49 documentaries, ratings out of 5, sorted by release date. 49 rated 4.5 and above.

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All This Mayhem (2014)

Director: Eddie Martin

IMDB: All This Mayhem is a searing account of what happens when raw talent and extreme personalities collide. In this unflinching, never-before-seen account of drugs and the dark side of professional skateboarding, brothers Tas and Ben Pappas' intense bond and charisma take them from the pinnacle of their sport into a spiraling world of self-destruction.

Released: 05 Jun 2014

IMDB: 7.9Rotten Tomates: 100%Amazon UK prime instant video

Coach Zoran and His African Tigers (2014)

BBC synopsis: Documentary which follows veteran Serbian coach Zoran Djordjevic as he seeks to forge South Sudan's first national football team, a fascinating portrait of the birth of a nation.

First broadcast: 27 Feb 2014

BBC programme page

Blackfish (2013)

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

IMDB: Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

BBC synopsis: Documentary which unravels the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who - unlike any orca in the wild - has taken the lives of several people while in captivity.

Rotten Tomates: Blackfish is an aggressive, impassioned documentary that will change the way you look at performance killer whales.

Released: 18 Oct 2013 First broadcast: 21 Nov 2013

IMDB: 8.1Rotten Tomates: 98%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Folie à Deux: Madness Made of Two (2013)

Director: Kim Hopkins

IMDB: Folie à Deux- madness made of two is set in one of England's finest houses. The central character, Helen Heraty, is a tour de force - beautiful with typical English Rose looks (she was the face of LK Bennett in 2010) but no wallflower. Always ready for a fight, Helen is ambitious, strong, brave single mother with 7 children and a dream to turn one of Britain's most historical buildings into a 72-roomed boutique hotel. She lives her life with a conviction that borders on madness and when the financial crisis and family tragedy threatens to crush her dream it is her strength of character that will have you saluting her and wanting to share her extraordinary story with others.

BBC synopsis: Documentary about a family who decide to buy a historical mansion in York, an emotional rollercoaster of a journey which shows the human cost of the mortgage crisis.

Released: 04 Oct 2013 First broadcast: 11 Nov 2013

IMDB: 7.8Rotten Tomates: 80%BBC programme page

Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Director: Teller

IMDB: Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

Rotten Tomates: Entertaining and profound in equal measure, Tim's Vermeer uses its seemingly esoteric subject to pose fascinating questions about art and obsession.

Released: 03 Oct 2013

IMDB: 7.9Rotten Tomates: 89%Wikipedia

The Great Hip Hop Hoax (2013)

Director: Jeanie Finlay

IMDB: Californian hip-hop duo Silibil n' Brains were going to be massive. No one knew the pair were really Scottish, with fake American accents and made up identities. When their promising Scottish rap act was branded "the rapping Proclaimers" by scornful A&Rs, friends Billy and Gavin reinvented themselves as LA homeboys. The real deal. The lie was their golden ticket to a dream life. With confessions from the scammers, insight from the music execs they duped and doodle reconstructions, the film charts the roller coaster story of the highs of the scam and the lows of madness and the personal toll the deception took. A film about truth, lies and the legacy of faking everything in the desperate pursuit of fame.

BBC synopsis: Documentary telling the audacious tale of how two Dundee lads duped the record industry by pretending to be a Californian hip hop duo and nearly ended up destroying themselves.

Released: 06 Sep 2013 First broadcast: 11 Oct 2013

IMDB: 7.1Rotten Tomates: 86%WikipediaBBC programme pageAmazon UK prime instant video

Fire In The Night: Piper Alpha (2013)

Director: Anthony Wonke

BBC synopsis: Documentary chronicling the tragic events that occurred on board the Piper Alpha rig in July 1988, when 167 men were killed in the world's deadliest offshore oil disaster.

Released: 21 Jun 2013 First broadcast: 09 Jul 2013

IMDB: 6.9Rotten Tomates: 100%WikipediaBBC programme pageAmazon UK prime instant video

The Route Masters: Running London's Roads (2013)

BBC synopsis: Following the Transport for London staff and police officers who keep London's road system from freezing up entirely under the immense pressure of millions of commuters.

