platform you find it. Just hit play.


I loved it..but when I learned the true story after I watched it, I felt lied to, way past what is acceptable. Like, he played large venues in an Australian tour in 1979, and returned in 1981, but that wouldn't fit the story the documentary wants to tell at all, so is not mentioned.

edit: I just learned his 1979 album Alive was recorded live in concert in Sydney. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga5aR0MwWOs


Dominion: https://youtu.be/LQRAfJyEsko

It’s about the cruelty that happens in the animal industry. Minks, dogs, gooses, cows, pigs, horses, camels and a lot more. Watching that has changed my life quite a bit.


Agreed - this is a great documentary. When considering the scale and brutality of the meat industry, it opened my eyes that this is probably the greatest crime humanity has ever committed.

Not just for the animals, but for the PTSD endured by the workers in this industry as well.


If this documentary changed your life, you might like this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY0_5Sk5GYs


How is that relevant?

Are you saying that because cruel things happen in the wild we should be fine doing cruel things? I doubt we would accept someone justifying other acts by showing how it occurs in the wild such as stealing all the way to something extreme like cannibalism.


You're making a lot of assumptions.


I made the same "assumptions", along with another commenter. So maybe you should clarify your post.


Do you want to explain how it's relevant then?


Could you elaborate on that? I don’t get it.

What animals do in the wild is vastly different from what we do to animals.


The Dawn Wall. It is about a climber (Tommey Caldwell) making attempts on a new route up El Capitan. The climbing scenes are spectacular and gruelling. Along with the climbing it mixes in the poignant and inspirational life story of Tommy Caldwell.


Some other great climbing documentaries:

- Touching The Void (It's an older movie but maybe the most harrowing survival story I've ever heard).

- Meru

- Free Solo

- The Alpinist

- Valley Uprising


9/11, directed by the Naudet brothers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_(2002_film)

Notable for containing the only footage I know of that shows the first plane hitting the tower, because they were already in the middle of filming a documentary about New York firefighters. Here’s a clip of that part: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miA8Td4oNcY


Check out Debris, it came out today. About 9/11 with unseen footage in it.

https://youtu.be/HdEBQsE_YKw



I LOVE this one too. I can't believe I even cried about an octopus.

Sometimes after watching these documentaries, I feel like I know absolutely nothing!!

Here's another one I fell in love with:

Featuring Mr. T and Kinky Tail, 2 bad ass male lions did the unthinkable and unheard of as brothers as tight as a glove.

I now have mad respect for these two jungle tyrants.

Mad, mad respect.

Enjoy: https://archive.org/details/the.lions.of.sabi.sand.brothers....


This got a lot of on the internet, but I found it so incredibly boring.


Logically, it should be boring.

But for whatever reason it made me feel emotions about something I would have never have thought would reach me that way. I think what struck me the most personally was the relationship the maker established with his son. But plenty of others I know have reacted to it in very different (but still highly positive) ways.


Can you explain why? I found it such a deft exposition on both zoology and philosophy. So good.


I don't know, because my memory of it is vague at this point. The octopus is definitely fascinating, I love all that stuff, but the narrative didn't really grab me and I think maybe it felt long winded and all that combined with the hype left me feeling a bit high and dry.


Not GP. Instead of duplicating what I posted in another comment on the criticism of it, here’s the link to my HN comment. [1]

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32806378


Umm yeah, just couldn't make it past the whole "post-colonial meta-narrative [for white people]" bit. That's pretty much a good summing up of all the criticism I've read of the film: that because it was made by some relatively-well-off white dude in South Africa, that there can be nothing of value to learn from it.

I'll take the one that required dedication and hard work to obtain never-before-seen footage of animal behavior over a snarky YouTube hot-take criticism any day.


I would recommend people not to watch it and instead watch this well done critique (and criticism) titled “My Octopus Teacher & Environmental Horror” by Maggie Mae. [1]

I could’ve spent my time better if I’d watched this and avoided “My Octopus Teacher” altogether.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whb4unrhy44


Sorry but I really tried watching that and nothing about it made me want to either a) keep watching past the first few minutes or b) accept that she actually had a point.

Which she probably did, but certainly not to the level that I'd agree watching your suggestion would be more enriching than watching the original documentary.

In fact, now I want to watch My Octopus Teacher for the 4th time, despite all the excellent alternative suggestions in this thread!


Samsara [1] is not a typical documentary, but is well worth watching. It's visually stunning, and gives the viewer a great sense of the mechanisms of civilization.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samsara_(2011_film)


Koyaanisqatsi, a film in a similar vein, had a profound impact on me when I first watched it in my twenties. The cinematography is also done by Ron Fricke, but it’s directed by Godfrey Reggio with a Philip Glass score.


Samsara and Baraka are both great!

Not from the last 4 years, but so good I watched some of the series twice:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_historic_farm_series

In each series, a team of historians/archaeologists/anthropologists live for a year on a farm of a specific era, doing things the way they are understood to have been done in that era.

They are like first-person documentaries and lots of fun to watch. You really get the feeling of how life would have been like back then.


Fantastic series. Ruth Goodman is a national treasure, and Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands are also extremely watchable.

I'm personally partial to Victorian Farm, both because it's at a very interesting point in time — much of it pre-machinization, but also an age of scientific discoveries and agricultural improvements — and because I feel like it's the season where they are the most self-reliant (the farm they move into is disused and they have to renovate it) and living in the most realistically re-enacted environment.


This sounds amazing, reminds me of a similar show where some families moved into an older farm (maybe it’s related?), but this one looks more interesting due to the experts.


I recommend Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control by Errol Morris. It’s a series of interviews with passionate geniuses in various areas, including a naked mole rat scientist.

I watched it in the 90s and gave me awareness that there’s people who have very deep interest in a subject and achieve fulfillment in studying and working in an area.

Morris directed many other good documentaries- Thin Blue Line, Fog of War- but I think FCOoC is his best.

Also Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (there’s a documentary and a fictional portrays) is interesting to show how someone can work on a seemingly pointless and impossible task. This was helpful in programming as frequently areas of interest seem so confusing to people outside my mind.


"The Civil War" by Ken Burns

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Civil_War_(miniseries)

Detailed. Unagitated text. No reenactment. Based on contemporary documents only (almost). Competent experts, some quite characters. Reserved but impressive music.


It’s received a fair amount of criticism the last few years and in my opinion a lot of it is valid. I would never recommend it to someone who isn’t already familiar with the politics of the several war — at least they’ll be able to have a good chuckle when Foote opens his mouth.

If you’ve not seen it, I’d also recommend The Civil War on Drugs

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt2316000/


And surprisingly emotional at times. Even the part about Lincoln's death gave me a lump in a throat feeling. It's been years since I watched it.


The historian Shelby Foote is the star of the series.


First of all, Foote isn’t a historical, or he wasn’t during filming. He’s a cloying sycophant who egregiously who thinks the civil war wasn’t in fact w war to abolish the institution of slavery. No, Mr Foote (a writer by trade) wants you know the whole thing was just the result of a “failure to compromise.”

Yikes.


Dear Zachary was written, directed, produced, and edited by one guy (Kurt Kuenne) and its budget was incredibly low even for indie film standards.

However, I can think of very few documentaries that come close to what it achieved and how it made me feel when watching it. Kurt put every fiber of his being into making it, and it shows. However, it's not an easy watch and I'd be hesitant to watch it again all the way through.

If you decide to check it out, please do not read up anything about it. Don't go onto Wikipedia or its IMDB page, don't search for reviews on it. Don't search for it at all. Just watch it.

Edit: You can watch it here, for free: https://pluto.tv/en/on-demand/movies/dear-zachary-a-letter-t...


> not an easy watch

Quite the understatement. Just thinking about this documentary makes me sick.


That is an extremely difficult film. For me it was on par with watching Schindler’s List.


Incredible film, top of my list too.


Tim’s Vermeer : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim's_Vermeer

Produced and directed by Penn and Teller who I thought were just magicians. It mixes art and technology with a little bit of historical puzzle solving. As someone who knows little about art history, I found it fascinating.


I second this. The last thing it is really about is painting.

Tim is amazing and the lessons on playful (albeit obsessive) learning are important IMHO


It's good, there's enough science in it for the nerds and enough painting for the Arts majors. I liked especially the part where they wheel in the patio heater into their art studio, turn it on for a few minutes and immediately start feeling a bit weird.


Tim is also a legend in the Amiga and TV/audiovisual community. Just listened to a fascinating interview with him on the Retro Hour podcast. Highly recommend it. I still need to watch Tim's Vermeer.


"Fog of war" about the life of Robert McNamara. He is quite candid about some of the mistakes he made.


Yeah, this is a very well filmed documentary. The combination of the Phillip Glass score and some camera techniques that make the interview feel very in person and vivid definitely work. It's a fascinating and surprisingly frank look at someone that helped shape the last century, including making decisions that resulted in the deaths of 100's of thousands of people.


Fog of War is incredible. I haven't really seen anything else like it in the sense that powerful people very rarely publicly examine themselves and their lives the way McNamara does. The follow-up with Rumsfeld is so different because he doesn't.


Also anything by:

Werner Hertzog

Adam Curtis

Brian Cox (the physicist)


Also “The Unknown Known”


The contrast between the two is very interesting.


Into the Inferno - Werner Herzog. Documentary on volcanoes where the director allows the filming locations to bring other topics to the forefront.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World - Werner Herzog. Film about the internet.

The Thin Blue Line - Erol Morris. Film about a murder of a police officer that comes to a different conclusion than the court did about who the murderer is and led to the release of an innocent man and the incarceration of the guilty one.

The Civil War - Ken Burns. There's a reason it's a classic!

Good Intentions - Walter Williams. Film about how economic policies that sound good often have the reverse effects that they intend to have.


Came here to see who else likes The Thin Blue Line. But please, do not reveal the outline. I went in completely unawares and was kept on the edge throughout.


Came to mention The Thin Blue Line.

With the line that sings to my cynical soul, "Any good prosecutor can get a jury to convict a guilty man but only great prosecutors can get a conviction for an innocent man."


A little late to the thread, but two come to mind:

Hoop Dreams (1994) - Explores inner-city poverty through the eyes of two young boys in Chicago who want to use basketball as a way to escape their environment. I haven't seen it in a long time, but my biggest takeaway from it is how narrow the bridge to "success" can be for some. If you grow up in a well-to-do upper middle class environment, you can make a shocking number of youthful mistakes, yet still get saved by your parents, school, society. Others really only have one or two chances to make things work.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013) - A must-watch if you're an admirer of Hayao Miyazaki movies. Goes into his creative processes; how he thinks about his work, the world at-large, etc.; and his long-standing friendship with his producer, Toshio Suzuki.


I remember watching the "The Farmer's Wife" on PBS and it having a similar effect on me as Hoop Dreams. It gave me a glimpse into the realities faced by those not as privileged as me and my upper middle class suburban upbringing.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/farmerswife/


I saw a 2-hour-long documentary about the Standard Model of particle physics, sometime around 1980. It was basically a presentation, by one man, with graphics (which were pretty good for back then). The presentation was sober, and completely free of gee-whizz hype. I think it must have been BBC.

As I remember it, it was a really good presentation of the discoveries that had recently been made in particle physics. I've spent hours searching archives, just to find a trace of evidence of this programme having ever been broadcast. Nothing. If I only knew the name of the presenter, that would help, because he wasn't a famous TV presenter; I believe he was a physicist. But the presenter's name is linked to the documentary - his name might be in the title.

I'd love to get a clue about how to track down this show.


The sheer amount of incredible mind-expanding content that is held in the BBC archives but not readily accessible (even to a UK taxpayer with a TV license) really kills me inside.


I have a feeling that the programme may have been written and presented by Nigel Calder, former editor of the New Scientist. I'm having no luck tracking down the documentary itself, though. The title might be "The Key To The Universe", for which I've seen a couple of reviews that are consistent with the show I remember.

