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The Best Cinéma Vérité Movies And Documentaries Ever Made

“What are the best Cinéma Vérité Movies?” We looked at 98 of the top Cinéma Vérité films, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 16 films, all appearing on 2 or more “Best Cinéma Vérité” movie lists, are ranked below by how many times they appear. The remaining 75+ movies, as well as the sources we used, are in alphabetical order on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



Top 16 Best Cinéma Vérité Movies Ever Made



16 .) Faces (1968) directed by John Cassavetes

	Faces (1968)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Wikipedia

Middle-aged suburban husband Richard abruptly tells his wife, Maria, that he wants a divorce. As Richard takes up with a younger woman, Maria enjoys a night on the town with her friends and meets a younger man. As the couple and those around them confront a seemingly futile search for what they’ve lost – love, excitement, passion – this classic American independent film explores themes of aging and alienation.



15 .) High School (1968) directed by Frederick Wiseman

	High School (1968)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema

Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman takes us inside Northeast High School as a fly on the wall to observe the teachers and how they interact with the students.



14 .) In Vanda’s Room (2003) directed by Pedro Costa

	In Vanda's Room (2003)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Wikipedia

With the intimate feel of a documentary and the texture of a Vermeer painting, In Vanda’s Room takes an unflinching, fragmentary look at a handful of self-destructive, marginalized people, but is centered around the heroin-addicted Vanda Duarte.



13 .) Shadows (1959) directed by John Cassavetes

	Shadows (1959)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Wikipedia

John Cassavetes’s directorial debut revolves around a romance in New York City between Lelia, a light- skinned black woman, and Tony, a white man. The relationship is put in jeopardy when Tony meets Lelia’s darker-skinned jazz singer brother, Hugh, and discovers that her racial heritage is not what he thought it was. Shot on location in Manhattan with a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, Shadows is a penetrating work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement. ×



12 .) The Blair Witch Project (1999) directed by Daniel Myrick

	The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Master Class
  • MUBI

In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.



11 .) Wanda (1971) directed by Barbara Loden

	Wanda (1971)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Wikipedia

Wanda, after a string of abusive relationships, abandons her family and seeks solace in the company of a petty criminal.



10 .) Warrendale (1967) directed by Allan King

	Warrendale (1967)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Wikipedia

This ground-breaking cinema véritè classic documents five weeks in the lives of twelve children in a home for emotionally disturbed children. It is the first in the form that King later described as actuality drama. All the action is spontaneous and undi-rected, with neither interviews nor narration. The theme is the outrage of life. The children asked the filmmakers, Why is it that whenever pictures of us are put in the papers, our faces are blacked out. What is so awful about us that we cant be seen? They wanted to be filmed so that they could be seen. ×



9 .) Chronicle of a Summer (1961) directed by Edgar Morin

	Chronicle of a Summer (1961)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Master Class
  • MUBI
  • PBS

The film begins with a discussion between Rouch and Morin on whether or not it is possible to act sincerely in front of a camera. A cast of real life individuals are then introduced and are led by the filmmakers to discuss topics on the themes of French society and happiness in the working class.



8 .) Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) directed by Robert Drew

	Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963)

Lists It Appears On:

  • MUBI
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

During a two-day period before and after the University of Alabama integration crisis, the film uses five camera crews to follow President John F. Kennedy, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, Alabama governor George Wallace, deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach and the students Vivian Malone and James Hood. As Wallace has promised to personally block the two black students from enrolling in the university, the JFK administration discusses the best way to react to it, without rousing the crowd or making Wallace a martyr for the segregationist cause. ×



7 .) The War Room (1993) directed by Peter Watkins

	The War Room (1993)

Lists It Appears On:

  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and Chris Hegedus (Startup.com) closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants—especially the folksy James Carville and the preppy George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning.



6 .) Don’t Look Back (1967) directed by D.A. Pennebaker

	Don’t Look Back (1967)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Master Class
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema

In this wildly entertaining vision of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Bob Dylan is surrounded by teen fans, gets into heated philosophical jousts with journalists, and kicks back with fellow musicians Joan Baez, Donovan, and Alan Price.



5 .) Primary (1960) directed by Robert Drew

	Primary (1960)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Ideas Film
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema

Primary is a documentary film about the primary elections between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey in 1960. Primary is the first documentary to use light equipment in order to follow their subjects in a more intimate filmmaking style. This unconventional way of filming created a new look for documentary films where the camera’s lens was right in the middle of what ever drama was occuring.



4 .) Gimme Shelter (1970) directed by Albert Maysles

	Gimme Shelter (1970)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Dostoevsky
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

The landmark documentary about the tragically ill-fated Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969. Only four months earlier, Woodstock defined the Love Generation; now it lay in ruins on a desolate racetrack six miles outside of San Francisco.



3 .) Grey Gardens (1975) directed by Albert Maysles

	Grey Gardens (1975)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Master Class
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith, two aging, eccentric relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, are the sole inhabitants of a Long Island estate. The women reveal themselves to be misfits with outsized, engaging personalities. Much of the conversation is centered on their pasts, as mother and daughter now rarely leave home.



2 .) Titicut Follies (1967) directed by Frederick Wiseman

	Titicut Follies (1967)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Master Class
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

The film is a stark and graphic portrayal of the conditions that existed at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. TITICUT FOLLIES documents the various ways the inmates are treated by the guards, social workers and psychiatrists.