First broadcast: 18 Jun 2013

IMDB: 8.3WikipediaBBC programme page

Beware of Mr. Baker (2013)

Director: Jay Bulger

IMDB: Ginger Baker looks back on his musical career with Cream and Blind Faith; his introduction to Fela Kuti; his self-destructive patterns and losses of fortune; and his current life inside a fortified South African compound.

Rotten Tomates: Free of the hagiographic overtones that dog many documentary profiles, Beware of Mr. Baker presents a clear-eyed, thoroughly gripping look at one of rock's greatest -- and most personally problematic -- musicians.

Released: 17 May 2013

IMDB: 7.5Rotten Tomates: 98%WikipediaNetflix

The House I Live In (2012)

Director: Eugene Jarecki

IMDB: From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.

BBC synopsis: Storyville: Film looking at America's War on Drugs, painting a portrait of individuals at all levels, from dealer to grieving mother, narcotics officer to senator, inmate to judge.

Released: 05 Oct 2012 First broadcast: 14 Jan 2013

IMDB: 8.0Rotten Tomates: 94%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

You've Been Trumped (2012)

Director: Anthony Baxter

IMDB: In this David and Goliath story for the 21st century, a group of proud Scottish homeowners take on celebrity tycoon Donald Trump as he buys up one of Scotland's last wilderness areas to build a golf resort.

BBC synopsis: Documentary following a conflict between a group of Scottish homeowners and Donald Trump as the jet-setting tycoon prepares to build a golf resort in Aberdeenshire.

Released: 06 Jul 2012 First broadcast: 21 Oct 2012

IMDB: 7.7Rotten Tomates: 83%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

The Two-Thousand-Year-Old Computer (2012)

BBC synopsis: Documentary about the Antikythera Mechanism, a 2,000-year-old object now regarded as the world's oldest computer, found by divers excavating an ancient Roman shipwreck in 1901.

First broadcast: 10 May 2012

BBC programme page

Four Horsemen (2012)

Director: Ross Ashcroft

IMDB: The modern day Four Horsemen continue to ride roughshod over the people who can least afford it. Crises are converging when governments, religion and mainstream economists have stalled. 23 international thinkers come together and break their silence about how the world really works and why there is still hope in re-establishing a moral and just society. Four Horsemen is free from mainstream media propaganda, doesn't bash bankers, criticize politicians or get involved in conspiracy theories. The film ignites the debate about how we usher a new economic paradigm into the world which, globally, would dramatically improve the quality of life for billions.

Released: 14 Mar 2012

IMDB: 7.8Rotten Tomates: 67%Wikipedia

Strictly Baby Disco (2012)

Channel 4: A look behind the scenes of the dazzling, ultra competitive world of kids' freestyle disco

Channel 4 programme page

The Tube (2012)

BBC synopsis: A look behind the scenes of the London underground as it undergoes the biggest overhaul in its history, focusing on key members of staff and some of the problems they face.

First broadcast: 20 Feb 2012

IMDB: 8.6WikipediaBBC programme page

The Queen of Versailles (2012)

Director: Lauren Greenfield

IMDB: In 2008, the Siegel family was top of the heap with the wealthy and politically influential David Siegel running the successful Westgate Resorts time-share business. To enjoy their good life, he and his engineer turned beauty queen trophy wife, Jackie, were building the largest single family private home in America. Suddenly, both the US economy and Westgate were rocked by the devastating sub-prime mortgage collapse. In the new economic reality with the business teetering on ruin, we follow the Siegels as they struggle to scale down their grotesquely ostentatious lifestyle. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values.

BBC synopsis: Storyville: Documentary telling the story of a couple whose plans of building a mansion are hit by the economic crisis, as the virtues and flaws of the American Dream are exposed.

Rotten Tomates: The Queen of Versailles is a timely, engaging, and richly drawn portrait of the American Dream improbably composed of equal parts compassion and schadenfreude.

