Top 12 Documentary Movies To Watch

Photo of Lucy Andia
3 January 2017

Based on the Grierson Trust and the BFI’s list of best performing documentaries this year, we take a closer look at 12 films that every documentary lover must watch. From the haunting to the sublime, watching these films gives great insight into the spectrum of human emotion.

The Immortalists

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Jean-Francois Caissey’s Guidelines is a strikingly intimate portrayal of growing up in a local high school set in a rural Quebec town. Caissey dwells on the distinction of who you are inside school and who you become outside of it, expressing the dichotomy of tentative steps and bold abandon that comprise the spirit of every adolescent. Through passive observations of the relationship between child and adult, Caissey puts his finger on something undeniably definite yet indisputably unspoken.

In The Basement

Hockney: A Life in Pictures

Mirroring one of David Hockney’s paintings, Randall Wright’s tribute to Hockney is warm, colourful, and inviting. Wright’s access to Hockney’s archives alongside interviews with Hockney’s closest friends and fellow artists result in a film that leaves you feeling like you’ve just had a cup of coffee with one of the most iconic artists of the twentieth century. Hockney today is 77 and as this film clearly displays, has lost nothing of the vivacious spirit and aesthetic genius that made him a household name to begin with.


The Green Prince

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

Silvered Water is not an easy film to watch. It is, however, an immensely important documentation of Syria’s ongoing civil war. The shots are not constructed, nor do not have even edges. In order to create this testimony to human suffering, director Ossama Mohammed allegedly spent hours upon hours watching cell phone footage whilst in exile in Paris. The result is accordingly brutal. It is a film that not only indicts human suffering but also pays tribute to the poetry of existence.


Lynette Wallworth’s Tender takes place in the Australian seaside industrial town, Port Kembla and follows a community group as they decide to reclaim an act of humanity that for most belongs to the business sector: funerals. The film is beautiful, touching, and full of spirit, making us reassess our views of how we interact with and what we do for our fellow human.

The Possibilities are Endless

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Stray Dog

National Gallery

Ne Me Quitte Pas