Top 10 Documentaries of the Past Decade

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I judge the efficiency of a documentary based on two things: its ability to inform in an interesting way, and its long-lasting effect. If I am still thinking about it a week later, then it’s passed the test. Based on those criteria, here are my top 10 documentaries of the decade.

1- Children Underground (2001)

Directed by Edet Belzberg

A little-known Romanian documentary about homeless kids living in Bucharest subway stations. I’ve never seen anything this sad. It’ll make you want to adopt one of them.

2- The Bridge (2006)

Directed by Eric Steel

A look at the most common suicide spot in America: the Golden Gate Bridge. Footage of jumpers and interviews with their relatives and friends. It’ll make you appreciate life.

3- Who killed the electric car? (2006)

Directed by Chris Paine

A fascinating look at the rise and fall of GM’s electric car, the EV1. It’ll make you wish you had one.

4- An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Directed by Davis Guggenheim

Whether you believe in global warming or not, a must-see nonetheless. It’ll make you take a long, hard look at the subject.

5- Up the Yangtze (2007)

Directed by Chinese-Canadian director Yung Chang

A look at the people living along the Yangtze River and how their lives are affected by the building of the Three Gorges Dam. Not only are most of them forced to move, but like many Chinese farmers they are forced to transition towards consumer capitalism. Visually stunning, and it’ll make you buy a ticket for a cruise up the Yangtze (I did it myself in 2002).

6- March of the Penguins (2005)

Directed by Luc Jacquet

This documentary made it official: I am in love with emperor penguins. It’ll make you cry.

7- Religulous (2008)

Directed by Larry Charles

Bill Maher the atheist looks for answers to some very difficult questions. Only he can make fun of religion like this. It’ll make you rip that chain from around your neck.

8- The Cove (2009)

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Documentaries about animals are particularly touching, and this is no exception. Seeing this has altered my feelings about dolphin and whale hunting forever. It’ll make you want to become an activist.

9- Encounters at the end of the world (2007)

Directed by Werner Herzog

The most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen in years. Herzog’s soothing voice takes us around Antarctica, meeting the people who call it home. It’ll make you want to visit.

10- Jesus Camp (2006)

Directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, 2006)

Not unlike Religulous, this is a documentary that’ll make you think twice about organized religion and its consequences on impressionable kids.

– Myles Dolphin

9 Comments
  1. Myles says

    Chris: Yeah I actually really enjoyed Grizzly Man, but wanted to limit my list to 1 Herzog doc :)

  2. Chris says

    Have you seen Tie Xi Qu:West of the Tracks? Certainly deserves to be included. Was surprised Grizzly Man didn’t make your cut. Regardless of that it’s still a great list.

    1. Ricky says

      actually yeah – Grizzly Man is amazing !!!

  3. Mick says

    Bill Maher is an elitist axe wound.

  4. Daniel says

    The Thin Blue Line is from 20 years ago but is a great documentary.

  5. Anonymous says

    Man on Wire is great. Should have also included The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris.

  6. Jim says

    Another fantastic documentary was The Fog of War. Fascinating stuff. Just brilliant. Should be required viewing for anyone making decisions regarding combat.

  7. Myles says

    Yeah, I wish I’d gotten Man on Wire in there somewhere….great doc.

  8. Ricky says

    Great list. I would just replace Religulous with Man On Wire.

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