Released: 19 Jan 2012 First broadcast: 28 Jan 2013

IMDB: 7.1Rotten Tomates: 95%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Frozen Planet (2011)

IMDB: Focuses on life and the environment in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

BBC synopsis: This landmark series brings to the screen the frozen wildernesses of the Arctic and Antarctic as you have never seen them before, and may never see them again...

Released: 18 Mar 2012 First broadcast: 26 Oct 2011

IMDB: 9.3WikipediaNetflixBBC programme pageAmazon UK prime instant video

The Ambassador (2011)

Director: Mads Brügger

IMDB: Danish journalist Mads Brügger goes undercover as a Liberian Ambassador to embark on a dangerous yet hysterical journey to uncover the blood diamond trade in Africa.

Released: 05 Oct 2011

IMDB: 7.3Rotten Tomates: 76%Wikipedia

Senna (2011)

Director: Asif Kapadia

IMDB: The story of the monumental life and tragic death of legendary Brazilian motor-racing Champion, Ayrton Senna. Spanning the decade from his arrival in Formula One in the mid 80's, the film follows Senna's struggles both on track against his nemesis, French World Champion Alain Prost, and off it, against the politics which infest the sport. Sublime, spiritual yet, on occasion, ruthless - Senna conquers and transcends Formula One to become a global superstar. Privately, he is humble, almost shy, and fiercely patriotic, donating millions to his native Brasil and contemplating a life beyond motor-racing. Yet he is struck down in his prime on the blackest weekend in the history of the sport, watched live on television by 300 million people. Years on he is revered in Formula One as the greatest motor racing driver of all time - and in Brasil as a Saint.

Rotten Tomates: Even for filmgoers who aren't racing fans, Senna offers heart-pounding thrills -- and heartbreaking emotion.

Released: 25 May 2011

IMDB: 8.6Rotten Tomates: 92%WikipediaNetflixAmazon UK prime instant video

Restrepo (2011)

Director: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

IMDB: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban.

Rotten Tomates: Forsaking narrative structure for pure visceral power, Restrepo plunges viewers into the experiences of soldiers on the front lines of the Afghan War.

Released: 18 Feb 2011

IMDB: 7.6Rotten Tomates: 96%WikipediaNetflix

Waste Land (2011)

Director: Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, João Jardim

IMDB: An uplifting feature documentary highlighting the transformative power of art and the beauty of the human spirit. Top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz takes us on an emotional journey ...

Rotten Tomates: Waste Land begins with an eco-friendly premise, but quickly transforms into an uplifting portrait of the power of art and the dignity of the human spirit.

Released: 21 Jan 2011

IMDB: 7.9Rotten Tomates: 100%WikipediaNetflixAmazon UK prime instant video

Human Planet (2011)

IMDB: Like all life forms, humanity partially adapts to types of natural environment, yet also tends to change them. Each episode examines how life differs for men and nature in some type of environment, from Arctic to desert and jungle, from coasts to mountains.

BBC synopsis: Human Planet, a cinematic experience, bringing you the most amazing human stories in the natural world today. Humans and wildlife surviving in the most extreme environments on Earth.

First broadcast: 13 Jan 2011

IMDB: 9.3WikipediaNetflixBBC programme pageAmazon UK prime instant video

The Secret Life of Bob Monkhouse (2011)

Director: Andy Humphries

IMDB: When Bob Monkhouse's widow died and his house was being prepared for market, the amazing extent of his private collection of video and audio recordings was realized. Among them were many treasures which had previously been believed to be lost to the nation. This films delves into just some of the highlights of that trove, and reveals the multi-layered man behind the glossy TV persona.

BBC synopsis: The extraordinary story of comedian Bob Monkhouse's life and career, told through the vast private archive of films, TV shows, letters and memorabilia that he left behind.

First broadcast: 03 Jan 2011

IMDB: 8.2BBC programme page

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)

Director: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman

IMDB: IF A TREE FALLS is a rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat.' With unprecedented access and a nuanced point of view, the documentary tells the story of Daniel McGowan, an ELF member who faced life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. The film employs McGowan's story to examine larger questions about environmentalism, activism, and terrorism.

BBC synopsis: Documentary telling the story of a young American environmentalist involved with the Earth Liberation Front, a group the FBI described as America's top domestic terrorism threat.

Released: 01 Jan 2011 First broadcast: 13 Feb 2012

IMDB: 7.2Rotten Tomates: 88%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Men Who Swim (2010)

Director: Dylan Williams

IMDB: A humorous and poignant film about a group of middle-aged men who find unlikely success as members of Sweden's all-male synchronized swim team.

BBC synopsis: Documentary about a group of middle-aged men in Sweden engaged in the world of all-male synchronised swimming in a bid to escape the daily grind of work and responsibilities.

Released: 12 Nov 2010 First broadcast: 14 Jun 2010

IMDB: 7.3NetflixBBC programme page

Good Hair (2010)

Director: Jeff Stilson

IMDB: Chris Rock, a man with two daughters, asks about good hair, as defined by Black Americans, mostly Black women. He visits Bronner Brothers' annual hair convention in Atlanta. He tells us about sodium hydroxide, a toxin used to relax hair. He looks at weaves, and he travels to India where tonsure ceremonies produce much of the hair sold in America. A weave is expensive: he asks who makes the money. We visit salons and barbershops, central to the Black community. Rock asks men if they can touch their mates' hair - no, it's decoration. Various talking heads (many of them women with good hair) comment. It's about self image. Maya Angelou and Tracie Thoms provide perspective.

BBC synopsis: Comedian Chris Rock explores the world of African-American hair, visiting beauty salons and barbershops. He also discovers where the hair used in weaves and extensions comes from.

Rotten Tomates: Funny, informative, and occasionally sad, Good Hair is a provocative look at the complex relationship between African Americans and their hair.

Released: 15 Apr 2010 First broadcast: 31 Dec 2013

IMDB: 6.9Rotten Tomates: 94%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Requiem for Detroit? (2010)

Director: Julien Temple

IMDB: A documentary about the decay and industrial collapse of America's fourth largest city.

BBC synopsis: Built by the car for the car, Detroit was the embodiment of the American dream. Now it leads the way again but in a very different direction.

First broadcast: 13 Mar 2010

IMDB: 7.6Rotten Tomates: 50%BBC programme page

Exit through the gift shop (2010)

Director: Banksy

IMDB: The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work.

Rotten Tomates: An amusing, engrossing look at underground art, Exit Through the Gift Shop entertains as it deflates the myths and hype surrounding its subjects.

Released: 05 Mar 2010

IMDB: 8.1Rotten Tomates: 96%WikipediaNetflix

Inside Job (2010)

Director: Charles Ferguson

IMDB: 'Inside Job' provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. Through exhaustive research and extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, the film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Rotten Tomates: Disheartening but essential viewing, Charles Ferguson's documentary explores the 2008 Global Financial Crisis with exemplary rigor.

Released: 02 Feb 2010

IMDB: 8.3Rotten Tomates: 98%WikipediaNetflixAmazon UK prime instant video

The Man Who Would Be Polka King (2009)

Director: Joshua Brown, John Mikulak

Released: 05 Jun 2009

IMDB: 7.0Rotten Tomates: 73%Netflix

South Pacific (2009)

IMDB: A documentary series on life in and adapted to the conditions of the Southern part of the Pacific Ocean, a vast aquatic region with an unequaled number of islands. Both wildlife and human cultures developed in a unique variety, largely determined by such natural conditions as huge distances, sea depths, currents and winds.

BBC synopsis: Documentary series looking at the remote South Pacific islands

Released: 13 Jul 2009 First broadcast: 10 May 2009

IMDB: 9.0WikipediaBBC programme pageAmazon UK prime instant video

Yellowstone (2009)

IMDB: Filmed over the course of a year in Yellowstone, this documentary tracks the area's wildlife as they grapple with life and death within one of America's last remaining wilderness regions.

