As promised last week, I bring you the worst documentaries of all time! It’s really hard to imagine such a list could be cobbled together, but after I perused the top-rated documentaries based on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, I was curious to see what would show up at the bottom. So, here’s the list of the most poorly-reviewed films on the site (the highest rating is a 10):


Faces of Death
Rating: 2
Carlos Castaneda:
Rating: 2
Enigma of A Sorcerer
Rating 3.3
The War on the War on Drugs
Rating: 3.3
In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War
Rating: 3.3
Phish – Bittersweet Motel
Rating: 3.6
This is Not an Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis
Rating: 3.7
September Tapes
Rating: 3.8
What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole
Rating: 3.9
NSync: Bigger Than Live
Rating: 3.9
Celsius 41.11
Rating: 4
The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick
Rating: 4

Justice prevails! I’m referring to the worst rated doc of all time: Faces of Death. I’ve always despised that ultimate act of sadistic exploitation — images of awful accidents and crimes — and it appears I am not alone.

The one film here that I had any interest in seeing here was This is Not an Exit, but after reading the Village Voice‘s Dennis Lim eviscerate that film’s recreation scenes as having “an airless, tone-deaf, brain-dead quality that may or may not be intentional,” I’ll make sure to skip it.

As it happens, the only film on the list I’ve actually seen is September Tapes, a faux-documentary about an American who video-tapes his supposed trip to Afghanistan to hunt down Osama Bin Laden. I saw it at Sundance and recall how annoyed I was by the film, but the majority opinion there at the time was that it was pretty cool. Goes to show how badly the high altitudes and inflated sense of importance skews reactions there. Really, September Tapes is as much a documentary as Blair Witch is, so it doesn’t even really belong on the list.

Right now, I can’t even think of the last truly terrible documentary I saw. Some dull ones, but nothing worth dissing here in public. But what about you — have you seen any truly bad docs, and care to toss stones?

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen