Top documentary movies 2000-2017

List by john Last updated August 19, 2017

A list of top documentary films made this century.


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top documentary movies 2000-2017 List order as defined by john

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Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (2015)

Documentary
The Next Generation Of Revolution

A documentary on the unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

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Vote count 59 Vote avg 81 Release date 2015-10-09

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Meru (2015)

Adventure Documentary

Meru is the electrifying story of three elite American climbers—Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk—bent on achieving the impossible.

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Vote count 55 Vote avg 71 Release date 2015-01-25

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Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

Documentary
Can an artist change China?

Ai Weiwei is known for many things – great architecture, subversive in-your-face art, and political activism. He has also called for greater transparency on the part of the Chinese state. Director Alison Klayman chronicles the complexities of Ai’s life for three years, beginning with his rise to public prominence via blog and Twitter after he questioned the deaths of more than 5,000 students in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The record continues through his widely publicized arrest in Beijing in April of 2011. As Ai prepares various works of art for major international exhibitions, his activism heats up, and his run-ins with China’s authorities become more and more frequent.

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Vote count 23 Vote avg 70 Release date 2012-06-14

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Racing Extinction (2015)

Adventure Documentary
It's better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

An unlikely team of activists and innovators hatches a bold mission to save endangered species.

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Vote count 45 Vote avg 77 Release date 2015-01-24

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Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015)

Documentary

Filmmakers discuss how Francois Truffaut's 1966 book "Cinema According to Hitchcock" influenced their work.

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Vote count 51 Vote avg 75 Release date 2015-09-04

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Into the Inferno (2016)

Documentary
What we worship can destroy us

Werner Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer embark upon a global journey exploring some of the world's most mythical volcanoes in Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iceland and North Korea. Speaking with scientists and indigenous peoples alike, they seek to understand the complex and deeply rooted relationship between mankind and one of nature's greatest wonders.

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Vote count 22 Vote avg 70 Release date 2016-09-07

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Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)

Documentary Music

Musician Cat Power narrates this documentary on Janis Joplin's evolution into a star from letters that Joplin wrote over the years to her friends, family, and collaborators.

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Vote count 34 Vote avg 80 Release date 2015-09-09

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Life, Animated (2016)

Animation Documentary
When he fell into silence, movies gave him back his voice

At three years old, a chatty, energetic little boy named Owen Suskind ceased to speak, disappearing into autism with apparently no way out. Almost four years passed and the only stimuli that engaged Owen were Disney films. Then one day, his father donned a puppet—Iago, the wisecracking parrot from Aladdin—and asked “what’s it like to be you?” And poof! Owen replied, with dialogue from the movie. Life, Animated tells the remarkable story of how Owen found in Disney animation a pathway to language and a framework for making sense of the world.

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Vote count 36 Vote avg 80 Release date 2016-03-03

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Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003)

Documentary

Brilliant, long in-the-works story of the life and art of the world's greatest comedian and the cinema's first genius, Charlie Chaplin. Produced, written and directed by renowned film critic Richard Schickel.

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Vote count 26 Vote avg 65 Release date 2003-05-01

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City of Ghosts (2017)

Documentary
Our words are stronger than their weapons.

With unprecedented access, this documentary follows the extraordinary journey of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”—a group of anonymous citizen journalists who banded together after their homeland was overtaken by ISIS—as they risk their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.

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Vote count 2 Vote avg 0 Release date 2017-07-14

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Last Men in Aleppo (2017)

Documentary

After five years of war in Syria, Aleppo’s remaining residents prepare themselves for a siege. Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud, founding members of The White Helmets, have remained in the city to help their fellow citizens—and experience daily life, death, struggle and triumph in a city under fire.

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Vote count 1 Vote avg 100 Release date 2017-02-27

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Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words (2015)

Documentary

A personal portrait of mythical and controversial actress Ingrid Bergman based on her many home movies and diaries.

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Vote count 13 Vote avg 76 Release date 2015-05-19

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Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016)

Documentary
The human side of the digital revolution.

Werner Herzog's exploration of the Internet and the connected world.

