Best Documentary Movies Of All Time: Documentaries or non-fiction films are an original form of movie-making, where a camera was utilized to capture real moments of life being lived. The very capability to record and later on show viewers an event was itself a form of entertainment.
With so many documentary movies out there, it’s difficult to select some of the best documentary movies. For this, we have gone through many movie critics to get this list of the best documentary movies ever.
Best Documentary Movies
1. The Elephant Whisperers (2022)
Director: Kartiki Gonsalves
Star Cast: Bellie, Bomman
The Elephant Whisperers is a 2022 Tamil-language Academy award-winning Indian short documentary film directed by documentary filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves in her directorial debut.
Bomman and Bellie, a couple in South India, devote their lives to caring for an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu, forging a family like no other that tests the barrier between the human and the animal world.
2. All of Those Voices (2023)
Director: Charlie Lightening
Star Cast: Louis Tomlinson, Isaac Anderson, Steve Aoki, Michael Blackwell
An intimate and unvarnished look at the life and career of British pop singer Louis Tomlinson, with never-before-seen footage and behind-the-scenes access to his sold-out 2022 world tour.
3. Senna (2010)
Director: Asif Kapadia
Star Cast: John Bisignano, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell
Senna is a 2010 documentary film that depicts the life and death of Brazilian motor-racing champion Ayrton Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia. Ayrton Senna becomes a three-time Formula One racing champion and Brazil’s national hero before his untimely death at age 34.
4. The Cove (2009)
Director: Louie Psihoyos
Star Cast: Richard O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones
The Cove is a 2009 American documentary film directed by Louie Psihoyos that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan. In Taiji, Japan, local fishermen hide a gruesome secret: the capture and slaughter of dolphins.
Activist Ric O’Barry, who trained dolphins for the “Flipper” TV series, joins forces with filmmaker Louis Psihoyos and the Ocean Preservation Society to expose the brutal practice, risking life and limb in the process.
5. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
Director: Kurt Kuenne
Star Cast: Kurt Kuenne, Andrew Bagby, David Bagby
In 2001, 28-year-old Dr. Andrew Bagby is found dead in a park in Pennsylvania. He had been shot by his ex-girlfriend, who then fled to Canada, where she was able to walk free on bail, pregnant with Andrew’s child. Andrew’s enraged parents campaign to gain custody of the child and convict their son’s killer.
Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne pairs this story with home movies and interviews with those who knew Andrew, hoping to give his best friend’s son an opportunity to discover who his dad was.
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6. Earthlings (2005)
Director: Shaun Monson
Star Cast: Joaquin Phoenix
Earthlings is a 2005 American documentary film about humanity’s use of other animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research. Filmmaker Shaun Monson exposes the suffering endured by animals at factory farms, research labs, puppy mills and more.
7. Hearts and Minds (1974)
Director: Peter Davis
Star Cast: Tin Chan, Chau Diem, Ngo Dinh Diem
Hearts and Minds is a 1974 American documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis. Many times during his presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson said that ultimate victory in the Vietnam War depended upon the U.S. military winning the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese people.
Filmmaker Peter Davis uses Johnson’s phrase in an ironic context in this anti-war documentary, filmed and released while the Vietnam War was still under way, juxtaposing interviews with military figures like U.S. Army Chief of Staff William C. Westmoreland with shocking scenes of violence and brutality.
8. My Flesh and Blood (2003)
Director: Jonathan Karsh
Star Cast: Susan Tom, Anthony Tom, Faith Tom
My Flesh and Blood is a 2003 documentary film by Jonathan Karsh chronicling a year in the life of the Tom family. Susan Tom has a very special family. For over a decade, she’s raised 11 adopted children, all of whom have some sort of mental or physical disability. A former nurse who endured heartbreak of her own, Susan has devoted her entire life to caring for and providing for her children.
Among them are Joe, a moody teenager with cystic fibrosis, and Anthony, who was born with a rare and painful skin disease. Through birthdays, doctor visits and family feuds, Susan is the family’s rock.
9. The Two Escobars (2010)
Director: Michael Zimbalist, Jeff Zimbalist
Star Cast: María Ester Escobar, Francisco Maturana, Alexis García V
The tale of how the lives of Colombian footballer Andres Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar were intertwined, and the mysterious events that lead to Andres’ death.
10. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)
Director: Barbara Kopple
Star Cast: John L. Lewis, Carl Horn, Norman Yarborough
In this documentary about labor tension in the coal-mining industry, director Barbara Kopple films a strike in rural Kentucky. After the coal miners at the Brookside Mine join a union, the owners refuse the labor contract.
Once the miners start to strike, the owners of the mine respond by hiring scabs to fill the jobs of the regular employees. The strike, which lasts more than a year, frequently becomes violent, with guns produced on both sides, and one miner is even killed in a conflict.