For those looking to learn real and important facts about the world through what they watch, they are likely to elect to watch a documentary. In 2015, these documentaries are more plentiful and accessible than ever before. Today there exist thousands of documentaries to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
This article will focus on a particular type of documentary, ones that hold extremely powerful messages and tug on the heart strings and the emotions of the viewer. So read on and see our list of the 10 most powerful documentaries to come out since the year 2000.
Released in 2014 and directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, Virunga tells the story of four characters who are fighting to protect and conserve the Virunga National Park, which is located in the Congo. These individuals look to protect the area from war, poaching and oil exploration. The park is also home to the world’s last mountain gorillas. In addition to following around the fours subjects of the documentary, the film also focuses on the biodiversity and beauty of Virunga, while also exploring the complex political and economic issues that take place in the region surrounding the oil exploration and armed conflict. The film was nominated for the Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.
Catfish is an American documentary that achieved worldwide fame upon its release in 2010. The documentary focuses on a young photographer named Nev, who is being filmed by his brother and friend as he builds an online relationship with a young woman on Facebook. However, it turned out that the entire thing was a sham through a series of twisted events and revelations. You really need to watch this documentary to believe the sheer craziness of what takes place. This documentary teaches a valuable lesson to all viewers to never take things you hear on the internet as fact and to always investigate the claims of others. The movie also takes an interesting look into the way how people wear “masks” in an attempt to be something that they’re not.
8. Taxi to the Dark Side
Taxi to the Dark Side is an American documentary released in 2007, which also won the Academy Award for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards during the same year. The documentary focuses on the killing of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar, who was beaten to death by American soldiers while being detained. The documentary as a whole examines the United States’s policy on torture and interrogation, specifically the CIA’s use of it. The film includes both arguments for and against the use of torture, which challenges the viewer to make up their own opinion after being shown evidence from both sides of the argument. The film also looks at the popularization of the use of torture tactics due to the use of torture in a number of TV shows.
7. Food, Inc.
Food, Inc. is an American documentary released in 2008 that will without a doubt change the way you look at the food you eat. The film looks at and examines the world of corporate farming in the United States and makes the conclusion that big agribusiness produces food that is not only unhealthy, but also in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive towards the animals and the employees of these facilities. It also features numerous interviews with important individuals in the industry and really hits home the idea how bad corporate farming has become. The film was earned a nomination for an Academy Award.
6. This is What Winning Looks Like
This might be a surprise to some as it is a Vice documentary, but this really is one of the most powerful documentaries in recent memory. This film, created by Ben Anderson, focuses in on the war in Afghanistan. The documentary begins in 2012 and follows around U.S. Marines as they train Afghan security forces to take control once U.S. forces leave Afghanistan. The film shows that this was not an easy transition as there were killing, sexual molestation, drug abuse and more among Afghan officials. The film also shares that the U.S. forces are only broadcasting the message that the war was a success, when in reality, the forces aren’t leaving because the ultimate goals were achieved, they are leaving because they have given up hope in achieving those goals.
5. Into the Abyss
This documentary was released in 2011 and was directed by legendary German filmmaker, Werner Herzog. Into the Abyss is about two men convicted of a triple homicide which occurred in Texas and particularly focuses on Michael Perry, who received a death sentence for the crime. The film doesn’t necessarily focus on the guilt or innocence of Perry, but as more of a framing device for deeper philosophical questions about the nature of violence and psychopathy in a system that allows sanctioned murder. This doc packs an emotional punch as it makes you question capital punishment and the judicial system as a whole.
4. Inside Job
If you want to understand the world financial collapse of 2008, Inside Job is without a doubt the documentary to watch. This film focuses on the 2008 stock market and bank crash, which left millions and millions of people without a roof over the heads and tons more who lost their jobs or their savings. This documentary also shows that the crisis was, in fact, an inside job. It shows us how the bankers and politicians rigged the system and gambled with money other than their own, and ultimately lost. This is a must-watch for everyone who wants to understand the huge grip that Wall Street has on politics.
3. Life In a Day
Life in a Day is a crowdsourced documentary that is arranged of thousands of video clips from people all over the world. The topic of the documentary focuses on three questions: What do you love? What do you fear? What’s in your pocket? People from all over the world answered these questions and gave viewers and unprecedented look at the lives of people all over the world. They opened up their lives to us in this extremely emotionally gripping documentary and reminded us just how similar we all are at our core, no matter our skin color, gender or situation in life.
2. Dear Zachary
This is one of the saddest and most emotionally heartbreaking thing you will ever see, so watch with caution. Dear Zachary was released in 2008 and was created by filmmaker Kurt Kuenne. Kuenne’s close friend Andrew Bagby was allegedly murdered by Shirley Jane Turner after Bagby ended their unhealthy relationship. Shortly after she was arrested, she announced she was pregnant with Bagby’s child, a boy she named Zachary. Kuenne then interviewed numerous relatives, friends, and associates of Bagby and incorporated their stories into a film that would essentially be a visual scrapbook for the son who never knew him. As events unfold, the film becomes a sort of true crime documentary. We are not going to reveal anything else about the documentary, because you need to watch it. But be prepared, it will test your emotions in a way no other film can.
1. The Act of Killing
Coming in as the most powerful documentary since 2000 is none other than The Act of Killing, which was released in 2012 and was directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. The film is about the mass murders that took part in the vicious Indonesian killings of 1965-66, in which more than 500,000 people were killed, with some estimates being over a million. What’s interesting about this documentary is the subjects of the film are actually the real life death squad killers who aided in the murders. Throughout the film, they re-enact and speak about the atrocities that they themselves committed, which is some of the most disturbing and terrifying testimony ever caught on film. Hearing about these atrocities and how they feel about them now is about as powerful as a documentary can get.