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Updated (2/28/2012): With the Academy Awards announced and the awards season official over, we've updated the chart. Links to the original are below.

Nerd out to our infographic of the top documentaries of 2011, based on lists from critics, documentary festivals, industry organizations and online voting.

Note: This list was created by a formula and doesn't represent the favorite documentaries of POV staff. For that, go here!

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The Best Documentaries of 2011

(Black boxes represent "winners." Gray boxes represent nominations or list appearances.)


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Poster of the documentary The Interrupters

Steve James' The Interrupters topped this
year-end survey of 2011's top documentaries.

Assign as much meaning as you'd like to this list, but here are the documentaries that rose to the top of our list of lists (links will take you to interviews we've done here at POV's blog):


  1. The Interrupters
  2. Senna
  3. Project Nim
  4. Hell and Back Again
  5. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  6. Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light)
  7. Buck
  8. Position Among the Stars
  9. The Arbor
  10. Bill Cunningham New York

Below is the complete list from the chart, as of Feb. 28, 2012. You can view the original list, from December 2011, here.


1. The Interrupters
Steve James

29. Born to be Wild
David Lickley

57. TT3D: Closer to the Edge
Richard De Aragues

2. Senna
Asif Kapadia

30. Bombay Beach
Alma Har'el

58. Zeitgeist: Moving Forward
Peter Joseph

3. Project Nim
James Marsh

31. Thunder Soul
Mark Landsman

59. The Woodmans
Scott Willis

4. Hell and Back Again
Danfung Dennis

32. An African Election
Jarreth J. Merz, Kevin Merz

60. Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune
Kenneth Bowser

5. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog

33. You've Been Trumped
Anthony Baxter

61. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
Joseph Dorman

6. Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light)
Patricio Guzmán

34. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone
Lev Anderson, Chris Metzler

62. Granito: How To Nail A Dictator
Pamela Yates

7. Buck
Cindy Meehl

35. Our School
Mona Nicoara, Miruna Coca-Cozma

63. John Muir In The New World
Catherine Tatge

8. Position Among the Stars
Leonard Retel Helmrich

36. Family Instinct
Andris Gauja

64. Where Soldiers Come From
Heather Courtney

9. The Arbor
Clio Barnard

37. Scenes of a Crime
Grover Babcock, Blue Hadaegh

65. Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Tony Hardmon, Rachel Libert

10. Bill Cunningham New York
Richard Press

38. El lugar mas pequeño (The Tiniest Place)
Tatiana Huezo

66. The Bully Project
Lee Hirsch

11. The Redemption of General Butt Naked
Eric Strauss, Daniele Anastasion

39. Life in a Day
Kevin Macdonald and others

67. When the Drum is Beating
Whitney Dow

12. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman

40. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
Andrei Ujica

68. Dreams of a Life
Carol Morley

13. George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Martin Scorsese

41. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
Michael Rapaport

69. Phunny Business
John Davies

14. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
Constance Marks, Philip Shane

42. Marathon Boy
Gemma Atwal

70. One Lucky Elephant
Lisa Leeman

15. Pina
Wim Wenders

43. Restrepo
Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

71. Make Believe
J. Clay Tweel

16. How to Die in Oregon
Peter Richardson

44. At Night I Fly
Steve Gomer

72. Waste Land
Lucy Walker

17. Dragonslayer
Tristan Patterson

45. Calvet
Dominic Allan

73. The Last Mountain
Bill Haney

18. Undefeated
Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

46. Gun Fight
Barbara Kopple

74. Strongman
Zachary Levy

19. Into the Abyss
Werner Herzog

47. The Ambassador
Mads Brügger

75. The Real Rocky
Jeff Feuerzeig

20. Tabloid
Errol Morris

48. Bad Weather
Giovanni Giommi

76. The Harvest
U. Roberto Romano

21. Better This World
Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega

49. The Castle
Massimo D'Anolfi, Martina Parenti

77. Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure
Matthew Bate

22. Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Jon Foy

50. I Am
Tom Shadyac

78. Fake It So Real
Robert Greene

23. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

51. African Cats
Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey

79. Convento
Jarred Alterman

24. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Göran Olsson

52. Louder Than A Bomb
Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel

80. Abendland
Nikolaus Geyrhalter

25. Planet of Snail
Seung-Jun Yi

53. Garbo: The Spy
Edmon Roch

81. Cuchillo de Palo / 108
Renate Costa

26. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
Jon M. Chu

54. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Rodman Flender

82. El Ambulante (The Peddler)
Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano

27. Page One: Inside the New York Times
Andrew Rossi

55. The Art of Flight
Curt Morgan

83. El Velador (The Night Watchman)
Natalia Almada

28. We Were Here
David Weissman, Bill Weber

56. Foo Fighters: Back and Forth
James Moll



What was your favorite documentary of 2011? Let us know in the comments...


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