Top Documentaries to watch before you die

We love documentary films at Copse Magazine and although there are many top ten documentaries lists or top 100 documentary films lists, don’t worry – we have the definitive list of the top documentaries to watch before you die and this list is regularly updated.

Rather than rank our list by popularity or worse by rating (and make you wade through pages of adverts to get to the top ten documentaries) we have decided to list our top docs chronologically, from oldest to newest, so that as you watch through our list, you will see the world, the people, and our horizons change.

Christo’s Valley Curtain (1974) [28 minutes]

Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days (1989) [Series]

Artland: USA (2006)

Grizzly Man

Big Easy Express

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

How much does your building weigh, Mr Foster

Chuck Norris vs Communism

The Polygon

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Blackfish (2013) [90 minutes]

Expedition Happiness (2017)

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013) [118 minutes]

Cathedrals of Culture (2014)

At 2 hours and 45 minutes, I have to admit to having listened to parts with my eyes closed which doesn’t bode well for inclusion on the top documentaries list, however the 5th part of this documentary opened my eyes to both a place and a societal concept – so that secured its inclusion.

Episode 5 of Cathedrals of Culture is directed by Michael Madsen and focused on the Halden Fengsel maximum security prison in Norway – reputedly one of the most humane prisons in the world. When compared to Louis Theroux’s exploration of the United States of America’s prison system then the differences are made even more stark.

Russia on Four Wheels (2014) [2 episodes]

Roof Culture Asia (2017) [113 minutes]

Free Solo (2018)

The Mighty Redcar (2018) [4 episodes]

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)

Three Identical Strangers (2018) [96 minutes]

Featured image: Valley Curtain, 1972. Bruce McAllister, 1936-, Photographer (NARA record: 3823134) • Public domain


Adam is the Publisher of Copse Magazine and owner of Sailfin. He spends his time hosting and making websites for other people, copywriting, and publishing white label content for other companies alongside Copse Magazine, his creative outlet. He has two children and lives in Kent in the South East of the UK.