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Vote count 61 Vote avg 64 Release date 2016-03-04

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The King of Kong (2007)

Documentary
Don't get chumpatized

In this hilarious arcade showdown, a humble novice goes head-to-head against the reigning Donkey Kong champ in a confrontation that rocks the gaming world to its processors! For over 20 years, Billy Mitchell has owned the throne of the Donkey Kong world. No one could beat his top score until now. Newcomer Steve Wiebe claims to have beaten the unbeatable, but Mitchell isn't ready to relinquish his crown without a fight. Go behind the barrels as the two battle it out in a vicious war to earn the title of the true King of Kong.

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Vote count 121 Vote avg 81 Release date 2007-08-17

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Tower (2016)

Animation Crime Documentary

Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation, Tower reveals the action-packed untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.

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Vote count 34 Vote avg 80 Release date 2016-03-13

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The Weeping Camel (2003)

Documentary Drama

When a Mongolian nomadic family's newest camel colt is rejected by its mother, a musician is needed for a ritual to change her mind.

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Vote count 41 Vote avg 79 Release date 2003-06-29

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Waltz with Bashir (2008)

Drama Animation War

Much awarded animated documentary, in which director and Israeli army veteran Ari Folman interviews friends and former soldiers about their memories of the 1982 Lebanon war and especially the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut. The usage on animation enabled Folman to illustrate their personal memories and dreams.

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Vote count 250 Vote avg 77 Release date 2008-06-04

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Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

Documentary

Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

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Vote count 4 Vote avg 50 Release date 2008-02-12

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9/11 (2002)

Documentary
The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition

Unlike the films "World Trade Center" and "United 93", which are dramatizations of the events of September 11, this is an on-the-scene documentary following the events of September 11 from an insider's view, through the lens of two French filmmakers who were in Manhattan on that fateful day. Filmmakers James Hanlon and Jules and Gedeon Naudet were filming a documentary about a rookie New York City firefighter when they noticed a plane fly overhead and hit the World Trade Center. Being with those firefighters who where the first to respond to the tragedy, James Hanlon and the Naudets accompanied them and continued filming from the firemen's perspective. It later became known that their presence allowed them to capture the only known footage of the first plane strike, and from inside the Twin Towers.

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Vote count 16 Vote avg 75 Release date 2002-03-10

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Blackfish (2013)

Documentary
Never capture what you can't control.

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

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Vote count 401 Vote avg 79 Release date 2013-06-07

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Man on Wire (2008)

Thriller Documentary Crime
1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century.

On August 7th 1974, French tightrope walker Philippe Petit stepped out on a high wire, illegally rigged between New York's World Trade Center twin towers, then the world's tallest buildings. After nearly an hour of performing on the wire, 1,350 feet above the sidewalks of Manhattan, he was arrested. This fun and spellbinding documentary chronicles Philippe Petit's "highest" achievement.

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Vote count 237 Vote avg 75 Release date 2008-07-25

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The Salt of the Earth (2014)

Documentary
A Journey With Sebastião Salgado

During the last forty years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever changing humanity. He has witnessed the major events of our recent history ; international conflicts, starvations and exodus… He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of the wild fauna and flora, of grandiose landscapes : a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet's beauty. Sebastião's Salgado's life and work are revealed to us by his son, Juliano, who went with him during his last journeys, and by Wim Wenders, a photographer himself.

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Vote count 124 Vote avg 80 Release date 2014-09-27

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Weiner (2016)

Documentary

Documentary featuring a jaw-dropping, behind-the-scenes look at the attempted comeback of Anthony Weiner in 2013 as he mounts a campaign for New York City mayor in the wake of his sexting scandal. Featuring unfettered access to the candidate and his campaign.

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Vote count 40 Vote avg 79 Release date 2016-05-20

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Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Music Documentary

The authorized documentary on late Guitar/lead singer Kurt Cobain from his early days in Aberdeen Washington to his success and downfall with Grunge band Nirvana.

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Vote count 250 Vote avg 75 Release date 2015-03-23

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Amy (2015)

Documentary Music
The girl behind the name.

A documentary on the life of Amy Winehouse, the immensely talented yet doomed songstress. We see her from her teen years, where she already showed her singing abilities, to her finding success and then her downward spiral into alcoholism and drugs.

