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My Must-See Documentary List!

As a follow up to our last Totally Married episode where we threw out a few documentary suggestions, I wanted to give a more thorough list of documentaries I’d recommend. Here goes:

1. The Staircase –  True crime, 7 part series. This is probably my favorite documentary – the real life twists and turns that take place in this murder trial could not have been written any better, they are so juicy and shocking. Highly recommended.

2. Catfish – A look at relationships in the digital age. Without giving too much away, this begins with a photographer in New York developing a relationship with a nine year old artist who lives in Michigan. Then, well… things progress. A must see.

3. Dear Zachary – Oh boy, get your kleenex ready. I balled my eyes out for a good few hours after watching this gut wrenching, but important documentary on the lengths one family goes to try to protect their grandson.

4. Capturing The Friedmans – A fascinating look at a broken family. This borders on true crime in that it documents a trial for child molesting in the 1980’s, but it’s really more of a look at the family of the accused. A classic.

5. Life With Murder – Similar to Capturing the Friedmans in that it looks at the family of a man accused of murdering his sister. It’s not the most well done documentary (Andy wasn’t crazy about it) but the subjects are so interesting that I can’t not include it on this list.

6. The Hollywood Complex  – Not gonna lie, I sort of feel responsible for whatever success this documentary has had since I talked about it on every podcast/interview I was a part of after watching it. It’s a fascinating look at child star wannabes and the parents that are looking to exploit them.

7. Paradise Lost – The true crime docu-series on the West Memphis 3. This documents the highly publicized trials for the brutal murders of 3 boys in West Memphis and how it tore apart families and a community.

8. Which Way Home – Very interesting documentary about the children who go to seemingly crazy lengths to sneak into the United States from Mexico for a shot at a new life.

9. Shut Up Little Man – Also a classic. It’s an old one, so it’s not necessarily “slick” but it’s still a really interesting look at a gay couple that have a very tumultuous relationship. It’s also pretty funny, even though you’ll feel like an asshole for laughing.

10. Forks Over Knives – Awesome documentary that addresses how the medical community is so incredibly out of touch when it comes to what we eat and how it affects our bodies. This makes perfect sense of what we all know to be true about food and health.

11. The September Issue – Fantastic bio on Anna Wintour. Normally I don’t care for bio docs but this one is SO well done.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch of great ones – please share your suggestions in the comments!


Michael Sevigny says:

Brother’s Keeper – The first film directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the directors of the Paradise Lost trilogy. Very moving. 

Jason says:

I’ve been looking for some documentaries to watch so this list will come in very handy, thanks!

Nothing tops The Thin Blue Line for me when it comes to docs. It’s such an interesting case and it features a ridiculously great score by Philip Glass. Also anything by Allan King is great. A Married Couple in particular is excellent; a fly on the wall look at a highly dysfunctional and ultimately doomed marriage.

Other great ones off the top of my head:
Grey Gardens
Night & Fog
King of Kong

I’ve definitely forgotten a bunch as well D:

Psychic Andy Is My Spirit Animal says:

Hoop Dreams was the other one I was going to mention. One doesn’t need to be a sports fan at all to appreciate it. That it wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary is the biggest Oscar mistake in history.

Gabe says:

Grey Gardens and Grizzly Man are always entertaining. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of Herzog’s short-form documentaries, which I think are available on Netflix.

I love Barbet Schroeder’s “Koko”, about the gorilla who can communicate w/ sign language.

Indie Game: The Movie is a really well made documentary from this year, a fascinating look at creative processes. Also, The King of Kong – A Fistful of Quarters, is so much fun. Two documentaries about video games that are more compelling than actual video games.

Lee says:

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is great! It’s about an extremely nice man trying to beat the world record for highest score on the original Donkey Kong arcade game. Unfortunately the current world champion is kind of a dick. It goes very quickly from a bland pbs documentary about a videogame and getting high scores into a battle between the forces of good and evil!!!

Also, Dear Zachary is the saddest thing that exists. Loved it, but, tears RAINED FROM THE SKY the night I watched it!!! (I was later informed that that was probably just rain)

Ryan says:

In order:

American Movie – Best thing man has ever created
Grizzly Man – Must see
Resurrect Dead – Fascinating
Hearts Of Darkness – Making of Apocalypse Now
Crumb – Scary and sad, yet entertaining and somewhat inspirational
Winnebago Man – If you like Shut Up Little Man…
Up For Grabs – Low budget, but takes you for a real ride. Great portrayal of massive douchiness. 🙂

And I second King Of Kong.

FYI, Catfish is at least partially staged.

Jamie says:

“I Think We’re Alone Now” follows two people -one with Aspberger’s syndrome, and one hermaphrodite, who are both obsessed with 80’s pop singer Tiffany.
I promise this is 60 minutes well spent!!!
(Available on Netflix instant play).

Sarah says:

The Staircase is my favorite too!!! It’s so crazy!! Also…Just watched Dear Zachary and cried my fucking eyes out!!! That’s a good one too! Highly recommend both.

