Why Reddit Is an Authoritative Source for Documentary Recommendations

Documentaries educate and inspire us, transporting audiences into unfamiliar worlds where we confront harsh realities and gain insight into diverse perspectives. With so many documentaries produced every year across streaming platforms, film festivals and arthouse cinemas, it can be overwhelming to determine which ones are considered “must-see” films.

That’s why Reddit is such an invaluable resource for documentary recommendations. With over 50 million daily users, Reddit connects people across countries and cultures. Among them are countless documentary enthusiasts passionate about analyzing and recommending impactful films. Reddit‘s voting system surfaces quality suggestions from knowledgeable communities.

To assemble this list of the highest praised documentaries on Reddit, I explored discussion threads in subreddits like r/Documentaries, r/movies and r/TrueFilm. By compiling the most mentioned and upvoted films, I distilled Reddit’s authoritative perspective on the absolute best documentaries audiences should prioritize watching.

What Makes a Documentary One of the "Best"?

Great documentaries take audiences on revelatory journeys to hidden worlds where we gain profound understanding of lives unlike our own. These films craft compelling narratives around high stakes real-world subjects, utilizing documentary techniques like interviews and observational footage to authentically engage viewers.

The “best” documentaries are the ones that redditors collectively praise as visually arresting, intellectually invigorating and emotionally resonating. They are masterclasses in the manipulative power of editing, or quietly reflective windows into forgotten communities. Some teach critical lessons about humanity’s past failures we must never repeat. Others showcase uplifting stories of perseverance and human potential.

But above all, these documentaries expand our minds and immerse us in experiences that spark contemplation and empathy. Let‘s explore the top 15 documentaries redditors insist you need to watch right now.

1. Shoah (1985)

  • Director: Claude Lanzmann
  • Runtime: 566 minutes

I still vividly recall watching Shoah nearly seven years ago, stunned into numb silence as Holocaust survivors recounted memories too horrific to fully comprehend. Claude Lanzmann’s 9.5 hour masterpiece painstakingly documents the Holocaust through first-hand testimonies of those who endured Nazi atrocities.

By relying solely on interviews, Shoah transports you directly into the nightmare of Treblinka and Auschwitz as survivors describe living in constant terror of gas chambers. We observe a nostalgic barber reminiscing about cutting women’s hair before they were executed. Later, Lanzmann covertly films footage where elderly Nazi officers explain the engineering behind mass extermination.

Shoah‘s immersive account of the Holocaust remains one of cinema’s most vital achievements – a shattering confrontation with evil necessary to grasp humanity’s darkest depths. Reddit resoundingly praises Shoah as the greatest documentary ever made. Once seen, never forgotten, the film continues impacting generations determined to prevent history from repeating such unfathomable genocide.

2. Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

  • Director: Dziga Vertov
  • Runtime: 67 minutes

Soviet cinema pioneer Dziga Vertov revolutionized documentary filmmaking with this exhilarating ode to urban life. By employing an awe-inspiring array of editing techniques, Vertov crafts a mesmerizing city symphony chronicling citizens across Kiev, Kharkov and Moscow over one day.

The film intercuts the kinetic footage of Soviet workers, markets and machines with scenes exposing the filmmaking process itself. We observe editors splicing together scenes, cameramen scrambling to capture images, and audiences enthralled while watching the final cut in theaters.

Man With a Movie Camera awes audiences with its ambitious innovation and masterful manipulation of cinematic language. The film expands our conception of documentary as more than just capturing reality – it’s about using the medium’s full creative potential to reveal poetic truths hiding beneath mundane existence. Nearly 100 years later, Vertov‘s exhilarating classic still feels radically inventive.

3. Close-Up (1990)

  • Director: Abbas Kiarostami
  • Runtime: 98 minutes

Incredibly moving Iranian film Close-Up dramatizes the true story of Ali Sabzian, an unemployed man imprisoned for fraud after impersonating respected director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. With empathy and intrigue, legendary director Abbas Kiarostami combines reenactments and intimate interviews with actual trial footage to explore deeper questions of identity, deception and the transformative power of cinema.

We hear Sabzian describe how inhabiting Makhmalbaf‘s persona briefly offered escape from his aimless existence. Actors from the real incident recreate moments where Sabzian gained a family’s trust by promising their son a role in his next film. Throughout, Kiarostami keeps us guessing – is reformed conman Sabzian truly remorseful, or manipulating perceptions again?

Close-Up earned Kiarostami international acclaim for its profoundly meta investigation into Iran’s cultural obsession with cinema, and the thin line between reality and playacting for the camera. This compelling human drama will have you questioning your own vulnerability to false identities and projected dreams.

Top Documentaries By Prominent Themes

Many of Reddit‘s top acclaimed documentaries explore connected themes concerning truth and deception, the influence of cinema, or politics and power structures:

Documentaries Exploring The Blurred Lines Between Truth and Fiction

Close-UpAbbas Kiarostami1990A meta film about a conman impersonating a famous Iranian director that raises questions about identity and truth
F for FakeOrson Welles1975Playful film about art forger Elmyr de Hory blurring lines between fabrication and authenticity
The Thin Blue LineErrol Morris1988Morris’ gripping film exposed flaws in justice system through stylized reenactments of a cop killer case

Films Examining Society Through the Lens of Cinema

Close-UpAbbas Kiarostami1990Explored Iranian cultural obsession with cinema through true story of impersonator put on trial
Man With a Movie CameraDziga Vertov1929Groundbreaking experimental film showcasing new techniques in documentary cinematography
Sans SoleilChris Marker1983Enigmatic meditation on time, memory and political realities as told through a globe-spanning range of eclectic footage

Documentaries Shedding Light on Marginalized Groups

Paris Is BurningJennie Livingston1990Profiled 1980s ball culture community with competitions centered on elaborate drag performances
ShoahClaude Lanzmann1985Claude Lanzmann‘s 9.5 hour Holocaust documentary ensuring Nazi atrocities against Jewish community are never forgotten
Titicut FolliesFrederick Wiseman1967Shocking scenes exposing inhumane treatment endured by inmates at an asylum for the criminally insane

Why You Should Watch These Groundbreaking Documentaries

These 15 masterworks showcase why documentaries are such an impactful artform. They expose underreported stories, shed light on marginalized groups, reveal shocking injustices and profile some of history’s most fascinating people. Documentaries expand our awareness beyond our limited life experience – connecting us to worlds and perspectives we would otherwise never access.

So which of these essential documentaries intrigues you most? Man With a Movie Camera‘s dazzling display of creative filmmaking? Paris Is Burning‘s vibrant portraits from 1980‘s drag ball scene? I highly recommend watching any documentary on this list. You will laugh, cry, cringe, wonder – films have rarely felt so urgent and alive. And you may just discover your new all-time favorite movie waiting among this elite selection of documentaries widely praised by the discerning cinephiles of Reddit.

Let me know in the comments which classic documentary you plan on watching next! I read every response and enjoy discussing these monumental works.

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