Special Report

The 50 Best Documentaries of All Time

Source: Courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films

35. Free Solo (2018)
> IMDb average rating: 8.2 (59,831 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (3,005 votes)
> Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

An intimate view at the intensive training, friendships, and psyche of Alex Honnold (the first person to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes,) this film contains hair-raising footage of his death-defying ascent.

Source: Courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

34. The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987)
> IMDb average rating: 8.2 (1,706 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (598 votes)
> Director: Kazuo Hara

A Japanese WWII veteran attempts to uncover the truth about the unexplained deaths of two of his fellow soldiers in New Guinea, unravelling sordid tales of cannibalism at every turn.

Source: Bim / iStock via Getty Images

33. Best Boy (1979)
> IMDb average rating: 7.9 (638 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 95% (390 votes)
> Director: Ira Wohl

“Best Boy” is an immersive day-to-day look at the life of a middle-aged man with a mental disability as he begins taking classes on how to live independently, preparing for the imminent death of his eldery parents.

32. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)
> IMDb average rating: 8.3 (2,515 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (2,050 votes)
> Directors: Kim Bartley, Donnacha Ó Briain

While covering the presidency of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 2002, an Irish film crew happened to be present during the attempted coup that ousted Chávez from office for two days before he was restored to power. The crew captured footage of protests, violence, and upheaval in the presidential palace.

Source: Courtesy of TC Films International

31. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
> IMDb average rating: 8.3 (5,974 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (4,094 votes)
> Director: Rob Epstein

San Francisco’s first openly gay city supervisor, Harvey Milk, rose from grassroots activism to a successful political career, and was then assassinated by a former fellow supervisor. This film follows his rise, death, and the murder trial of his killer.

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