I’m always on the search to learn more. About movies, but also about countries, people and more. I mostly do this through Wikipedia or some other website, but there’s one medium that’s probably the best and easiest to start learning: documentaries. Documentaries have been around for ages, the first one being Nanook of the North. (Nuktuk: Hero of the South from The Legend of Korra is actually based on this!) We have seen documentaries about everything by now. Nature as seen through the eyes of David Attenborough in Planet Earth, fraud cases in The Tinder Swindler and Tiger King and prize-winning music documentaries about Amy Winehouse and Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back that was recently released. But there’s an entirely different genre that gives us, the people, insight into movies. Ranging from the making-of to a complete history of film, here’s a list of the most interesting, influential documentaries to watch if you love movies.
The Movies that Made us (2019 – )
The Movies that Made Us is one of the most light-hearted documentary series I have ever seen. The narration and editing is humorous, but can also annoy you pretty quickly. There are currently 16 episodes to watch, each focused on a different movie that somehow changed the world or meant a lot for people growing up back then. The good thing about this documentary series is that you can make your own choice about what movie you want to learn more. Episodes are less than an hour long and talk about the process of making the film. From the very start of the production to the release. The episodes you can currently see on Netflix are Dirty Dancing, Home Alone, Ghostbusters, Die Hard, Back to the Future, Pretty Woman, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robocop, Aliens, Coming to America, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Elf.
Marvel Studios ASSEMBLED (2021 – )
ASSEMBLED gives Marvel fans insight into Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each episode is about one Marvel show or movie and shows behind-the-scenes footage of how it’s made. Currently streaming are WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, Black Widow, What If…? and Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. There are also two separate episodes, somehow not a part of the series: Hawkeye and Eternals. The cast and director of the movies and series reveal secrets about their projects and show the filming process. A true Marvel fan should watch this documentary, showing on Disney Plus.
The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)
Got 15 hours to spare? You probably do, when I tell you that this documentary series spans from the very beginning of cinema until the beginning of the 00’s. Everything you need to know about the history of film, written, directed, and narrated by film critic Mark Cousins, who based the documentary on his 2004 book The Story of Film. Fifteen episodes tell you everything you need to know about cinema. From silent film to European New Wave. Everything up until the beginning of this century is covered. A follow-up premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, covering movies from 2010 to 2021. I believe this documentary series is one of the most essential documentaries to watch if you love movies.
The Movies (2019)
CNN’s The Movies is the most extensive documentary series about movies I have ever seen. It spans seven episodes, and each of them talks about a different decade in film. We see some of the most influential people in moviemaking talking about what their and others’ films meant for the world of cinema and beyond. Movies that made a change to our culture, actors that were unmissable in the movie business, and almost 800 movies that had a huge influence on people. Want a pretty complete look on the movies were significant for the world? CNN’s The Movies is the best option for you.
Inside Pixar (2020 – )
Pixar is, without a doubt, one of the most famous animation studios in the world. It gave us The Incredibles, Toy Story, Wall-E, Coco and so much more. Acquired by Disney in 2006, it’s still producing the most beautiful and innovative animation movies there are. Inside Pixar is a short-episode show on Disney Plus showing inside looks into the people, artistry, and culture of Pixar Animation Studios. The episodes are all shorter than fifteen minutes and divided into four categories: Inspired, about the inspiration of some creators, Portraits, about the people behind Pixar, Foundations, about the foundations for the movies and Unpacked, about general Pixar principles.
Best Worst Movie (2009)
Ever heard of Troll 2? Me neither. The movie, released in 1990, has a fan rating of 2,9/10 on IMDb and 5% on the Tomatometer. The film got a cult following and is still popular with a certain crowd, who seem to hold watch parties. Best Worst Movie is directed by an actor of the film, now a dentist in Alabama, and shows other actors and collaborators on the movie talking about it. How did they experience the making? And what happened afterward? It’s safe to say that Troll 2 wasn’t a huge success, but the fact that people list it among their favorite movies shows its popularity. Best Worst Movie gives a great insight into the making of this kinda flopped movie.
A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Martin Scorcese is known for classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Wolf of Wall Street. But what influenced him in making these? Or ever-loving cinema in the first place? In this documentary film, which spans almost four hours, Martin Scorsese presents his favorite films grouped into four different types of directors: directors as storytellers, directors as illusionists, directors as smuggles, and directors as iconoclast. Scorsese talks about what made him obsessed with film in the first place, growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. Woven in are clips from Unforgiven, Scarface, Point Blank, A Star is Born (1954), 2001: A Space Oddysey and much more. In need of a huge influence in the world of movies talking about who his influences were? Then this long documentary is your thing.
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)
Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli movies are essential in the world of animation and anime. Globally known for sensations such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, this documentary shows the film studio in the productions of The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. It is seen how voice actors are chosen and storyboards are made. It also discusses the works of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki, who helped to make Studio Ghibli successful. Essential for every fan of Studio Ghibli films and beyond.
Got more documentaries to watch if you love movies that I missed? Leave it below in the comments. I love to get recommendations! Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram if you want to see how I review movies I watch. You can also contact me if you ever wanna talk or ask me something. I like meeting new people!