I feel like when I was younger and heard the term “documentary,” I immediately equated it with “boring.” Like some monotonous speaker lecturing on and on about an uninteresting or strange topic that wasn’t relevant to my life. Now I know that either my perceptions were drastically wrong back then, or documentary filmmaking has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades. These days, documentaries are one of my favorite movie genres, and there’s not a one I’ve regretted watching, ever.
Here are 5 of my favorites that you can find at Redbox:
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Whether you’re old enough to have watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood yourself, or if you now have a child who loves the spinoff series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, or if you don’t even know who Mister Rogers IS, you need to do yourself a favor and watch this documentary. It’s one of the best of the year, and now the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time. It covers the life and career of the quiet and freakishly calm Fred Rogers (aka “Mister Rogers”), whose TV series played a major role in the childhood development of millions. Your jaw will drop when they replay clips from some of his very first episodes in 1968 that discuss important, serious topics in a way kids can understand them — topics that are still achingly relevant today, 50 years later. If you’re like me, you’ll probably tear up when you come to realize how desperately the world needs a Mister Rogers right now. I cannot recommend this one more.
The Kid Stays in the Picture – If you’re interested in behind-the-scenes scoop from the Hollywood of decades past, you’ll love this autobiographical documentary focused on and narrated by super-producer and past Paramount Pictures executive Robert Evans, the man behind such classics as Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown. He had a wild life (drug trafficking, a murder investigation, technically dying and then being revived…) which just goes to show that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
RBG – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka “RBG”), one of only four female justices of the 113 people ever to serve on the highest court in the land, has become something of an almost mythical figure in recent years. This documentary explores her early career, her notable cases, her marriage and her legacy, even though she’s still going strong at 85. Most interesting to me were sections on her surprising friendship with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, and on cases that involved her arguing for equal rights for men (she is most known for her gender equality cases involving women). Her legacy affects all Americans, and I was inspired by her conviction that no one should be discriminated against “on the basis of sex” (which just so happens to be the title of another movie coming out about her later this fall, with Felicity Jones portraying RBG).
Young@Heart – Looking for something extraordinarily uplifting? Young@Heart follows a 22-person senior choir (average age: 80) in New England as they prepare for a hometown concert. We’re all going to get older, and movies like this are a great reminder of the fun that’s still to be had in our golden years.
Score – You’re on this site because you love movies, so chances are you love the music of movies as well. This documentary brings together all of the powerhouse composers whose work is inextricably linked to our film-watching experience — from John Williams (ET, Star Wars) to Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Dark Knight trilogy, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) to Danny Elfman (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) to Trent Reznor (The Social Network, Gone Girl) and more — to discuss how score-writing has changed over their careers. You’ll never listen to a movie the same way again.
What’s your favorite documentary?