“Greatest” Documentaries Poll Trivia

Match the filmmaker to what they said about POV’s attempt to find the greatest documentary of all time.

1) “absurd”
2) “basically ridiculous”
3) “Borat”

a) Marshall Curry (Street Fight, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front)
b) Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line)
c) David Van Taylor (A Perfect Candidate, Dream Deceivers)

Answers: 1a, 2c, 3b. Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line, another film that could be considered a hybrid documentary, finished 3rd in the poll.

How many documentaries were entered in the poll?


What was the highest ranking new film (with a 2012 release date)?

Searching for Sugar Man at #154 – POV’s uber-documentary fans added 45 films from 2012, some of which haven’t yet made it to video, and some cases even the theaters. As a side note, our aggregated list of the “best of the best” documentaries of 2012 has Marina Abramovi?: The Artist Is Present at No. 1 (as of December 3, 2012).

What was the oldest documentary in the list?

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat – The 50-second long Lumiere Brothers film was first shown in 1896. It had too few votes (3) to give it a ranking in our 2012 poll.

Which documentary got the most votes?

Paris Is Burning (1549 votes) – The film finished in second place in the poll because the ranking algorithm takes more voting factors into account (see below). Here are the top 10 by votes:

  1. Paris is Burning (1990)
  2. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone (2010)
  3. Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark (2011)
  4. Grey Gardens (1975)
  5. Stranger with a Camera (2000)
  6. Hoop Dreams (1994)
  7. Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) (2007)
  8. Harlan County, USA (1976)
  9. Give Up Tomorrow (2011)
  10. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

In a blind ballot of Top 10s, which film did POV’s Editorial Committee pick among its “greatest” documentaries more than any other?

The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988) – POV’s Editorial Committee is an advisory board of independent filmmakers and public television representatives who assist POV in its broadcast programming. More trivia: Errol Morris’s Gates of Heaven aired as part of POV’s first season, on August 30, 1988, five days after the theatrical release of The Thin Blue Line.

Which filmmaker made the most appearances in the Top 100?

Michael Moore (5) – Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Errol Morris appeared three times, while Joe Berlinger, Rob Epstein, Steve James, Werner Herzog, DA Pennebaker, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Sinofsky, Frederick Wiseman and Charlotte Zwerin each appeared twice.

What was the highest-ranked non-American documentary?

The Up Series (#13) – In this case, a series of documentaries from the UK.

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.