He seems to have published a book of the same title. The show was screened in 1977, possibly twice, and the show is indeed two hours long. I have a review here that says: "Level: popular science, but viewers without some knowledge of high-energy physics would be handicapped". That sounds about right (when I saw it, my knowledge of high-energy physics was roughly zero, and it's not much better now).


Thr sounds pretty good


"Triumph of the Nerds"

Discusses the history of computing and the rise and fall of tech companies as the industry changed. It's old but worth it imo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNVbmzVCyLU


I loved seeing that one in the past, it's so inspiring.



Added this to my list. Is Peter Jackson just focusing on documentaries nowadays?


I really enjoyed The Phenomenon if you're into UFO's - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onEXmLX2ZZQ

Also this reddit post has a bunch of old UFO documentaries going back to the 50's before there was so much "Alien" and modern Scifi out for those that are interested in the topic. Really interesting:

https://www.reddit.com/r/UFOVHS/comments/nwxot9/ufovhs_colle...



Adam Curtis is great, but his stuff is better described as commentary. He basically does James Burke's 'Connections' [0] as polemic. Can't get enough personally.

[0] Burke's 'Connections' and 'Day the Universe Changed' are definitely worthy of mention on this post.


^^^ Thank you! ^^^ Came here to reccommend Connections by James Burke and glad to see someone else has mentioned it. It's a masterpiece of popular science production made better with the grainy film patina of the 70s and 80s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XetplHcM7aQ


Code Rush, a one-hour glimpse into Netscape Communications in 1998, just as they open source their browser: https://youtu.be/4Q7FTjhvZ7Y

I get very tired whenever I watch it for some reason.


I randomly re-watched it a month or 2 ago and still liked it. It resonated.

It probably helps that I worked in Mountain View about 10 years later. It felt very familiar, and the ideas and people were still relevant and reverberating


Free Solo, It's the documentary of Alex Honnold in his preparation and eventual accomplishment of climbing the "El Capitan" without ropes

That thing it's awesome, you know the guy ends up ok, but the journey made my hands sweat like crazy


From the last four years: (I'm a professional critic, thus watch almost everything)

1. Gunda. A mother pig.

2. An insignificant man. Politics in India.

3. Mr Bachmann and his class. A teacher.

4. Icarus. The doping scandal.

All time:

https://letterboxd.com/rurban/films/ratings/genre/documentar...

Gunda, The real dirt on Farmer Joe, Models (Seidl), Warheads (Karmakar), The Land of the Enlightened, Close-Up (Kiarostami), The Wild Parrots of Telegraf Hill, ...


The Great War and World War 2 in Real Time, produced and narrated by Sparty Olson and Indy Nidell. Covering, as the name implies, both world wars on a weekly basis in real time. The most in depth stuff on those topics I have seen and now. Well, at somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes of YouTube content per week for the duration of both wars, 4 years for WW1 and 5.5 years for WW2 that's quite some content to watch. The WW2 series is still on going and currently at the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943. They even have a minute by minute special series covering Pearl Habour.

Edit: Everything with David Attenborough, because of course. He did one about the crusades decades ago that was great!


I'm going to list just a few of the best I have seen so far:

- The Last Dance [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8420184/]

- Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13651632/]

- Indie Game: The Movie [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1942884/]

- The Staircase [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388644/]

- Making a Murderer [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5189670/]

- Icarus [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6333060/]

- Apollo 11 [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8760684/]


You can see Indie Game for free on Mailchimp.com https://mailchimp.com/presents/film/indie-game-the-movie/


Ed: “If you can’t get the work done, then the past two years are basically worth nothing … There were at least five times, a good five times, where I totally broke down and I just didn’t want to do it anymore … I was actually really worried that either Tommy or I would die in the process of making this.”

From:

https://moviewise.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/indie-game-the-mo...


I absolutely loved the Last Dance but I really like basketball. I wouldn’t recommend it to non-fans of basketball though (basing this off a small sample size of friends).


FWIW, I was absolutely captivated for all of Last Dance, and I don't watch basketball. But I do have an affinity for "30 for 30"-style docs on the human interest side of sports.


I’m not into sports and I don’t follow basketball. I couldn’t tell you beyond really famous basketball players who the majority of players are. And although I grew up in Jordan’s era of basketball, I didn’t watch his games. All that to say, I enjoyed it.

If you like something, recommending it is fine. Let the people decide if it’s a topic they’re interested in it or not.


I am not into basketball but I found The Last Dance excellent.


+1 for Icarus. Until just a few years ago, cycling was up to its eyeballs and doping. Wasn’t just one American, one Italian, or one German. It was nearly everyone.


This is the best WWII documentary I've ever seen, and it's available free: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS5O9I5AUXI

What makes it great is (a) that the filmmaker tried only to use source material, including audio narration, created during WWII, and (b) that the film sources were shot in color (rare for the time).


There's a YouTube channel called "CHRONOS-MEDIA History" that has a lot of archival footage from that era. A couple ones I found interesting were a clip with American and German officers casually working together to coordinate a German surrender/withdrawal at the end of the war, and a German propaganda piece from before the war (?) where the skyline of the village they're in matches 1:1 with one of my vacation photos.


"The world at war" is an amazing documentary of WWII, even if it is quite old now.


"Stalingrad" is a horrifying documentary about the battle. It's recounted by the German and Soviet soldiers who took part. The takeaway was that given the right incentives human mass depravity is bottomless.

Edit: https://youtu.be/VnJJQxZ0hu8


This link is to "Practical Deep Learning for Coders 2022".


Black humour at it's finest?


Harlan County, USA

Classic documentary about coal miners going on strike in the 70s. Deeply moving images, and incredible soundtrack from local artists. Won an Oscar too.


The Long Way Round (2004) - a British television series documenting the 19,000-mile (31,000 km) journey of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman from London to New York via Eurasia on motorcycles. It is a lot of fun and covers incredible terrain and the trials and triumphs of lesser travelled roads and countries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Way_Round

There are an additional two series, Long Way Down (2007), Scotland to Capetown and Long Way Up (2020) over South and North America, both fantastic follow ons! Enjoy.


“Streetwise” by Martin Bell follows the lives of a few homeless youths on the streets of Seattle in the 80s (I think it was the 80s, at least). I heard about it via a song by The Avalanches that sampled part of the film. Just pretty interesting to see how some people’s lives are. I also think it’s interesting to get a raw look at how people talked, behaved, dressed, etc in the past.

Also enjoyed “Man on Wire”. First saw it when I was in high school and just remembered feeling really inspired by it. To have a goal and overcome the odds to try and achieve it, etc.


Inside Job (2010) - documentary about the 2008 financial crisis and policies leading up to that years before. Sort of like the documentary version of The Big Short. Narrated by Matt Damon. Interesting and informative about the catalysts for the crisis.

Full movie on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/T2IaJwkqgPk


I only see Hoop Dreams mentioned once, without comment, so:

It's a 3-hour doc about two urban black teenagers who are basketball phenoms, and are recruited by a white suburban high school to play for them. Three hours is long enough for an extended meditation on what their lives were like, and what they hoped to get out of basketball.

Read the Roger Ebert review of it.


It's not mentioned because OP asked for documentaries from the last 4 years, and Hoop Dreams must be over a quarter century old at this point.

Great film though.


Saw that, but a lot of the other answers were for older flicks, too.


Freedom to choose by Multon Friedman

Black gold saga — a 4 hour documentary about oil, from discovery to the present. It really helps to understand how short sighted were some EU countries with Russian gas.


For anyone into music and art, just recently I have seen "B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989" (2015) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4291066/ and I can't get the soundtrack out of my head. Genius edit on tons of rare video material!

Make sure you have English subtitles just for a few scenes if you don't understand German.

Ah, and one can ask how come it was finished in 2015 and Mark Reeder the main character haven't aged in staged scenes? No VFX ;) Read after watching https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/b-movie-...


Command and Control

Details the events of the 1980 deadly and nearly disastrous accident at the Titan II nuclear missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas.

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/command-an...

Maybe a little older than 4 years, but posting because it's really well done.


Missing Allen (2001) by my late father Christian Bauer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOXSI_vcqK8

Around the turn of the century, my dad's good friend and longtime collaborator Allen Ross vanishes from one day to the next, just after they have finished shooting a film about the Mississippi. Years later, my dad returns to the US to find out what happened to his friend.

It's his most personal film for sure, and I remember him going off to the US for weeks and faxing us letters to keep in touch. It's also the one that had him most scared, he took out life insurance before he left because of the people he was looking into.


_Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control_, I believe by Errol Morris. Four totally unrelated subjects, but Morris finds connections and echoes between them. Delightful, fascinating.

_When We Were Kings_, about the Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Foreman in the 1970s, really awesome. Young Ali is so quick witted, warm, and charismatic.

And the recent doc about Apollo 11, for its 50th anniversary, was breathtaking.



"Dig!", the documentary about a band named the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Introduced me to psychedelic rock, and lead singer Anton Newcombe is the prototypical mad musical genius. I got the impression that he and his lead guitarist Matt Hollywood had kind of a modern-day Mozart/Salieri relationship, and tambourinist Joel Gion adds such a funny dynamic to the group.


You might enjoy the 2005 documentary about Roky Erickson: "You're gonna miss me":

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0791268/


F for Fake by Orson Welles. Documentaries on art forgers (not 'how this art forger was caught!' which is of secondary importance) all tend to be interesting, but this is transcendent.

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology' by Slavoj zizek/Sophie Fiennes.

Hypernormalization* is an Adam Curtis doc so you'll love or hate it, but I think it's his best one.


Steve Jobs: One Last Thing (2011)

Woody Allen (2012)

SlingShot (2014)

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2010)

Breaking the Maya Code (2008)

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 (2007)

From:

Six Films That Leave You Better Off

https://moviewise.substack.com/p/six-films-that-leave-you-be...


"ILM - Industrial Light & Magic: Creating The Impossible". A documentary about how the special effects team behind Star Wars and other science fiction movies was created. It's basically the story of a start-up, a start-up that could be any Silicon Valley start-up, but because they were in the movie business, they filmed everything. This makes for a great documentary.

It's actually a series. It's in the Star Wars section of Disney+ if you go up there to watch Season 3 of "The Mandalorian".


Worth mentioning that employees of ILM and the vfx industry in general view that film as propaganda to distract from the past decade of labor abuses they endured.


Isle of Flowers: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097564/ It is one of the best, if not the best short-documentaries (13 min) made in Brazil.

It starts by telling the saga of a tomato, that is planted, goes to the supermarket, rots and then goes to the garbage dump site. From there it uses an acid humor to talk how tomatoes, pigs and humans (that live by collecting food from the dumping site) are different.


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga by Dmitry Vasyukov. The English narration was written/voiced by Werner Herzog and matches the tone of the documentary perfectly. If you’ve ever had any interest in homesteading, or just getting away from it all, I would highly recommend it.


I watched this, and enjoyed it, but was later surprised to learn that Herzog had started with a completed documentary but made major changes to the narrative---for the worse! There are few scenes that he edited to tell a different story than they did in the original, seemingly with minimal concern for truth. It really hurt my image of Herzog.

So I'd second the recommendation, but add that if you get a chance, you should try to view Vasyukov's original as well. Herzog's version might be a bit snappier, but I don't think it's actually better. The original is available in four parts on Youtube. Here's part one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbhPIK-oBvA


So many great suggestions.

I'll add Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. It documents the filming of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. The film's footage was shot by Coppola's wife, Eleanor Coppola. A really remarkable look behind the making of an iconic film.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearts_of_Darkness%3A_A_Filmma...


David Attenborough's documentaries. Each of them are great. A few especially phenomenal ones: 1. Life on Earth (1979) 2. Blue Planet II (2017) 3. Planet Earth II (2016) 4. Our Planet (2019) [1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0135095/ [2] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6769208 [3] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5491994/ [4] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9253866/

"A year in the taiga" [0], by Dmitry Vasyukov, blessed by Werner Herzog

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_People:_A_Year_in_the_Ta...


