I know, documentaries, here? Me? Isn’t it all supposed to be silly stories and games? Most of the time yes, but I do like my occasional documentary, either telling me a bit of history or culture that I didn’t know about (I do love learning about new places and people) or speaking of an interesting or controversial subject.
Now, I won’t bore you with the dozen of World War documentary series I’ve enjoyed over the years, particularly while discussing with my brother-in-law how you could make films out of some of the tales. Well, ok, I’ll tell you about one. There’s a documentary on spies on American Netflix where you could make the ultimate action movie just pulling the many one-liners the spies supposedly said while doing their awesome stuff. I honestly can’t remember the name, but any of them are worth watching!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about my five favourite documentaries. This list isn’t in any particular order, by the way. I can’t really decide which among these I like the best.
F*ck! Before this one, I used to watch documentaries if one happened to be on TV or cable, but never really looking for one in particular. I saw a bit of F*ck on HBO and just had to track it down to watch it.
It looks at the “F Word” and all of its historical uses, the many etymologies people have created for it—such as the acronym Fornication Under Consent of the King—and the impact it has on our society, how people feel about it, from liberals to conservatives.
It holds a special place in my heart because it was the documentary that introduced me to the genius that is George Carlin. After seeing his piece on the “Seven Dirty Words”, I had to find more about him, and so I became a huge fan of the man. Still am, even after his death years ago.
It’s a phenomenal documentary that shows you many angles but leaves it up to you to decide how you feel about the word “Fuck”.
Yes, I said it. I might keep my language clean on my articles, but I have nothing against the word itself or any other profanity. I quite like them to be honest.
The Aristocrats: This is most definitely not a documentary for the faint-hearted, people with tender sensibilities or those who take themselves too seriously.
The Aristocrats is a documentary about the eponymous joke, the filthiest joke in the world. It’s about a family act that starts out fairly normal, until they start doing some really disturbing stuff on each other. Just how bad it is depends on the comedian, on how far they can take the joke.
It’s a joke that is all about the journey, about stretching it without repeating yourself and constantly seeking to top whatever you said before. According to legend, and mentioned in the documentary, some comedians had parties where the point of the meeting was telling the filthiest joke imaginable, without ever being redundant.
And to my eternal surprise, since I didn’t know his material before Full House, most comedians agree that Bob Saget tells the best Aristocrats jokes.
Never Sleep Again: This one is a massive documentary about the making of the entire Nightmare on Elm Street saga—up to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. It deals with the casting, the stunts, props, the Freddy Krueger character and his actor Robert Englund.
Best of all is that it’s not a dry documentary, it’s not about some faceless voice telling you about it, but it comes from the actors, producers and directors, each of them adding a little bit of their personal filming stories to this massive documentary.
I’ve always been a fan of the Nightmare on Elm Street series—and in case you’re wondering I absolutely loathe the remake—and getting to know how they made each film, how they went about writing the scripts, finding a weirder director every time and how it all became silly eventually is a fantastic watch.
But if you’re not into slasher films, or Nightmare on Elm Street or making of documentaries, this might not be for you.
Going to Pieces: Speaking of the Slasher genre, that’s what Going to Pieces is, a documentary about the rise and fall (and maybe rebirth) of this particular brand of horror films, from its origins and rise to stardom with Halloween, the many rip-offs and how the genre managed in short years to scrape the bottom of a surprisingly shallow barrel, to its resurgence with more sophisticated films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and the eventual rebirth with another Wes Craven film, Scream.
Much like the other documentaries in this list, it’s the actors, the producers, directors and make-up artists that tell the stories and let you know what they dealt with at the time. It also has commentaries from fans and horror film historians. Hell, even Rob Zombie shows up in there, and you may not like his films, but you can tell how passionate he is about the genre.
It’s great to see so many random plots and villains and how they pretty much tried every combination of high school social event, profession and weaponry to create horror films that ultimately weren’t very successful, save for a handful of titles we know now and love dearly, such as the Friday the 13th series.
Also, the story about how the Santa slasher film caused controversy is pretty fun.
The Invisible War: Compared to the other ones on this list, this one isn’t funny or deals with some geeky subject. This is serious, dealing with horrible things happening to good people who then receive no help, no support and least of all justice.
The different stories in The Invisible War, the various horrific accounts of servicewomen, of their abuse, their pain and how the organisations they served dutifully not only turned their backs on them but also blamed them, will make you question the way you look at the different branches of the military, no matter what country you’re from. Sure, the documentary deals with the American forces, but it’s not a stretch to think that it may be happening in other countries as well.
It’s hard-hitting stuff, but important for everyone to know.
So those are my favourite documentaries. I could probably list many more if I remembered their names, or if I did it by category—the winner would be making of videos—but these five are constants for me. I’ve seen each more than once and every so often, I go back to them for a re-watch!