#1 Posted by Count_Zero (299 posts) -

I'm just interested in seeing what documentaries people like, and why. They can be films or they can be documentary mini-series. I'm going to rule out documentary TV series like PBS's Frontline and POV but specific episodes are okay though.
 
My favorites

  • Revolution OS: I'm a fan of Open Source Software, and in my opinion this is the best documentary on the movement, and it's presented in a pretty approachable fashion.
  • Triumph of the Nerds: This is sort of the sibling documentary to the docu-drama Pirates of Silicon Valley, done by infamous computer industry rumor-monger Robert X. Cringely for PBS. It stopped before the internet got really big though. However, the follow-up Nerds 2.0 covers that (I haven't seen the mini-series, but I have read the book).
  • Connections: An interesting little documentary mini-series from James Burke. The idea behind the series is (as Burke was a Science correspondent for the BBC), to follow the chains of inventions and events that linked scientific developments together, to take us to where we are today. There are two follow-up series, but season 1 is probably the best.
  • The Day the Universe Changed: This is a sort of companion series to James Burke's documentary series Connections. The series sort of uses the Connections narrative style (of chaining together historical events and scientific developments), but the goal here is to determine what brought us certain scientific developments which changed the way we perceive the universe, and thus (for us) changed the universe.
  • Dear Zachary: This is radically different than the other 4 documentaries on my top 5. This is a more narrative documentary about a documentary film-maker, sort of recording a record about his best friend from childhood who was murdered by his ex-girlfriend, for his friend's son (whose mother was the ex-girlfriend), so he'd know what his father was like. The narrative is also framed around the custody battle between the ex-girlfriend and the friend's parents over the child, and the extradition hearings to get the ex-girlfriend to the US so she can face trial. It has a pretty twist though, one that's pretty depressing. (Note, if you've seen Dear Zachary, don't spoil it, at least not without the spoiler-guard. I'm not going to spoil it in my post.)
 
So, duders, what are your favorite documentaries?
#2 Posted by HandsomeDead (11863 posts) -

I loved The Pixar Story that came with WALL-E. Probably the best bonus feature I've ever seen. Very interesting and narrated by Dick Van Dyke.

#3 Posted by MildMolasses (3194 posts) -

I don't watch a lot of documentaries, but I would recommend American Pimp. It's from the Hughes Brothers (From Hell, Book of Eli) and it mostly covers street prostitution but there is a small segment on legal brothels. It offers a good insight into the how and why of pimping and prostitution and also breaks a lot of misconceptions. It doesn't glamourise anything and treats the subject very matter-of-fact like
#4 Posted by Hot_Karl (3309 posts) -
Hoop Dreams is one of the best films I've ever seen, ever. It's 3 hours long, but it's more powerful than any fictional story on film.
#5 Posted by ztiworoh (728 posts) -
The Cove
A documentary that plays like a thrilling "Oceans 11" style action film. Bringing together a team of Hollywood special effects masters, military special ops veterans, a pair of champion free divers and the former trainer of "Flipper", "The Cove" shines a light on the horrific abuse and slaughter of dolphins in a small Japanese village.

Herb & Dorothy 
 Tells the story of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a couple living in New York City who managed to amass one of the world's top contemporary art collections on the working class salaries of a postal worker and a librarian only to give it all away for free to the National Gallery.
Online
#6 Posted by MOLE (321 posts) -

The Union

#7 Edited by PenguinDust (12414 posts) -
@Count_Zero said:

My favorites

  • Connections: An interesting little documentary mini-series from James Burke. The idea behind the series is (as Burke was a Science correspondent for the BBC), to follow the chains of inventions and events that linked scientific developments together, to take us to where we are today. There are two follow-up series, but season 1 is probably the best.
  • The Day the Universe Changed: This is a sort of companion series to James Burke's documentary series Connections. The series sort of uses the Connections narrative style (of chaining together historical events and scientific developments), but the goal here is to determine what brought us certain scientific developments which changed the way we perceive the universe, and thus (for us) changed the universe.
These two are among my most favorite shows ever!  I even had the books.  Netflix has recently acquired them for rental and I think you can see Connections (season one) on YouTube.  High highly recommended.  James Burke makes everything so damned interesting.
 
As far as film documentaries go, I recommend the sports film "When We Were Kings" about the 1974 Muhammad Ali - George Foreman fight in Zaire, aka "The Rumble in the Jungle".   And, if you haven't seen "The Aristocrats" by Penn Jillette about the world's dirtiest joke, then you are missing out.  Finally, I saw one on the Documentary Channel (I think it was there) on Russian prostitutes with AIDS.  It was really about the changes in Russia after the fall of Communism, but use street hookers to explore the subject on a more intimate level.  "Sex, Needles and Rubles" is the title. 
 
I'm not sure you'd categorize it as a documentary even though it's approach to the subject matter is very much like a documentary, but the animated exploration of philosophy "Walking Life" is a great see.  I'm not a fan of docu-film makers putting themselves into the movies as subjects (Michael Moore & "Super Size Me"), but this one works because it doesn't feel so pretentious or narcissistic.   