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Vote count 408 Vote avg 75 Release date 2015-07-03

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Citizenfour (2014)

Documentary

In June 2013, Laura Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion.

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Vote count 454 Vote avg 79 Release date 2014-10-10

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The Act of Killing (2012)

Documentary
A story of killers who win, and the society they build

In a place where killers are celebrated as heroes, these filmmakers challenge unrepentant death-squad leaders to dramatize their role in genocide. The result is a surreal, cinematic journey, not only into the memories and imaginations of mass murderers, but also into a frighteningly banal regime of corruption and impunity.

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Vote count 174 Vote avg 76 Release date 2012-08-31

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The Look of Silence (2014)

Documentary

A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers.

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Vote count 66 Vote avg 79 Release date 2014-08-30

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Samsara (2011)

Drama Documentary

Samsara is a word that describes the ever turning wheel of life. It is a concept both intimate and vast - the perfect subject for filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, whose previous collaborations include Chronos and Baraka, and who, in the last 20 years, have travelled to over 58 countries together in the pursuit of unique imagery. Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation that will transform viewers in countries around the world as they are swept along a journey of the soul. Through powerful images pristinely photographed in 70mm and a dynamic music score, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of the nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.

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Vote count 137 Vote avg 80 Release date 2011-09-16

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Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Documentary

Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

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Vote count 57 Vote avg 69 Release date 2013-12-06

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The Imposter (2012)

Documentary Drama
There are two sides to every lie.

It’s 1994: a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later, he is found alive, thousands of miles away, in Spain. Disoriented and quivering with fear, he divulges his shocking story of kidnap and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not what it seems. Sure, he has the same tattoos, but he looks decidedly different, and he now speaks with a strange accent. Why doesn't the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It's only when an investigator starts asking questions that this astounding true story takes an even stranger turn.

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Vote count 236 Vote avg 74 Release date 2012-07-13

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Inside Job (2010)

Documentary
The film that cost $20,000,000,000,000 to make.

A film that exposes the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, Inside Job traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.

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Vote count 240 Vote avg 77 Release date 2010-10-08

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Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)

Documentary Drama
The greatest science fiction movie never made

Shot in France, England, Switzerland and the United States, this documentary covers director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre) and his 1974 Quixotic attempt to adapt the seminal sci-fi novel Dune into a feature film. After spending 2 years and millions of dollars, the massive undertaking eventually fell apart, but the artists Jodorowsky assembled for the legendary project continued to work together. This group of artists, or his “warriors” as Jodorowsky named them, went on to define modern sci-fi cinema with such films as Alien, Blade Runner, Star Wars and Total Recall.

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Vote count 144 Vote avg 82 Release date 2013-08-30

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Fed Up (2014)

Documentary

Fed Up blows the lid off everything we thought we knew about food and weight loss, revealing a 30-year campaign by the food industry, aided by the U.S. government, to mislead and confuse the American public, resulting in one of the largest health epidemics in history.

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Vote count 93 Vote avg 74 Release date 2014-05-09

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Senna (2010)

Documentary
The legend of the greatest driver who ever lived.

Senna's remarkable story, charting his physical and spiritual achievments on the track and off, his quest for perfection, and the mythical status he has since attained, is the subject of Senna, a documentary feature that spans the racing legend's years as an F1 driver, from his opening season in 1984 to his untimely death a decade later.

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Vote count 244 Vote avg 80 Release date 2010-10-07

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Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Documentary Music
Great Art Always Survives

Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock 'n' roller, Rodriguez. The film won Best Documentary at the 85th Academy Awards.

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Vote count 250 Vote avg 79 Release date 2012-06-30

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Touching the Void (2003)

Documentary Action Adventure

A documentary based on the book of the same name by Joe Simpson about Simpson's and Simon Yates' disastrous and near-fatal attempt to climb 6,344m Siula Grande in the Cordillera Huayhuash in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

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Vote count 115 Vote avg 76 Release date 2003-09-05

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The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

Documentary
Information is power.

Programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz achieved groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing. His passion for open access ensnared him in a legal nightmare that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26.

