Over 20 of the world's best documentaries have landed at SBS on Demand. Watch them anytime, for free (outside of data charges).
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SBS Movies

23 Mar 2015 - 2:32 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2017 - 11:15 AM

Bowling for Columbine

Driven by moral agitation, Michael Moore explores the culture of violence in an America traumatised by terrorism, teenage killers and economic inequality. Moore puts the hard questions to trigger-happy suburbanites and militia members, alongside the likes of National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston, shock rocker Marilyn Manson, South Park co-creator Matt Stone and surviving students of the Columbine High School shootings. Bowling for Columbine encountered both critical and commercial success, and won the 2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

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Jesus Camp

Becky Fischer is a children's pastor who runs 'Kids on Fire,' a summer camp for evangelical Christian children in North Dakota. Fischer believes in the political and moral importance of a Christian presence in America and encourages the kids to pray for George W. Bush and his Supreme Court appointees while urging them to help "take back America for Christ". Jesus Camp features interviews with Ted Haggard, an evangelist and advisor to George W. Bush, and Mike Papantonio, a Christian talk-show host. A fascinating, if sometimes alarming documentary.


Hoop Dreams

This riveting documentary follows two African American teenagers – Arthur Agee and William Gates – who hope to become college basketball players, then eventually make it to the NBA. The talented duo dream of using their sporting achievements as a way to escape the drug addiction, poverty, and violence within their inner-city Chicago environment – and to improve the lives of their families. Universally acclaimed ever since its release in 1994, Hoop Dreams makes for essential viewing.

Watch original 4½-star Movie Show review


Man on Wire

August 7, 1974. A young French man named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He danced on this wire for an hour with no safety net before he was arrested for what has become to be known as the "artistic crime of the century". A magical and exhilarating account of this exploit, which will soon be adapted into a biopic, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt starring as Petit.

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Read interview with Man on Wire producer Simon Chinn


Waltz with Bashir

One night in a bar, an old friend tells Ari Folman about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. The two conclude that this is somehow linked to their Israeli Army mission 20 years earlier in the first Lebanon war. Ari can't remember anything about that chapter in his life. He sets out to talk to those he knew at the time to learn about the events and his role in them. Slowly, his memory begins to build, through surreal images. It won a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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The Cove

Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health. An exhilarating, infuriating, heartbreaking monument to how bad and how good mankind can choose to be, which calls to action change in the future by exposing the horrid facts of the past.

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Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

Director Christopher Bell looks at the widespread use of steroids amongst body builders, starting with his own two brothers. Like him, Smelly and Mad Dog aspire to resemble the idols of their youths: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, and Sylvester Stallone, and they’d do anything to achieve their goal, including taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs. But is it still cheating if everybody does it? A both funny and moving insight into America’s obsession with performance.

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Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

South Australian director Matthew Bate retraces how in 1987 two friends, Eddie Lee and Mitchell D., who had just moved into a rundown flat in San Francisco, started to tape-record the fights of their violently noisy alcoholic neighbours, Peter J. Haskett and Raymond Huffman. The young men started giving copies to their friends and, in doing so, accidentally created one of the world's first “viral” pop-culture sensations.

Watch interview with director Matthew Bate


Love the Beast

Australian actor Eric Bana set about documenting his 25-year-long love story with his very first car. After years of precious restoration, Eric and his three friends – Jeremy Clarkson, Dr. Phil and Jay Leno – decided to enter the car into one of the most grueling and dangerous motor races that exists: The Targa Tasmania Rally. This would be a personal Everest for both man and machine... until, on day 4 of the race, tragedy strikes. The personal and social pressures mount up in the face of rebuilding a car that means so much to him.


The Queen of Versailles

Billionaire couple David and former beauty queen Jackie Siegel were at the top of their game building themselves the largest single family private home in America when the Global Financial Crisis hit. For this overprivileged family, accepting that situation proved a dispiriting struggle even as their unfinished dream home became a monument of their superficial values. This documentary follows the Siegels as they struggle to scale down their grotesquely ostentatious lifestyle.

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Chris and Don

An insight into the romantic relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood and his much younger lover, American painter Don Bachardy, one of the first openly gay couple in Hollywood in the ‘50s. Isherwood helped Bachardy explore his gift for art and painting, and their deep emotional bond survived even after Isherwood's passing in 1986.


