Entertainment

Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See  

Ranker Film
745 votes 242 voters 9k views 40 items

List Rules Vote up the greatest must-watch documentaries that changed the way you think about everything.

Nothing can match the drama of real life. Must see documentary movies underscore that point by highlighting intriguing individuals and exposing truths. Along the way, they tackle topics as varied as political corruption, factory farming, and personal discovery. This is a list of popular documentaries including everything from Man on Wire to Capturing the Friedmans to Jesus Camp.

What films will you find on this list of must watch documentaries? The 2009 doc Food, Inc. shines a light on American dietary habits by examining usually unseen aspects of farming, supermarkets, and fast food production. Blackfish is another life-changing documentary that pulls back the curtain on captive creatures in Sea World. And if you're seeking a new perspective, look no further than Man on Wire, detailing the daring exploits of wire walker Philippe Petit. Other good films featured on this best documentaries list include Super Size Me, Sicko, and Gasland.

Do you have any documentaries to recommend? Give your favorites a thumbs up and please add any good movies that are missing.

list ordered by
1
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a So... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Kurt Kuenne
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father is a 2008 American documentary film conceived and created by Kurt Kuenne. Kuenne's close friend Andrew Bagby was allegedly murdered by Shirley ...more
2
Blackfish is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Blackfish is a 2013 Documentary film written by Eli B. Despres and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
3
Going Clear: Scientology and t... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
4
Food, Inc. is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
5
The Hunting Ground is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Kirby Dick
6
The Cove is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
Capturing the Friedmans is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
8
Jesus Camp is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
9
The Thin Blue Line is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Errol Morris
The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 American documentary film by Errol Morris, depicting the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit. ...more
10
The Bridge is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Eric Steel
The Bridge is a 2006 British-American documentary film by Eric Steel spanning 365 days of filming at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. The film captured a number of suicides, and ...more
11
Sicko is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
12
Man on Wire is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
James Marsh
Man on Wire is a 2008 British documentary film directed by James Marsh. The film chronicles Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center. It is ...more
13
Enron: The Smartest Guys in th... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
14
Citizenfour is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Laura Poitras
Citizenfour is a 2014 documentary film directed by Laura Poitras. A documentarian and a reporter travel to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden to discuss the NSA spying ...more
15
Gasland is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Josh Fox
Gasland is a 2010 American documentary written and directed by Josh Fox. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2011, the film focuses on communities in the United States ...more
16
Catfish is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
"Nev, a 24-year-old New York–based photographer, has no idea what he’s in for when Abby, an eight-year-old girl from rural Michigan, contacts him on MySpace, seeking permission to paint one ...more
17
Leaving Neverland is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Dan Reed
Leaving Neverland is a 2019 documentary film directed and produced by British filmmaker Dan Reed. Leaving Neverland describes how Michael Jackson allegedly began relationships with two young ...more
18
Samsara is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Ron Fricke
Samsara is a 2011 non-narrative documentary film, directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson, who also collaborated on Baraka, a film of a similar vein. Samsara was filmed over five ...more
19
Super Size Me is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Morgan Spurlock, Mira King
Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock's film follows a 30-day period from February 1 to March 2, 2003, during which he ate only ...more
20
Forks over Knives is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Lee Fulkerson
Forks Over Knives is a 2011 American documentary film directed by American independent filmmaker Lee Fulkerson that advocates a low-fat whole-food, plant-based diet as a means of combating a ...more
21
Fahrenheit 11/9 is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Michael Moore
Fahrenheit 11/9 is a 2018 documentary film directed by Michael Moore. The film explores the 2016 United States presidential election and the subsequent presidency of Donald Trump.
22
Moonlight Sonata is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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
23
The Great Hack is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
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.
24
The Inventor: Out for Blood in... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
Alex Gibney
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley is 2019 American documentary film, directed and produced by Alex Gibney. The story of Theranos, a multi-billion dollar tech company, its founder ...more
25
The Biggest Little Farm is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See
John Chester
The Biggest Little Farm is a 2019 American documentary film directed by John Chester. When the barking of their beloved dog Todd leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John ...more