BBC synopsis: A natural history portrait of a year in Yellowstone, following the fortunes of America's wildlife icons as they face the challenges of one of the most extraordinary wildernesses on Earth.

First broadcast: 15 Mar 2009

IMDB: 8.7WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2009)

Director: Sacha Gervasi

IMDB: At 14, best friends Robb Reiner and Lips made a pact to rock together forever. Their band, Anvil, hailed as the "demi-gods of Canadian metal, " influenced a musical generation that includes Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax, despite never hitting the big time. Following a calamitous European tour, Lips and Robb, now in their fifties, set off to record their 13th album in one last attempt to fulfill their boyhood dreams.

BBC synopsis: Film which follows the fortunes of respected but obscure Canadian metal band Anvil as they record their thirteenth album and try to live out a childhood dream of rock superstardom.

Rotten Tomates: A touching, uplifting and inspirational rockumentary about an aging metal band, both hilarious and heart-warming in equal measure.

Released: 20 Feb 2009 First broadcast: 28 Jun 2010

IMDB: 8.0Rotten Tomates: 98%WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Which Way Home (2009)

Director: Rebecca Cammisa

IMDB: "Which Way Home" is a feature documentary film that follows unaccompanied child migrants, on their journey through Mexico, as they try to reach the United States. We follow children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year old Hondurans, who are desperately trying to reach their parents in the US.; children like Jose, a ten-year old El Salvadoran, who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center; and Kevin, a canny, streetwise fourteen-year old Honduran, whose mother hopes that he will reach the U.S. and send money back to her. These are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow. They are the children you never hear about; the invisible ones.

Released: 31 Jan 2009

IMDB: 7.5Rotten Tomates: 100%WikipediaNetflix

Carrier (2008)

IMDB: CARRIER is a character-driven immersion in the high-stakes world of a nuclear aircraft carrier, shot on the USS Nimitz during a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. The program follows a core group of participants from the elite fighter pilots to the youngest sailors as they navigate challenges around their jobs, families, faith, patriotism and the war on terror.

Released: 27 Apr 2008

IMDB: 8.2Rotten Tomates: 95%WikipediaNetflix

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (2008)

Director: Chris Bell

IMDB: In America, we define ourselves in the superlative: we are the biggest, strongest, fastest country in the world. Is it any wonder that so many of our heroes are on performance enhancing drugs? Director Christopher Bell explores America's win-at-all-cost culture by examining how his two brothers became members of the steroid-subculture in an effort to realize their American dream.

Rotten Tomates: Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is a fascinating, informative, entertaining and especially introspective account of the American 'enhancement' culture.

Released: 01 Apr 2008

IMDB: 7.7Rotten Tomates: 96%WikipediaNetflix

The King of Kong (2008)

Director: Seth Gordon

IMDB: In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed. The top scores are monitored by a cadre of players and fans associated with Walter Day, an Iowan who runs Funspot, an annual tournament. Wiebe breaks Mitchell's record in public at Funspot, and Mitchell promptly mails a controversial video tape of himself setting a new record. So Wiebe travels to Florida hoping Mitchell will face him for the 2007 Guinness World Records. Will the mind-game-playing Mitchell engage; who will end up holding the record?

Rotten Tomates: The King of Kong is funny and compelling with more than a few poignant insights into human behavior. Director Seth Gordon presents the dueling King Kong players in all their obsessive complexity and with perfectly al dente observations.

Released: 28 Feb 2008

IMDB: 8.2Rotten Tomates: 96%WikipediaNetflix

Confessions of a Superhero (2007)

Director: Matthew Ogens

IMDB: "Confessions of a Superhero" chronicles the lives of four mortal men and women who work as characters on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. This feature length documentary explores the fascination, obsession, and allure of fame through the eyes of these very unique people struggling to make it in Tinseltown.

