These Documentaries Took A Hard Left Turn And Left Audiences Shocked And Confused

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Vote up the twists you really did not see coming.

Sometimes, the best stories are the ones where nothing goes as planned. The classic twist-ending synonymous with Hollywood thrillers can often be even more shocking when it happens in real life, and that's precisely what happened in these weird documentaries that shift directions partway through.

On a quest for one thing, these curious filmmakers unwittingly stumbled into all kinds of bizarre hidden truths, from the dangers of online dating, to celebrity falls from grace, get-rich-quick schemes, and unearthing horrific crimes. Here are some of the most abrupt changes in documentaries.

  • 'Dear Zachary' Starts As A Tribute To A Late Father But Turns Into A True Crime Doc
    Video: YouTube

    Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne intended to make Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father as a gift for the titular Zachary, the son of Kuenne's best friend, Andrew Bagby. Bagby was murdered by his partner—and Zachary's mother—Shirley Jane Turner before Zachary was born.

    But, as Kuenne sits down with Bagby and Turner's relatives and friends, what began as a loving tribute to his late friend morphs into something resembling a tragic true-crime documentary. As Turner makes her way through the Canadian prison and legal system, Bagby's parents fight to maintain custody of Zachary. They come up against some shocking hurdles and their battle, ultimately, is lost. In 2003, Turner jumped into the Atlantic Ocean with Zachary in her arms, killing them both.

    • Released: 2008
    • Directed by: Kurt Kuenne
    3,888 votes

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    2,575 VOTES

    '9/11' Starts As A Film About A Firefighter's Burgeoning Career But Ends Up Capturing A National Tragedy Instead

    '9/11' Starts As A Film About A Firefighter's Burgeoning Career But Ends Up Capturing A National Tragedy Instead
    Video: YouTube

    French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet and New York firefighter James Hanlon set out in 2001 to capture the burgeoning career of Tony Benetatos, a probationary firefighter (a new recruit that's only been on the job for 8-18 months) in the New York City Fire Department.

    On September 11, 2001, after a gas leak is reported at Church and Lispenard Streets, Jules Naudet follows Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer to investigate. Gedeon stays behind at the firehouse with Benetatos. During the investigation of the gas leak, American Airlines Flight 11 flies overhead, and Naudet turns the camera to follow its path into Tower One of the World Trade Center - one of only three recordings of the collision.

    2,575 votes
  • 'Tickled' Starts As Harmless Fun But Turns Into No Laughing Matter
    Video: YouTube

    When David Farrier, a light-entertainment TV journalist from New Zealand, begins researching the strange phenomenon of recorded "competitive endurance tickling," he has no idea what kind of world he's getting himself into.

    After noting the strangely homoerotic nature of a lot of the tickling videos, Farrier gets in touch with the production company behind the videos, Jane O'Brien Media, but is surprised to receive a pretty angry and homophobic response that asserts the exclusively heterosexual nature of the sport. The further that Farrier digs into this peculiar world, the uglier and more hostile Jane O'Brien Media becomes.

    Determined to find out who's behind this, Farrier makes it his mission to track down the owner of Jane O'Brien Media and find out why the company is so aggressive. Along the way, he interviews former employees that accuse the company of blackmail, coercion, and extortion. By the end, you're left wondering if you just watched a documentary about competitive tickling or a true-crime doc about one man's life-long quest for revenge.

    • Released: 2016
    • Directed by: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
    3,730 votes
  • 'Daughter from Danang' Starts As A Family Reunion But Turns Into A Family Meltdown
    Video: YouTube

    Heidi Bub is an Amerasian born in 1968, in Danang, Vietnam, who was brought over to the United States as part of "Operation Babylift" (a campaign to evacuate children from war-torn Vietnam) in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War. She was adopted by an ultra-conservative Christian woman, Ann Neville, in South Carolina, but after breaking Ann's strict curfew (by a mere 10 minutes) as a teenager, Heidi found herself evicted from her home and estranged from her adoptive mother.

    After Heidi learned that her birth mother had contacted her adoption agency in 1991, this 2002 documentary intended to capture an uplifting reunion between mother and daughter. However, after traveling to Vietnam, Heidi struggles to come to terms with the extreme cultural differences and feels exploited when she is expected to financially support a family she has only just met.

    • Released: 2002
    • Directed by: Gail Dolgin, Vicente Franco
    1,304 votes
  • 'Gimme Shelter' Starts As Rock 'n' Roll Heaven But Turns Into Rock 'n' Roll Hell
    Video: YouTube

    In 1969, Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin set out to create a tour film of The Rolling Stones' US tour, culminating at the Altamont Free Concert. In the spirit of the counterculture era, they were "reactive" filmmakers, choosing to merely document but never investigate their subjects. Some of their camera operatives included a young George Lucas and Martin Scorsese.

    But rather than just capturing one of music's longest-enduring bands at the height of their powers, they also happened to capture all the good vibes quickly turn sour. 18-year-old Meredith Hunter attempts to force his way onto the stage through some Hell's Angels serving as security, and the resulting skirmish ends in his murder - all caught on camera. 

    • Released: 1970
    • Directed by: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
    1,265 votes

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  • 'Capturing The Friedmans' Starts With Clowning Around But Turns Into A Dark Family Drama
    Video: YouTube

    Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki initially set out to make a short film, Just A Clown, about children's party entertainers in New York. This included popular entertainer David Friedman, known by his clown name, "Silly Billy." 

    Things take a dark turn, however, when Jarecki unearths some buried family history. Friedman's brother, Jesse, and his father, Arnold, had pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in the 1980s. Jarecki also discovers the family's old home movies, which—along with interviews with the Friedman children—he used to complete the newly refocused documentary in 2003.

    • Released: 2003
    • Directed by: Andrew Jarecki
    1,007 votes

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