Assassins (2020). Unraveling the audacious airport assassination of the exiled and estranged half-brother to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, ASSASSINS is a riveting dissection of infamous dynasty dynamics and the surprising tale of two young women recruited to secure the uncontested leadership of Kim Jong-un.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11394276/


Expo: Magic of the White City

https://youtu.be/f6HuBYiQEeM

I'd have never even gave it a 2nd thought except it is narrated by Gene Wilder and he retired in the late 80s so I though "wow, I wonder how this would bring him out of retirement???"

The first 10 mins are hokie but it was great after that.

It's about the 1893 Chicago Exposition (think Worlds Fair) where electricity was introduced to the public and many other things


Surprised nobody else posted this one - "Meet the Stans" a great four part travel documentary about Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtxJN3o5kkY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFVcQ7ZxC1o


Oliver Stone's The Untold History of the United States

An eye opening tour through lots of stuff I didn't previously know about the US (and UK to some extent): corporate nazi collaboration, CIA coups, Vietnam, Hiroshima, that kind of thing.


I loved Koyaanisqatsi, trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirH8PADDgQ Not your typical documentary.

Anything by Werner Herzog is incredible as well, I find his approach extremely sympathetic and respectful to the subjects but without sacrificing detail (EG Grizzly Man)

Not strictly a documentary, but Threads by the BBC is a researched film depicting life in the UK if every city was hit by a nuke and it was incredibly disturbing and informative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Threads_(1984_film)

Carl Sagan's Cosmos has to be one of the most charming and moving documentaries I've ever watched - arguably a little out of date now but it reached a place the subsequent Cosmos series just couldn't reach.

MayDay! Air crash investigations are all amazing documentaries that manage to balance pretty intense technical information with real life suffering very skilfully and they are incredibly engaging.


Einstein's Brain

"English filmmaker Kevin Hull crossed America in search of the truth about the stolen brains, together with the Japanese scientist Kenji Sugimoto, who has been studying Einstein for over thirty years."

https://www.idfa.nl/en/film/35af3499-a6ce-498f-a5ae-cbba455e...

The only issue is good luck finding a legitimate copy anywhere.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=xM4m-Z0nAio

Edit:

Triumph of the Will

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-triumph-of-th...

(Goes better with the commentary by Anthony Santoro)

General Idi Amin Dada - A Self Portrait

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/5609-general-idi-ami...


Forgot all about Orozco the Embalmer, from Wiki:

It follows a Colombian embalmer named Froilan Orozco Duarte, who is shown living in El Cartucho, an impoverished and crime-ridden area of Bogotá, Colombia, where the homicide rate is high and corpses can be seen on the streets.

This does show him working on corpses, children included very NSFW.


1. "Chef's Table BBQ", S1E1: "Tootsie Tomanetz" - a mouthwatering documentary on an 85yo Tootsie's job as a pitmaster. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12922502/

2. "Tiny House Nation": https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3869500/

3. "Don't F*k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer" - **WARNING: MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE TO SOME AUDIENCES**: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11318602/

4. "Downfall: The Case Against Boeing" - investigating the Boeing 737 Max incidents killing 346 people: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11893274/

I watched all four on Netflix.


This isn’t quite what you’re asking for, but Paris Is Burning is the best documentary I’ve ever seen. It’s about the drag ball scene in New York in the 80s, and watching it now is fascinating to see how such a niche culture was 40 years ahead of its time and has become dominant in 2022. On top of that, it’s just a great portrayal of a few fascinating characters.


I'm not sure it really falls under the banner of "documentary" but Red Bull Media House make a film called "Flight" a few years ago that profiles a group of snowboarders flying around and doing snowboarding. You won't learn anything watching it but it's some of the best film making I've ever watched. It's beautiful.


The Art of Flight: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Flight

I saw it when it was first released and agree, it's gorgeous footage. I forgot the name too and only looked it up because you made me curious if it's considered a documentary or some other classification. The wiki lists it as a documentary.


Easily one of the most beautifully assembled skiing/snowboarding videos ever made. On another level.


As a documentary connoisseur, there are about 20 recommendations I could think of, but I'll give you my top 3: Tickled: Less of a "global problem" issue in and if itself, this is nonetheless expository of our time. Top rec.

Corked: there is no meritocracy.

Plastic China: Arguably the most important documentary film ever made in terms of impact on global policy/affairs


I wouldn’t mind if you wrote out the other recos you have too!


FYI: The internet calls Corked a mockumentary.


And from Paul Irish himself, no less! Sorry, I got the title confused. I meant this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sour_Grapes_(2016_film)

I have no idea what Corked is.


The Alpinist

If you enjoyed Free Solo, you really should check out The Alpinist. It's a documentary about Marc-André Leclerc; Alex Honnold thinks of Marc-André the way most of us think about Alex Honnold.


Free solo was great, but also a nerve wracking thing to watch. Is The Alpinist as gut wrenching?


Probably more so.


+1 great Doc


Some of my favourites that I did not find mentioned here, the topics might not be that interesting but I appreciate these documentaries for the very "real" human interactions in them. (I am not sure how to word it better:

Japan: A Story of Love and Hate - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401179/ Following a japanase salaryman throughout his every day life

Empire of Dust - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2148945/ Chinese company is building railways in Democratic Republic Kongo, documentary follows the chinese head of Logistics and his "partner" who is an congolese that speaks fluent mandarin

I'm new here - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7573428/?ref_=nm_knf_t4 African buisnessmen trying to make buisness in china

Invisible - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468496/ Very personal and intimate documentary of the everyday life of a group of heroin users in Sofia Bulgaria

Pakistan's Hidden Shame - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4173938/ From IMDB: A look into the sexual abuse suffered by the children living in the North-Western city of Peshawar in Pakistan.

A tough watch, comparably tough to An Act of Killing. I cried

Also I can recommended everything by Louis Theroux and to some degree Channel 5, if that qualifies as a documentary. I'd say that kind of content are more reportages, if I were to make a distinction


Steely Dan - Aja - Classic Albums Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sdMV9TzMkc

The process they went through to create the album with rotating musicians and bands is fascinating and should be inspirational for people who create software.


Love this one, seen it multiple times. It’s fun how they break down the songs at the mixer and isolate different parts (especially the high pitched “Peg!” vocals).


The Gatekeepers (2012) [1] a very rare documentary and interviews six former Shin Bet heads. They talked about Israel conflicts with a lot of independence.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gatekeepers_%28film%29


I'm 60, so this movie actually was quite enjoyable, for me: https://newwavedaretobedifferent.com

It's about a plucky little New York radio station that debuted a lot of the major acts of the 1980s.

Probably, a lot of folks hereabouts would not share my enjoyment.


The Price of Everything

It's about how the global art world interacts with the bottomless well of cash that has been gushing into it during the last few decades, with a focus on one older artist who is quite successful but not by those standards.

Before anybody gets too depressed about it I would add that the kids are alright: the generations who witnessed the arrival of this stinking freight of mammon find it a lot more offensive than the people who just grew up in its shadow. The art world is thriving like never before, and I emphatically include the broke-ass majority of it in that statement.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7475540/

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mbqcY9g5CM


My favorites on Netflix this year were:

Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 https://www.netflix.com/title/81280924

Challenger Final Flight https://www.netflix.com/title/81012137

FYRE (Festival) https://www.netflix.com/title/81035279

From a long time ago, and I don't even know if you can still watch it anywhere, but that FogBugz Aardvark'd documentary was really fun to watch too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aardvark%27d:_12_Weeks_with_Ge...


Oh yeah, that Woodstock documentary was really good. Didn’t know what happened back then, and was surprised to learn that there was another Woodstock.


I was surprised this took so long to make as for twenty years Woodstock ‘99 was a legendary story circulating that it seemed no-one wanted to talk about because of how horrible some of the things that happened were.


FYRE was epic. Worth it just for the schadenfreude of watching influencers suffering. :-)


The movie "A Point in Time: The Corona Story" about the Corona spy satellite program. So many failures before success, and the program paved the way for so many better known later space launches.

> The CORONA[1] program was a series of American strategic reconnaissance satellites produced and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directorate of Science & Technology with substantial assistance from the U.S. Air Force. The CORONA satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972.

https://archive.org/details/gov.archives.arc.1678526


Lately I’ve been absolutely loving Midnight Asia on Netflix, mostly as a look at parts of the culture of far flung cities that doesn’t really come across in regular documentaries.

I also like the slice-of-life glimpses of the lives of people in the cities interspersed with the nightlife scenes.


I can warmly recommend Kevin Kelly's website dedicated to his favorite documentaries. A catalog of very high quality documentaries. I've seen a few of them and loved them all.

https://truefilms.com/


I worked on food safety policy fir years, and “Our Daily Bread”[1] rocked my world. It profoundly changed how I thought about food policy, its transportation, handling, and overall safety from farm to fork.

As a kid, the nova documentary on Andrew Wiles[2] solving Fermat’s last theorem not only inspired me to study science, but I too wept with joy..

Honorable mention: “The KGB, the Computer and Me“ about my childhood hero Clifford Stoll [3]

1} https://youtu.be/zG7q1NQJz7E

2} https://youtu.be/6ymTZEeTjI8

3} https://youtu.be/4gHNVNRQTJg


20 Feet From Stardom. A wonderful, heartfelt doc about backup singers. Talks to the people who are almost stars, those who never quite made it big.

You even hear from the woman who helped sing “Get Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Fascinating window into music history.


"Stripped". It's about the comic book industry. It's also one of the few times that Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, has been recorded.

This resonated with me due to the pressure on cartoonists to constantly produce.


In the 1980s Jack Absalom made a series of 45 minute videos about travelling through the Australian Outback, and a lot of them are on YouTube now. A neat combination of how to travel through harsh environments, with a lot of beautiful scenery (he's a painter), and interesting historical facts about Australia.

I also keep an eye on the PeriscopeFilm YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/PeriscopeFilm/videos

They're not quite documentaries, but there are some interesting videos now and then.


"The Fog of War" by Errol Morris.

Adam Curtis' body of work.

"The Phenomenon" by James Fox.


A few people have mentioned Apollo 11 but I prefer (and my favorite documentary of all time is) For All Mankind (1989). They’re similar, iirc they share a lot of the same footage, but For All Mankind gives you a great sense of what it was like for those early astronauts to take that trip to the Moon. It has all the best footage of the moon we have ever taken. For All Mankind is a must, but both are worth a watch if you’re a space fan.

Crumb is also pretty good. It’s about an offbeat artist and gives you the look into the mind of someone that wouldn’t normally be in the spot light.


The Coconut Revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sl8KJDOqK4

Wikipedia: a 2001 multi-award winning documentary film about the struggle of the indigenous peoples of Bougainville Island during the Bougainville Civil War. The movement is described as the "world's first successful eco-revolution" and has drawn parallels with the conflict depicted in the 2009 film, Avatar.

What I love about this is how these people are able to create everything from what is locally available.


Everybody in the Place: an Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 by Jeremy Deller is the best documentary I've seen recently. It's a history of dance music in the UK (and it's American roots) presented as a lecture given to secondary school students, part social history part love letter to a music and a time. Full of surprising and interesting footage and observations.

Edit: seems it's on youtube at the moment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thr8PUAQuag


Style Wars (1983)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Style_Wars

It documents the rise of Graffiti and Hip Hop culture in New York.


Infamy (2005) was also an interesting look into the some artcrimes culture.


I really like Werner Herzog. Too many good ones to list them all here. He brings in a lot of social implications of whatever subject he covers. A lot of randomness as well which is often quite funny. E.g. Encounters at the end of the world or Lo and behold: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lo_and_Behold,_Reveries_of_the...

