The Top 10 Must-See Documentaries You Never Thought To Watch

by Umeshi Rajeendra

I have always been a huge fan of documentary films. From the Academy-Award-winning, “An Inconvenient Truth” to “Blackfish,” documentaries have become an increasingly valuable and innovative cultural art form. Yet, their essential contribution to the human race is not as recognized in the mainstream as it should be.

If you take a glimpse at the statistics of the number of people who view documentaries, you might be surprised by how low they are.

There are many reasons for this, including that documentaries are not as heavily advertised as mainstream films and the topics are generally not as eye-catching as mainstream films.

But, this is the very reason why you should watch documentaries: not only for observation, but also as a medium to change the world for the better.

Sure, not all documentaries are good and entertaining, but the same holds true for mainstream movies and films, as well.

The best documentaries are ones that are unusual and persuasive; ones you generally wouldn’t think about watching, yet somehow manage to grab your attention, entertain you and inform you in unexpected ways. So, here’s a list of the top 10 documentaries you must see:

1. “Hoop Dreams,” 1994

Considered one of the all-time best documentaries, “Hoop Dreams” revolves around two Chicago teenagers who become professional basketball players as a way to improve their lives.

2. “The Crash Reel,” 2013

One of the most jaw-dropping documentaries of all time, “The Crash Reel” is a story of an athlete’s (Kevin Pearce) life-changing crash and epic comeback story.

3. “Man On Wire,” 2008

Considered the “artistic crime of the century,” “Man On Wire” follows Philippe Petit’s illegal crossing between the Twin Towers in New York.

4. “The King Of Kong,” 2007

“The King of Kong” is an American documentary that highlights the popular 1980s arcade game, Donkey Kong, by following Steve Wiebe and his attempts to win the world high score.

5. “An Inconvenient Truth,” 2006

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, this documentary is about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming.

6. “Blackfish,” 2013  

Considered to be one of the most powerful nature documentaries in recent years, “Blackfish” uncovers the murderous history of a sea whale and Sea World's operational practices that shocked the world as it transcended mainstream media.

7. “Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room,” 2005

Based on the best-selling 2003 book of the same name, this documentary provides insight and analysis of one of America’s biggest corporate scandals.

8. “Capitalism: A Love Story,” 2009

Directed, written and produced by none other than the famous Michael Moore, this documentary revolves around the financial crisis in the late 2000s and its recovery by tackling US capitalism and economic development.

9. “Food, Inc.,” 2008

Considered to be one of the best documentaries about food, “Food Inc.” explores how the way we eat has changed throughout the past 50 years.

10. “We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks,” 2013

This documentary is an examination of the organization that Julian Assange created and a debate regarding access to information.

These are just the very few of the endless valuable films available to watch and from which to learn. Use this list a mere stepping-stone into a world of unknown facts, stories and discoveries. If you give them a fair try, I bet at least one (and probably many more) of the films on the list will earn your undivided attention.

I enjoy mainstream movies as much as everyone else, but every now and then, I watch a documentary in hopes that I will learn something, expand my horizons or grow as an individual. Give it a shot; all you have to lose is a small fraction of time.