Chris P says:

I watched Dear Zachary shortly after my first son, Zachary, was born. It was too much. Great documentary, but not recommended if you have a young son named Zachary.

Jules says:

I vote Bill Cunningham: New York. A movie about a happy and nice man, and available on Netflix.

First Position is also fantastic if you like ballerinas or just young people who work really hard.

Tracy says:

Here’s my list of fav docs

The Bridge
The Killing Game
Madness in the Fast Lane
Kill Me If You Can
ConFessions of a serial killer: Jeffrey Dahmer

Hondoj says:

I just got home and caught the last 1/2 hour of a documentary about cults. The two I saw were Jim Jones (grape koolaid for the younger set) and Charles Manson & “family”. It was on the America Channel and was called “Most Evil”. Here’s a link where you can watch it online in 5 parts:
However, for all of us documentary aficianados, may I suggest the following website where you can watch a cornucopia of documentaries, free, online:

Shannon says:

My favorites!

-Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles was fantastic. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
-Dear Zachary is intensely heartbreaking.
-King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is great as well even if you aren’t a fan of video games.

Emilie says:

Children Underground
The Children Of Leningradsky
Street Kids
Just Melvin Just Evil
This World Child Slavery
Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children
Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children: Revisited
The Dying Room
Eyes Of A Child
Mum Loves Drugs, Not Me

Literally any documentary about children that gets me emotionally attached and haunts me for weeks, will do it for me.

Shawn says:

I am so glad you included shut up little man as that is such a funny documentary. I would also recommend the Pruitt-Igoe myth as a fascinating documentary studying public housing and the myths surrounding it.

emily says:

“The Imposter” is a fascinating documentary. Highly recommend it. It’s one of those crazy, how-could-this-be-true, movies. Also it’s about a somewhat messed up family, which seems to be the types of documentaries you two go for!

“Pink Ribbons Inc” is a great documentary about the whole ‘pink ribbon campaign’. Gives a different view on the issue. Also on Netflix instant watch!

And lastly, “The Other Dream Team”, about the 1992 Olympic Lithuanian basketball team. Might not sound that interesting, but trust me on this one, it’s great!

emily says:

Oh and one more, Andy might especially appreciate this one as it’s about the music industry and how the digital age has changed it, “PressPausePlay”. Also on Netflix instant watch!

Christina says:

My BF and I are in the middle of watching “The Staircase” right now, and it’s awesome!! Thanks for the recommendation.

He said I should mention “Into the Abyss” as another great doc-watch. It’s about a murder that took place in Texas several years ago, and it’s made (the movie, not the murder) by Werner Herzog, who always amuses me with his spectacular-strangeness.

Rob says:

Can’t believe no one mentioned “Best Worst Movie”, a documentary about Troll 2 – which is considered the worst movie of all time!

Troll 2 became a cult phenomenon with it’s campy humor and absurd plot. The documentary itself is pretty hilarious at times, just looking at the behind-the-scenes of a movie and the thinking behind weird decisions. Also it’s very heartwarming seeing people’s lives change over a horrible yet quirky underground horror movie.

Damian says:

I’m a little late with this but I just wanted to add my two cents. My fav docs besides “The Staircase” are:
Harlan County USA – When I first singed up for Netflix I was just clicking through and adding docs to my queue. I came across Harlan County USA and added it without reading the description. I just knew it was a “thing.” When I received it several months later I didn’t think a doc about coal miners sounded very interesting but I watched it anyway and boy was I wrong. As soon as I watched it I had to watch it again. It really blew my mind. I get chills just thinking about it. I convinced some friends to watch it and now they love it too.

American Movie – Just flat out awesome and hilarious. A little inspiring too.

American Teen – A lot of people have a problem with this doc because of the way it’s edited. I don’t really care though because most of the characters are super endearing and I was really routing for them.

Ben says:

I second The Imposter.
I just watched it recently and then immediately felt like telling everyone about it. (I had this same reaction after first watching The Staircase)

Megan says:


Ya’ll must see RUNNING THE SAHARA – it’s literally crazy. Three guys run OVER 2 marathons a day for AHUNDREDANDELEVEN DAYS IN A ROW. Amazing.

A couple weeks ago, I randomly switched on Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart and it was really fascinating. It made me want to be an ethnomusicologist…

I just saw CHASING ICE at the movie theater and wow – it was stunning and super informative. It follows a photographer and his team as they set up over 25 cameras to capture time lapse photos of glaciers receding and calving into the ocean. The footage and end result are incredible and the story leading up to the discoveries is just as interesting!

Linda says:

Making a Murderer
The Jinx

I didn’t see these on the list. MaM is depressing as hell, The Jinx is just insane.

The Staircase was great.

A good friend of mine from high school works for the man who made Chasing Ice.

If you watch Grey Gardens, be sure and also check out the spoof on Documentary Now! You haven’t lived til you see Bill Hader with a pair of sweatpants on his head.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

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