Petter Mettler is a great film maker imo, e.g. Picture of Light, due to the poetic and philosophical elements mixed in with actual documentation. Visually very appealing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_of_Light

Another favorite film maker is Stanislav Mucha who covers a lot of European topics and in particular German. Very ironic and partly sarcastic. Favs are Absolute Warhola, a film about Andy Warhol's extended family in Slovakia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolut_Warhola

Also, The Truth about Dracula is very interesting and funny: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1621024/


“Stevie” because it’s so real and even almost quits half-way through because the filmmaker had a personal relationship history with the subject. Set in one of the poorest parts of the United States. I saw it at the Angelika where I worked and warned everybody: this film will test and possibly scar your heart and emotions.

For non-US folks, it’s set in a place that you probably don’t imagine really exists here, but it’s a level of poverty and despair on par with any urban slum or containment area in its own right…


I really enjoyed the The Bit Player (2018) about Claude Shannon, it uses an actor to play Shannon.

I thought More Than Robots (2022) seemed really cool too, about teams of teenagers building robots for a competition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsIo57pH-pA - is an interesting short documentary on the making of neon signs.

Birdmen: The Original Dream of Human Flight (2012) was pretty fascinating on the history of wingsuit flying

And also Jiro Dreams of Sushi.


Here is a list of the best documentaries since 2000 according to the Chicago Film Critics Association: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Film_Critics_Associati...

You will also find several categories of documentary film in Wikipedia links here: https://www.locserendipity.com/TitleSearch.html?q=documentar...

Categories include:

Documentary films about the media: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Documentary_films_abo...

Documentary television series about astronomy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Documentary_televisio...

HBO documentary films: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:HBO_documentary_films

Documentary films about space: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Documentary_films_abo...


I haven’t checked the previous links but just going off the top of my head:

- Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I watch it every now and then to inspire me about my craft. I want to go to Japan to try his food in the future.

- Icarus, I suggest you go into this blind without knowing what it’s about.

- The Barkley Marathons, this sort of got me into running.

Edit: I just went into the older discussions about how there’s a dark side to Jiro Dreams of Sushi. And honestly, as an Asian (not Asian American), I think the difference in reception is a cultural thing.


Icarus is possibly one of the most impactful documentaries of our generation. One of the few docs ive seen where direct and harsh action was taken in response to what the documentary showed.


I'm so intrigued about Icarus. Interesting why people recommend to watch without reading, but I'll do exactly that. Thanks


Icarus, 2017, distributed by Netflix?


Another vote for Icarus, and also a vote for not reading anything about it.


Icarus and Barkley Marathons are great


I define best as one I’ve been most surprised by with insightful learnings that have helped elsewhere (even if the topic wasn’t initially exciting).

- The Crimson Wing - i don’t suspect you’re into flamingos, I’m not either, by far. Yet this documentary has the most gorgeous cinematography I have every seen in a movie and equally artfully done soundtrack that triggers perfect flow and creative lines of thought/programming any time I listen to it. So watch it not for the content but for the vibe (great if you have kids too).

- The lost pirate kingdom (https://m.imdb.com/title/tt14057360/) Not into pirates either, but this documentary goes into how the democracy of piracy eventually spilled into the US constitution. When the British empire realized they couldn’t pay a navy to dominate the earths oceans, they commissioned mercenaries to do the attacks on Spain for them in exchange for the loot. The mercenaries recruited by giving a equal share to all participants on a ship (equity), which incentivized better than pay as well. They then self organized in cities and eventually migrated to US territory which eventually had its own revolution for independence.

- For All Mankind (not documentary, but alternate history based on more real NASA and JPL situations than any other i’ve seen)

I found these because we watched every documentary about space, nature, and history we could find with the kids so we could “travel” with our minds when we weren’t allowed to do it in person during the pandemic.


For people on this site:

- jiro dreams of sushi

(Process excellence)

- my architect

(Building beautiful things and the sometimes broken people who build them)

- downfall

(What happens when a company loses its engineering culture)

- the inventor: out for blood

(What happens if you don't know how to quit faking it)


“Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth”

Mind-boggling series on the role of myths throughout history and today. Not at all what I was expecting, and made my head spin on many occasions.


For a newer series I think you can do well with America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston - https://www.pbs.org/show/america-outdoors-baratunde-thurston...

Documents a fair bit about the outdoors in several areas, but also the people who live and enjoy them, and some of the more salient social issues around them


Moleman 2 - Demoscene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRkZcTg1JWU

Moleman 4 - Longplay (A videogame documentary): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV0ZqBFf9ak

Both are expertly crafted and fun documentaries about their titular subculture with a Hungarian twist.


Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Searching_for_Sugar_Man

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125608/

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 documentary film about a South African cultural phenomenon, written and directed by Malik Bendjelloul, which details the efforts in the late 1990s of two Cape Town fans, Stephen "Sugar" Segerman and Craig Bartholomew Strydom, to find out whether the rumoured death of American musician Sixto Rodriguez was true and, if not, to discover what had become of him. Rodriguez's music, which had never achieved success in the United States, had become very popular in South Africa, although little was known about him in that country.


I enjoyed Branching Paths, which gave provides a unique window into the Japanese indie game developer scene -- If you liked Indie Game: The Movie 2012 and are interested in Japanese media, then watch at least the trailer:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/494680/Branching_Paths/


Second this. For those who enjoyed, the director also has a youtube channel hosting interviews with japanese artists:

https://www.youtube.com/c/ArchipelDocks/videos


Short documentary (Leaving The Earth) by Errol Morris about United Airlines Flight 232. If you haven’t heard of that, don’t google— watch the documentary.

I like it because it’s the perfect rendition by two master storytellers (Errol Morris and Denny Fitch) of perhaps the greatest clutch performance in human history.

on YouTube: https://youtu.be/nf33RDu_D6M


Seconded.

I bought the First Person DVD set many years ago just to get this episode, which I first saw on (IIRC) IFC.

I rewatch Denny's episode every year or two. Chills every time.


Anything by Adam Curtis. Is he right? Is he wrong? What is going on? He makes some strong arguments at a system-level and of an interdisciplinary nature that really make you think. Despite how people like to write him off, he is likely not too far off the mark most of the time.

Samsara and its kin are engrossing, if not quite stressful. They show you how insane humanity is in rather raw form.

The BBC's Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and Life series are masterclasses in ecological storytelling.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is about as subversively hilarious as you can get.

I'll need to look it up later, but there's a really good documentary about the people who still hand-make Steinway pianos in New York.

I think there's a series called The Planets (?) that covered a lot of the various probes that were sent out.

There's some documentary about the various moon programs, covering Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, etc. It was a series. I can't remember the name or immediately find the one I am thinking of.

There's been a lot of fascinating animal documentaries I have lost track of.


These are just what came to my crumbled mind: "Music is my drug" - about the roots and impacts of trance and electronic dance music fS6vRNnt21w "Land of the rising sound" - falls into same category JcbpRMZIQ8g "The Lie That Helped Build Nintendo | IGN Inside Stories" SKgL8u4CPJ8 "This Mysterious Computer Could Prove Time Travel Exists | Nostalgia Nerd" nEDgG5MKndo


I am going to post some of my favorites ones that are not commonly mentioned in these threads:

* The Corporation (2003)

* For Sama (2019) [WARNING: GRAPHIC!]

* Tickled (2016)

* Of Fathers and Sons (2017) [WARNING: GRAPHIC!]



The Motivation Factor - its about hmthe connection between intense physical exercise and a whole host of mental benefits. It showcases a high school from the 1960s that had an insane PE program, and the benefits for their schooling as well as setting a positive tone for the rest of their life. Pairs well with the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey


Jago: A life underwater [1]. It's been a while so I'll refer to the synopsis [2]: "JAGO: A LIFE UNDERWATER is the story of Rohani - an 80-year-old hunter who hobbles around on land but who dives like a fish on a single breath descending to great depths for several minutes to stalk his prey like a true underwater predator."

I have found the life story of Rohani incredibly humbling and his connection to the sea unique. He lived on it. He lived in it. The images pictured this relation in such a way that left me mesmerized. The human aspect of the documentary is worth it by itself, but if you want some stunning underwater images, you are in for a treat.

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5141686/ [2] https://www.amazon.com/Jago-Life-Underwater-James-Reed/dp/B0...


'Bitter Lake' and 'Hypernormalisation' - both by Adam Curtis, and both blew me away.

Loved 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' by Werner Herzog


Did you see the latter with the 3D glasses?


No, I didn't know that was an option! Would loved to have, would have been brilliant in a cinema - I just happened to find it one night when my wife was out and I wanted to watch something different. Beautiful - always loved Herzog but sent me on a mission to watch more of his work.


Honeyland https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeyland

There's this Godard quote which sums this one up for me: "All great fiction films tend towards documentary, just as all great documentaries tend towards fiction." (I think the director mentioned it in an interview too?)


I watched this and I felt like I kept coming back to it in my head and learning more and more for months afterwards. It was commissioned by the Macedonian government to document the disappearing traditional beekeeping practices in that area. They didn't mean to make a story out of anything. They would just go and film every regular day of Hatidže's life, but an incredible story unfolded anyways.

There's so much to take from this. One of those pieces that I just have to get my friends to watch so we could discuss because just describing it won't do it justice


On the lighter side "Side by Side" https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2014338/ about the digital age replacing film. One of the outtakes is pretty inspiring https://youtu.be/lepOQ2KfDwo

On the serious side, Don't Get Sick After June: American Indian Healthcare https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1770673/ rather depressing

Dakota 38 https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2838564/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pX6FBSUyQI why Lincoln is taught a bit differently in my old high school


Cosmos by Carl Sagan is my favorite.

Planet Earth and Blue Planet are amazing.

Jodorowsky's Dune is great.


This film about Richard Batterham, independent potter. It's just half and hour of him talking through his process and his art and what's important to him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN3hRRIO4-c

Harlan County USA (1976) is a great documentary about a coal strike. https://www.criterion.com/films/777-harlan-county-usa

American Movie (1999) is a documentary about a wanna film-maker in the US. In other hands the documentary would have mocked this man and his wild attempts to get his films made. But the documentary ends up being a mostly sympathetic film about struggling against adversity. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181288/


Inside job. The smartest guys in the room. Two excellent documentaries. One about the financial crisis two about the fall of Enron.


"Pina"[1] by Wim Wenders (2011).

It's special because IMO it's one of those very rare 3D movies that really was thought out and precisely tailored for its medium, 3D cinema. It must be seen in 3D, in a theatre, to get its full splendour, with life-size dancers on screen. It's available on Amazon Prime though it probably loose 90% of its magic on a TV.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pina_(film)



Excellent film, to me, it perfectly describes the relationship between the corporate media and politicians in the US. That being said, this film is 25+ years old, and while still very relevant (and great) it generally leaves me feeling apathetic.


As a rule, BBC documentaries, and dare I say it, documentaries from the UK seem to be much much better than US documentaries. US doc Red Flags: They have hired actors to dramatically recreate scenes. Have script writers for lines for historical figures. And worst of all, mention the words mystery, lost, sharks, nazi, aliens.


The Mole: Undercover in North Korea

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000nr85

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13243898/

Absolutely wild turns in this story.


I enjoyed "The Painter and the Thief" https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_painter_and_the_thief

It's very well done and engaging. The filming is wonderful, and it almost seems like a fiction film. The story is also unusual.

and the movie "The Russian Woodpecker" https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_russian_woodpecker

The approach to the subject matter is very creative.

After seeing both movies several years ago both have stayed with me and I think about each often.


“Who Killed the Electric Car” It’s not new, and the narrative probably feels a little less dire these days because EVs are here to stay and the underlying politics have made way for seemingly much worse.

Still, I think it’s a fascinating peek at the way government and lobbies work, and how the will of the ordinary person gets lost in that mix.


Once Upon A Time In Iraq (BBC). Documentary mini series.

1 "War"

Iraqi civilians recall their initial hopes before the realities of war become clear.

2 "Insurgency"

Lt Colonel Nathan Sassaman and Iraqi civilian Alaa Adel reflect on the Iraqi insurgency.

