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To describe the qualities of an excellent documentary, one should whip out a thesaurus and scribble down everything below 'shocking' and 'inspiring,' and then add something of their own choosing. We won't try doing that, though, because we're certain that you yourself can identify just fine the emotions a truly good documentary evokes, and it is probably something between a definite change in the way you see the world and utter awe. If you miss being this affected by something, namely a documentary, you've come to the right place, for we've prepared a list of the best documentaries to date.

It seems to us that documentary films have entered their Golden Age - each year, we get new invigorating stories, get to know interesting people who had been a sort of an enigma before, and relive some of the most important historical events. And nothing can beat a real-life story as unbelievable as that in Man On Wire or as shocking as in Collective. Somehow these stories stay with you for quite a while, leaving a tangible mark on your life. But that's exactly what we all want from documentary movies!

So, get ready for some incredible stories and scroll on down below to pick one of the best documentaries from our list. We've provided the ten topmost submissions with their own short descriptions, which might make your choice a little bit easier. Don't forget to vote for the movies that impacted you and share this article with your friends.

#1

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

2018 | 1 hour 35 minutes | Directed by Morgan Neville
 

Starring Fred Rogers (archive footage), Joanne Rogers, John Rogers

Won't You Be My Neighbor is an exploration of the life and the legacy of the iconic children's TV host, Fred Rogers. Rogers was a unique presence on television for generations - charming, softly spoken, yet motivated by profound ideals; he was never too scared to talk even about the most controversial topics with kids. He was a truly noble man who tried to create a safe haven for kids and instill a deep understanding of the world into them. However, behind this rock-solid and unbreakable veneer, Fred Rogers hid a vulnerable and self-doubting person.

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Lisa H
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Trying to cover up a spam comment because Mister Rogers deserves better than that. Even though he passed on a long time ago, I still see him as America's Dad.

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#2

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro

2016 | 1 hour 33 minutes | Directed by Raoul Peck
 

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, James Baldwin (archive footage), Martin Luther King (archive footage)

I Am Not Your Negro is a vision of James Baldwin's unfinished book called Remember This House by the director Raoul Peck. Baldwin's book, of which there were only 30 pages and a manuscript by the time of his death in 1987, was supposed to be a revolutionary look at race in modern America. In it, he was to recall his personal account of the assassinations of his three close friends - Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Medgar Evers. A truly heartbreaking reality that did not end way back then but followed us to our days.

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#3

Apollo 11

Apollo 11

2019 | 1 hour 33 minutes | Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
 

Starring Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin in archive footage

Apollo 11 takes a deeper look into the eponymous mission to land on the moon led by commander Neil Armstrong and pilots Collin and Aldrin. The documentary is composed entirely of archive footage and photographs related to the mission, so it is almost a first-person view of the events leading to this historical moment and the exhilaration right after it. And who doesn't love witnessing historical events?

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Lisa H
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2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Michael Collins to Neil Armstrong when the latter was trying to think of the first words on the moon: "If you had any balls, you would say 'oh, God, what is that?!', scream and cut your mic."

#4

Summer Of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Summer Of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

2021 | 1 hour 58 minutes | Directed by Questlove
 

Starring Dorinda Drake, Barbara Bland-Acosta, Darryl Lewis

Summer of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) centers around the iconic 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which celebrated the African-American culture and promoted the case of Black pride and unity. The event, same as the footage of it, has been largely forgotten up until now, and it is really interesting to see this epic event taking place and its attendees commenting on the actual events back then. Summer Of Soul also delivers some never-before-seen performance footage of Stevie Wonder, Sly, The Family Stone, Nina Simone, and many more iconic musicians.

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#5

Life Itself

Life Itself

2014 | 2 hours 1 minute | Directed by Steve James
 

Starring Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Gene Siskel (archive footage)

Life Itself talks about the life of the legendary movie critic Roger Ebert. Even if you’re hearing his name for the first time now, there isn't a chance you haven't read at least one of his terrific reviews! Roger's life was an eventful one, and the story here falls from exhilaratingly witty to painful and back again in just a second. His voice became one of the most influential cultural voices, and his battle with cancer symbolically and literally put a new face on the disease. After watching Life Itself, we think that you'll be bound to agree that Roger Ebert was truly a magnificent man.

