The 10 best film documentaries
It’s a bit meta to make a film about cinema. But for decades, it’s been a naturally interesting topic for filmmakers wanting to shed light on one of their favorite directors, movies, or genres. Or sometimes it’s something filmmakers want to explore when they open up about their creative process while sharing some of the lessons they’re going through to help or inspire future filmmakers.
This means that these types of documentaries are essential for anyone who wants to work in film, thanks to their understanding of the medium and what makes something right. These films are by no means the be all and end all when it comes to great cinematic documentaries, as there are too many of them to count, and even the less amazing ones still have value. However, they go beyond the average “making-of” documentary and become compelling as films themselves. For anyone looking for creative inspiration or curious about what’s going on in the movies and want to know more, these are must-have watches.
“Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” (1991)
hearts of darkness is one of the most famous film documentaries, giving it covers of what was done Francis Ford Coppolathe ambitious and haunting war epic, Revelation now. It shows how the time the cast and crew spent on the film mirrored that of the fictional story they were telling, as in each there was constant chaos and in each people were pushed to their limits. mental, physical and emotional absolutes.
The footage captured the behind-the-scenes drama of the production and is every bit as compelling and almost as heartbreaking as what was captured for the actual film. It is impossible to list all the remarkable and shocking things that happened during the making Revelation nowbut looking hearts of darkness must be presented with a steady stream of them over 96 minutes. It was an incredible film with an equally incredible story behind its creation, making hearts of darkness captivating.
“The Burden of Dreams” (1982)
The burden of dreams might be the rare behind-the-scenes documentary that is better than the film it covers. This does not mean Werner Herzogthe 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo is bad, but the story of what happened behind the cameras is a more compelling story than what happened in the actual movie.
Fitzcarraldo was a movie about a man who hauled a huge steamboat through a jungle, and that’s precisely what the film crew did while making the movie itself. As such, The burden of dreams addresses many of the same themes (and aspects of the narrative) found in Fitzcarraldo and derives much benefit from the film’s protagonist’s comparison and contrast with Werner Herzog, the film’s director.
“A personal journey with Martin Scorsese through American films” (1995) and “My trip to Italy” (1999)
Surprisingly, the highest rated movies directed by Martin Scorsese, according to Rotten Tomatoes, are two four-hour cinematic documentaries he made in the mid to late 1990s. Each has a 100% approval rating on the site, and both follow a similar structure. Naturally, the 1995 documentary looks at American cinema throughout the 20th century, while the 1999 documentary gives an insight into the history of Italian cinema.
Scorsese is endlessly captivating to listen to when he talks about film, thanks to his expertise and passion for the subject. Listening to a filmmaker talk about two different countries’ approaches to making movies — with around four hours devoted to each — might sound boring, but in Scorsese’s hands, it’s anything but. His insight into the movies he analyzes is always revealing, and his stories about why his favorite movies mean so much to him are also very touching.
78/52 is unique among cinematic documentaries because of what it chooses to focus on. While most documentaries of this type may discuss a genre, a director, or a single film in general, 78/52 narrows its scope by devoting most of its runtime to a single scene: the infamous shower scene that appears shortly before the halfway point of by Alfred Hitchcock psychology.
The title comes from how the scene is supposed to be “78 shots and 52 cuts”, and although a scene might not seem like it needs an entire movie to discuss it, 78/52 saves its execution time. He breaks down an incredibly accurate and iconic scene, and beyond the details of how it was made, he also talks about the importance of the scene in psychology and the world of cinema as a whole.
‘Jackie Chan: My Stunts’ (1999)
As Jackie Chan began to age and leaned more towards Hollywood filmmaking, he seemed more comfortable revealing the techniques that gave his early films such great action and stunts. Jackie Chan: my stunts is proof of that, as it’s a feature film that looks like a magician revealing how he pulls off his tricks.
Jackie Chan’s transparency is the film’s greatest strength, making it potentially very useful for anyone who wants to make their own action movie one day. It also helps that Jackie Chan is kind of a fun and engaging host, and the icing on the cake is how the documentary also serves as a culmination of some of the best (and craziest) stunts and fight scenes in the game. ‘actor.
‘From Palma’ (2015)
Palma brain is no stranger to documentary filmmaking techniques, but he is the subject of this documentary. From Palma was co-directed by acclaimed filmmaker Noah Baumbachwhose love for this director – who has been making films for more than half a century – shines brightly throughout the documentary.
For anyone who has ever enjoyed a Brian De Palma film, this is a must. It covers its hits and underrated gems in equal measure. Through the director, he also gives an overview of the different movements of American cinema throughout the second half of the 20th century, then the 21st. It’s also the kind of documentary guaranteed to have movie fanatics add several new movies to their watch list, thanks to Brian De Palma’s impressive filmography and the quality of his exploration here.
“The Celluloid Closet” (1995)
celluloid closet delves into how members of the LGBTQ+ community have shaped cinema throughout its history, beginning with the silent era and continuing through what was then the modern era.
Things have changed a lot since 1995, but that doesn’t mean celluloid closet anything less interesting or in-depth. It’s a truly eye-opening and often dark documentary, but it sheds light on an important subject and manages to be genuinely entertaining and engaging while it does so. Here’s hoping it will one day get a follow-up capable of documenting what has happened to LGBTQ+ people and topics in the movie world since its release.
‘The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema’ (2005) & ‘The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology’ (2012)
The eccentric and fascinating cultural philosopher/theorist Slavoj Zizek presents his ideas on cinema and their impact on the world in two feature documentaries. Each is very similar in presentation and quality, with the first, The guide to perverse cinemareleased in 2005, and the second, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, released in 2012.
It’s hard to describe these documentaries in just words, but they are both highly engaging and thrilling and unpredictable viewing experiences. It’s never easy to predict which film Žižek will talk about next, nor to guess how he will analyze it or what kind of deeper meaning he will attribute to it. Even if you don’t agree with what he says about the films he tackles, he always presents his arguments and points of view in a logical and understandable way, and at the very least you can see where it comes from. If all else fails, the ideas are just great fun to entertain and intellectually tackle.
KEEP READING: The Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now