3 "Fallujah"

The Battle of Fallujah is told by accounts from journalists, soldiers and civilians.

4 "Saddam"

Saddam Hussein is captured by American troops and interrogated by CIA analyst John Nixon.

5 "Legacy"

The emergence of ISIS concludes the brutal legacy of the Iraq War.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Time_in_Iraq

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2020/08/why-everyone-mu...

Note: There is a shortened version by PBS but it's not as compelling as the full series.


Jodorowsky's Dune - not only is it the best dune movie never made, but it gives you a really good look at how hard it is to do Dune and give it justice, as well as giving a new perspective on Star Wars: Lucas had pretty much everything handed to him due to Jodorowsky's attempt to make Dune.


Netflix has a series called 'dirty money' that covers all kinds of interesting businesses that are highly unethical or straight up illegal. I think many of you would find it interesting. It's not really focused strictly on finance but more the outcomes of pursuing profit at all costs.


Into the Abyss. Werner Hertzog looks at the process of capital punishment with great sensitivity and his usual deep insight.

The Jinx. While filming a documentary on a rich man suspected of murdering his wife, the crew become involved in the investigation. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping finale of any documentary ever.


The Jinx is the peak of the true-crime-podcast genre (even if it is a doco). Truly gripping.


Cadillac Desert, about the construction (and some unethical manoeuvrer) of California's water infrastructure. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Desert_(film)


Iraq in Fragments

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiu8cXhjpX4 Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCf-rMTmFRM

In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, this filmmaker went there solo with little more than a prosumer quality dv camera. He filmed his subjects daily life, staying long enough that eventually everyone around him would drop their guard and behave more naturally despite the camera. For the final edit of the film he focused on the experiences of three young men, sunni, shia, and kurd, to paint a larger picture about the multiple directions Iraq is pulled in.


The Pruitt-Igoe Myth - about a large scale 1950s public housing project in Saint Louis (Missouri, US). Built in the mid-50s, riddled with problems pretty much from the start, torn down in 1972. Interesting insight into the failure of post-war public housing policy in the US.


- Deathbed Vigil (1994)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4164962/

Chief engineer Dave Haynie of Commodore AMIGA documents company last days through eyes of former employees. Definitely would recommend.

- Robert Kubica - Legend (2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOGugc-T2jc

Story of a one and only Polish F1 and rally driver.

- Science of Fasting (2012)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2210982/

For half a century in Russia/Germany/U.S. doctors and biologists have been exploring a different therapeutic approach: fasting.


If you like exploring outer space:

Apollo 11 (2019). A feature-length documentary telling the story of the first people to land on the moon, told entirely without narration, using gloriously high definition archival footage.

If you like that and want more NASA history, I also loved When We Left Earth (2008), which is a six-part series covering the history of NASA's manned spaceflight programs: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and then on to the space shuttle, ISS, etc.

If you like exploring our planet:

The Rescue (2021). The story of the kids soccer team who was trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for nearly three weeks in 2018 and the huge international effort that ultimately saw them rescued safely by hobbyist cave divers after the Thai navy seals decided it was too dangerous to attempt.


Rize (2005)

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0436724/

About a certain dance culture that was popular back then. I also found it interesting to see a slice of life from south central Los Angeles


Trillion dollar bet - talks about history of Black Scholes model used to price options

https://documentaryheaven.com/the-midas-formula-trillion-dol...


Einstein's Big Idea - E = mc2 - very inspiring and interesting documentary about MC2 formula and root of each element of equation. Even if you don't understand (like) physics this series explains Einstein and its discovery in cinematic way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROC8zSiw1x4

The Men Who Built America - pictured in the same way as documentary mentioned above. Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Astor, Ford and Morgan. Their names are part of history and synonymous with the American dream. These men transformed every industry they touched: oil, rail, steel, shipping, automobiles, and finance.


One could also read Jane Meyer's Dark Money to find out how those men also transformed politics, even decades after they died.


Free to Play (2014) [1] I've enjoyed this documentary a lot. It follow three DOTA players and theirs life prior to 'The International', a first million dollar e-sport tournament. What caught my attention the most, is that, despite the three main characters (Dendi - Ukraine, Fear - USA, hyhy - Singapore) come from very different backgrounds and cultures, they treat the game almost the same - as a way of living.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjZYMI1zB9s


Brian Cox was mentioned in one of the replies, but without any context so I'll add some here.

The stories he tells are beautifully constructed and he addresses fundamental questions like why are we here? Why is the universe the way it is? How can a handful of natural forces produce the stunning diversity we see on our planet?

He does this by travelling to visually stunning places that are somehow connected to the story (e.g aurora in Iceland, ancient astronomic clock in Peru etc).

My favourite is this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonders_of_the_Universe But all of them are worth watching.


I would love to watch Brian Cox be a bit more in depth and faster moving with less of the go somewhere exotic and spectacular for a reason which only adds a little bit tangentially to the material.

Sure it looks goods, and is good the first few sidetracks, but after a while I found myself thinking "get on with it" and that he could've told us so much more stuff in that time. I'm 100% sure he could do amazing material that was a bit more challenging for the viewer. It would probably have a smaller audience, but they could save money on all the exotic location shoots to make up for that.


Hang Up Your Brightest Colours - by Kenneth Griffith, a great documentary about the Irish rebellion against British rule - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwNJ3aFZg44

The Civil War - by Ken Burns. One of his best and thoroughly well paced - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7HmBmWz9mI

Looking for Fidel - by Oliver Stone. Well worth watching - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTObNESnogQ



I really like "My Octopus Teacher".


Seconded for My Octopus Teacher.

The Social Dilemma was also worth watching.


I really enjoyed The Endurance (2000), which is about the famed Shackleton expedition. Really shows how a man's steadfast leadership, experience, and fortitude can save even the most dire of circumstances. Great narration by Liam Neeson too.


Second this, it is one of my all time favorites. I am always interested in survival documentaries and this one is amazing!

I saw Seeking Asian Female for a class and couldn't get it out of my head. It's a documentary about this older man who has a pretty...egregious Asian fetish. He finds this woman in China who he flies over to the US with the intent of marrying her ASAP. At this point most people have a preconceived notion of where the story is going, but I'll just say it ends up being a lot more complicated. There's a really nice reflexive quality, as filmmaker is an Asian woman herself, albeit Asian-American. Because of this, she ends up playing a role that goes beyond filmmaker, and part of the movie is her reflecting on this transgression.


In a similar vein, I watched My Thai Bride on a recommendation from a friend, and it also stuck in my head for a long time. It's about an older British man who flies to Thailand in search of a wife, but it handles the entire situation with honesty and sensitivity. It sounds weird, but I learned a lot about geopolitical forces from this film.


Into Great Silence.

9 months in a carthusian monestary, filmed solo.


It’s quite the experience. The interview with the blind monk really got me. I spent most of the documentary feeling sorry for him, and he flipped that on its head.


into eternity

about the onkalo nuclear waste storage

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayLxB9fV2y4

they aim at 5000 or even 10000 years of stability and it creates hard scifiesque problems


The War by Ken Burns, a WWII documentary. My favorite documentary of all time. It is so exceptionally made.

https://imdb.com/title/tt0996994/


Fear of 13.

Captivating storytelling by the subject of the story. It's the life story of a man who spent 21 years on death row for a murder he had nothing to do with. He eventually cancelled all his appeals and requested his sentence be carried out.


Nick's episode on JRE was also pretty good. Link to a clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kPxE_Funhw


I really enjoyed this documentary about Makani that was building “flying wind turbines”: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qd_hEja6bzE


Couple of random ones I highly enjoyed recently:

- Feels Good Man -- story of the innocent illustrator behind Pepe the Frog and how the internet ruins nice things

- War Room (1993) -- fly-on-the-wall doc of James Carville during the most intense period of Bill Clinton's election campaign (amazing "pre-internet" energy)

- Downfall: Case Against Boeing -- all in the title

- Cane Toads: An Unnatural History -- hilarious story of the introduction and unintended over-multiplication of cane toads in Australia

- The Man Who Skied Down Everest -- story of a Japanese alpinist plus a team of scientists and 800+ sherpas and their mission to support him skiing down Everest from near the peak


> - Downfall: Case Against Boeing -- all in the title

This is a good one. For context, it deals with the 737 Max 8 crashes, pre covid. Boeing was incentivized to release a flawed aircraft which killed 362 people, across 2 crashes. They knew after the first crash what was going on, but decide to do nothing.

Apart from the technical description of the failure it also explains how the corporate structure and the race for profits compromised Boeing's culture of safety.

See also moral mazes [0].

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Mazes


I posted a few others but thought of this one for cycling fans:

Line of Sight by Lucas Brunelle.

It follows messengers who compete in unofficial and risky alley cat races. The guy follows them with a camera rig on his helmet — this was before Go Pros.


Icarus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icarus_(2017_film)

It's a really odd documentary because it is two films in one. It starts off as the filmmakers attempt to dope himself as a cyclist and document that. As part of that process he seeks out coaching on how to dope better, meets some Russian coaches who tell him about their experiences doping Russian athletes for the winter Olympics. That in tern leads to a documentary about the investigation into that doping.


I really enjoyed Indy Neidell's "The Great War", which is a week-by-week history of World War I on YouTube. https://youtube.com/c/TheGreatWarSeries

He is also doing the same thing for World War II: https://youtube.com/c/WorldWarTwo

It took me a couple of episodes to get used to his style, but after that, it really grew on me and I really looked forward to watching each episode.


Curious Worlds: The Art & Imagination of David Beck. The artist made some incredible automata and kinetic sculptures and it's a documentary that I've watched again and again to get ideas for my own works.


Dr. Death by Errol Morris

Fog of War also by Errol Morris

The Barkley Marathons by Annika Iltis, Timothy James Kane


Lots of great suggestions already. Off the top of my head, one not mentioned so far is Ocean Warriors (2016) about Sea Shepherd chasing an illegal fishing vessel across international waters. It's quite gripping as a documentary, but also does a good job of highlighting the Tragedy of the Commons that is international fishing and the failure of governments to prevent it.

https://www.amazon.com/Ocean-Warriors-Season-1/dp/B09238BH7L


The World at War


Pretty good ones:

Hearts and Minds (great Vietnam War documentary) - https://play.hbomax.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GXk3jwwTEBZ4...

My Best Fiend (Klaus Kinski biography/documentary by Werner Herzog) - https://watch.plex.tv/movie/my-best-fiend?autoplay=1&utm_con...


"The Money Masters" (1996). It changed the way I see everything.


My favourite one is John Berger / Ways of Seeing. It's available on youtube [0]. If you enjoy photography you might enjoying this documentary as well. I think it's very much related to the recent topic https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32794757

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pDE4VX_9Kk



“Walk on By: The Story of Popular Song” was a BBC documentary in 8 or 10 parts that was — I think — alternatively titled “Popular Soundtrack of the Century” in the U.S. I had it saved on a DVR in ~2006, but that’s long gone. It’s in pieces on Youtube now, but they sometimes get yanked down. It covered multiple eras of popular Western music in the 20th century, from big band, to the interesting era of countrified-blues, all the way to the Monkees and boy bands. I loved watching and rewatching it. Lots of great interviews.


documentaries on the Antikythera mechanism, that's a mechanical computer/astronomical clock from a very long time ago.

Antikythera Mechanism. The 2'000 Year Old Computer. BBC, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T1n7RjCMfQ

2,000 Year Old Computer - Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eq80cE3Kopw


John Pilger has made many fine documentaries since the 1970s when he made a documentary on the phenomenon of soldiers "fragging" officers in Vietnam and rebelling in the army.


Formula 1 Drive to Survive https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8289930/


I follow F1 for decades, day and night. Drive to Survive is sadly far from reality and a paparazzi perspective at best.


So much swearing in Formula 1 Drive to Survive. It ruined for me. Definitely not family viewing.


