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The Best Art Documentaries

July 23, 2021 1.2k votes 51 voters57 items

List RulesVote up the best art documentaries.

What is the best art documentary? The best art documentary movies offer strong stories, memorable characters, and emotional payoffs that stick with you long after they're over. They focus on a variety of subjects and approach the making of art in both subtle and more overt manners. They come from big studios and independent distributors. So, what is the best art doc? What art docs should you watch first?

The best art documentary movies, like Exit Through the Gift Shop, Cutie and the Boxer, and Burden, have even found themselves nominated for, or winning, awards. In every way, these are some of the most important movies of our time. A lot of these art docus are available on streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

This list includes documentary films about art. Vote up the best art documentary films to make sure they make it to the top of the list. Be sure to check back for new art docs as they are added to the list upon release.

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  • 1

    Directed byBanksy

    Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film is a 2010 British documentary film directed by street artist Banksy. It tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his...  more
  • 2

    Directed byZachary Heinzerling

    Cutie and the Boxer is a 2013 American documentary film directed by Zachary Heinzerling. Noriko seeks an identity of her own after 40 years of marriage to famous boxing artist, Ushio Shinohara....  more
  • 3
    2016
    47
    9

    Directed byRichard Dewey, Timothy Marrinan

    Burden is a 2016 American art documentary film directed by Richard Dewey and Timothy Marrinan. A probing portrait of Chris Burden, an artist who took creative expression to the limits and risked his...  more
  • 4
    49
    16

    Directed byJustin S. Monroe

    Holy Frit is a 2021 American art documentary film directed by Justin S. Monroe. In this three-year race against time, Tim Carey, a talented, yet unknown L.A. artist, bluffs his way into winning a...  more
  • 5

    Directed byMorgan Neville

    The Cool School is a 2008 American documentary film directed by Morgan Neville. How LA Learned to Love Modern Art. A lesson in how a few renegade artists built an art scene from scratch....  more
  • 6
    31
    3

    Directed byJames Moll

    Obey Giant is a 2017 American documentary film directed by James Moll. The film follows artist Shepard Fairey's rise from his roots in punk rock and skateboarding, to his role as one of the most...  more
  • 7

    Directed byBenjamin Ree

    The Painter and the Thief is a 2020 Norwegian documentary directed by Benjamin Ree. The documentary follows an artist who gets to know the thief that stole her painting and they become close after a...  more
  • 8
    24
    1

    Directed byHenry Chalfant, Tony Silver

    Style Wars is an American 1983 documentary film directed by Tony Silver. A documentary that exposes the rich growing subculture of hip-hop that was developing in New York City in the late '70s and...  more
  • 9

    Directed bySusan Stern

    Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez is a 2021 American art documentary film directed by Susan Stern. Working-class Latino hood, crossed with crazy artist, crossed with left-wing radical, so the...  more
  • 10

    Directed bySam Pollard

    Black Art: In the Absence of Light is an 2021 American documentary film directed by Sam Pollard. The film follows various Black American artists and their contributions to the art world....  more
  • 11

    Directed byMatthew Akers, Jeffrey Dupre

    Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present is a 2012 American biographical documentary film directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre. Performance artist Marina Abramovic prepares for a major...  more
  • 12
    39
    23

    Directed byJeff Malmberg

    "Marwencol is a fantasy world created by Mark Hogancamp. This website is dedicated to capturing the beauty of Mark's secret world. After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a...  more
  • 13

    Directed byNeil Berkeley

    Beauty Is Embarrassing is a 2012 documentary film written by Chris Bradley and Kevin Klauber and directed by Neil Berkeley....  more
  • 14

    Directed byBill Jersey, Jason Cohn

    Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a 2011 documentary film about American designers Charles and Ray Eames and the Eames Office. It was produced and written by Jason Cohn, and coproduced by Bill...  more
  • 15

    Directed byMax Basch, Malia Scharf

    Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide is a 2021 American art documentary film directed by Max Basch and Malia Scharf. Kenny Scharf's artworks have spanned painting, sculpture, fashion, video, performance...  more
  • 16

    Directed byHenri-Georges Clouzot

    The Mystery of Picasso is a 1956 French documentary film about the painter Pablo Picasso, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and showing Picasso in the act of creating paintings for the camera. Most...  more
  • 17

    Directed byChris McKim

    Wojnarowicz is a 2021 American documentary film directed by Chris McKim. A controversial artist blazes a trail for other gay image makers in New York 's 1980s scene, only to perish at the end of the...  more
  • 18

    Directed byTamra Davis

    "In his short career, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker Samo in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to...  more
  • 19
    31
    21

    Directed byNathaniel Kahn

    My Architect: A Son's Journey is a 2003 documentary film about the American architect Louis Kahn, by his son Nathaniel Kahn, detailing the architect's extraordinary career and his familial legacy...  more
  • 20
    1994
    23
    16

    Directed byTerry Zwigoff

    Crumb is a 1994 documentary film about the noted underground cartoonist Robert Crumb and his family. Directed by Terry Zwigoff and produced by Lynn O'Donnell, it won widespread acclaim. It was...  more
  • 21

    Directed byValeri Vaughn

    Art of Conflict is a documentary film directed by Valeri Vaughn....
  • 22

    Directed byAmir Bar-Lev

    My Kid Could Paint That is a 2007 documentary film by director Amir Bar-Lev. The movie follows the early artistic career of Marla Olmstead, a young girl from Binghamton, New York who gains fame first...  more

    ‘My Kid Could Paint That’ Cast Doubt On A Child Prodigy And Questioned The Integrity Of Art#10 of 19 These Documentaries Took A Hard Left Turn And Left Audiences Shocked And Confused

  • 23
    16
    9

    Directed byLucy Walker, Karen Harley, João Jardim

    Waste Land is a feature documentary film that premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and went on to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, as...  more
  • 24

    Directed byJill Magid

    The Proposal is a 2018 American documentary film directed by Jill Magid. The Proposal is the story of an artist that fights to make the archives of Mexico's most famous architect available to the...  more
  • 25

    Directed byRichard Press

    Bill Cunningham New York is a 2010 American documentary film directed by Richard Press. Bill Cunningham, one of the mainstays of the New York Times, has been a contributor to the renowned newspaper...  more
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List Rules: Vote up the best art documentaries.