Hundreds of action, thriller movies, animated fantasies, comedies, romantic love story come every year to entertain the people. Usually people love to watch only such movies but sometimes audience also yearn for the truth or something close to it. And to fulfill this demand documentaries are produced.
Documentaries are intended to present the facts objectively without any editing or fictional matter. A documentary is successful only when it is able to combine both the appearance of historically accurate elements and also believable situations in an entertaining way so that crowd could feel themselves connected with it. A documentary should include the artistic touches that give a film a sense of structure such as editing, narrating, and framing.
The documentary film-making came in rise in late 1800s. Earlier it was mere a mean to present the truth in a severe way but now editing has gone to the extent where it attracts mass audience and attention with technical effects. The documentaries urge audience to have knowledge and awareness about their history. Documentaries often inspire people because they are real life based stories. The first documentary movie was ‘The Worker leaving Lurniere Factory. Since then numerous documentaries came and now they have become an integral part of every cinema. Here we have assembled the top 10 documentaries in the all-time cinematic history which not only enthralled the people by acting but also portrayed the bare truth.
Checkout the top Top 10 Greatest Documentaries of All Time
10. Night and Fog: 1956
Directed by Alain Resnais, ‘Night and Fog’ is a French documentary short film. The film was made after WW II describing the lives of prisoners in Nazi Concentration Camps. Featuring the abandoned grounds of Nazi camps, Night and Fog is an utter illustration of disregard of human life and hellish world of Nazi Germany’s death camps. Jean Cayrol, a survivor of Nazi’s camp, is the script writer of the film. Clocking at a lean 32 minutes, the film shows not only the horror description of Holocaust, but also the horror of man’s brutal inhumanity. This heart-wrenching piece of sheer brutality is one of the most affecting documentaries ever put to a film.
9. Sans Soleil: 1983
Again a French documentary based on the thoughts of a woman world traveller covering the scenes from Japan and Guinea-Bissau. The film categorized as an essay-film or a travelogue is a masterpiece of Chris Marker. This experimental essay film is a meditation on time and memory. Put at its simplest, this film is all about a series of letters between an imaginary cameraman and an imaginary woman. Sans Soleil, a composition of thoughts and images was the first documentary film which came as an essay-narrating film. In 2014, the film was voted as the ‘third best documentary film of all time’ by Sight and Sound poll.
8. Hoop Dreams: 1994
‘Hoop dreams’ is an American documentary sport film directed by Steve James and written by James & Frederick Marx. The film follows the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys, who strive to become college basketball players and dream of starring someday in NBA. Apart from a sweating hard-work and determination for the dream, this film also perfectly captures the subjects of race and class in our society. The film is so well shot that it squeezes out every drop of emotion out of a situation and leaves audience in tears. Being a feature length documentary, it received a huge critical and popular acclaim.
7. Grey Gardens: 1975
Released in 1975, Grey Gardens is one of the most famous American documentaries of direct cinema which has been presented accurately. The film goes about everyday lives of an old mother and her middle -aged daughter, who lived poverty in Grey Gardens. A beautiful film by Albert and David Maysles is heartwarming, tragic, bizarre and poignant all at the same time. The film enjoyed the decent box-office success and captivated the audience with the complex elements of unscripted life. ‘International Documentary Association’ and ‘Sight and Sound poll’ rank Grey Gardens as the 9th best documentaries of all time.
6. Man on Wire: 2008
The most recent release in this list Man on Wire is a British biographical documentary film based on the true story of Philippe Petit’s daring and glorious high-walk between the World Trades Center’s Twin Towers in 1974. The film, crafted like a heist film, contains exclusive footage of historical construction and Petit’s personal collection of videos and pictures. Directed by James Marsh, Man on Wire was a massive success in box office. It won many awards including ‘Grand Jury Award’, ‘World Cinema Documentary’, ‘World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary’, BAFTA for outstanding British Film, and Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
5. Grizzly Man: 2005
Grizzly Man, an American documentary film, chronicles the life and devastating death of bear enthusiast Timothy Tradewell, who spent his large amount of time around 13 years on the Alaskan Peninsula living among wild bears. Eventfully he and his girlfriend were killed and devoured by one of the bears that they had closely followed. The film, directed by Werner Herzog, includes some of Tredwell’s own footage of his interactions with Grizzly Bears as he videotaped last five years of his life. This bizarre documentary amused the audience with its mammoth performance.
4. Nanook of the North: 1922
‘Nanook of the North’ is silent documentary film. This film, made in 1922 by Robert J. Flaherty, was a kind of docudrama, a mix of documentary and drama films. With this film Flaherty brought an unknown culture to the western world. The film deals with a man Nanook and his family who travel in Ungava Peninsula of northern Quebec in the hunt of food and trade. Since the film came almost 100 years ago, it hardly touched the technology. In the film facts are shown accurately describing the trading, hunting, fishing, and migration of people. This film neither had sound nor a conventional plot yet it managed to hypnotize the global audience with its impeccable images.
3. The man with a movie camera: 1929
This is yet again a silent documentary film from Soviet Union released in 1929. The film was cinematic trailblazer that truly captured the real life. It goes about a man who travels around a city with a camera documenting urban life and dazzling invention. Directed by Dziga Vertov, ‘the man with a movie camera’ is the only documentary of early 1900s that came up with a variety of cinematic techniques such as fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts and double exposure. The film was not very successful in its initial release but later it was named the best documentary of all time by ‘Sight & Sound poll.
2. The Thin Blue Line: 1988
The thin blue line is an American documentary film by Errol Morris, one of the most famous and brilliant documentary filmmakers in US. The film portrayed the true story of conviction and arrest of a man, Randall Adams who is sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit. However, a year after the film’s release, the real life Randall was released from the prison. The Thin Blue Line was a huge success in box office. It collected a bunch of success from the audience as well as critics view and revered as one of the greatest documentary ever made. The film also bagged many awards for its improbable story and miraculous performance.
1. Shoah: 1985
Having a running time of over nine hours Shoah is probably the longest film in the history. This French documentary is about Holocaust, the German concentration camps. The best documentary of all time recounts the story of brutal NAZI camps presenting a series of Lanzmann’s interviews with survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators of the camps. This film was a massive hit and won BAFTA award for best documentary film. Directed by Claude Lanzmann, Shoah is often lauded as a peerless masterpiece. The film truly portrayed the terrible life of Holocaust.
These are the top 10 best documentaries ever produced in cinematic history. Some of them just showed the fact in a blunt way but some came up with technological possibilities and a bit fanciful lie to make them entertaining and interesting.