Entertainment

The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time  

Ranker Film
168 votes 34 voters 51 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
Food, Inc. is listed (or ranked) 1 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
2
Jesus Camp is listed (or ranked) 2 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
3
Sicko is listed (or ranked) 3 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
4
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mi... is listed (or ranked) 4 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.
5
The Cove is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
The Quiet One is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Oliver Murray
The Quiet One is a 2019 British documentary film directed by Oliver Murray. The documentary offers a behind the scenes look at the life and career of Bill Wyman, former founding member of the ...more
7
Maiden is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Alex Holmes
Maiden is a 2019 British documentary film directed by Alex Holmes. The film tells the story of Tracy Edwards who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round ...more
8
The Amazing Johnathan Document... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Benjamin Berman
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary is a 2019 American documentary directed by Benjamin Berman. A documentary about the final tour of a dying magician turns into a journey that blurs the line ...more
9
Capturing the Friedmans is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
What Happened, Miss Simone? is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
Aquarela is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Victor Kossakovsky
Aquarela is a 2019 multi-national documentary film directed by Victor Kossakovsky. The film depicts water at its most beautiful and terrifying extremes.
12
Love, Antosha is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Garret Price
Love, Antosha is a 2019 American documentary film directed and produced by Garret Price. The documentary focuses on the life and career of the late actor Anton Yelchin, narrated by Nicolas
13
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Morgan Spurlock
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is a 2017 American documentary film (2019 US theatrical release) directed by Morgan Spurlock, a sequel to the 2004 film Super Size Me. The film explores the ways ...more
14
The Proposal is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Jill 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 ...more
15
Moonlight Sonata is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Moonlight Sonata Irene Taylor Brodsky
Moonlight Sonata (a.k.a. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements) is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky. The documentary interweaves the story of a deaf boy ...more
16
The Edge of Democracy is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Petra Costa
The Edge of Democracy (a.k.a. Democracia em Vertigem) is a 2019 Brazilian documentary film directed by Petra Costa. Both a documentary and a memoir, The Edge of Democracy documents the ...more
17
Honeyland is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov
Honeyland is a 2019 Republic of Macedonia documentary film directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov.
18
Mike Wallace Is Here is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Avi Belkin
Mike Wallace Is Here is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Avi Belkin. The documentary chronicles the career of American journalist, Mike Wallace.
19
The Great Hack is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim
The Great Hack is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is examined through the eyes of several involved persons.
20
Sea of Shadows is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Richard Ladkani, Sean Bogle, Matthew Podolsky
Sea of Shadows is a 2019 Austrian documentary film directed by Richard Ladkani, Sean Bogle, and Matthew Podolsky. A look at how Mexican cartels and the Chinese mafia are threatening the ...more
21
Blink of an Eye is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Paul Taublieb
Blink of an Eye is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Paul Taublieb. An inside look at 2001's Daytona 500 featuring Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
22
Cold Case Hammarskjöld is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Mads Brügger
Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a 2019 Danish documentary film directed by Mads Brügger. The documentary is an investigation into the death of UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, ...more
23
American Factory is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
American Factory is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. A Chinese company revitalizes a General Motors plant in Moraine, a suburb in Ohio.
24
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Mac... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine Alex Gibney
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is a documentary film directed and produced by Alex Gibney. A look at the personal and private life of the late Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.
25
Chasing Ice is listed (or ranked) 25 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