O. J. Made in America - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275892/


Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story

https://reddotontheocean.com/

Once labeled a “youth-at-risk,” Matt Rutherford risks it all in a death-defying attempt to be the first person to sail alone and nonstop around North and South America. Professional sailors called him crazy and declared the journey “a suicide mission.”

https://youtu.be/n12nnrEGWXQ



"Ring of Fire, an Indonesian Odyssey" is at the top of my list. An incredible journey spanning 10 years. Allegedly bankrolled by Ringo Starr who was captivated by the premise, and had faith in the brothers who set out to trace the steps of naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_of_Fire:_An_Indonesian_...


I have an ongoing personal list here

https://letterboxd.com/souljacker/list/must-see-docs/


David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=64R2MYUt394


The Forecaster is about Martin Armstrong, a genius financial advisor. Feds tried to force him to release his computer code to them. When he refused they found a judge to lock him up indefinitely on contempt. He got out when he got that issue to Supreme Court.

The movie was somehow informally banned in USA, though it was shown in Europe.

https://theforecaster-movie.com


The Imposter (2012). It almost feels like a spoiler to tell you it's a documentary, the story is so incredibly gripping and the performances so great you get sucked in completely and forget that the lead isn't actually the hero.

The Eagle Huntress (2016) [1] follows a Mongolian girl as she learns to hunt with an eagle and participate in male-dominated competitions.

Beautiful scenery and an impressive story. I checked the other threads and it hasn’t been mentioned. Really worth a watch.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_Huntress


"Abstract: The Art of Design," a series that profiled a notable designer in each episode. It's a bit uneven, and some of the episodes spent too much playing up how clever and amazing the designer is instead of their work, but on the whole it provided an interesting glimpse into the design process in various fields. I particularly liked the typography episode with Jonathan Hoefler.


About 2003 or 2004, there was a French documentary, "Etre et Avoir" about a teacher in a rural town in France. I liked it as

- giving a picture of a thoroughly dedicated, able teacher - showing the interest and frustration of teaching small children - showing a very different school system--there are relatively few places in the US where a classroom can have first graders and eighth graders.


I loved that too, saw it when it came out. Did you hear about the lawsuit? See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Be_and_to_Have

As a huge music fan, I found "Country Music" by Ken Burns to be extremely enlightening and entertaining. After watching, you'll realize country music is the foundation of modern western (rock, pop, electronic, etc.) music.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music/


Late to the party but even another curious one checks out that's a win, journey to the edge of the universe,. https://youtu.be/bVQpwxgMQCg

WWII in color; it's on Netflix. If you are looking for a good story telling on wwII and don't mind the length, this series is for you.


I really enjoyed Together We Cycle. I don’t think many people know just how close The Netherlands was to losing their cycling culture (and a safe transportation system overall), and what it took to revive it (one example being ‘stop de kindermoord’).

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/togetherwecycle


The Mole: Undercover in North Korea

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mole:_Undercover_in_Nort...

The story is absolutely crazy, the guy is a silent hero or just crazy as well. The documentary is a emotional rollercoaster with so much strange trivia.


España, la Primera Globalización (Spain, the First Globalization): https://m.imdb.com/title/tt14011090/reviews

I found it to be a great documentary where 39 historians from multiple countries narrate the history of the Spanish empire from their points of view.


"A Walk to Beautiful" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Walk_to_Beautiful - Story of post pregnancy medical care for the women of Ethiopia who thanks to famine are too small to healthily have babies, and the stigma of the conditions they endure.


Once Upon a Time in Iraq - interviews with people who lived through the Iraq invasion and the years following.

This was so eye opening compared to the standard news reporting about Iraq. Harrowing and informative.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_Upon_a_Time_in_Iraq


“How We Got to Now” tv series https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3106210/

Fascinating look into ideas that transformed our society, like glass, time keeping, sanitation, etc. takes seemingly mundane topics and explores what a mess things were like before them.


Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space (2021)

A 5 part Netflix docuseries detailing the background and story of the Inspiration4 mission. I thought it was literally inspirational.

The Imagineering Story (2019)

A Disney docuseries focused on Walt Disney Imagineering and the history and creation of the Disney theme parks and attractions around the world. After watching this I had a whole new respect for Disney.


Planetary, http://weareplanetary.com/ - Strauß with astronauts talking about how seeing the whole planet Earth from space was one of the most amazing experiences of their trip, then discussing how we can see ourselves as part of the planet again and live in harmony with it.


It’s 10 years old, but I didn’t see “The House I Live In” in any of the previous threads. Its an amazing look at the history of The War on Drugs, and its impact on the criminal justice system and human rights in the United States.

https://imdb.com/title/tt2125653/


Valley Uprising is about the history of rock climbing in Yosemite Valley: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3784160/

I've rewatched it several times and love how they blend archival footage, interviews, and illustration to show the history of rock climbing.


Time to throw in some controversy:

- tfw no gf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nefjHr6Btas

- Alex's war https://www.alexswar.com/

Recommend watching them, although you might not agree with the message being sent.


I'll start. My favorite is Cosmos, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson. Another favorite of mine is the BBC's Planet Earth series.


I don’t know what the popular opinion is on this one, but it felt like there was something missing in his version. I enjoyed it, but Sagan’s original series, strikes a different chord.

I don’t think it’s nostalgia too since I was too young to catch the original series.


That is so fascinating. I almost never see the Tyson Cosmos recommended. But see Sagan's everywhere. And somehow still didn't watch it.


I might be wrong but I hesitate watching old science documentaries, because science usually gets outdated.


If you can find the "Human Planet" series that was great, but it was removed from most services after a few scenes were discovered to be disingenuous. I would highly recommend it though.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1806234/


"Memphis '69: The 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival" is a remarkable music documentary produced by Fat Possum Records. In my opinion, the quality of it is a lot better than the Woodstock documentary. https://youtu.be/aVhyv-S3R0g


Anyone into music production would love “Tom Dowd & the Language of Music”: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0343107/

It covers all the obvious stuff about Dowd’s music-production career, but also gets into his work on the Manhattan project.


No particular order:

- Particle fever

- Sugar Coated

- The United States of Secrets (and anything Frontline)

- Citizen Four and related movie drama, name escapes me now.

- Cosmos (new and old)

- The Social Dillema

- WWII in HD, two docs on Netflix both good.

- Ken Burns *


Earth story

Based on a book of the same name. It finally clicked for me what a dynamic living thing a rock is. Beautiful narration. Recommended


Fahrenheit 911. It's about a major terrorist attack that happened 21 years ago today.

The film maker later said the number 1 question people asked him on the way out was, "How come we never saw any of this on TV?"

I saw it in the theater on opening night. It got about 20 seconds of applause at the end.


This one should be great and yes shows a few things we didn’t typically get to see. But it hates its subject so much that it resorts to few lies(aka falsehoods) thrown in for good measure. Disappointing because of that.

Read books of Clarke and Tenet for a better account.

Blood and Oil is a good non partisan account of the history of oil dependence since WWII. Great for more background.


What were the lies? Lies of fact please, not opinions.

This is a good place to start:

https://michaelmoore.com/movies/fahrenheit-911/ click on the facts tab


I generally like Michael Moore, but I think there are better documentaries about 9/11.

I think George Bush's politics were abhorrent and his war in Iraq was probably the worst US intervention in history in terms of consequences, so I'm far from a defender of Bush. But conflating a documentary about 9/11 with a documentary about Bush's politics makes a worse documentary than doing both separately IMHO.


Agreed. Bush was only in office eight months or so when it happened. His biggest 9/11 blunder was ignoring security advisors who were sounding vague alarms for several months.

Oxyana, a look into the effects opiates have had on the small town of Oceania, West Virginia.

Happens to be one of the only movies I own through a DRM‐free digital download purchase, sold through Vimeo. I wish I could buy all my movies this way. Of course, it’s also available through the usual DRM‐encumbered sources too (Blu‐Ray, Amazon Prime).



I thought “World War II in Color” was a pretty nice series for getting a full understanding of the war across the world.


Three Identical Strangers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Identical_Strangers A documentary about set of identical triplet brothers adopted as infants by separate families ... with a twist.


This documentary on the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria, Australia. A real eye-opener into the devastation large fires can cause on whole communities/towns. Narrated by Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith).

https://youtu.be/O9Uz8ltWOGU


The idea of Agent Smith telling me about an experience I still remember well is...discombobulating.

""Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. Fire is the cure..."


I saw that no one mentioned American Factory

So, American Factory, the best I’ve seen about globalization and its less glamorous results


I keep thinking about the young man working his butt off, away from his family, being paid dirt, making the owner even more rich. All in the name of national pride (chauvinism). Makes me wonder if and when Chinese Labor will gave their American style Progressive Era (eg collective bargaining, profit sharing, right to strike).


The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2400291/

It's heartfelt, yet comic. It's very enjoyable to watch with somebody else, because it is absurd and funny but also touching.


"King Leopold's Ghost" An honest, brutal account of colonialism and the attempt to cover up it's effects on the people suffering under it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold%27s_Ghost


I like music documentaries and one of my favorites is "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." I'm not a fan of the band at all. Nevertheless, I like the documentary for showing how a deeply flawed individual can achieve a degree of success through persistence and perseverance, and the support of a good friend.


I love documentaries, and these are my favourites. All very worth a watch.

- The Crash Reel

- McConkey

- Buck

- Apollo 11

- Carts of Darkness

- The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

- Samsara

- Baraka

- Brooklyn Castle

- Spellbound

- Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

- Crumb

- The Jinx

- The Art of Flight

- King of Kong

- Indie Game: The Movie

- Capturing the Friedmans

- OJ: Made in America

- The Barkley Marathons

- The Seven Five

- Murderball

- Unbranded

- Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee

- Big River Man

- Hoop Dreams

- Word Wars

- Free Solo

- Long Shot

- Meru

- Being Elmo

- All This Mayhem

- Jiro Dreams of Sushi

- The Cove

- Project Nim

- Alone in the Wilderness

- Behind the Curve

- The Dawn Wall

- Grizzly Man

- 13th

- Winnebago Man

- Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler

- Get Me Roger Stone

- Icarus

- 13th

- Koyaanisqatsi

- The Thin Blue Line

- An Inconvenient Truth

- Oklahoma City

- Virunga

- The Staircase

- Evil Genius

- Undefeated

- Betting on zero


Get me Roger Stone was brilliant, I never quite understood what a political provocateur was until I watched that. Now it’s amazing to spot them throughout the political universe.


Capturing the Friedmans is brilliantly constructed. Jarecki peels the onion one layer at a time, saving key details for when they'll have maximum impact.


Appreciate the list very much. Do you think you could share the ones to start with and why you liked them?


To be completely honest - my memory for films is terrible, so I struggle to remember why I loved many of these. Also, many of them take unexpected twists and to say why I loved them so much risks ruining part of the surprise. I've watched countless documentaries and in order for them to make this list I have to _really_ enjoy them, and for the most part they require no interest in the subject matter in my opinion - they're just objectively good. So, I'd recommend literally any to start with, but with all that being said, some favourites amongst the favourites:

The Crash Reel - an amazing tale of a person preparing for the olympics, with an unexpected turn and just a very heartwarming/impressive journey - very very highly recommended.

The Cove - follows a whaling event that happens every year, and exposes the savagery of it. However, it's filmed almost like a thriller, in how the team set up to expose the event. Very eye opening, if a little sad, but very very good.

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster - just an amazing documentary about a man who makes amazing film posters - incredible, you'll see that he's responsible for so many recognisable posters from your childhood.

Being Elmo - lovely film about the puppeteer behind Elmo - really heartwarming

13th - very good film about racial injustice in the legal system.


Thank you!

Soul in the hole. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_in_the_Hole

It's a great story about a young baseball prodigy and his coach who tries to steer him away from the street.


