National film registry documentaries

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1. Nanook of the North (1922)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary

In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle.

Director: Robert J. Flaherty | Stars: Allakariallak, Alice Nevalinga, Cunayou, Allegoo

Votes: 11,230

2. Primary (1960)

Not Rated | 60 min | Documentary, History

Cinéma vérité feature that follows presidential hopefuls John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey during the 1960 Wisconsin primary.

Director: Robert Drew | Stars: Robert Drew, Hubert H. Humphrey, Muriel Buck Humphrey, Joseph Julian

Votes: 1,222

3. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

PG | 103 min | Documentary

80 Metascore

A heartbreaking record of the thirteen-month struggle between a community fighting to survive and a corporation dedicated to the bottom line.

Director: Barbara Kopple | Stars: John L. Lewis, Carl Horn, Norman Yarborough, Logan Patterson

Votes: 5,253

4. Salesman (1969)

G | 91 min | Documentary, Drama

80 Metascore

Four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics.

Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin | Stars: Paul Brennan, Charles McDevitt, James Baker, Raymond Martos

Votes: 4,903

5. Dog Star Man (1964)

78 min | Documentary, Horror, Mystery

An experimental film from Stan Brakhage in which a man and his dog ascend a wooded mountain.

Director: Stan Brakhage | Stars: Jane Brakhage, Stan Brakhage

Votes: 726

6. Point of Order! (1964)

Not Rated | 97 min | Documentary

Point of Order is compiled from TV footage of the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the Army accused Senator McCarthy of improperly pressuring the Army for special privileges for ... See full summary »

Director: Emile de Antonio | Stars: Roy M. Cohn, Joseph McCarthy, John L. McClellan, Karl E. Mundt

Votes: 454

7. Chulas Fronteras (1976)

58 min | Documentary, Music

"Chulas Fronteras" is a documentary about the music of the Mexican community on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border, particularly of migrant farmers. It includes material about the roots ... See full summary »

Director: Les Blank | Stars: Ramiro Cavazos, Los Alegres De Teran, Los Pinguinos del Norte, Rumel Fuentes

Votes: 144 | Gross: $0.01M

8. Woodstock (1970)

R | 184 min | Documentary, History, Music

95 Metascore

Oscar-winning musical chronicle that brilliantly captures the three-day rock concert and celebration of peace and love that became a capstone for the Sixties.

Director: Michael Wadleigh | Stars: Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Roger Daltrey, Joe Cocker

Votes: 16,229 | Gross: $50.00M

9. The Forgotten Frontier (1931)

59 min | Documentary, Drama

A documentary which reenacts the lives and events of the midwives and nurses who setup and ran a clinic to help the people living in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains.

Director: Marvin Breckinridge | Star: Mary Breckinridge

Votes: 48

10. Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back (1967)

Not Rated | 96 min | Documentary, Music

84 Metascore

Documentary covering Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England, which includes appearances by Joan Baez and Donovan.

Director: D.A. Pennebaker | Stars: Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman, Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez

Votes: 8,653

11. Dead Birds (1963)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary

DEAD BIRDS is a film about the Dani, a people dwelling in the Grand Valley of the Baliem high in the mountains of West Irian. When I shot the film in 1961, the Dani had an almost classic ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Gardner | Star: Robert Gardner

Votes: 208

12. Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Music

The highlights of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Director: Bert Stern | Stars: Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Chuck Berry, Chico Hamilton

Votes: 1,212

13. Why We Fight (1942)

Not Rated | 52 min | Documentary, War

The official World War II US Government film statement defining the various enemies of the Allies and why they must be fought.

Directors: Frank Capra, Anatole Litvak | Stars: Walter Huston, Victor Bulwer-Lytton, Kai-Shek Chiang, Walter Darré

Votes: 2,055

14. Sherman's March (1985)

Not Rated | 157 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

Documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee sets out to make a movie about Union General Sherman's March to the Sea towards the end of the American Civil War, but keeps getting sidetracked by his own love life.

Director: Ross McElwee | Stars: Ross McElwee, Dede McElwee, Ross McElwee Jr., Patricia Rendleman

Votes: 2,403

15. The Living Desert (1953)

G | 69 min | Family, Documentary

69 Metascore

Although first glance reveals little more than stones and sand, the desert is alive. Witness moving rocks, spitting mud pots, gorgeous flowers and the never-ending battle for survival between creatures of every shape, size and description.

Director: James Algar | Star: Winston Hibler

Votes: 1,340

16. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, Music

72 Metascore

A collection of expertly photographed phenomena with no conventional plot. The footage focuses on nature, humanity and the relationship between them.

