THE DOCUMENTARY GENRE
Did you know that the world's first documentary is widely considered to be Nanook of the North which was made in 1922? With a dash of artistic license that included a few staged scenes, it follows a charismatic real character in a distant land. In the 100 years since then, documentary filmmaking has come a long way, as has the technology which allows us to capture some of the most incredible footage anywhere on film.
Unlike other genres of movie-making, documentaries are, or at least they should be, entirely factual. That isn't to say that bias doesn't occasionally creep in but the best stick to the facts, however difficult they may be. It wasn't until 1942 that Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature became a thing. In the first year, there were 25 nominees with four winners though the run time on one of them, Kokoda Front Line!, was only nine minutes.
In the years since then, documentaries have been made on almost every conceivable event in history. Most popular, however, tend to be those rooted in war, nature, or crime. And if you subscribe to Netflix you will be all too familiar with the vast swathes of crime documentaries that go viral almost as soon as they drop. That may also be because so few documentaries ever make it to the cinema.
Of those that have the highest-grossing is Fahrenheit 9/11 (2011) from Michael Moore which grossed $119,194,771. That is followed by March of the Penguins (2005) which took in $77,437,223.
AMAZON PRIME DOCUMENTARIES
CLASSIC DOCUMENTARIES FILMS
As most documentaries are watched on tv, identifying the most successful one is incredibly difficult. In 2020, of the 10 most-watched new Netflix originals, the worldwide phenomenon Tiger King was number one. But is it Reality or a Documentary? In 2019 Sir David Attenborough’s natural history series Our Planet topped the first viewer ratings table from Netflix.
The eight-part documentary narrated by the broadcaster was watched by more subscribers than any other in the month it was released. So much so that when it came to 2020 and the release of A Life On Our Planet, much was made of the fact that with so many options, Attenborough opted for Netflix and its ability to stream worldwide instantly. Such is the power of streaming services that if you have an important message, sometimes it is better for millions to watch it on the small screen rather than thousands on the big screen.
Aside from the obvious success of the nature documentaries, there are the crime docs. As a genre, True Crime is the one that fascinates people. But why do we watch so much of it? Psychologists say it's because it gives us an opportunity to feel relieved that we’re not the victim. But it also helps us to understand the motivations behind crimes and in the case of some documentaries, gives us an opportunity to solve a crime.
Nothing evidences our love for true crime documentaries quite like the amount of cash streaming giants are prepared to part with. Days after premiering its hit documentary series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Netflix won a heated, multi-studio war to acquire Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil, and paid $9 million for it!
APPLE TV DOCUMENTARIES
RECENT ACTION REVIEWS
Here you can view our latest Documentary movies and series reviews from major streaming services.
DOCUMENTARY HIDDEN GEMS
Here you can view hidden gems which you may have missed on original release.