Released: 02 Nov 2007

IMDB: 7.2Rotten Tomates: 33%WikipediaNetflix

Air Guitar Nation (2007)

Director: Alexandra Lipsitz

IMDB: It's time to rock and roll - air guitar style. AIR GUITAR NATION is the feature documentary about the year that air guitar swept America - from New York to Los Angeles and then all the way to northern Finland. AIR GUITAR NATION chronicles the birth of the US Air Guitar Championships and the personal journeys of those talented contestants who are vying to become the first World Air Guitar Champion from the United States. Every August, the Air Guitar World Championships bring thousands of fans all the way to Oulu, Finland to see the world's best air guitarists battle it out for 60 seconds of mock stardom. For years, the USA was missing in action. Enter the first official US Air Guitar Championships. What starts as a friendly contest above a New York strip club becomes a battle of naked ambition played out on the national and, ultimately, the world stage. Full of triumph and disappointment, patriotic spirit and political tension - and of course invisible guitars - this tension filled competition quickly turns very real as the contest becomes even more fierce as the contestants work hard to win the title of World Air Guitar Champion. AIR GUITAR NATION captures the explosion of competitive air guitar through the eyes of former world champions, fans and media, and through the personal rivalries of those trying to attain the title of "The best Air Guitarist in the world."

Rotten Tomates: It's up for debate how serious or ironic its subjects are, but Air Guitar Nation is nonetheless a funny and exciting documentary with a killer soundtrack.

Released: 06 Oct 2007

IMDB: 7.2Rotten Tomates: 85%WikipediaNetflixAmazon UK prime instant video

The Story of India (2007)

IMDB: Historian Michael Wood visits places and interviews experts all over India to cover the great chapters of the subcontinent's long and impressive history. These include the racial make-up and the role and origins of great religions, native like Hinduism and Buddhism as well as imported, notably Islam. As well as state-building and international relations, culminating in colonization and road back to unified (albeit in two states) independence.

BBC synopsis: Michael Wood journeys through the Indian subcontinent, tracing the incredible richness and diversity of its peoples, cultures and landscapes.

First broadcast: 24 Aug 2007

IMDB: 8.3WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Jesus Camp (2007)

Director: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady

IMDB: Jesus Camp follows several young children as they prepare to attend a summer camp where the kids will get their daily dose of evangelical Christianity. Becky Fischer works at the camp, which is named Kids on Fire. Through interviews with Fischer, the children, and others, Jesus Camp illustrates the unswerving belief of the faithful. A housewife and homeschooling mother tells her son that creationism has all the answers. Footage from inside the camp shows young children weeping and wailing as they promise to stop their sinning. Child after child is driven to tears. Juxtapose these scenes with clips from a more moderate Christian radio host (who is appalled by such tactics), and Jesus Camp seems to pose a clear question: are these children being brainwashed?

Rotten Tomates: Evangelical indoctrination is given an unflinching, even-handed look in this utterly worthwhile documentary.

Released: 18 Apr 2007

IMDB: 7.6Rotten Tomates: 87%WikipediaNetflix

Wordplay (2006)

Director: Patrick Creadon

IMDB: A documentary that focuses on the world of crossword puzzles: those that construct them, those that love to solve them, those that compete in the annual Crossword competition in Stamford and also on Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword since the early 1990s. Shortz actually has a university degree in games and organized the first crossword championship in 1978. Some of the contributors to the Times puzzle explain how they go about building them while some aficionados, including former President Bill Clinton and comedian Jon Stewart talk about their love of solving them. The film also introduces several past champions and near champions competing in the 2006 tournament and it takes you from the preliminary rounds to the final where the top three contestants compete in front of a room full of admiring contestants.

Rotten Tomates: You see them hunched over with their brows furrowed, folded newspaper in hand as they attempt to complete the crossword puzzle. This may even describe you. This ingeniously edited documentary introduces viewers to some of the more dedicated fans of this solitary pastime, none more well-known the puzzle editor for the New York Times, Will Shortz. This underground world provides a surprising amount of crowd-pleasing entertainment and suspense, especially at the annual crossword tournament. Didn't know there was one, did you?

