What (New) Documentaries Should People Watch?


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Ya seen Jesus Camp yet?
    … the thing to think about is where they got all the footage.
    those hidden cameras were installed by the church itself.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    This is not new but it’s my favorite documentary of all time (technically it’s almost like a video journal). It’s called “Alone in the Wilderness”. If you like the outdoors even a little this will absolutely blow you away.


  3. I’ve been tempted to watch Hit So Hard and Anyone Can Play Guitar, but I can’t claim to know if they’re any good.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen one of Werner Herzog’s documentaries that I haven’t enjoyed quite a bit. Little Dieter Needs to Fly was probably my favorite.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Rufus F. says:

      From Herzog: I really enjoyed Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which I believe is his most recent one. It’s streaming on Netflix, so it’s easy to get. If you want an older one, My Best Fiend is awesome, particularly if you’re a fan of Aguirre, the Wrath of God, and Fitzcarraldo (one of my favorite movies).Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Chris says:

        Oh yeah, I love them too. I’ve shown Aguirre in a couple of courses now. Actually, that reminds me, it’s not brand new, but Touching the Void is a really entertaining documentary.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

          I’m assuming everybody is up on Burden of Dreams, about the filming of Fitzcarraldo. Dude is wack.


          “For nearly five years, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately tried to complete one of the most ambitious and difficult films of his career, Fitzcarraldo, the story of one man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank captured the unfolding of this production, made more perilous by Herzog’s determination to shoot the most daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence requiring hundreds of native Indians to pull a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain. The result is an extraordinary document of the filmmaking process and a unique look into the single-minded mission of one of cinema’s most fearless directors.”Report

  5. Avatar Pub Editor says:

    I have heard good things about Last Train Home, about migrant industrial workers in China, but I have not seen it myself yet. It might fall into your category of “those documentaries which depict the worst kinds of social injustice,” but maybe not. Here is one review.Report

  6. How about “A State of Mind?” It’s a fascinating take on North Korea’s “Mass Games.”


  7. Avatar Joe Sims says:

    • Paradise Garden: Howard Finster’s Legacy – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2380121/

    • Fools on the Hill – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1826692/

    • Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1546381/

    • Cup of Dreams – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1848838/

    • Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2104994/

    • Inside Job – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645089/

    • Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1545103/Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Another documentary I really like is this one:


    It’s called ‘The Dark Side”. PBS Frontline documentary. Tells the real story of how we eneded up in Iraq. Very enlightening.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters

    Grizzly ManReport

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Grizzly Man is just too fishing depressing. You realize quickly that you’re watching two trains on a collision course, and to make it even worse, you know that another train (his girlfriend) is going to get caught up in it. I say watch Cave of Forgotten Dreams, because 30,000 year old cave paintings never ate anyone.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:

        Grizzly Man is also a look at a man painfully in the closet who seemed to be literally running away from his secret and hell-bent on suicide.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Grizzly Man was hard to watch. The incident and doc got a lot of coverage up here. None of it postive for the poor deluded dude. It was worth watching though if only for the intense scene with the bears fighting.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      King Kong was very interesting. Those guys have put quite a bit of their life into beating the game.Report

  10. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    2016, of course. Before it’s too late.


  11. Avatar greginak says:

    Herzog’s Encounter’s at the End of the World was very good.Report

  12. Avatar Scott says:

    I would recommend The Way We Get By. It is a documentary about the men and women who greet and say goodbye to the troops at the airport in Bangor Maine.Report

  13. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Thanks for all the recommendations.

    Herzog? Never realized he was such a hit. Perhaps a Herzog viewing clubs at some point (or other Documentary viewings).

    Might actually be kinda fun to watch one and then all discuss it over the ensuing days.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      Yeah Herzog is great. A group viewing and discussion would be fun. Herzog is a huge personality aside from being a great doc maker. Plenty of grist for the mill.Report

  14. Avatar Anne says:

    Husband wants me to go see “2016” by Dinesh D’Sousa anyone heard anything about it? My gut instinct is I don’t want to see it.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Anne says:

      I am probably more sympathetic to D’Souza’s politics than you are, and I definitely don’t want to see that one.Report

      • Avatar Anne in reply to Will Truman says:

        Thanks Will, any concrete reasons why?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Anne says:

          To the extent that I am familiar with D’Souza’s take on Obama, I don’t find it remarkably compelling in light of the fact that we’ve had approaching four years of Obama-as-president to have some idea of what his ramifications are. I might have seen it in 2008 (I read Fredosso’s anti-Obama book) and the influence of Obama’s heritage on his policy preferences might make for an interesting evaluation at some point after his presidency (a sort of what-made-the-president tick), but the timing of it suggests that it’s purpose is less to understand, or to speculate (on what kind of president Obama might be), but rather influence an election by way of a non-falsfiable thesis in a movie released on an election year.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Anne says:

      “[The film] is not a crude bashing of Obama. … It’s a journey to find the real Obama. Obama [has been] a mystery figure for the past four years – mystery as to what his underlining goal is for America and for the world,” D’Souza said in an interview with The Daily Caller.

      What is up with this repetition of the meme that we don’t know who Obama is? Do conservatives actually believe this crap is true? Honestly, I’m more comfortable with the idea that they know it’s all BS but think it might work electorally than I am with the idea that they’re actually all puttin’ on the (tin)foil.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to James Hanley says:

        Seriously. The man has been the President for 4 years, he wrote an autobiography, he’s been constantly on our TV’s, radios, and internets. And then there’s Romney, who has been running for President for the better part of a decade. We probably know more about Romney and Obama than we have about any other set of Presidential candidates.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Don Zeko says:

          The really perverse thing is that so many of them do seem to think they actually know what he is, at the same time they say “we” don’t know who he is. If, after 4 years, they haven’t been able to convey their knowledge to us, maybe they ought to ‘fess up to their own incompetence.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        Et tu, James? You don’t realize that he’s been lying low, lulling us for his first term, so that in his second he can turn the US into a Third-World Marxist Soviet Republic, run by resentful anti-colonialist affirmative-action cases who’d barely be able to get jobs as dishwashers if the right people were still in charge?Report