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Hill Branda
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I was and still am a huge fan of Roger Ebert. This is great look at the man, his life, his passion for film. It shows his flaws, his struggles and his impact on the movie business.

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#6

Man On Wire

Man On Wire

2008 | 1 hour 34 minutes | Directed by James Marsh
 

Starring Philippe Petit, Jean Francois Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau

Man On Wire offers a look into tightrope walker Philippe Petit's life and the events leading to his daring and highly illegal routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center twin towers in 1974. The documentary uses archive footage, retrospective interviews, and recreations to reveal the man behind the 'most artistic crime' of the century, his motivation, and the aftermath.

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Scott T Brynildsen
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I hate heights, but this documentary was outstanding. Did it scare the s**t out of me?Absolutely, but I'd watch it again. Very well done.

#7

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

2018 | 1 hour 29 minutes | Realized and Produced by Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack
 

Starring Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, and Alexander Hamilton in archive footage

Amazing Grace is a concert film showing the footage of Aretha Franklin recording her Amazing Grace album with the gospel choir of The New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, in 1972. To see the making of Amazing Grace come to life is really an incredible experience - the footage filmed back then didn't record the sound, but with new technologies, it became possible to sync the two together.

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Lisa H
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

"Respect" is also a great movie that I highly recommend.

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#8

Minding The Gap

Minding The Gap

2018 | 1 hour 33 minutes | Directed by Bing Liu
 

Starring Keire Johnson, Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan

Minding The Gap is a documentary film chronicling the lives of three young men growing up in Rockford, Illinois (a part of the Rust Belt), united by their love of skateboarding. However, once they have to face adult responsibilities and hardships, unexpected discoveries threaten their friendship. Minding The Gap received critical acclaim and was even nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards. So, skateboarding and a masterful documentary merged together? Yes, please!

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#10

Faces Places

Faces Places

2017 | 1 hour 34 minutes | Directed by Agnes Varda
 

Starring Agnes Varda, JR, Jeannine Carpentier

Faces Places is a documentary film that follows the legendary director Varda and a muralist/photographer, JR, traveling through rural France, creating portraits of the people they meet and forming an unlikely friendship. Faces Places is a prime example of artisanal cinema - touching yet unassuming, it is a true gem in the world of documentaries.

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#11

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

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#12

Collective

Collective

2019 | 1 hour 49 minutes | Directed by Alexander Nanau
 

Starring Dan Alexandru Condrea, Liviu Iolu, Razvan Lutac

Collective is a truly shocking documentary revealing a shameful, disgusting side of modern politics. Director Alexander Nanau follows a team of investigators of a Romanian newspaper called Gazeta Sporturilor as they investigate a vast healthcare fraud that made moguls and politicians rich at the cost of the lives of innocent people. To watch Collective is an eye-opening experience, revealing the nasty underbelly of the political society.

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#14

20 Feet From Stardom

20 Feet From Stardom

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Bullseye
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is a superb documentary about girl back up singers in the 50's and 60's.

#18

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Dick Johnson Is Dead

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#19

Kedi

Kedi

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Iris Engler
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Stray cats in Istanbul. A wonderful picture of that beautiful city and the special bound between the Turks and animals

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#24

Stop Making Sense

Stop Making Sense

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HarriMissesScotland
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yes, I really am this warped. I watched/listened to Psycho Killer before teaching my Humanities classes. My favorite concert film.

#26

Bowling For Columbine

Bowling For Columbine

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Gigi Wolf
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Overrated. The RIGHT to Bare arms!!! Me and my 22 = LIFE, LIVE and LOVE!!

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#28

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds

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#32

The Decline Of Western Civilization

The Decline Of Western Civilization

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K- THULU
Community Member
2 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Ahh memories of my dirty disgusting youth....I miss them , when life was fkn real.....

#34

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil

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#36

When We Were Kings

When We Were Kings

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#37

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

Cave Of Forgotten Dreams

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#38

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground

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#40

Capturing The Friedmans

Capturing The Friedmans

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#41

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

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#43

Knock Down The House

Knock Down The House

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#46

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

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#47

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado

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#48

One Child Nation

One Child Nation

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#49

Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir

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#51

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

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