Filmmakers produce countless documentaries each year, but not all are created equally. Some incredible filmmakers are able to capture a story that touches the hearts of many, causing their film to achieve overwhelming success, while others don’t quite hit the mark. The following five films are widely considered to be among the best documentaries made since 2010:
20 Feet from Stardom
Behind many successful musicians is a group of talented backup singers that remain nameless. The documentary 20 Feet from Stardom tells the story of many backup singers who spent their careers harmonizing with other talented artists. Described by Rotten Tomatoes as “triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure,” the film tells a story never before heard. While it features interviews with superstars like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting, this is one show these musicians don’t headline.
The Landfill Harmonic
Produced by filmmaker, Alejandra Amarilla and her team, the Landfill Harmonic tells the story of a youth orchestra in the barrios of Paraguay. The children play instruments constructed from trash and recycled materials, made by a humble-yet-gifted garbage picker. Alejandra Amarilla traveled to Paraguay to begin production in 2010, filming the young musicians. She and her team returned to get an update on the progress of a few budding musicians in 2011. Alejandra Amarilla’s touching tribute to the children of the Landfill Harmonic is life-changing for many who have watched it. The story focuses on the amazing things a community can do when they band together to achieve a common goal. Thanks to Alejandra Amarilla and her team, the world is now able to know the brilliance of the Landfill Harmonic.
Often described as a tearjerker, Blackfish explores the behind-the-scenes treatment of orcas, otherwise known as killer whales, in sea parks. While the public loves to watch these creatures perform tricks with their trainers, they are seemingly unaware of the animal’s violent nature. The film tells the story of performing whale Tilikum, who has killed several people in captivity ─ unlike any orca in the wild. It may cause you to re-think your love of popular sea parks, as many aren’t properly caring for their animals.
Produced by big names, including Martin Scorsese, Life Itself tells the story of world-famous film critic Roger Ebert. Based on his bestselling memoir with the same title, the documentary explores Ebert’s rise to fame as one of the most respected opinion makers in the country.
The documentary tells the story of Jiro Ono, largely considered the best sushi chef in the world. Ono is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a tiny, 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station that was awarded a 3-Michelin-star rating. The film highlights the personal and professional life of 85-year-old Ono.