The 50 Best Documentaries of All Time

This week, The Criterion Collection is giving a welcome Blu-ray upgrade to F for Fake, Orson Welles’ 1973 documentary exploration of hoaxes, fakery, and magic. It was one of his last completed films, and one of his few documentaries — and, in true Welles form, he went and made one of the greatest nonfiction films of all time. How great? Well, its re-release is as good a time as any to spotlight the finest documentaries ever made. (And just to avoid repetition, we’ll skip the music docs and concert films.)

Still from "After Tiller"

50. After Tiller

One of the more recent entries on our list, Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s 2013 film takes an unblinking look at an important subject. They tackle the hottest of hot-button issues, late-term abortion, by profiling the only four remaining doctors to perform the procedure following the murder of George Tiller. But it’s less about those doctors than their patients, its lengthy scenes of discussion, consultation, and recovery powerfully treating this procedure as a difficult and personal decision, rather than a political talking point.