Top 10 Controversial Documentary Movies



Top 10 Controversial Documentary Movies

VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Script Written by Matthew Thomas.

Sometimes the truth found in a nonfiction motion picture is not as straightforward as it seems. Join as we count down our picks for top 10 controversial documentary films. For this list, we're taking a look at full-length documentaries that have caused a stir for various reasons, for example with their content, claims, and so forth.

Special thanks to our users jkellis, John Nolan, TobiasFunke and usertube2 for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at http://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest

Top 10 Controversial Documentary Movies

Sometimes the truth found in a nonfiction motion picture is not as straightforward as it seems. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 controversial documentary films.

For this list, we’re taking a look at full-length documentaries that have caused a stir for various reasons, for example with their content, claims, and so forth.

#10: “The Cove” (2009)

The first of three films on this list that focuses on supposedly inhuman treatment of animals by humans, “The Cove” showed the world the deaths of dolphins like no film before it. Filmmakers used guerrilla filmmaking tactics to capture horrifying footage of the methods used by Japanese fishermen to trick dolphins into a cove in order to butcher them. The documentary’s ending moments, in which viewers are forced to witness these gentle creatures’ deaths and cries for help, will haunt even hardened people. And while it won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, “The Cove” has also been criticized for its lack of objectivity and its negative depiction of the Japanese.

#9: “Earthlings” (2005)

A film-watching experience that could best be compared with a war of attrition, this documentary was designed to shock the senses of anyone with even a passing affection for animals - and it pulls that off completely. Kept out of a higher slot on this list strictly because of the near universal revulsion the film creates in anyone who chooses to watch it, “Earthlings”’ footage is highly controversial but its effects are not. Taking more than 6 years to finish production, this graphic and shocking production used concealed cameras to capture the darker side of industries that rely on animals.

#8: “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell” (1995)

Focusing on a trio of drug addicts in Lowell, Massachusetts, this film pulled no punches in its effort to show the reality of addiction. One of the people whose struggles are depicted is Dick Eklund, a former boxer who fought Sugar Ray Leonard and was brought to the big screen by Christian Bale in “The Fighter.” Documentary filmmakers are typically not meant to intercede in the events they film, but the decision to capture these addicts’ descent and activities, including prostitution and smoking crack while pregnant, shocked many.

#7: “Zeitgeist: The Movie” (2007)

Stretching the parameters of documentary film to the utmost, “Zeitgeist” was crafted by conspiracy theorists for conspiracy theorists. Attempting to dispute the existence of Jesus Christ as well as to show so-called evidence that the September 11th attacks on America were the works of a group attempting to bring about a new world order, this film has legions of detractors, who cite it as unethical, propaganda and much more. Love it or hate it though, Peter Joseph’s production certainly created a great deal of impassioned discussion and its fair share of eye rolling.

#6: “Interview with a Cannibal” (2011)

Cannibalism is a practice that could very well be the greatest crime against human nature there is. That is why it says some very fascinating things about our species that anyone who crosses that line and consumes the flesh of his fellow man, or woman in this case, holds such a macabre fascination to so many others. Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who brutally murdered and ate a Dutch woman and later became a minor celebrity because of it, is the focus of this film, which has created much ire in some viewers since its release.

#5: “Blackfish” (2013)

Science has shown that killer whales are capable of creating emotional bonds that far exceed traditional theories on the topic. That’s one fact that makes viewing this documentary so disturbing, as it shows these creatures being corralled for the amusement of humans. Bringing awareness to such an injustice should have been uncontroversial enough, but the choice to feature footage of the build up to the brutal death of an orca trainer ensured that was far from the case, with both trainers, SeaWorld and others complaining about its so-called inaccuracies and agenda.

#4: “Faces of Death” (1978)

The torture porn of documentaries, “Faces of Death” is a mix of staged and actual footage of gore and death that instantly found an audience upon its release. Controversial due to the unflinching depiction of violence for its own sake, as well as the willingness to mix pretend and all too real death indiscriminately, no list of controversial movies, let alone documentaries, would be complete without this exploitation documentary film. Despite its explicit nature and the depiction of real-life animal cruelty, “Faces of Death” has also spawned several sequels.

#3: “Triumph of the Will” (1935)

Considered by many film historians to be one of the greatest films ever put to celluloid, this beautifully shot documentary with its groundbreaking cinematic techniques is the ultimate propaganda film for the Nazi Party. A film that has garnered massive acclaim despite a legacy that could never be separated from one of the most reviled groups in the history of the world, “Triumph of the Will,” or “Triumph des Willens,” (tree-oomf dess villains) as it’s known in German, has received both impassioned love and hatred in its time.

#2: “The Act of Killing” (2012)

This is an Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA-winning documentary film that principally focuses on a man that led a death squad responsible for brutally killing many Indonesian people in the mid-‘60s. Anwar Congo spends most of the film boasting about his affluent lifestyle and dispassionately describing the methods he employed to mercilessly murder thousands of people. The choice to employ make-up and have Anwar act out a scene as one of his victims like a sequence from a film, in addition to the fact that Anwar came to dislike the film following negative feedback, have earned “The Act of Killing” this spot on our list.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “The Bridge” (2006)
- “Jesus Camp” (2006)
- “Child of Rage” (1990)
- “Beyond the Mat” (1999)
- “Deliver Us from Evil” (2006)

#1: “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004)

There are few figures in the history of film that are as divisive as Michael Moore – which means it was an obvious choice to put one of his films in the top spot on our list. “Bowling for Columbine” was in the running, while another work based around the September 11th attacks by another director called “Loose Change” was also considered, but it was this 2004 doc criticizing George W. Bush that takes number one. The use of sensationalism and some staged moments to decry a president earned Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11” a great deal of hate, but taking a highly criticized leader down a few pegs earned them just as much adoration as well.

Do you agree with our list? Which documentary do you think is the most controversial? For more controversial Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to