Your Top 10 Documentary Film votes…all of them

by Dylan · October 30, 2008 · Uncategorized · 8 Comments

Hang on…this is gonna be a bumpy ride. (In other words, this is gonna be a long, ugly post. But it’s for posterity.)

Here are the complete results of the LAMB’s Top 10 Documentary Film votes, in the order and form they were received (please pardon the lack of proper links and italics – I do have to work sometime). Films are listed in the voters’ order from 1-10:

Hearts and Minds
Capturing the Friedmans
Man on Wire
Etre et Avoir
Lost in La Mancha
An Inconvenient Truth
Roger & Me
Dark Days

An Inconvenient Truth
Bowling for Columbine
March of the Penguins
Planet Earth
Winged Migration
Grizzly Man
Life of Birds
Supersize Me
Buena Vista Social Club

Don’t Look Back
Bowling for Columbine
Super High Me
Super Size Me
Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll
Fahrenheit 9/11
Wild Style
William Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers
Hoop Dreams
The Lightning bug

Harlan County, U.S.A.
Hoop Dreams
American Movie
When the Levees Broke
Cinerama Adventure
Whose Song Is This?
Civil War
Why the Towers Fell
Ferdy on Films, etc. (

Sherman’s March
Stop Making Sense
Man With A Movie Camera
Best Boy
No End In Sight
Roger and Me
Gimme Shelter
Dean Treadway
filmicability with Dean Treadway

My Voyage to Italy
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The Man With a Movie Camera
Lake of Fire
City of Cranes
Seven Up!
Gates of Heaven
Grizzly Man
The Story of the Weeping Camel
Joseph Demme

The Celluloid Closet
Grey Gardens
The Times of Harvey Milk
Capturing the Friedmans
That’s Entertainment!
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
March of the Penguins
The Thin Blue Line
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt
Super Size Me
Kirby Holt

Atomic Cafe
Enron:The Smartest Guys In The Room
The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters
Air Guitar Nation
This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated
An Inconvenient Truth
We Are Wizards
TC Kirkham

The Sorrow and the Pity (1971)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Hearts and Minds (1974)
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Grizzly Man (2005)
The Up series (1964 รขโ‚ฌโ€œ present)
Triumph of the Will (1934)
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (2000)
Capturing the Friedmans (2002)
4 Little Girls (1997)
Phil Concannon

Deliver Us from Evil
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Sister Wendy: The Complete Collection
Devil’s Playground
The Aristocrats
The Big One
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
Super Size Me
My Kid Could Paint That
Carla Chadwick
Tricky Movie Trivia

In The Realms of the Unreal
Man On Wire
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
An Inconvenient Truth
The Aristocrats
Two of Us: A Film About Mates of State
How to Draw a Bunny
The Kids Stay in the Picture
Farenheit 9/11
Super Size Me

Buena Vista Social Club
Fahrenheit 9/11
The Agronomist
Dark Days
Super Size Me
Baadasssss Cinema
The Kids Are Alright
Bricol’ Girls
My Date with Drew
Au prix du verre

Capturing the Friedmans
American Movie
The Thin Blue Line
Touching the Void
One Day in September
The King of Kong
The Fog of War
Hell House
Evan Derrick

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson
Bowling for Columbine
Mr. Death
The Fog of War
F for Fake
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film
Roger & Me
Who Gets to Call It Art?
Hoop Dreams

Style Wars
Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme
Dogtown and Z-Boys
The Complete Monterey Pop Festival
Hoop Dreams
Festival Express
Nanook of the North
Roger & Me

King of Kong: Fist full of Quarters
Born into Brothels
Lost in La Mancha
Encounters at the end of the world
Little Deiter needs to fly
Alone in the wilderness (TV – but a favorite none the less)
Who killed the electric car

Dark Days
The Corporation
American Pimp
Dogtown and Z-Boys
When We Were Kings
The Aristocrats
Bowling For Columbine
Steve Johnston

Triumph of the Will
Man With A Movie Camera
Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
Bowling For Columbine
Bus 174
Voyage in Time
Born Into Brothels
An Inconvenient Truth
The Seventh Art

Hoop Dreams
Up the Yangtze
Shake Hands With the Devil
Born Into Brothels
No End in Sight
Who Are the Debolts? (And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?) — (that’s actually the full title)
The Fog of War
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Capturing the Friedmans
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Super Size Me
The Other Final
It Might Get Loud
Standing In The Shadows of Motown
Bowling For Columbine
The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
When We Were Kings
Ryan McNeil


