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47 voters

The Best Intelligent Documentaries of All Time

Updated February 19, 2020 342 votes 47 voters 1.8k views55 items

List RulesVote 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.  

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  • 1
    18
    2

    Food, Inc.

    Robert Kenner

    Released2008

    How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families?...  more
  • 2
    14
    2

    Super Size Me

    Morgan Spurlock, Mira King

    ActorsMorgan Spurlock, Daryl Isaacs, Chemeeka Walker, Dania Abu-Rmaileh

    Released2005

    Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary film directed by Morgan Spurlock. The film...  more
  • 3
    14
    2

    13th

    Ava DuVernay

    ActorsMelina Abdullah, Michelle Alexander, Cory Booker

    Released2016

    13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. An in-depth look at the prison...  more
  • 4
    9
    0

    The Act of Killing

    Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn

    Released2012

    The Act of Killing is a 2012 Indonesian documentary film directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. The...  more
  • 5
    10
    2

    The Century of the Self

    Adam Curtis

    Released2002

    The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television documentary series by Adam Curtis. It...  more
  • 6
    12
    7

    We Were Here

    David Weissman, Bill Weber

    Released2011

    We Were Here is a 2011 documentary film about the AIDS crisis in San Francisco. The film,...  more
  • 7
    12
    7

    Requiem for the American Dream

    Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks

    Released2015

  • 8

    ActorsLawrence Wright, Mark Rathbun, Monique Rathbun, Mike Rinder, Jason Beghe

    Released2015

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is a 2015 documentary film directed by Alex...  more
  • 9
    9
    7

    Hell and Back Again

    Danfung Dennis

    Released2011

    Hell and Back Again is a 2010 documentary film directed by Danfung Dennis. "In 2009, U.S....  more
  • 10
    9
    7
    HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. In the film,...  more
  • 11
    12
    11

    Blackfish

    Gabriela Cowperthwaite

    ActorsTilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg

    Released2013

    Blackfish is a 2013 Documentary film written by Eli B. Despres and directed by Gabriela...  more
  • 12
    5
    2

    Amanda Knox

    Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn

    ActorsAmanda Knox, Meredith Kercher, Raffaele Sollecito

    Released2016

    Amanda Knox is a 2016 American documentary film directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn....  more
  • 13
    6
    4

    Last Days in Vietnam

    Rory Kennedy

    Released2014

    Last Days in Vietnam is a historic war documentary written by Mark Bailey and Keven McAlester...  more
  • 14
    7
    7

    Cocaine Cowboys

    Billy Cohen

    Released2006

    Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben and produced by Alfred...  more
  • 15
    4
    7

    Killing Them Safely

    Nick Berardini

    Released2015

  • 16
    2
    0

    Released2003

    Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS was...  more
  • 17

    ActorsPeter Coyote, Gary Davis, Jeffrey Skilling, Bethany McLean, Kenneth Lay

    Released2005

    Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a 2005 documentary film based on the best-selling 2003...  more
  • 18
    5
    0

    Jesus Camp

    Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing

    ActorsBecky Fischer, Mike Papantonio

    Released2006

    Jesus Camp is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about...  more
  • 19
    5
    2

    Sicko

    Michael Moore

    Released2007

    Sicko is a 2007 documentary film by American filmmaker Michael Moore. The film investigates...  more
  • 20
    7
    2

    The Cove

    Louie Psihoyos

    ActorsRichard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones

    Released2009

    The Cove is a 2009 documentary film that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in...  more
  • 21
    2
    2

    Inside Job

    Charles Ferguson

    ActorsMatt Damon

    Released2010

    Inside Job is a 2010 American documentary film, directed by Charles Ferguson, about the...  more
  • 22
    4
    10

    Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

    Kurt Engfehr, Joe Cross

    ActorsJoe Cross, Joel Fuhrman, Phil Staples

    Released2010

    Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is a 2010 American documentary film directed by Joe Cross and Kurt...  more
  • 23
    2
    2

    Released2012

    Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a 2012 documentary film about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei,...  more
  • 24
    5
    2

    Chasing Ice

    Jeff Orlowski

    Released2012

    Chasing Ice is a 2012 documentary film about the efforts of nature photographer James Balog...  more
  • 25
    2
    0

    Ice on Fire

    Leila Conners

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio

    Released2019

    Ice on Fire is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Leila Conners. The film explores...  more