1 .) Salesman (1968) directed by Albert Maysles

	Salesman (1968)

Lists It Appears On:

  • Dostoevsky
  • Ideas Film
  • MUBI
  • PBS
  • Taste Of Cinema
  • Wikipedia

This documentary from Albert and David Maysles follows the bitter rivalry of four door-to-door salesmen working for the Mid-American Bible Company: Paul “The Badger” Brennan, Charles “The Gipper” McDevitt, James “The Rabbit” Baker and Raymond “The Bull” Martos. Times are tough for this hard-living quartet, who spend their days traveling through small-town America, trying their best to peddle gold-leaf Bibles to an apathetic crowd of lower-middle-class housewives and elderly couples. ×




The 75+ Additional Best Cinéma Vérité Films



# Movies Lists
17 À Hauteur d’homme (2003) Wikipedia
18 A Married Couple MUBI
19 A Young Patriot CMS Impact
20 After Life (1999) Wikipedia
21 Bad Boys (1961) Wikipedia
22 Breathless MUBI
23 Brother’s Keeper MUBI
24 C’était un rendez-vous (1976) Wikipedia
25 Checks and Balances CMS Impact
26 Children of Hiroshima (1952) Wikipedia
27 Chronique d’un été (1961) Wikipedia
28 Chronique d’un Été Ideas Film
29 Citizenfour (2014) Wikipedia
30 Cléo from 5 to 7 MUBI
31 Cocksucker Blues (1972) Wikipedia
32 Colossal Youth MUBI
33 Dancer in the Dark (2000) Wikipedia
34 Democracy, CMS Impact
35 Distance (2001) Wikipedia
36 Dostoyevsky Reimagined: The Making of Dostoevsky
37 Down for Life (2009) Wikipedia
38 Eat the Document (1969) Wikipedia
39 F for Fake (1974) Wikipedia
40 Faces of November MUBI
41 Flag Wars (2003) Wikipedia
42 Free Solo (2018) Wikipedia
43 Gummo MUBI
44 Happy Mother’s Day (1964) [13] Wikipedia
45 Harlan County USA MUBI
46 Hoop Dreams (1994) Wikipedia
47 Hospital (1970) Wikipedia
48 Import/Export (2007) Wikipedia
49 Iraq in Fragments (2007) Wikipedia
50 Jesus Camp (2006) Wikipedia
51 Jordon Saffron Taste This! (2009) Wikipedia
52 julien donkey-boy MUBI
53 Jungle Sisters, CMS Impact
54 La Jetée (1962) Master Class
55 Le joli mai MUBI
56 Les Raquetteurs (1958) (French article) Wikipedia
57 Lonely Boy (1962) Wikipedia
58 Look Love CMS Impact
59 Love & Pop (1998) Wikipedia
60 Manic (2001) Wikipedia
61 Medium Cool (1968) Wikipedia
62 Moi, un noir (1958) Wikipedia
63 Monterey Pop MUBI
64 Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) Wikipedia
65 Nanook of the North (1922) Taste Of Cinema
66 Near Death (1989) Wikipedia
67 Next Stop: Utopia CMS Impact
68 Notes from the New World Dostoevsky
69 Of Whales, the Moon and Men MUBI
70 Orderers (1974) Wikipedia
71 Paris of the Moment PBS
72 Patience, Patience, You’ll Go to Paradise CMS Impact
73 Phantom India (1969) Wikipedia
74 Photographic Memory (2011) Wikipedia
75 Portrait of Jason (1968) PBS
76 Project X (2012) Wikipedia
77 Pumping Iron Dostoevsky
78 Punishment Park MUBI
79 Ram ke Naam (1992) Wikipedia
80 Real Life and Documented Truth Dostoevsky
81 Salaam Bombay! (1988) Master Class
82 Seventeen (1983) Wikipedia
83 Sleep (1963) Wikipedia
84 Sonita CMS Impact
85 Spark: A Burning Man Story (2014) Wikipedia
86 The Act of Killing (2012) Wikipedia
87 The Carter (2009) Wikipedia
88 The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) Wikipedia
89 The Exiles MUBI
90 The Leader, His Driver and the Driver’s Wife (1991) Wikipedia
91 The Office (2005) Master Class
92 The Plaint of Steve Kreines as recorded by his younger brother Jeff (1974)[14] Wikipedia
93 The Road CMS Impact
94 The Rolling Stones’ Dostoevsky
95 The War Game MUBI
96 Ukrainian Sheriffs CMS Impact
97 West 47th Street (2003) Wikipedia
98 Woodstock (1970) Wikipedia


8 Best Cinéma Vérité Film Sources/Lists



Source Article
CMS Impact IDFA films: Why Cinéma Vérité Is Still So Powerful
Dostoevsky The Observational Approach of Direct Cinema Documentaries
Ideas Film CINÉMA VÉRITÉ & DIRECT CINEMA
Master Class What Is Cinéma Vérité in Filmmaking?
MUBI Cinéma Vérité & Direct Cinema
PBS Cinema Verite: The Movement of Truth
Taste Of Cinema 10 Essential Cinéma Vérité Films Every Documentary Fan Should See
Wikipedia Cinéma vérité

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