8 Responses to Your Top 10 Documentary Film votes…all of them

  1. Well, I have to confess disappointment in this list. I don’t have to say it again, but I will: doesn’t anyone care about film history? If all films before 1977 burned in a huge fire, would anyone here miss them? Don’t you feel you owe it to your craft of writing and reporting to at least see SOME of the great old movies–and not just the “classics” either. Read some film books–some fun ones like GUIDE FOR THE FILM FANATIC or THE GREAT MOVIE 1 and 2 or CULT MOVIES or some Pauline Kael books! And then go out and search some old movies out! I can’t believe friggin’ Morgan Spurlock, with his very showy, dubious doc SUPER SIZE ME got in as one of the best docs ever made. And KING OF KONG? Come on!! Entertaining, but the best ever? In almost 160 titles mentioned, only Kirby Holt and I came up with votes for the greatest doc filmmakers ever, Albert & David Maysles (and sometimes Charlotte Zwerlin), who’ve given us SALESMAN, GREY GARDENS, GIMME SHELTER, and ISLANDS/CHRISTO IN PARIS, among many other titles. Only a couple of votes for D.A. Pennebaker and MONTEREY POP, THE WAR ROOM, and DON’T LOOK BACK. Where are WOODSTOCK, THE LAST WALTZ, STOP MAKING SENSE or any of the other great concert docs? WHere is the 40s-era WHY WE FIGHT series? Where is THE SORROW AND THE PITY (1 vote), HOTEL TERMINUS, or THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE by Ophuls? Where are more serious recent fare like NO END IN SIGHT, MAXED OUT, TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE or IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS?
    Why so many lightweight docs like SPELLBOUND or MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (entertaining as they might be).
    There are so many great documentaries out there…those of you who limited their picks to only docs that came out from 1990 to now, go and check out titles like HARLAN COUNTY USA, AMERICAN DREAM, SHERMAN’S MARCH, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, OLYMPIA, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK, VISIONS OF LIGHT or…geez, so many more.

    I hate to be the old man shaking his fist at “you kids,” but damn, someone has to stand up for film history! We’re all film writers, dangit? Aren’t we all supposed to be SOMEWHAT interested in the medium and its past?

  2. Fletch says:

    While I certainly hear where you’re coming from (it’s a familiar rant ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), I don’t think you can or should be all that surprised when it comes to Docs.

    I’m an avid filmgoer who likes (but doesn’t love) docs and I didn’t take part this time around because I didn’t think I could come up with my ten favorites. That may be scoffable, but guess what? I still probably see more docs than the average filmgoer (and possibly the average film blogger).

    The fact is, most people don’t care about current docs, much less old ones. Moore (and, via his coattails) more or less made the doc “cool” again when he arrived on the scene – weren’t they practically a dead (stagnant, ignored, pick your word) form of film prior to him?

    For what it’s worth, though, my picks wouldn’t have “helped,” either – at or near the top would have been When We Were Kings, Man on Wire and Roger & Me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. I’m interested to know what the average film blogger hopes to achieve with their writing. That’s why I’m thankful for this site, Fletch, because you’re good enough to ask them out the outset of their joining. I haven’t really been conciously polling them, but I wonder if the majority of them have ambitions to continue writing about film perhaps for a living or if most of them look at it as a hobby? Makes me wanna go look at all 200 LAMBs and see.

    Because I don’t think one can truly excel in film writing if one hasn’t a lot of the great films. If you’re wasting your time on the newest Keanu Reeves or Jason Statham movie (not that they don’t m,ake the occasional good movie but…you know what I mean) instead of taking a look at something that really matters, and might even open you up a little bit to new things, then your view of what constitutes a good movie seems like it’s gonna be rather narrow. (this is not to say that there are not good writers with narrow views of what a fine film is; it’s always better to be an entertaining writer with limited tastes then a poor writer who’s seen everything).

    Anyway, it’s not that these movies listed in the best docs of all time are bad. It’s just that the lists seem lazily made. Knowing that there is a history of docs out there, why would you elect to put King of Kong as one of the greatest ever made? I could see if we were doing a favorites list. But wasn’t this launched as a way to combat the AFI lists? I guarantee you, the list of 400 movies that the final list of the 100 best was culled from was quite carefully thought out. If the AFI was doing a list of the 100 best docs ever made, I’d say that most of the titles listed here would not be on the list. Maybe I’m wrong…

    Anyway…that’s the last part of the rant! Sorry I’m big ol stick in the mud. And I don’t mean to imply that any of the movies listed are bad. Just that the list is short-sighted and time-biased.

