Top 40 film documentaries

by lhhzebra | created - 28 Sep 2016 | updated - 2 months ago | Public

My favourite documentaries, covering a range of topics, all in one place!

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1. Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

PG | 105 min | Documentary, Family, Music

71 Metascore

The students of several New York City elementary schools learn ballroom dancing and compete in a city wide dance competition.

Director: Marilyn Agrelo | Stars: Heather Berman, Emma Therese Biegacki, Eva Carrozza, Evangelina Carrozzo

Votes: 3,274 | Gross: $8.04M

The most heart warming documentary. Having watched this first as a pupil, then years later as a teacher, both sides of the story got me teary eyed and beaming simaltaneously.

2. First Position (2011)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary

72 Metascore

A documentary that follows six young dancers from around the world as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.

Director: Bess Kargman | Stars: Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty

Votes: 3,234 | Gross: $1.10M

Incredibly well made ballet documentary, great insight into the world of child ballet dancers and the drive to turn professional.

3. Crescendo! The Power of Music (2014)

TV-PG | 85 min | Documentary, Drama, Family

El Sistema, Venezuela's phenomenal youth orchestra program, now a global movement, brings social transformation to disadvantaged children. Our film is an in-depth, verite-based look at ... See full summary »

Directors: Jamie Bernstein, Elizabeth Kling

Votes: 31

Passionate teachers transforming kids lives through music, with engaging stories about the children and their musical progression too.

4. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)

Not Rated | 89 min | Documentary, Adventure, History

67 Metascore

In its first 25 years only 10 people have finished The Barkley Marathons. Based on a historic prison escape, this cult like race tempts people from around the world to test their limits of ... See full summary »

Directors: Annika Iltis, Timothy James Kane | Star: Lazarus Lake

Votes: 4,237

Really engaging documentary about the lesser known group of people who tackle the extreme Barkley Marathon. Great filiming and lots of insight into the competitors and the organisers.

5. The Redeemed and the Dominant: Fittest on Earth (2016)

Unrated | 104 min | Documentary, Sport

The 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games were a 5 day, 13 event, grueling test to find the fittest male and female on earth. "Fittest on Earth" follows the dramatic story of the top athletes who ... See full summary »

Directors: Heber Cannon, Marston Sawyers, Ian Wittenber | Stars: Dan Bailey, Samantha Briggs, Dave Castro, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir

Votes: 1,470

Tense but very informative competition documentary about the world of Crossfit. Real positive vibes from all the contestants in this one!

6. Twinsters (2015)

PG-13 | 89 min | Documentary, Biography, Family

81 Metascore

Adopted from South Korea, raised on different continents & connected through social media, Samantha & Anaïs believe that they are twin sisters separated at birth.

Directors: Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto | Stars: Anaïs Bordier, Samantha Futerman, Kanoa Goo

Votes: 4,585

Uplifting and emotional film about two sisters connecting for the first time. Loved how the focus was split between getting to know each other and getting to know their pasts.

7. The Short Game (2013)

PG | 99 min | Documentary, Sport

51 Metascore

The best 7 year old golfers from around the world descend on the world famous Pinehurst Golf course in North Carolina to determine the next world champion and who might become golf's next ... See full summary »

Director: Josh Greenbaum | Stars: Amari Avery, Jed Dy, Allan Kournikova, Zamokuhle Nxasana

Votes: 1,240 | Gross: $0.04M

Really well put together documentary of kids world golf tournament. All the kids, especially Alexa and Xama, were great and all pretty normal and positive. Xama was the best though, I could watch that kid all day!

8. Maidentrip (2013)

Not Rated | 82 min | Documentary, Adventure, Biography

70 Metascore

14-year-old Laura Dekker sets out on a two-year voyage in pursuit of her dream to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.

Director: Jillian Schlesinger | Stars: Dick Dekker, Kim Dekker, Laura Dekker, Barbara Mueller

Votes: 3,581 | Gross: $0.07M

Amazing scenic journey from a very likeable Dutch youngster. Great character growth throughout the whole trip.

9. Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness (2017)

TV-PG | 116 min | Documentary

The 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games were a grueling five-day, 15-event test to find the fittest man and woman on Earth. "Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness" follows the dramatic story of the ... See full summary »

Directors: Heber Cannon, Mariah Moore, Marston Sawyers, Ian Wittenber | Stars: Justin Bergh, Josh Bridges, Samantha Briggs, Dave Castro

Votes: 1,312

An excellent summary of crossfit and the community's passion for the sport.

10. Froning: The Fittest Man in History (2015)

PG | 99 min | Documentary

Rich Froning Jr. is a legend in CrossFit and the Sport of Fitness. In this biopic, take a look at his childhood, follow his quest for a fourth CrossFit Games title, and see him as a son, a husband and a new father.

Director: Heber Cannon | Stars: Rich Froning, Dan Bailey, Dave Castro, Matt Fraser

Votes: 1,131

Surprisingly insightful film about Matt Froning, his family, lifestyle and Crossfit.

11. The Redeemed and the Dominant: Fittest on Earth (2018)

119 min | Documentary

In 2017 the fittest athletes on Earth took on the unknown and unknowable during four of the most intense days of competition in CrossFit Games history. "The Redeemed and the Dominant: ... See full summary »

Directors: Heber Cannon, Mariah Moore, Marston Sawyers | Stars: Justin Bergh, Dave Castro, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, Brent Fikowski

Votes: 1,093

Great woman's competition this year, super close!

12. Tales by Light (2015– )

23 min | Documentary

Behind every powerful image is a powerful story. Uniting exploration, photography and the natural world, Tales By Light follows photographers from Australia and around the world as they push the limits of their craft.

Stars: Art Wolfe, Eric Cheng, Stephen Dupont, Angela Scott

Votes: 1,569

Beautiful cinematography.

13. Top Spin (2014)

Not Rated | 80 min | Documentary

81 Metascore

Three teenagers' quest to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic table tennis team.

Directors: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son | Stars: Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers, Lily Zhang, Xinhua Jiang

Votes: 530 | Gross: $0.01M

The girls in this came across much better than the guys in this table tennis film. Really great to see a full rounded view of their sporting lives, and personal lives.

14. Motivation 2: The Chris Cole Story (2015)

Not Rated | 76 min | Documentary, Sport

Shot over the course of a year in San Diego, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and China, Motivation 2: The Chris Cole Story is the story of a man that earned his place as an innovator, motivator ... See full summary »

Director: Adam Bhala Lough | Stars: Tom Asta, Edmund Bacon, Chris Cole, Rob Dyrdek

Votes: 442

Much better than the first Motivation documentary, focusing on the likeable Chris Cole and his rise from street kid to star skater and inspiration to the next generation of kids.

15. Hoop Dreams (1994)

PG-13 | 170 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport

98 Metascore

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James | Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates, Curtis Gates

Votes: 23,101 | Gross: $7.83M

This is more than just a documentary about basketball, it's an accurate (but overlong) commentary on poverty, African American's, the US schooling system, the early 90's, family and basketball dreams that really makes you wonder whether it is possible to escape from where you grow up.

16. KidPoker (2015 TV Movie)

89 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

Daniel Negreanu, the man, the legend, and the subject of this documentary that promises to take you into the mind and soul of one of the greatest poker players to have ever graced the felt.

Directors: Gary Davis, Francine Watson | Stars: Daniel Negreanu, Mike Negreanu, Oren Farkash, Regev Farkash

Votes: 692

Nicely shot poker documentary about the one man who changed poker playing forever.

17. Chasing Ice (2012)

PG-13 | 75 min | Documentary, Biography

75 Metascore

Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers.

Director: Jeff Orlowski | Stars: James Balog, Svavar Jónatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Kitty Boone

Votes: 7,976 | Gross: $1.33M

Great photography and cinematography whilst caapturing the massive issue that is climate change.

18. Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang (2016)

76 min | Documentary

73 Metascore

Trace the rise of contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang from childhood in Mao's China to global art world superstar, and join his quest to realize his lifelong obsession: Sky Ladder.

Director: Kevin Macdonald | Stars: Ian Buruma, Guo-Qiang Cai, Wen-You Cai, Wenhao Cai

Votes: 988

Beautifully artistic film about firework art and a man's passion to produce his one great idea.

19. Spellbound (2002)

G | 97 min | Documentary, Comedy, Thriller

80 Metascore

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

Director: Jeffrey Blitz | Stars: Angela Arenivar, Ubaldo Arenivar, Jorge Arenivar, Scott McGarraugh

Votes: 11,697 | Gross: $5.73M

THE spelling bee documentary, a little slow in places, but always interesting to see the preparation and dedication the kids put into these events.

20. Trophy Kids (2013)

Not Rated | 107 min | Documentary

From the director of Bigger Stronger Faster comes an intense look at overbearing parents in sports. The film asks the question "Do we want what's best for our children? Or do we just want ... See full summary »

Director: Chris Bell | Star: Amari Avery

Votes: 1,580

Highlighting the fine line between parents who have high expectations and those who bully their kids in their pursuit for their children's sporting stardom. Really it's the parents who are the main feature, and the varying styles of 'parenting' are all clearly shown here.

21. Finding Traction (2014)

G | 57 min | Documentary, Adventure, Biography

Finding Traction presents the inspirational story of ultra runner Nikki Kimball's quest to become the fastest person in history to run America's oldest hiking trail, the 273-mile Long Trail... See full summary »

Directors: Jaime Jacobsen, Charles Dye

Votes: 245

Nikki is a great role model for girls/women and sets out to prove to herself, and the world, what women can achieve in the worl od ultra running.

22. Valley Uprising (2014)

Not Rated | 103 min | Documentary

In the shady campgrounds of Yosemite valley, climbers carved out a counterculture lifestyle of dumpster-diving and wild parties that clashed with the conservative values of the National Park Service.

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen, Josh Lowell | Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Alex Honnold, Yvon Chouinard, Royal Robbins

Votes: 4,675

Fascinating to learn about the history and development of rock climbing, from the 1950s to today.

23. One in a Billion (2016)

69 min | Documentary

In a country of 1.2 billion people and in a sport with billions of fans worldwide, there has yet to be a single Indian-born player drafted in the NBA. One in a Billion follows the global ... See full summary »

Director: Roman Gackowski | Stars: Dan Barto, Balbir Singh Bhamara, Satnam Singh Bhamara, Larry Bird

Votes: 396

Nice paced basketball documentary about a very likeable Indian kid who proves that hard work can get you anywhere.

24. At All Costs (2016)

PG | 100 min | Documentary, Sport

At All Costs is a documentary set in the world of elite youth grassroots basketball that explores how the AAU system has professionalized youth basketball in America. We follow highly ... See full summary »

Director: Mike Nicoll

Votes: 365

Showing the harsh realities of how AAU basketball is bigger than high school ball and the step up to college ball, this features lots of insight from pros, trainers, coaches, promoters but a little more focus on more than two athletes would have been nice.

25. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids (2016)

90 min | Documentary, Music

81 Metascore

The final performance of Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids' 20/20 Experience World Tour, filmed in 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Justin Timberlake, Dontae Winslow

Votes: 1,734

Nice concert film, with most of JTs big hits.

26. Jeremy Jones' Further (2012)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Action, Adventure

FURTHER: the second installment in the DEEPER, FURTHER, HIGHER trilogy. FURTHER will explore some of the world's most remote mountain terrain while continuing Jones' mission to camp deep in... See full summary »

Director: Jon Klaczkiewicz | Stars: Ryland Bell, Lucas Debari, Josh Dirksen, Terje Håkonsen

Votes: 241

Nice continuation of the series, though this one featured better music!

27. Jeremy Jones' Higher (2014)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Action, Adventure

Jones and his crew are elevating their game and taking their quest to the next level for the third and final installment.

