Film The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time  

Ranker Film
121 votes 23 voters 30 items

List Rules Vote up the best intelligent movies, or those that are smart, clever, etc.

Intelligent documentaries really aren't hard to come by, as most of them set out to inform in some way or another. Nevertheless, some of the best documentaries are simply "smarter" than others. In other words, there's an extensive list of informative documentaries out there to ultimately make you smarter and, in some cases, even more aware of the world around you. Whether they set out to change the way people think or simply explain a significant event or issue in depth, these intelligent documentaries should not be missed. So, next time you're feeling out of the loop or want to expand your mind, check out one these potentially life-changing documentaries.

A perfect example of such docs is the ever-eye-opening Food, Inc. Created to show the world the truth behind many of the foods we eat on a daily basis, anyone who's watched it has surely considered changing the way they eat, as well as how they view their food. The Oscar-nominated 13th also fits in here, as it takes a close look at the ongoing racial inequality in America. In short, many of these smart documentaries are just as important as they are intelligent.

If you're feeling in the mood for an educational flick, check out some of the best intelligent documentaries to date below. You can also help rank them by voting up your favorites, as well as voting any down you feel aren't as great as the next.  

list ordered by

1
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The Act of Killing is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn The Act of Killing is a 2012 documentary film directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous and Christine Cynn.

2
7 1
Food, Inc. is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Robert Kenner How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? Though our food appears the same as ever — a tomato still looks like a tomato — it has been ...more

3
5 0
Blackfish is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Gabriela Cowperthwaite Blackfish is a 2013 Documentary film written by Eli B. Despres and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

4
6 1
13th is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Ava DuVernay 13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality.

5
4 1
Amanda Knox is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Amanda Knox Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn Amanda Knox is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn. Featuring interviews with Amanda Knox, her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor ...more

6
3 0
The Cove is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Louie Psihoyos The Cove is a 2009 documentary film that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. The film is a call to ...more

7
5 3
Cocaine Cowboys is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Billy Cohen Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben and produced by Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben through their Miami-based media studio Rakontur. The film explores the rise ...more

8
5 3
We Were Here is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
David Weissman, Bill Weber We Were Here is a 2011 documentary film about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco. The film, produced and directed by David Weissman with editor/ co-director and Bill Weber, premiered at the ...more

9
5 3
Requiem for the American Dream is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott

10
3 1
The Century of the Self is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
The Century of the Self Adam Curtis The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television documentary series by Adam Curtis. It focuses on how the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way ...more

11
3 1
Super Size Me is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Morgan Spurlock, Mira King Supersize She is a 2005 television documentary focused on British professional female bodybuilder Joanna Thomas. The title was a take-off on the success of the film Super Size Me. The one-hour ...more

12
3 1
Going Clear: Scientology and t... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Alex Gibney Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is a 2015 documentary film directed by Alex Gibney. Deconstructing the church's claims by presenting a condensed history of Scientology and its ...more

13
2 0
Sicko is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Michael Moore Sicko is a 2007 documentary film by American filmmaker Michael Moore. The film investigates health care in the United States, focusing on its health insurance and the pharmaceutical industry. ...more

14
2 0
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mi... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine Michele Josue Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine is a 2012 documentary historical fiction and biographical film written and directed by Michele Josue.

15
2 0
Jesus Camp is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing Jesus Camp is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about a charismatic Christian summer camp, where children spend their summers being taught that they have ...more

16
4 3
HyperNormalisation is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
HyperNormalisation Adam Curtis HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up ...more

17
4 3
Hell and Back Again is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Danfung Dennis Hell and Back Again is a 2010 documentary film directed by Danfung Dennis. "In 2009, U.S. Marines launched a major helicopter assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. ...more

18
1 0
What Happened, Miss Simone? is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Liz Garbus What Happened, Miss Simone? is a 2015 biographical documentary film directed by Liz Garbus. Exploring the life of Nina Simone, the documentary combines previously unreleased archival footage and ...more

19
1 0
Capturing the Friedmans is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Andrew Jarecki Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS was the most riveting, provocative, and hotly debated film of the year. Despite their predilection for ...more

20
3 3
Killing Them Safely is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Killing Them Safely Nick Berardini

21
2 2
Last Days in Vietnam is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy Last Days in Vietnam is a historic war documentary written by Mark Bailey and Keven McAlester and directed by Rory Kennedy.

22
1 1
Inside Job is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Charles Ferguson The creators of ``Undercover Boss'' are behind this unscripted TNT series, which gives the popular CEO-in-disguise premise a bit of a twist. ``Inside Job'' puts candidates for six-figure ...more

23
1 1
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Mac... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine Alex Gibney

24
1 1
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Alison Klayman Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a 2012 documentary film about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, directed by American filmmaker Alison Klayman. Director Klayman received a special jury prize at ...more

25
1 1
May I Be Frank is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Gregg Marks May I Be Frank is a documentary biographical comedy film directed by Gregg Marks.

26
1 1
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About ... is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies Yael Melamede

27
0 1
Cartel Land is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Matthew Heineman

28
0 1
Enron: The Smartest Guys in th... is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Alex Gibney Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a 2005 documentary film based on the best-selling 2003 book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a study of one of the ...more

29
0 1
Chasing Ice is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Jeff Orlowski Chasing Ice is a 2012 documentary film about the efforts of nature photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey to publicize the effects of climate change, directed by Jeff Orlowski. It ...more

30
2 4
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Kurt Engfehr, Joe Cross Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Joe Cross and Kurt Engfehr.