Director: Godfrey Reggio | Stars: Edward Asner, Pat Benatar, Jerry Brown, Johnny Carson

Votes: 36,153 | Gross: $1.72M

17. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Not Rated | 101 min | Documentary, Crime

79 Metascore

A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose, Jackie Johnson

Votes: 21,919 | Gross: $1.21M

18. The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944)

Not Rated | 45 min | Documentary, History, War

A documentary on the 25th bombing mission of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 in the US 8th Air Force.

Director: William Wyler | Stars: Stanley Wray, Robert Morgan, James A. Verinis, Robert J. Hanson

Votes: 1,528

19. This Is Cinerama (1952)

G | 115 min | Documentary

On the evening of September 30, 1952, the shape and sound of movies changed forever with the introduction of Cinerama.

Directors: Merian C. Cooper, Gunther von Fritsch, Ernest B. Schoedsack, Michael Todd Jr. | Stars: Lowell Thomas, Kathy Darlyn, Toni Valk

Votes: 460 | Gross: $41.60M

20. The Endless Summer (1965)

Not Rated | 95 min | Documentary, Sport

The crown jewel to ten years of Bruce Brown surfing documentaries. Brown follows two young surfers around the world in search of the perfect wave, and ends up finding quite a few in addition to some colorful local characters.

Director: Bruce Brown | Stars: Robert August, Michael Hynson, Lord James Blears, Bruce Brown

Votes: 5,213

21. All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story (1953)

Not Rated | 55 min | Documentary

This beautiful film is the story of "Miss Mary" Coley, an African-American midwife more than half a century ago in rural Georgia. Conceived as a demonstration film for illiterate "granny" ... See full summary »

Director: George C. Stoney | Star: Mary Coley

Votes: 107

22. Film Portrait (1970)

81 min | Documentary, Biography

A diary film in which Jerome Hill presents his life and milieu through different scenes, many hand-colored and animated.

Director: Jerome Hill | Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Ernest Borgnine, Cyd Charisse, Jerome Hill

Votes: 74

23. Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman (1974)

G | 58 min | Documentary, Biography

A special deluxe edition of the 1974 Oscar nominated documentary film about the first female conductor to conduct major orchestras in the US and Europe, Antonia Brico!

Directors: Judy Collins, Jill Godmilow | Stars: Antonia Brico, Judy Collins

Votes: 75

24. Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)

Not Rated | 51 min | Documentary, History

A documentary on the history of garlic. Blank interviews chefs, garlic lovers, and historians about the their love of the 'stinking rose.'

Director: Les Blank | Stars: Anzonini Del Puerto, Kathleen Bendel, Harrod Blank, Mary T. Brown

Votes: 712

25. A Time for Burning (1967)

58 min | Documentary

In the mid-1960s, 1200 White people attend Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Nearby, Negro Lutherans worship at Hope Lutheran Church. Reverend Bill Youngdahl, Augustana's pastor... See full summary »

Directors: Barbara Connell, Bill Jersey | Stars: Ernie Chambers, Ray Cristensen, Bill Youngdahl

Votes: 165

26. Hoop Dreams (1994)

PG-13 | 170 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport

98 Metascore

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James | Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates, Curtis Gates

Votes: 24,860 | Gross: $7.83M

27. The T.A.M.I. Show (1964)

123 min | Documentary, Music

Surf pop duo, Jan and Dean host this showcase of performances by well-known Rock, R&B, and pop stars of the era.

Director: Steve Binder | Stars: The Beach Boys, The Barbarians, Chuck Berry, The Blossoms

Votes: 846

28. Uksuum Cauyai: The Drums of Winter (1989)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary, Music

This feature-length documentary explores the traditional dance, music and spiritual world of the Yupik Eskimo people of Emmonak, a remote village at the mouth of the Yukon River on the ... See full summary »

Directors: Sarah Elder, Leonard Kamerling

Votes: 22

29. Water and Power (1989)

57 min | Documentary

By using a series of visually and aurally dense tableaux created with advanced motion control, optical printing and animation techniques, the film explores the complex battle for natural ... See full summary »

Director: Pat O'Neill | Stars: Joel Lorimen, Beth Block, George Lockwood, Megan Williams

Votes: 246

30. On the Bowery (1956)

Not Rated | 65 min | Documentary, Drama

At the time of this film, the Bowery was a neighborhood in New York City populated largely by the down and out, and largely by transients. Those that can work generally can only find short ... See full summary »

Director: Lionel Rogosin | Stars: Ray Salyer, Gorman Hendricks, Frank Matthews, George L. Bolton

Votes: 861 | Gross: $0.01M

31. Grey Gardens (1975)

PG | 95 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama

82 Metascore

Meet a mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, reclusive cousins of Jackie O., managing to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, NY, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot.

Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer | Stars: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers

Votes: 12,623 | Gross: $0.03M

32. The Negro Soldier (1944)

43 min | Documentary, Short, Drama

Documentary focusing on the contributions to the American war effort of African-American soldiers.

Director: Stuart Heisler | Stars: Clyde Turner, Carlton Moss, William Broadus, Bertha Woolford

Votes: 653

33. Growing Up Female (1971)

50 min | Documentary

Focuses on the socialization of American females. It tells the story of six women and girls. The first film to emerge from the modern women's movement in the early 1970s.

Directors: Jim Klein, Julia Reichert

Votes: 88

34. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Not Rated | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, History

A documentary of the successful career and assassination of San Francisco's first elected gay city supervisor.

Director: Rob Epstein | Stars: Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Anne Kronenberg, Tory Hartmann

Votes: 5,732 | Gross: $0.01M

35. Roger & Me (1989)

R | 91 min | Documentary

70 Metascore

After General Motors closes its factory in Flint, Michigan, eliminating 35,000 jobs, filmmaker Michael Moore undertakes a quixotic quest to interview General Motors' chairman, Roger B. Smith.

Director: Michael Moore | Stars: Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Rhonda Britton, Fred Ross

Votes: 25,761 | Gross: $6.71M

36. Decasia (2002)

Not Rated | 70 min | Documentary

67 Metascore

A meditation on the human quest to transcend physicality, constructed from decaying archival footage and set to an original symphonic score.

Director: Bill Morrison | Stars: Tsuru Aoki, Julia Calhoun, Margaret Cullington, William S. Hart

Votes: 904

37. Sink or Swim (1990)

Not Rated | 48 min | Documentary

Through a series of twenty six short stories, a girl describes the childhood events that shaped her ideas about fatherhood, family relations, work and play. As the stories unfold, a dual ... See full summary »

Director: Su Friedrich | Star: Jessica Meyerson

Votes: 362

38. Portrait of Jason (1967)

Not Rated | 105 min | Documentary, Biography

87 Metascore

Black gay prostitute Jason Holliday is rigorously interviewed on his story and character, revealing nuanced truths about life and art.

Director: Shirley Clarke | Stars: Jason Holliday, Shirley Clarke, Carl Lee

Votes: 1,063

39. Paris Is Burning (1990)

R | 71 min | Documentary

82 Metascore

A chronicle of New York's drag scene in the 1980s, focusing on balls, voguing and the ambitions and dreams of those who gave the era its warmth and vitality.

Director: Jennie Livingston | Stars: Brooke Xtravaganza, André Christian, Dorian Corey, Paris Duprée

Votes: 13,402 | Gross: $3.78M

40. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Not Rated | 100 min | Documentary, History, Music

93 Metascore

A look into the Los Angeles punk rock scene, that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.

Director: Penelope Spheeris | Stars: Eugene Tatu, Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline

Votes: 3,886

41. The Atomic Cafe (1982)

Not Rated | 86 min | Documentary, History

Disturbing collection of 1940s and 1950s United States government-issued propaganda films designed to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.

Directors: Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty | Stars: Paul Tibbets, Harry S. Truman, W.H.P. Blandy, Brien McMahon

Votes: 3,953 | Gross: $0.02M

42. Time and Dreams (1976)

51 min | Documentary, History

The filmmaker interviewed people about their feelings about how the civil rights movement and the rise of black politicians in Greene County had changed the area. Through the film, scenes ... See full summary »

Director: Mort Jordan

Votes: 16

43. Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

PG-13 | 90 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

A documentary film about the life of pianist and jazz great Thelonious Sphere Monk. Features live performances by Monk and his band, and interviews with friends and family about the offbeat genius.

Director: Charlotte Zwerin | Stars: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Jimmy Cleveland, Harry Colomby

Votes: 1,093 | Gross: $0.52M

44. 4 Little Girls (1997)

TV-14 | 102 min | Documentary, History

88 Metascore

A documentary of the notorious racial terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement.

Director: Spike Lee | Stars: Maxine McNair, Walter Cronkite, Chris McNair, Fred Lee Shuttlesworth

Votes: 2,958 | Gross: $0.13M

45. Monterey Pop (1968)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary, History, Music

77 Metascore

A film about the greatest pre-Woodstock rock music festival.

Director: D.A. Pennebaker | Stars: Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, Country Joe McDonald

Votes: 4,025 | Gross: $0.00M

46. Hearts and Minds (1974)

R | 112 min | Documentary, History, War