EDIT: I'm adding in "The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization Part 1".  Great punk documentary.
#8 Posted by Korne (625 posts) -

I haven't seen a lot of them, but King of Kong, Supersize Me, and Food Inc. were more entertaining than powerful. They are just great stories (maybe not Food Inc... that's a really sad movie).

#9 Posted by blackbird415 (777 posts) -
#10 Posted by EpicSteve (6439 posts) -

His Name Was Jason was a fantastic Friday the13th DVD that should be watched by all horror fans. 
 
Full Battle Rattle, a documentary of the Army's 1st Cavalry's pre-deployment training. On Netflix's instant stream! 
 

#11 Posted by j_meyer_13 (386 posts) -

Does "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" count?  Because that was pretty damn cool, very entertaining for a documentary... most of the other ones I've watched are for school (and almost always boring... ex: a documentary on Helvetica.  The font.  Yes, I'm completely serious.) or occasionally specials on Discovery... DVR'd one on the Apollo missions, focusing on Apollo 11, but it got cut off part-way through. :(
 
Oh yeah, and "Super Size Me" was pretty good too.  Watched that in a high school health class, my teacher totally didn't realize that Spurlock (sp?) had a nude painting in his living room... I think I was like the only person to notice it, actually.

#12 Posted by zudthespud (3277 posts) -

The BBC's Horizon series based on physics are always brilliant. The BBC makes lots of great documentaries. Anything with Louis Theroux is always good, Mark Nolan has made some pretty good ones too.

#13 Posted by Ghostiet (5153 posts) -
  • Winged Migration, the most beautiful, touching documentary about animals I ever saw.
  • 65 Red Roses about Eva Markvoort and her, unfortunately lost battle with cystic fibrosis.
  • Scorsese's The Last Waltz about The Band and No Direction Home about Bob Dylan.
#14 Edited by Everyones_A_Critic (6270 posts) -

King of Kong, Jesus Camp, Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story come to mind. March of the Penguins is good shit, too.  
 
EDIT: How could I forget Super Size Me and Religulous?!

#15 Posted by DanielJW (4915 posts) -
@Everyones_A_Critic said:
" King of Kong, Jesus Camp, Fahrenheit 911, Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story come to mind. March of the Penguins is good shit, too.   EDIT: How could I forget Super Size Me and Religulous?! "
Nailed all of mine for me.
#16 Posted by Noodlearms (586 posts) -

Super High Me

#17 Posted by SumDeus (1857 posts) -

Man on Wire is fantastic. I highlyyyy recommend it.

#18 Posted by ShaneDev (1696 posts) -

John Pilgers films are real eye openers, Why We Fight was a good one and Horizon on the BBC is almost always good.

#19 Posted by Mr_JPeps (164 posts) -

Sicko was alright, as well as bowling for columbine.
super size me was fantastic, food inc was just ok.
super high me is prolly the most entertaining.

Online
#20 Posted by Steve_C (1750 posts) -

The first thing that springs to mind is 'Wonders of the Solar System' that aired recently on BBC 2. A five-part series. Brilliant.
 
I know i've seen some good interesting documentaries, but I can't rmember many specific titles. I always like things Louis Theroux does, and there are quite a few interesting documentaries aired as part of 'True Stories' on more4.
 
One that is kinda ingrained in my memory was 'Last Minutes With Oden'. You can search for it and watch it for free online, legally of course. It came to my attention through someone posting about it on here actually. It's a short film about a man who had his ill dog put down. A lot of it really connected and hit me hard. I was crying for a good while.

#21 Posted by Everyones_A_Critic (6270 posts) -
@Noodlearms said:
" Super High Me "
Ah yes, this was a very good one as well. For those who don't know, think Super Size Me with pot. 
#22 Posted by forgot2register (26 posts) -
  • Thin Blue Line
  • Planet Earth
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • Fog of War
  • A Night with Kevin Smith
  • Broken Rainbow
  • Jesus Camp
  • Food Inc.
#23 Edited by fwylo (3556 posts) -

Super Size Me, probably one of the only ones I've seen though.

#24 Posted by AgentJ (8778 posts) -
#25 Posted by one_2nd (2359 posts) -
@SumDeus: yeah.. That was a good one...
#26 Posted by swamplord666 (1752 posts) -

Metal: a headbangers' journey - very well constructed documentary and gives great insight into metal music and fandom. 
Supersize me 
bowling for columbine 
delivers us from evil

#27 Posted by Qorious (847 posts) -

Don't know if Planet Earth or Life is a documentary about Animals, but I love watching those!

#28 Posted by JeanLuc (3518 posts) -

I don't watch many Documentary's, but I really enjoyed King of Kong.

#29 Posted by iam3green (14388 posts) -

i dont' think i have a favorite. the only ones that stand out to me are loose change (9/11 conspiracy movie) and sicko (michael moore on health insurance) only the ones that really stuck out to me.

#30 Posted by Cynic04 (125 posts) -

Fog of War, hands down.

#31 Posted by ZanzibarBreeze (3069 posts) -

My favorite documentary? Die Hard.
 

It's real.