On Tuesday, August 2, Current TV will launch a new series, 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die. Morgan Spurlock, the documentarian who challenged fast-food chain McDonald's in Super Size Me and more recently, consumerism with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, serves as host. Along with a panel of filmmakers, Spurlock will feature 50 of the best non-fiction films of the past two decades. He will also travel the country to meet the actual subjects of the featured docs.
Art Attack loves a good documentary and is excited to gain further knowledge of what appears to be an exhaustive list. We are sure we haven't seen all 50, but here are our top 10. What are yours?
10. Roger & Me Michael Moore is, without a doubt, one of the most noted documentary filmmakers of our era. He won an Academy Award for his shocking film on gun control, Bowling For Columbine, and Fahrenheit 9/11 was one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time. However, it was his first and most personal film, Roger & Me, that struck us the hardest. In this film, Moore goes back to his hometown of Flint, Michigan to track the downfall of the community after General Motors, the city's biggest employer, closes its factory doors.
9. Capturing the Friedmans
In the story of the Friedmans, director Andrew Jarecki digs into the 1980 investigation of a Long Island family accused of child molestation. The story is filled with twists and turns of a bizarre reality of father and son who pleaded guilty to the charges. However, the Friedman son later turns the story around by accusing his own dad of sexual assault. By the end of the film you are not quite sure who is telling the truth and who isn't, and you are seriously disturbed.
8. Hoop Dreams Hoop Dreams was an unprecedented film for the early 1990s. The film focuses on the real-life story of two high school boys, pursuing their dreams of becoming professional NBA stars. We follow them and their family for several years and witness the struggles of inner city kids in Chicago and their desires to break the mold of racism, class and economic hardship. Hoop Dreams is as uplifting as it is heart breaking.
7. Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse This documentary is about the making of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now. If you thought Apocalypse Now was crazy, you need to see this behind-the-scenes look. It will make you second-guess the sanity of every actor in the film.
Trailer provided by Video Detective Comic book artist Robert Crumb (R. Crumb) is known for his peculiar and often sexually charged underground comics and illustrations. In the documentary, we learn how Crumb was able to turn his family's oddities into a thriving art career. What is so touching about the film is the unfortunate nature of life - though his brothers have similar mental illnesses they floundered, while Crumb made the dysfunction work in his favor.
5. An Inconvenient Truth There is no doubt that this doc will show up on Current TV's Top 50, considering Al Gore, the film's subject, is a co-founder of the network. That aside, An Inconvenient Truth made our list as well. Whether or not you are a believer in global warming, this film lays out the facts on climate change and its potential impact on Earth in a convincing, albeit inconvenient, way.
4. March of the Penguins How, you ask, did penguins make a theater full of adults burst into tears? Easily.
3. Nanook of the NorthNanook
is considered one of the first documentaries ever made with its release in 1924, and is a staple for film school students. For its time, it was a revolutionary piece of work and an important part of documentary history. The film's director Robert Flaherty was accused of staging scenes to heighten the drama of the film. Truth be told, if certain footage had in fact been engineered, it wouldn't be the last time documentary filmmakers used this method to get their point across.
2. The Civil War
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Yes, this was more of a mini series, clocking in at 608 minutes, but that doesn't lessen its power. This groundbreaking documentary that aired on PBS in 1990 was filmmaker Ken Burns' magnum opus. The series takes newspaper images, photos and paintings of the Civil War, set against a narration of personal stories, to bring this distant battle to life in manner never witnessed before.
Spellbound 1. Spellbound This doc follows eight contestants from the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The pressure is on for these young spellers and this movie is touching, funny and keeps you on the edge of your seat all at the same time.
Notable Mentions The Thin Blue Line When We Were Kings Winged Migration Food, Inc. The Devil and Daniel Johnston