About Russia:

Putin's Kiss - talks about information in Russia through many eyes, especially independent freelancers

Rise and Fall of Russian Oligarchs [1] - Terrific doc about how Russian oligarchs rose from nothing to billionaires

Assassination of Russia [2] - Terrific french doc about 1999 moscow bombings (which later led to the poisoning of alexander litvinenko in london). It's a great doc about how Putin killed hundreds of Russians framing Islamic terrorist from Chechnya.

I think all 3, in different ways, do a lot to explain modern Russia.


From Shock to Awe (2019).

Follows the journey of two US veterans with PTSD and substance abuse problems into healing, using Ayahuasca. These people are first unable to perform daily errands, and in the end are transformed with stable loving relationships and aspirations to help and shape society.


A good one for people who are into architecture and photography:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_Acoustics:_The_Modern...


The Rescue - A chronicle of the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand. Directed by Jimmy Chin.

Also by Jimmy Chin: Free Solo. An incredible film.


Netflix's "Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror". What I love about it is the self reflection on war in Afghanistan and Iraq, consequences of that, and why those might've been a mistake. Really recommend, it's only 5 one hour series


Not sure if 7 years is going back too far, but I'll go with: Only The Dead

Does not make for easy viewing at all. Essentially a narrated compilation of Australian journalist Michael Ware's footage (first and second hand) from his time in Iraq throughout the conflict.


For reasons of being very accessible and well told: Jeremy Clarkson: Greatest Raid of All Time (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0996628/)


Tickled. It’s the one of the few documentaries I watched in theaters because of how great it seemed.

It was as good as it seemed.

Trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iOBXuCYB4jQ


I see a bunch of outdoor related docs here, I’ll throw a couple more favorites on the pile…

- “The Alpinist” - The story of Marc Andre Leclerc, a young Canadian soloist ice climber

- “This Mountain Life” - a series of short stories on alpine adventure mixed with some fantastic cinematography


Addicted to Life (Nuit de la Glisse) (2014) is a documentary written and directed by Thierry Donard about men around the world who seek extreme athletic challenges.

https://moviewise.wordpress.com/2021/05/31/addicted-to-life/


Harrowing, profound, and a very effective dramatisation of real events:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touching_the_Void_%28film%29


Up (series) which follows the lives of 14 British people from different backgrounds over 50 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_(film_series)



Most Ken Burns stuff... Especially the ww2 one. Also, released in the last year, the Beatles: get back documentary is fascinating to watch the creative process and dedication to the task, if you're so dedicated to sit for all 8 hours of it.


I honestly want to watch the Beatles doc but haven’t committed to the time yet though. My mother and her friends who were Beatles fans in their peak seemed to have enjoyed it.


"The Alchemists of Sound", a BBC documentary about the history of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, who were most famous for producing the Doctor Who theme tune, but were enormously influential in the world of early electronic music.


A couple of recent Netflix docu-series I liked are Evil Genius and Wild Wild Country.


+1 for Wild Wild Country, watched it like 5 times


The “Engineering an Empire” series from the History Channel (back when they did real history).

Nice to see extensively detailed stories about the grand states of yore from a perspective of engineering, rather than politics and great man moments.


Pianomania

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pianomania

If you enjoy watching people who are really, really good at what they do, this one is for you.


Dicing with Death A series generally about dangerous roads in countries around the world, but largely focusing on African countries. It gives a view of sub-saharan countries that I've never seen anywhere else.


The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On by Kazuo Hara

It's about a Japanese veteran of WWII seeking out and confronting his superiors that he's accusing of cannibalism.

All the films of Kazuo Hara are intense and very personal.


The Grateful Dead Movie, don't know if it's online. A in-depth look at GD shows mid-70's, near their creative peak. Lots of backstage footage, fan interviews, and some pretty neat animation.


in the same realm is Festival Express. what an epic journey it must have been


Operation Odessa


it's got one of my favorite lines in a documentary: "he said would you like nukes with your submarine, we sell those too". Russia in the 90's after the fall of the soviet union was a wild place.


+1 Absolutely mind-boggling documentary…


I bet this audience would enjoy Startup.com - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0256408/


"S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine"

It's a great documentary in its own way. It circles around the S21 Tuol Sleng prison/interrogation center/extermination center where a small cadre of Khmer Rouge soldiers were responsible for, mostly using torture, extracting a confession out of the prisoner. The names given during torture were picked up, and the cycle repeats. Entire generations of families went out this way.

Horrible, horrible event in history, and a chilling place to visit (I did a decade ago).

This documentary allows plenty of room for the guards/soldiers/torturers themselves to describe the events from their side. Which they do.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368954/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuol_Sleng_Genocide_Museum



One of my favorites is Vigilante Vigilante: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1651151/




The Game Changers.

It's fine if you don't care about the animals but it's not fine to not look after yourself. This explains why eating meat is not a good idea and it does it without preaching.




AlphaGo. Surprising human and moving considering the subject matter.


Target shoots first

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f4IaB-eB6lQ

Nothing huge at stake, but a good slice of life


It’s about a young professional working in the mail to order music business



NOVA The Miracle of Life (1983)

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3623rs


Here's one you don't have yet, and for a change with a documentary, it's actually funny:

"Exporting Raymond" https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1356763/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond went to Russia, to help start a Russian TV version of his series. They got the scripts, but they completely recast it with Russian actors and changed a few situations. "What's funny about a guy who's nobody, and lives with his parents?" they asked.

We had Phil and his producer at Google for a Q&A after the screening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoGwRYUeo1E



TIME: The Kalief Browder Story

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6133034/


Hell House (2001) and Zoo (2007) for presenting disturbing subjects & material that both resist neutral/objective-ish treatment and yet giving it such.


The Imposter -- don't look it up, don't question it, don't ask anyone about it. Just go watch it, sight unseen.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace by Adam Curtis


I saw a lot of them, but below seems not only eye-opening but also educational to increase awareness on several areas of life.

1. An Inconvenient Truth - About global warming 2. Seaspiracy - Impact to oceans and climate due to (over)fishing 3. Blackfish - following the controversial captivity of killer whales(orcas), and its dangers for both humans and whales. 4. Sicko - investigating healthcare and insurance on USA 5. The social dilemma - Impact on humans by using online social networks 6. Jiro dreams of Sushi - Man's lifelong practice to perfect the art of Sushi making


World War II in Color


Kingdom of the white wolf - a documentary on national geographic. My 1l yr old is fascinated with wolves and this one was quite a learning experience.


Genghis Blues I don't think has been mentioned yet.


I enjoyed this one a lot.


Any of Wiseman's documentaries are good but Basic Training, Meat and Blind are good ones to start with if you are not familiar with his work


American Moon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpuKu3F0BvY

Long, detailed going through evidence the Apollo Moon landing was a hoax.

Before sparking a discussion about the fact itself or calling me a "flat-earther" or sorts, I strongly suggest to watch it with open mind. It may not change the way you perceive the alleged Moon landing, but nonetheless challenging your thoughts and beliefs is something every curious intellectual should do.


How art made the world

A mini series about art and it's impact on humanity.

The bridge

Shows the other side of humans suiciding on the golden gate bridge and how every one them is missed.


thunder run on baghdad.

It a documentary on iraq war seen from the eyes of bhagdadis, both military and common folk. This war was extensively covered in media but I've never seen it from the eyes of people who were on the other side.

After all this time, i realize how racist and cruel this war was and such contrast to how we viewed people of ukraine. Helped me reflect on my own racist attitudes.


Recently watched a four part documentary on the Iraq war by DW on YouTube. It was actually quite shocking, some of the details. Like how the electric infrastructure was destroyed by the USAF with the help of the French engineering company which built their power stations, but it was never rebuilt.

Under Saddam they had air conditioning, now many Iraqis don't even have fans.


The Alpinist. It’s a documentary about how to optimise for being in a flow state (which is the peak of human experience) 24/7.


Ken Burns's documentaries on America's National Parks, The Civil War, The Vietnam War, and The War

Herzog's "Lo and Behold"


Top 5

1. First Contact (1982) - Possibly the best documentary ever made https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085544/

2. Rivers and Tides (2001) - Beautiful meditation on the art of Andy Goldsworthy, with music by Fred Frith https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0307385/

3. This is the Last Dam Run of Likker I'll Ever Make (2002) - The story of Popcorn Sutton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glQjCKAI4gA

4. Alone in the Wilderness (2004) - Mostly original footage and commentary by Richard Proenneke https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0437806/

5. Apollo 11 (2019) - Narration-free documentary on the first moon landing https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8760684/

Bonus picks:

Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) is a dramatization but an incredibly accurate one https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0168122/

If mockumentaries count, everything by Christopher Guest is obligatory. There's also this short gem on the Centrifuge Brain Project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVeHxUVkW4w

Grizzly Man (2005) is not a mockumentary, but like most Herzog documentaries, it's not exactly straight https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427312/

Finally, I'm a huge fan of first-nuclear-era documentaries made by the U.S. government, e.g.

Army Nuclear Power Program (1963) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPWDMHH4rY4

SNAP 8 Reactor (1963) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82nCRWawfhQ

SNAPSHOT (1964) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9jI1Hdl5Yw

Remote Maintanence of Molten Salt Reactors (?) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHT-w2x6dDg

and many more.


Black Fish


It’s a pretty dark documentary but I came across a British doc about addiction and it’s the single film that’s stuck with me the most. A ~London based photographer and journalist covered addiction but decided he wasn’t “close enough to the story” to really understand the subjects. He starts doing heroin and the documentary is about his unsuccessful journey to get clean (across like a decade) - it’s powerful and deeply scary and sad. But suppose it’s great journalism.

Good luck to y’all

Edit: timelines


What's the name...?


Was surprised to find it but it has the title “Channel 4 - Cold Turkey - Heroin addiction documentary 2001” on youtube


Thanks! I've half way through and this is incredible


Damn this thread. All I need now is a month of crap weather to justify spending it watching all the recommendations...


The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski. Civilisation - Kenneth Clark Cosmos - Carl Sagan Cosmos - Not Carl Sagan

All pretty good.


Apocalypse: World War I - https://g.co/kgs/LZYDKi

It's impossible to understand the twentieth century without understanding WWI, which is why this outstanding documentary is so crucial. Parts are very hard to watch, but you need to. I was amazed by how much footage exists from WWI.

[Bonus] Apocalypse: Stalin - https://g.co/kgs/Ypj5sX

A subsequent offering by the same filmmakers. Also excellent.


Land of Silence and Darkness - Werner Herzog


To name a few: - The Great Hack - The century of self - Inside the Bell's Brain - Jiro Dream's of Sushi


“Trinity and Beyond: the Atomic Bomb Movie”

Narrated by William Shatner, using declassified, high quality footage of nuclear tests.



I really enjoyed "Commanding Heights" (PBS?). Its more of a series, but in documentary style.


Idiocracy. Best documentary about us humans right now.

Jim Al-Khalili's "Everything and Nothing", "Order and Disorder"

“The devil we know” <—- about Teflon’s history and how bad it is for the planet…


Anything by Norma Percy[0].

She has an exquisite ability to get access to and interview people involved in recent historical events. I recommend her documentaries on Putin’s Russia, the Iranian revolution, the Iraq war, and the Israel/Palestine conflict.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norma_Percy


The Internet's Own Boy.


The Seven Five (2015) - Pretty wild documentary about a corrupt NYPD cop.


I'm currently obsessed with documentaries about uncontacted tribes.


trolling or are there actual documentaries? Maybe depends on definition of "uncontacted"?


Uncontacted as in, uncontacted.

:-)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XYbR6eYrVbQ


Could you recommend some?


Sure. I recommend starting with this one and then letting your curiosity lead to others. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XYbR6eYrVbQ

My head hasn't been right since. I'm seriously questioning everything I've learned!


Threads


I guess Reagan freaked out after watching The Day After so I’ll allow it.


Wordplay

A wonderful doc about puzzles, and those who make puzzles. A joy for all ages.