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Vote count 159 Vote avg 77 Release date 2014-06-27

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This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006)

Documentary
Censorship, uncensored.

Kirby Dick's provocative documentary investigates the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films, revealing the organization's underhanded efforts to control culture. Dick questions whether certain studios get preferential treatment and exposes the discrepancies in how the MPAA views sex and violence.

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Vote count 100 Vote avg 74 Release date 2006-01-26

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The Cove (2009)

Documentary
Shallow Water. Deep Secret.

The Cove tells the amazing true story of how an elite team of individuals, films makers and free divers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate the hidden cove in Japan, shining light on a dark and deadly secret. The shocking discoveries were only the tip of the iceberg.

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Vote count 214 Vote avg 79 Release date 2009-07-31

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Grizzly Man (2005)

Documentary
One man spent the last 13 years of his life crossing them.

Werner Herzog's documentary film about the "Grizzly Man" Timothy Treadwell and what the thirteen summers in a National Park in Alaska were like in one man's attempt to protect the grizzly bears. The film is full of unique images and a look into the spirit of a man who sacrificed himself for nature.

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Vote count 170 Vote avg 72 Release date 2005-08-12
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Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Documentary
The world's first Street Art disaster movie

Banksy is a graffiti artist with a global reputation whose work can be seen on walls from post-hurricane New Orleans to the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank. Fiercely guarding his anonymity to avoid prosecution, Banksy has so far resisted all attempts to be captured on film. Exit Through the Gift Shop tells the incredible true story of how an eccentric French shop keeper turned documentary maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner.

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Vote count 279 Vote avg 77 Release date 2010-01-24

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Food, Inc. (2008)

Documentary
You'll never look at dinner the same way again.

Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner examines how mammoth corporations have taken over all aspects of the food chain in the United States, from the farms where our food is grown to the chain restaurants and supermarkets where it's sold. Narrated by author and activist Eric Schlosser, the film features interviews with average Americans about their dietary habits, commentary from food experts like Michael Pollan and unsettling footage shot inside large-scale animal processing plants.

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Vote count 194 Vote avg 73 Release date 2008-09-07

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Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

Crime Documentary

In 2001, Andrew Bagby, a medical resident, is murdered not long after breaking up with his girlfriend. Soon after, when she announces she's pregnant, one of Andrew's many close friends, Kurt Kuenne, begins this film, a gift to the child.

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Vote count 121 Vote avg 83 Release date 2008-10-31

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Documentary
Fall in love with your work

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is the story of 85 year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.

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Vote count 214 Vote avg 78 Release date 2011-06-11

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Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Documentary
Controversy... what controversy?

Michael Moore's view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Vote count 319 Vote avg 68 Release date 2004-06-25

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Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Documentary
One nation under the gun.

Why do 11,000 people die in America each year at the hands of gun violence? Talking heads yelling from every TV camera blame everything from Satan to video games. But are we that much different from many other countries? What sets us apart? How have we become both the master and victim of such enormous amounts of violence? This is not a film about gun control. It is a film about the fearful heart and soul of the United States, and the 280 million Americans lucky enough to have the right to a constitutionally protected Uzi. From a look at the Columbine High School security camera tapes to the home of Oscar-winning NRA President Charlton Heston, from a young man who makes homemade napalm with The Anarchist's Cookbook to the murder of a six-year-old girl by another six-year-old, Bowling for Columbine is a journey through America, through our past, hoping to discover why our pursuit of happiness is so riddled with violence.

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Vote count 382 Vote avg 73 Release date 2002-10-09

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20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

Music Documentary Drama

A semi-fictionalized documentary about a day in the life of Australian musician Nick Cave's persona.

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Vote count 64 Vote avg 69 Release date 2014-07-05

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One More Time with Feeling (2016)

Documentary Music

Documents the writing, recording and performing of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album, Skeleton Tree.

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Vote count 16 Vote avg 92 Release date 2016-09-08

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An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Documentary
By far the most terrifying film you will ever see.

A documentary on Al Gore's campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide.

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Vote count 216 Vote avg 66 Release date 2006-01-24

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