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Mary’s 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die

Mary’s 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die

Documentaries are my favorite films.  When I was a student at IU, I was lucky enough to take a class that focused entirely on the documentary style.  It opened me up to a whole new world of entertainment!  Last fall, one of my favorite filmmakers, Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me), hosted a show on Current TV called 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die.  I was very proud to say that I had seen well over three fourths of the list, and over the past few months have been watching the rest.  There were several documentaries that I love that didn’t make the Spurlock list…….so I decided to compile my own “50 Documentaries to See Before You Die” list.  And, the great thing is, the library actually has them all! 

Check them out!!
Click the links to place things on hold. We’ll pull the DVD and have it ready and waiting for you!

  1. Hoop Dreams: I agree with Morgan Spurlock- it deserved to be #1.
  2. The Fog of War: Errol Morris is my favorite director- he is amazing.
  3. American Movie: didn’t make his list- but I LOVE this hilarious film.
  4. Grizzly Man: hilarious and sad all at once.
  5. Dark Days: this was one that I watched in my documentary class- fascinating.
  6. Exit Through The Gift Shop: all about the amazing graffiti artist Banksy.
  7. Tarnation: disturbing….but very original.
  8. When We Were Kings: the best account of the famous “Rumble in the Jungle.”
  9. King of Kong: so great- and funny.
  10. Catfish: wow.  a strange, strange, story.
  11. When the Levees Broke: the most personal viewpoint of Hurricane Katrina I’ve seen.
  12. Man on Wire: who walks a tight-rope between the World Trade Center towers?!?!?!  Crazy)
  13. Vernon, Florida: Errol Morris’ first documentary.  It’s hilarious, and very quotable.
  14. Garbage Warrior: about a very interesting man who builds sustainable housing from garbage.
  15. I Like Killing Flies: a quirky man and his restaurant in Greenwich Village.
  16. Devil’s Playground: about the Amish tradition of Rumspringa- much of it takes place in northern Indiana.
  17. Capturing the Friedmans (hitting our shelves soon… be the first to check it out, then let us know what you think!): crazy story…..another one that was featured in my documentary class.
  18. Street Fight: the mayoral race for Newark- fascinating, and somewhat troubling.
  19. Waiting for “Superman”: raises some interesting points concerning the state of the education system.
  20. It Might Get Loud: Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge…..jamming.  What could be better?
  21. Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?: I first heard about this woman on 60 minutes- she’s very entertaining!
  22. Bowling for Columbine: the always controversial Michael Moore. 
  23. Fahrenheit 9/11: I’ll just name that one too…..sorry to those who hate him.
  24. Marwencol: wow.  Just have to see it to believe it- a man and a world he created.
  25. War Dance: a beautiful film about a dance competition in Uganda.
  26. Young @ Heart: what is better than a group of 80 + year olds singing Radiohead??
  27. Tabloid: Errol Morris’ latest film…..very, very quirky.
  28. Spellbound: who knew a spelling bee could be so intense?
  29. Word Wars: and who knew that scrabble was so involved!
  30. Jesus Camp: I learned a lot from this one… was also on Morgan Spurlock’s list.
  31. Gasland: Can You Light Your Water on Fire?: lighting tap water on fire!!  Scary stuff….
  32. Crumb: about the comic book writer Robert Crumb.
  33. Food, Inc.: somewhat disturbing, but I really learned a lot.
  34. Rip!: A Remix Manifesto: about the remix musician Girl Talk- very cool.
  35. The Hobart Shakespeareans: inspirational story about Rafe Esquith, a revolutionary teacher in L.A.
  36. Anvil: The Story of Anvil: like Spinal Tap- only real.
  37. Dancing Outlaw: wow.  Also, check out the recent follow up film The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.
  38. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills: this story was recently in the headlines again- and there are two follow-up documentaries.
  39. The Devil and Daniel Johnston: a genius songwriter who was respected by many- including Kurt Cobain.
  40. Stevie: by the same director as Hoop Dreams.
  41. Trouble the Water: a very personal documentary shot DURING Hurricane Katrina.
  42. Dogtown and Z-Boys: the beginning of skateboarding.
  43. Super Size Me: Morgan Spurlock’s often funny, but disturbing film.
  44. This Film Is Not Yet Rated: a look inside the movie ratings system- surprisingly interesting.
  45. The Eyes of Tammy Faye: I never realized that her story was so complex.
  46. Best Worst Movie: Have you seen Troll 2?  It’s the Best Worst Movie ever!
  47. Shut Up and Sing: about the Dixie Chicks and their controversy following 9/11.
  48. Little Dieter Needs to Fly: this is the story that the Christian Bale film Rescue Dawn was based on.
  49. Shut Up Little Man: this is a new one….the first half of it was very, very funny.
  50. The Natural History of the Chicken: trust me on this one- it’s hilarious.

So, yes- that’s my list.  I highly recommend each of these titles.  Let me know if there are any that you feel should be included…..I always love to discover a new great documentary!

~Mary Glaser (film nerd)

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