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Lists: IDA's 25 Best Documentaries

by Spout
October 4, 2007 5:25 AM
2 Comments
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by Karina Longworth

The International Documentary Associaton (IDA) just released a list of their picks for the 25 Best Documentaries Ever, to coincide with the Association’s 25th anniversary. Predictably, the list isn’t very interesting–as is usually the case with these things, it’s very American and very weighed towards recent releases. Box office hits and Oscar winners are well represented; non-white people are represented as subjects, but not so much as makers; there’s one film on this list directed by a woman, and another one about women. Michael Moore, Errol Morris and the Maysles own a full third of the list real estate between them.

Maybe in theory, as Anthony Kaufman scathingly implies, we should have expected better from an international body of filmmakers and champions, but in practice the list falls victim to the familiar muddling of consensus. As I’ve said before, the populist nature of these things always seems to ensure their mediocrity. Grizzly Man was probably the only Herzog film that made it on to multiple ballots, and that’s why–Fata Morgana and Little Dieter fans be damned–it’s the one that makes the list.

Maybe we just need to call for a moratorium on voted lists––”Thou shalt not call on the wisdom of the crowds to numerically rank works of art based on perceptions of their quality!” Or, maybe, we should all just get together at the end of the year and fill out wildly baroque ballots to select The Best and Worst Film Lists Of 2007––after all, why should The Reeler have all the fun? Or, maybe, we should just accept the fact that lists do more to gratify the list-maker than anything else, and find something slightly liess futile to argue about.

Anyway. If you care, IDA’s Top 25 is after the jump.


1. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx)

2. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris)

3. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore)

4. Spellbound> (Jeffery Blitz)

5. Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple)

6. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim)

7. Crumb (Terry Zwigoff)

8. Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin)

9. The Fog of War (Errol Morris)

10. Roger and Me (Michael Moore)

11. Super Size Me (Morgan Spurlock)

12. Look Back (DA Pennebaker)

13. Salesman (Albert and David Maysles)

14. Life Out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio)

15. Sherman’s March (Ross McElwee)

16. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer)

17. Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki)

18. Born into Brothels (Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski)

19. Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman)

20. Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders)

21. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore)

22. Winged Migration (Jacques Perrin)

23. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)

24. Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)

25. Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh)

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2 Comments

  • Sourajit Debnath | June 13, 2011 3:20 AMReply

    Pennebaker made DONT LOOK BACK. How could you miss that?

  • Herc Duir | November 17, 2010 12:38 AMReply

    My all time favourite documentary is Fudge 44 which is about creatures spotted in Tokyo in the early eighties I think

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jac2-XMGd1w

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