Directors: Jeremy Jones, Steve Jones, Todd Jones | Stars: Ryland Bell, Bryan Iguchi, Jeremy Jones, Luca Merli

Votes: 240

Even better music, even more risks. A fitting end to the triology of films.

28. Jeremy Jones' Deeper (2010)

Not Rated | 60 min | Documentary, Action, Adventure

DEEPER: the first installment in the DEEPER, FURTHER, HIGHER trilogy. Follow Jeremy Jones and other top freeriders as they travel to the world's snowboarding meccas and venture past the ... See full summary »

Director: Jeremy Jones | Stars: Ryland Bell, Tom Burt, Xavier De Le Rue, Josh Dirksen

Votes: 189

Nicely shot snowboarding sports documentary with a good balance of epic snowboarding shots and explanations.

29. Catfish (2010)

PG-13 | 87 min | Documentary, Drama, Mystery

65 Metascore

Young filmmakers document their colleague's budding online friendship with a young woman and her family which leads to an unexpected series of discoveries.

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman | Stars: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Angela Wesselman-Pierce

Votes: 39,395 | Gross: $3.23M

The original Catfish documentary! Slightly errie in places and very long, but a great insight into the minds of lonely individuals.

30. Iverson (2014)

Not Rated | 106 min | Documentary, Biography, Sport

Iverson is the ultimate legacy of NBA legend Allen Iverson, who rose from a childhood of crushing poverty in Hampton, Virginia, to become an 11-time NBA All-Star and universally recognized ... See full summary »

Director: Zatella Beatty | Stars: Allen Iverson, Tom Brokaw, Larry Brown, Dwyane Wade

Votes: 3,365

Very insightful documentary about the rise of Allen Iverson and his role in the world of the NBA and basketball.

31. Mission Blue (2014)

95 min | Documentary, Drama

77 Metascore

Feature documentary about legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, environmentalist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and her campaign to create a global network of protected marine sanctuaries.

Directors: Robert Nixon, Fisher Stevens | Stars: Barbara Block, James Cameron, Michael deGruy, Sylvia Earle

Votes: 1,394

Great insight into one of the world's top oceanographers

32. Town of Runners (2012)

PG | 80 min | Documentary, Sport

Town of Runners is a feature documentary about young runners from the Ethiopian rural town of Bekoji, home to the current Olympic and World Champions Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenenisa Bekele. ... See full summary »

Director: Jerry Rothwell

Votes: 129

Nice to see what goes into producing Ethiopia's elite long distance athletes. However, the doc is too long and focus shifts from 3 perspectives unnaturally at times.

33. The Motivation (2013)

Not Rated | 88 min | Documentary, Sport

Eight of the world's best pro-skateboarders prepare for the upcoming Street League Championship in NYC. Each equally talented, they all must overcome unique challenges - family pressures, ... See full summary »

Director: Adam Bhala Lough | Stars: Felix Arguelles, Steve Berra, Chris Cole, Red Cole

Votes: 924

Really drawn out begining, spending 2/3 of the film introducing the skaters, but the final third seeing all the cool tricks made up for it slightly.

34. Every Second Counts: The Story of the 2008 CrossFit Games (2009)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary

Every second counts takes an inside look at the Crossfit culture and community, where time on a stopwatch reigns as the supreme measure of performance. Those who reach the elite ranks in ... See full summary »

Directors: Sevan Matossian, Carey Peterson | Stars: Josh Everett, James FitzGerald, Dutch Lowy, Matt Murski

Votes: 273

The first Crossfit documentary is a good introduction, but so much has changed since '08, watch a more recent cross fit doc for the real deal.

35. Yarn (2016)

79 min | Documentary, Animation

61 Metascore

Every stitch tells a tale. International artists and knitters take a simple skein of yarn to create their extraordinary ideas and stories.

Directors: Þórdur Bragi Jónsson, Una Lorenzen, Heather Millard | Stars: Tilde Björfors, Barbara Kingsolver, Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, Olek

Votes: 78

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