What are the best Oscar winning documentary films? This list includes every film to have won an Oscar for Best Documentary, including Free Solo, Bowling for Columbine, An Inconvenient Truth, 20 Feet from Stardom, and Born into Brothels. The first Oscars presented for documentary films were given out in the 1940s, and many of those early winners focused on the subject of World War II. Since then, documentaries have looked at many other topics as well, taking home Oscars in the process.
Movies have the ability to make us feel. They make us want to believe, be inspired, and live vicariously through the stories we see on screen. Documentary films especially try to inspire viewers and teach them about a subject they may not previously have had access to. The best of these movies are bestowed with an Academy Award nomination, and those that are truly the best take home the Oscar.
Documentary films tell a true story, the version of which we often have not heard before. These best Oscar winning documentary films provide a kind of emotional connection that filmmakers hope people seek in entertainment. They are moving, saddening, or angering. They provide the type of entertainment that is groundbreaking in their story-telling and in their truth.
Vote up the best Academy Award winning documentary films below.
The Ten-Year LunchHelen Hayes, Ruth Gordon
Directed by: Aviva SlesinThe Algonquin Road Table, group of writers and artists during the 1920s in New YorkThe Ten-Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table is a 1987 American... more
Directed by: Kieth MerrillThe battle between two rodeo stars for the world championshipThe Great American Cowboy is a 1973 documentary film by Kieth Merrill. The film, which won the... more
Directed by: Michael WadleighThe watershed cultural and music festival in New York.Woodstock is a 1970 American documentary of the watershed counterculture Woodstock Festival... more
Directed by: Thomas Haneke, Barbara Kopple, Cathy CaplanAn unsuccessful strike in the heartland of America against Hormel FoodsThrough the lenses of cameras, an exploration into the minds - the hopes, dreams, ... more
- Global warmingAn Inconvenient Truth is a 2006 documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim about former... more
- 11020The Vietnam WarHearts and Minds is a 1974 American documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter... more
Directed by: Daniel Lindsay, T. J. MartinThe struggles of a high school football team in MemphisUndefeated is a 2011 documentary directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin. The film... more
- Pioneers on the Oregon Trail
Directed by: Laura PoitrasCitizenfour is a 2014 documentary film directed by Laura Poitras. A documentarian and a... more
- Based on the book by Rachel Carson this documentary reveals the science and poetry of the sea while ranging from its primeval beginnings to the latest scientific probings.
- The lives of background singers for some of music's most famous acts
Directed by: Garson Kanin, Carol ReedVictory on the Western Front, from Normandy to the collapse of the Third ReichThe True Glory is a co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry... more
Directed by: James AlgarNature documentary noted for its propagation of the misconception of lemming suicideWhite Wilderness is an American nature documentary produced by Walt Disney Productions in 1958... more
Directed by: Leon GastThe "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Muhammed Ali and George ForemanWhen We Were Kings is a 1996 documentary film directed by Leon Gast about the famous "Rumble... more
Directed by: Arnold ShapiroA group of juvenile delinquents and their three-hour session with actual convictsScared Straight! is a 1978 documentary directed by Arnold Shapiro. Narrated by Peter Falk, the... more
Directed by: Jon BlairDiarist Anne FrankAnne Frank Remembered is a 1995 documentary film by Jon Blair about the life of the diarist... more
Directed by: Bill McGawA 16-hour group-therapy session for eight well-adjusted people who had never metJourney into Self is a 1968 documentary film introduced by Stanley Kramer, produced by Bill... more
- 6116Hungarian Jews during WWII and their struggle in the concentration campsThe Last Days is a documentary, directed by James Moll and produced by June Beallor and... more
Directed by: Allie Light, Irving SarafThe San Francisco opera and its big starsIn the Shadow of the Stars is a 1991 documentary film about the San Francisco Opera. It... more
Directed by: Brigitte BermanClarinetist Artie Shaw.Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got is a 1986 documentary film about clarinetist Artie Shaw. It... more
Directed by: Nancy HamiltonBiographical documentary about Helen Keller with footage of her visits with Eisenhower and Martha GrahamHelen Keller in Her Story is an American biographical documentary about Helen Keller made in... more
Directed by: Mark Jonathan HarrisJewish refugees after WWII and their establishment of IsraelThe Long Way Home is a 1997 documentary film directed by Mark Jonathan Harris. It depicts the... more
Directed by: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey FriedmanThe story of the NAMES Project AIDS memorial quiltCommon Threads: Stories from the Quilt is a 1989 documentary film that tells the story of the... more
- Yuichiro Miura, a Japanese alpinist who skied down Mt. Everest in 1970The Man Who Skied Down Everest is a documentary about Yuichiro Miura, a Japanese alpinist who... more
Directed by: Charles FergusonCorruption in the United States financial services industryInside Job is a 2010 American documentary film, directed by Charles Ferguson, about the... more