    By the way, I wouldn’t say that the documentary was a dead form before Michael Moore. He and his Miramax team simply leaned how to market them. Nowadays, doc filmmakers are doing what I call niche docs–Crumb kind of revolutionized this too. Like Metallica? Here’s a Metallica doc. Like doggies? Here’s a doc about that. Like video games? Like race cars? Like The Ramones? Playing air guitar? on and on we go. These could also be termed pop culture docs. They have a built in audience, so they make more money, so they seem like they’re reviving a “dead” genre. But there’s nothing dead about HEARTS AND MINDS, THE DECLINE OF THE WESTERN CIVILIZATION, 7 UP, PRIMARY, or FROM MAO TO MOZART. These are all great works that seethe with life, even if their box office was next to nil.

  4. Marilyn says:

    Dean – I agree with you in a lot of ways. I had such a difficult time coming up with a list, so many films did I think were worthy of a vote. I chose a couple of films that have never been widely released in this country (Cinerama Adventure and Whose Song Is This?, a Bulgarian film about the Balkan troubles as seen through a song) because of my special interest in the Balkans and in widescreen formats. But I could just as easily have chosen The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, which I bet will be better than Milk, or Burden of Dreams, or The War Tapes, or Tarnation. Well, you get the point.

    Few people go to documentaries or rent them. They don’t know what they’re missing. I pe the younger LAMBs will try to move out of their comfort zone by renting some docs through GreenCine or Netflix. Then they’ll see why doc fans like myself think Michael Moore is a blight on the film scene.

  5. Colleeny says:

    I am one of those people who voted for King of Kong.

    I must have forgot why the top ten list was started. I thought it was our personal top tens.

    Documentaries are a hard catagory to really get into. If you not in an area with a decent rental store, you are lucky to get a copy of the Thin Man, let alone some 1940’s documentary on Polio. Most people are subject to whats available, and what they know. Its easy to belong to or Netflix but with a catalogue of over 72,000 titles were do you start.

    The vast majority of Documentaries I have seen are at film festivals over the last decade or so. My lack of ~pre 90’s doc’s is abysmil.

    That said, I stand by “king of Kong” as my favorite doc ever. I find it endlessly watchable, and have bought a second copy due to me lending out the first one so damb often. Everyone I have lent it to has come back raving about it.

    I write my blog as a way to remember what I have watched. Just shy of 400 films seen this year. The stand outs I remember , the dregs I remember, the average I tend to forget.

  6. TC Kirkham says:

    I also stand by my choice of the King of Kong as one of the best docs of all time. I watch documentaries all the time – I love them – but people tend to forget that docs do NOT have to be serious – a comic doc is just as good as a serious one if the subject matter is good. Kong Of Kong speaks to a whole generation of gamers who can identify with either Billy Mitchell or Steve Wiebe, and that is why it touches a chord in so many people. Plus it has the classic “good vs bad” conflict too.

    That having been said, i’m so totally annoyed with myself for forgetting the absolutely AWESOME Dogtown And Z Boys on my list…ARRRGGGH!.

    And i’m sure there are gonna be a LOT of people who won’t be happy with my top ten favorites of all time…but then again, i’m not out to please everyone else – i’m out to please ME. And that’s what these lists are really all about, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Joseph says:

    After going on a quick Maysles Brothers crash course the last few weeks, Salesman and Gimme Shelter would definitely be on my list. And maybe even Grey Gardens.

    I’ve added the rest that were available on my NetFlix queue.

  8. Good for you, Joseph! Now get into D.A. Pennebaker, Barbara Kopple, Ross McElwee, Leni Riefenstahl, Robert Flaherty, Errol Morris (I’m mad at myself for not including his THIN BLUE LINE on my list), and Michael Apted’s Up Series and you’ll be pretty much edumacated.

    SALEMAN and GIMME SHELTER are both incredibly riveting pieces of work–as great as any narrative piece of filmmaking out there.

    As a side note, I should reiterate that I too liked King of Kong. But I felt it was rather lightweight. Picking it as one of the ten greatest docs of all time would be like picking NAPOLEON DYNAMITE as one of the ten greatest movies of all time. Please yourself, for sure, but realize that there’s a lot of stuff outside your zone of interests that possibly interest you too. Who knows? Maybe those new interests could eclipse the old ones…

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