Released: 23 Jun 2006

IMDB: 7.4Rotten Tomates: 95%WikipediaNetflix

Grizzly Man (2005)

Director: Werner Herzog

IMDB: A docudrama that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell. He periodically journeyed to Alaska to study and live with the bears. He was killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003. The films explores their compassionate lives as they found solace among these endangered animals.

Rotten Tomates: Whatever opinion you come to have of the obsessive Treadwell, Herzog has once again found a fascinating subject.

Released: 27 Oct 2005

IMDB: 7.8Rotten Tomates: 93%WikipediaNetflix

Tetris: From Russia with Love (2004)

Director: Magnus Temple

BBC synopsis: The story of how a simple computer game developed by a programmer at Moscow's Academy of Science prompted a global battle for financial rights with billions of dollars at stake.

Released: 09 Feb 2004 First broadcast: 01 Aug 2012

IMDB: 7.4BBC programme page

Word Wars (2004)

Director: Eric Chaikin, Julian Petrillo

IMDB: The classic board game, Scrabble, has been popular for decades. In addition, there are fanatics who devote heart and soul to this game to the expense of everything else. This film profiles a group of these enthusiasts as they converge for a Scrabble convention where the word game is almost a bloodsport.

Rotten Tomates: Fascinating look inside the world of competitive Scrabble.

Released: 01 Jan 2004

IMDB: 6.9Rotten Tomates: 89%WikipediaNetflix

Murder on a Sunday Morning (2003)

Director: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

IMDB: Oscar-winning documentary that documents a murder trial in which a 15-year-old African-American is wrongfully accused of a 2000 murder in Jacksonville, Florida.

BBC synopsis: Documentary following a black American teenager's trial for murder, and how his defence lawyer and his team discovered a slew of shocking and troubling elements about the case.

Released: 26 Feb 2003 First broadcast: 06 Nov 2011

IMDB: 8.1WikipediaNetflixBBC programme page

Dark Days (2001)

Director: Marc Singer

IMDB: Near Penn Station, next to the Amtrak tracks, squatters have been living for years. Marc Singer goes underground to live with them, and films this "family." A dozen or so men and one woman talk about their lives: horrors of childhood, jail time, losing children, being coke-heads. They scavenge, they've built themselves sturdy one-room shacks; they have pets, cook, chat, argue, give each other haircuts. A bucket is their toilet. Leaky overhead pipes are a source of water for showers. They live in virtual darkness. During the filming, Amtrak gives a 30-day eviction notice.

Released: 09 Mar 2001

IMDB: 7.8Rotten Tomates: 93%WikipediaNetflix

First Person (2000)

IMDB: Amazing series primarily using Errol Morris' invention the Interrotron for unusual people to tell their outré stories directly into the camera to the viewer. Almost every half-hour documentary episode focused on 1 person, especially scientists, criminals, cranks, plus everyday folks in strange circumstances. First season seen on Bravo, second on IFC. Having a roaming crew at the ready led Morris to start filming his Academy Award winning documentary on Robert McNamara, "The Fog of War." Some subjects came from Morris' back-file, others were newly uncovered. First season included the autistic woman scientist who designs humane slaughterhouses (Temple Grandin, "Stairway to Heaven"), the parrot whose testimony in a trial exonerated a man wrongly accused of murdering his owner, the ex-lobster fisherman devoted to being the first to see a live giant squid ("Eyeball to Eyeball"), and a serial killer groupie. Second season had some 2 parters such as a haunted passenger who landed a crashing jet liner, also the dot.com entrepreneur who believes first mate Gilligan is the new messiah ! Errol Morris hoped to continue "First Person," but funding was unavailable.

Released: 16 Feb 2000

IMDB: 8.2Wikipedia

Endeavour: Everest - By Canoe (1977)

Director: Leo Dickinson

BBC synopsis: Documentary about a 1976 British expedition team that made mountaineering history when they became the first kayakers to descend the Dudh Kosi river that runs off Mount Everest.

Released: 28 Dec 1977 First broadcast: 28 Dec 2013

BBC programme page