It can be argued effectively that documentaries have become one of the leading genres in the film industry. The sheer quality of these films highlights this, with the category getting an increasingly prominent role at the Academy Awards. It’s now big business, and the dramatic impact a documentary can deliver rivals even the most bombastic Hollywood blockbuster.
Here are five documentaries you simply have to watch—each is a mix of extreme emotional and life-affirming grit; poignant, explosive, ridiculous, brilliant, and downright life changing. Add them to your DVD collection today!
Stranded: I’ve come from a plane that crashed on the mountains
In October 1972 an amateur rugby team’s plane crash landed into a remote region of the Andes cordillera. Hopelessly trapped in the freezing conditions, the survivors began a brutal, two month fight for survival. Resorting to eating the bodies of their dead friends (preserved in the freezing temperatures), it was ultimately three brave young men who decided to attempt the arduous trek out of the mountains. Their first obstacle? An 18,000 ft mountain.
Nominated for the 2008 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Stranded is the tale of the 1972 Andes Plane Crash as told by the 16 survivors. It’s as emotional and mesmerising as a film can be.
Read More on IMDB: Stranded: I’ve come from a plane that crashed on the mountains
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
20 year old Jason Becker was, by the early ‘90s, rapidly becoming a rock star. His natural gift for the guitar was wowing America and superstardom beckoned. He had placed all other elements of his life on hold in dedication to music; a commitment which made the diagnosis of the debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease even more tragic. Doctors informed him he had only a few years to live.
22 years later, Becker is confined to a wheelchair; he can’t speak, or move, and is cared for by his family 24/7. He communicates through his eyes thanks to an ingenious letter board system created by his father, and despite these terrible limitations his sense of humour, and lust for life, remains undiminished. He is very much alive, and he’s still composing music!
Read More on IMDB: Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Man on Wire
In 1974, diminutive Frenchman Philippe Petit defied death by performing a high-wire walk between the World Trade Centre buildings in New York. This exhilarating Oscar-winning documentary follows Petit’s mission: from the plan’s inception to its lofty completion, how he pulled it off is laid bare. You are left to marvel at Petit’s otherwordly skills, whilst questioning his nerve to even consider such an undertaking.
Understandably poignant throughout, Petit’s enthusiastic dialogue, and the remarkable accompanying pictures show you what it’s like to be on top of the world!
Read More on IMDB: Man on Wire
In a remote Alaskan peninsula, Timothy Treadwell found small fame in America as the man who dared to live with wild grizzly bears for 13 consecutive summers. Believing himself to have an affinity with the animals—a state of mind which saw him self-impose a public image of an eco warrior—he took to filming the bears in their natural habitat. The result is an intimate portrayal of nature in action, but throughout the beautiful scenes there lurks the knowledge of Treadwell’s fate. In October 2003 his daring came to a horrifying end.
Werner Herzog’s award-winning film displays the harsh reality of nature colliding with human endeavour.
Read More on IMDB: Grizzly Man
Ayrton Senna’s genius as a racing driver is undisputed; in Formula One he amassed three World Drivers Championships, 41 victories, 65 pole positions, and the respect of the world. Adored in his native Brazil, the handsome, intelligent Senna was a superstar in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but his difficulties with the political nature of the sport, and his morally dubious dealings with his competitors (chiefly arch-rival Alain Prost), made him a controversial figure.
Senna is candid, poignant, and thrilling, but what this documentary truly displays is how one person can make a huge difference.
Read More on IMDB: Senna