Top 5 Documentaries


What are the greatest documentaries ever made? We have scoured hundreds of hours of footage and reviewed countless critic & fan polls to compile our BOLD list of Top 5 Documentary Films! Did any of your favorites make the list?

1) Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams documentary
  • Follows the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players
  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival won the Audience Award for Best Documentary
  • Ebert in his initial television review proclaimed "This is one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen", and later called it the best film of the decade
  • In 2007, the International Documentary Association named Hoop Dreams as its selection for the all-time greatest documentary
  • Despite its length (171 minutes) and unlikely commercial genre, it received high critical and popular acclaim, and grossed over $11 million worldwide

2) Shoah

Shoah documentary
  • Consists of Claude Lanzmann’s interviews and visits to German Holocaust sites across Poland. It presents testimonies by selected survivors, witnesses, and German perpetrators, often secretly recorded using hidden cameras
  • Gene Siskel named it as his choice for the best movie of the year, later naming it the second best film of the 1980s
  • Ebert declined to rank it, saying that it belonged in a class to itself and no film should be ranked against it. He also said it was “one of the noblest films ever made”
  • In 1985 it won Best Documentary and Special Award at the New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association
  • In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted Shoah the second best documentary film of all time

3) The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line documentary
  • Depicts the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit. Adams' case was reviewed and he was released from prison approximately a year after the film's release
  • Has had a considerable influence on later television and documentary film, often credited with pioneering the style of modern crime-scene reenactments
  • In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted The Thin Blue Line the fifth best documentary film of all time
  • Current TV placed the film 2nd on their list of 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die
  • In 2001, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

4) Sans Soleil

Sans Soleil documentary
  • A meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory, and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories is affected
  • Expanding the documentary genre, this experimental essay-film is a composition of thoughts, images and scenes, mainly from Japan and Guinea-Bissau, "two extreme poles of survival"
  • In a 2014 Sight and Sound poll, film critics voted Sans Soleil the third best documentary film of all time
  • An overwhelming film experience!
  • Maintains a very high 8.2 star ranking on

5) The Act of Killing

the-act-of-killing documentary
  • A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers
  • Won the 2013 European Film Award for Best Documentary and the Asia Pacific Screen Award. Also won best documentary at the 2014 BAFTA awards
  • "Raw, terrifying, and painfully difficult to watch, The Act of Killing offers a haunting testament to the edifying, confrontational power of documentary cinema”
  • Named the best film of 2013 by Sight & Sound, The Guardian, LA Weekly and more
  • Currently holds a very high 8.2 star ranking on

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