Civil War by Ken Burns. Also The West, Jazz and a few others.


American Movie Anything by the Maysles brothers Cinemania


* Icarus. It's a wild ride that just keeps getting wilder and would be spoiled by my attempt at an explanation. I suggest just watching it.

* Winter on Fire. Documentary about the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2013-2014.


+1 on Icarus, the documentary that itself became part of history


W1A, an honest look at the inner workings of the BBC


Anything ken burns.


Netflix dropping his documentaries was a sad day and a turning point in my opinion of their service.


Wormwood (2017): MKUltra, CIA murder, biological weapons, the Korean War and more. Hauntingly well-produced.

Mirage Men (2013): The UFO phenomenon is, among other things, a massive psychological operation by US (military) intelligence.

A Perfect Crime (2020): About the "third generation" RAF, which in all likelihood did not exist.

Heaven Adores You (2015): Elliott Smith. Time capsule.

About a Son (2006): Kurt Cobain, in a similar vein.

Das Netz (2003): Imperfect, omnidirectional. Love it or hate it.

Another vote for the BBC historic farm series.

State Funeral (2019): Stalin's funeral. Another time capsule.

Glenn Gould: Hereafter (2006)

London (1994): "London," he says, "is a city under siege."

Andy Irons: Kissed by God (2018) and Momentum Generation (2018): Surfing. Not the only great ones.


O.J. Made in America - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5275892/


Cold Case Hammarskjöld (2019)


Here is a list of 20 documentaries I have come to love and return to when I come across them. There is no specific order to them. Enjoy! The * next to the number indicates the last 4 years. If you have seen one listed that you'd like to share what you think about please leave a comment with this structure [# in the list ] Comment... . i.e. [1] Loved learning about Noyce. What a guy.

1. Silicon Valley: Where the Future | PBS: American Experience [1:23:19] [2013] History of the how Silicon Valley came to be. William Shockley. Robert Noyce. Fairchild Semiconductor, The Traitorous Eight. Homepage: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/silicon/ Kanopy: https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/122744 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/silicon-valley

2. Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware | Wired UK: Future Cities [1:07:50] [2016] the evolution of “Shanzhai” – or copycat manufacturing – has transformed traditional models of business, distribution and innovation, and asks what the rest of the world can learn from this so-called “Silicon Valley of hardware". Youtube: https://youtu.be/SGJ5cZnoodY

    *2.1. The People's Republic of The Future | Bloomberg: Hello World [30:10] [2019]
        Shenzhen, tech-fueled entrepreneurs try to navigate an authoritarian regime.
        Youtube: https://youtu.be/taZJblMAuko
3. The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard | TPB AFK [1:22:07] [2013] The history of the Pirate Bay. Torrenting. Legal. Privacy. Homepage: https://tpbafk.tv Youtube: https://youtu.be/eTOKXCEwo_8 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/the-pirate-bay-away-from-...

4. Can’t Get You Out of My Head | BBC [6 Part] [2021] Adam Curtis takes you on "An Emotional history of how we got to this place." Economics. History. Power. Psychology. World. China. Russia. UK. USA. Part 1: Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain [1:14:15] Part 2: Shooting and F*king are the Same Thing [1:14:01] Part 3: Money Changes Everything [1:10:36] Part 4: But What If the People Are Stupid? [1:13:29] Part 5: The Lordly Ones [1:05:43] Part 6: Are We Pigeon? Or Are We Dancer? [1:59:50] Homepage: https://www.bbc.com/bbcfilm/films/cant-get-you-out-of-my-hea... BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p093wp6h/cant-get-you... Thought Maybe: https://thoughtmaybe.com/cant-get-you-out-of-my-head/

5. Three Identical Strangers | NEON [1:37:00] [2018] Its in the name, but The less you know about this story the better. Homepage: https://www.threeidenticalstrangers.com Kanopy: https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/11374410 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/three-identical-strangers

6. The Pharmacist | Netflix [4 Part] [2020] A small-town pharmacist investigates the death of his son in a drug deal, but his investigation skills only expands when OxyContin becomes available. Part 1: Justice for Danny [1:00:38] Part 2: A Mission from God [58:47] Part 3: Dope Dealers with White Lab Coats [47:30] Part 4: Tunnel of Hope [48:31] Homepage: https://thecinemart.com/the-pharmacist.html Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81002576 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/the-pharmacist

7. AlphaGo | Netflix [1:30:27] [2017] Deepmind, Alphabets's AI company, creates an AI to play the game Go and faces off to beat the best, Lee Sedol. Homepage: https://www.alphagomovie.com Youtube: https://youtu.be/WXuK6gekU1Y Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/alphago

8. Page One: Inside the New York Times | Magnolia Pictures [1:31:38] [2011] As print media begins to be challenged by the internet, you get an inside look into NY Times. Homepage: http://www.magpictures.com/pageone/ Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/page-one-inside-the-new-y...

9. The Secret of Tuxedo Park | PBS: American Experience [53:00] [2018] Alfred Lee Loomis isn't just a Wall Street tycoon, but a scientist with a checkbook to pay for it. Opening his home to the best, he follows his interest and a call from the government about WWII. Homepage: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/secret-tux...

10. The Century of the Self | BBC [4 Part] [2002] Adam Curtis investigates how Freudian theory influenced twentieth century society. Part 1: Happiness Machines [58:32] Part 2: The Engineering of Consent [58:40] Part 3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed [58:39] Part 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering [59:32] Homepage: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00ghx6g BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p00ghx6g/the-century-... Thought Maybe: https://thoughtmaybe.com/the-century-of-the-self/

11. How Ants Can Make The Internet a Safer Place | Tom Mishra [00:04:08] [2015] Five researchers, scientists and mathematicians studied the behavior of Ants and Game Theory to create a safer Internet. Video: https://vimeo.com/147548221

12. Chasing Einstein | Ignite [1:22:00] [2019] Follows leading scientists around the world, from the largest particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland to the LIGO gravitational wave detector in the US to find out whether Einstein's theory of gravity can stand the test of time. Homepage: https://chasingeinsteinfilm.com Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/chasing-einstein

13. Language of Love (Ur kärlekens språk) | [1:43:00] [1969] * Rated X, and in Swedish A panel of real-life doctors discuss sexual hangups, misconceptions, personal prejudices and the ignorance of individuals when it comes to matters sexual. Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/language-of-love

14. Citizenfour | TWC [1:54:00] [2014] A documentarian and a reporter travel to Hong Kong to meet Edward Snowden where they release classified information. Homepage: https://citizenfourfilm.com Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/citizen-four

15. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail | PBS: Frontline [1:30:00] [2016] The Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York is targeted by the DA in the mess after the 2008 financial crisis. Homepage: https://www.abacusmovie.com Kanopy: https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/2141966 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/abacus-small-enough-to-ja...

16. Zero Days | Magnolia Pictures [1:56:00] [2016] Stuxnet, a self-replicating computer virus discovered in 2010 by international IT experts points to be created by the NSA and used by Unit 8200, Israel, on Iran nuclear enrichment facility. Homepage: http://www.zerodaysfilm.com Kanopy: https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/10846994 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/zero-days

17. Tell Me Who I Am | Netflix [1:25:32] [2019] The less you know about this story the better. Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80214706 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/tell-me-who-i-am

18. McMillions | HBO [6 Part] [2020] A detailed account of the McDonald's Monopoly game scam during the 1990s. Part 1: Episode 1 [55:50] Part 2: Episode 2 [53:57] Part 3: Episode 3 [56:54] Part 4: Episode 4 [57:08] Part 5: Episode 5 [56:41] Part 6: Episode 6 [56:59] HBO: https://www.hbo.com/mc-millions Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/mcmillion

19. Jesus Camp | Magnolia Pictures [1:24:00] [2006] Children at a christian summer camp as they hone their "prophetic gifts" and are schooled in how to "take back America for christ." The film is a first-ever look into an intense training ground that recruits born-again christian children to become an active part of America's political future. Kanopy: https://www.kanopy.com/en/product/10803148 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/jesus-camp

*20. The Edge of All We Know | Netflix [1:39:00] [2020] Follow the quest to understand the most mysterious objects in the universe, black holes. Homepage: https://www.blackholefilm.com Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81343342 Where to Watch: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/black-holes-the-edge-of-a...


Earthlings


"The Social Dilemma", what a great documentary showing how ad business, recommendations, attention grabbing works in social networks and how it impacts society, it basically shows "how sausage is made" and how it impacts the whole world and the risks associated with it https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11464826/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

"Planet Earth II", breathtaking documentary about animal life on earth with extraordinary scenes https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5491994/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Inside Job", documentary about 2008 crisis, masterpiece, narrated by Matt Damon. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645089/

"The Last Dance", I'm not a fan of basketball, it's a doc about Michael Jordan, one of the best docs I've seen, sounds boring but you can't wait to watch the next episode, recommended even if you don't watch sports like me, it's about extraordinary person/athlete and what it takes to be GOAT https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8420184/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Zero Days", great doc about stuxnet exploit https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5446858/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Human", what it is to be a human from different perspectives https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3327994/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Over the Limit", documentary about olympic gymnastic and shows the price of winning at any cost. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8184202/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Life Story", beautiful doc about animals, great scenes https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4150884/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Planet Earth", extraordinary scenes of animals lives https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795176/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Blue Planet II", like Planet Earth but in water https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6769208/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Cosmos", doc about cosmos, nature of the world etc, very good https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2395695/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"The Tinder Swindler", "Posing as a wealthy, jet-setting diamond mogul, he wooed women online, then conned them out of millions of dollars." Surprisingly good https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14992922/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"The Farthest", about first human made object leaving our Solar system https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6223974/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Our Planet", https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9253866/?ref_=rt_li_tt

"Cartel land" https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4126304/?ref_=rt_li_tt


Dangerous Knowledge (2007)


Secret History of silicon valley, more a presentation. It gave insight into the collaboration of astrophysics and the military.

Shoah: An documentary about the holocaust 11 hours long, but without any archive footage. The maker interviews all kinds of people. Farmers living next to train emplacements used, train drivers, perpetrators and more.


Ken Burns Dust Bowl


Burden of Dreams


„Death of Yugoslavia“ - about the fall of Yugoslavia and the subsequent genocide was pretty riveting. It had interviews of many of the key figures including Slobodan Milošević.


Icarus (2017)


Citizenfour


vernon, florida. paradise lost


Free Solo


Resolved - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolved_(film)

- Follows a high school debate team that eschewed the normal speed and pitch common in debate and instead argued against the structure of debate on the whole.

Class Action Park - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Class_Action_Park

- Covers the history of Action Park, and amusement park which was located in Vernon Township, New Jersey and was infamous for its poor safety record.

The Last Dance - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Dance_(miniseries)

- Chronicles the career of basketball great Michael Jordan

The Captain - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Captain_(miniseries)

- Chronicles the career of baseball great Derek Jeter

Andre the Giant - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_the_Giant_(film)

- Examines the life and career of professional wrestler Andre the Giant

6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6_Days_to_Air

- Follows Trey Parker and Matt Stone as they produce an episode of the adult cartoon series South Park in the 6 days before it is due to air.

The Alzheimers Project - https://www.hbo.com/the-alzheimer-s-project

- A bit aged, but a multi-part series covering Alzheimers disease and its impact on those affected by it and their families.

Alive Day Memories - Home From Iraq - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive_Day_Memories

- Interviews with Iraq War veterans about the days they should have died, but didn't.

Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assume_the_Position_with_Mr._W...

- Talks about facts and myths of American history in a comedic view


I don't like documentaries that much as most documentaries tend to paint a one-sided picture.

That said, the people they argue against generally also like to paint one-sided pictures.


The OP asked for "best documentaries" and it sounds like in your opinion the best documentaries wouldn't do this. Do you have any content to suggest instead of empty and dismissive commentary?


Ok, then I vote for RIP, a remix manifesto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quO_Dzm4rnk




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