Top Observational Documentaries

Observational documentaries are shot, such that they look very real. There are cases where some of them are shot in real time, or bring together clips of events that were shot as they happened. Based on this, there are observational documentaries that are sometimes shot for over 10 years, even though they could just be a 90 minutes footage. Here are some observational documentaries that fit as some of the best documentaries.


This documentary tells the story of some young solders from Denmark that was sent on a trip to Afghanistan. The documentary, which was released in 2010, features stunning live action, cliffhanging and pure riveting. There was no form of narration, voiceover or any interview all through the movie.

Hoops Dreams

This documentary, which was released in 1994, was shot for more than 5 years. The documentary is 3 hours long and talks about the tribulations and trials of 2 athletic and talented black teenagers, who happened to be from families that are poor. They tried to enter the National Basketball League from the ghetto where they lived.

Sister Helen

The 2002 documentary features a nun who was an ex-alcoholic and who easily uses foul and rowdy words. She also runs a halfway house for crack addicts and drunks in South Bronx. You will cry by the time you watch the end of the movie.

The Monastery: MrVig and the Nun

The documentary, which features MrVig – a bachelor who was 82 years old and resides in the forest, inside an old castle in the Northern part of Europe, was released in 2006. You will be sure the enjoy the profound, poetic and comic nature of the documentary.

Brother’s Keeper

The 1992 documentary tells a story that happened in the State of New York’s rural hills. Here a family, which consists of 4 brothers that were between 50 years and 60 years old, were living a life that was isolated, despite the modernization of the world around them. The documentary was directed by Sinofsky and Berlinger.

Children Underground

The documentary was short in the squats and subways of Bucharest, in Romania for more than one year. It tells the story of nihilistic street children unsentimentally and intimately, some of whom were less than 10 years, about how they sniff paint, fight, starve and attempt to survive an existence that is chaotic. The documentary was directed by EdetBelberg.

War Photographer

The documentary was released in 2001 and tells the story of James Nachtwey when he was a photographer in Kosovo after the war. The movie features Jakarta riots, West Bank tensions and Rwanda mass graves.

Rough Aunties

Kim Longinotto directed the documentary which was released in 2008. The documentary is about some South African women who were fighting against the increasing sexual abuse of children who were suffering from poverty.


The 2011 documentary was directed by Ian Palmer. The movie features illegal boxing machines that took place in car parks and other clandestine locations.


The documentary ‘Salesman’ was released in 1969 by Grey Gardens and directed by Gimme Shelter. The documentary was on 4 salesmen who moved door to door to sell expensive bibles that were mass produced all over Florida.

You should not refer to yourself as a fan of observational documentaries until you have watched every movie on this list.


Films and movies are a great and must-watch source of entertainment; considering the fact that you are even watching a documentary or bibliography kind of stuff, then too the exception for being nothing is ruled out – there always is something really interesting in every documentary that you won’t dare to forget your whole life.

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