A Very British Gangster

Dominic Noonan, 37 years-old (of which 22 spent in jail) is the head of one of Britain's biggest crime families. Irish investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre gives us an insight into the life of the charismatic, openly gay gangster, from gun trials to the murder of his brother on the streets of Manchester, and reveals a community struggling with poverty, violence and drugs.


Chevolution

On March 5, 1960, photographer Alberto Korda snapped a picture of Che Guevara at a memorial service. Within a few years, his portrait of Che became one of the most famous photos in the world. Chevolution traces the strange journey of Korda's portrait of Che, from revolutionary symbol to advertising logo. It includes interviews of actors Antonio Banderas and Gael Garcia Bernal, both of whom have played Guevara on screen, and Tom Morello of the rock band Rage Against The Machine, who have used the Che portrait on their T-shirts.


In the Shadow of the Moon

In the 1960s, US President John F. Kennedy proposed landing a man on the moon before the decade was finished. This film has interviews with most of the surviving astronauts of the Apollo program, who were ready to make that great voyage with an army of experts determined to make the endeavor possible. Through training, tragedy and triumph, we follow the greatest moments of one of humanity's great achievements.

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Seduced and Abandoned

Actor Alec Baldwin and director James Toback are on mission to raise financing for their next movie at the Cannes Film Festival. This documentary provides a unique insight on the bittersweet relationship filmmakers have with Cannes and the film business, as well as appearances by prominent figures in the movie industry (directors Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski; actors Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain amongst others).

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Salute

In 1968 at the Mexico Olympic Games, two American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gave the black power salute while standing on the podium after the 200 metres final, as the American national anthem was playing. They became symbols of the US civil rights movement, but paid a hefty price as they subsequently became ostracised and harassed for many years. Directed by the nephew of Peter Norman, the white Australian athlete who stood with Smith and Carlos on the podium, this documentary highlights his role in the iconic event.


The Weather Underground

In October 1969, as news of the My Lai massacre was filtering through and in the wake of the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Weathermen staged their first Day of Rage, attacking an up-scale Chicago district. The members of this group were well-educated, white middle-class 20-year-olds – and after a series of bombings and attempted bombings, they went underground. Inspired the 2012 movie The Company You Keep directed by and starring Robert Redford as a former 'Weatherman'.

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Armadillo

In February 2009, a group of Danish soldiers, accompanied by documentary filmmaker Janus Metz, arrived at Armadillo, an army base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. Metz and cameraman Lars Skree spent six months following the lives of young soldiers situated less than a kilometer away from Taliban positions. The outcome of their work is a gripping and highly authentic war drama. It also provoked furious debate in Denmark regarding the controversial behaviour of certain Danish soldiers during a shootout with Taliban fighters.

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Hell and Back Again

Master filmmaker and photographer Danfung Dennis followed 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris and his unit during their assault on a Taliban stronghold, then as the young man faces the challenges of re-adjusting to civilian life in small town North Carolina. Despite the support of his wife, Harris finds it hard to leave the war behind, and suffers from PTSD. Along with Restrepo and Armadillo, it is one of the most powerful documentaries about the effect of war on soldiers, on and off the battlefield.


LennoNYC

Released in 2010 on what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, LennoNYC traces the life of John Lennon after the breakup of the Beatles, as he settled in New York City with Yoko Ono and their son Sean to focus on his family. Interviewed in the film are Yoko Ono, members of the Elephant's Memory band that played with Lennon and Ono in New York, Elton John, Dick Cavett, photographer Bob Gruen and Geraldo Rivera, who talks about a news report of his that inspired Lennon and Ono to stage the One to One benefit concert in 1972. The film also features footage of Lennon in Los Angeles when he briefly split from Ono.


The Thin Blue Line

Directed by legendary documentary-maker Errol Morris, The Thin Blue Line tells the controversial and true story of the arrest and conviction of Randall Dale Adams for the murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976. This documentary, with its use of expressionistic re-enactments and interview material, is credited with overturning the conviction of Adams for the murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood, a crime for which Adams was sentenced to death. The Thin Blue Line is often referred to by critics as one of the best documentaries of all time.

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Watch original 5-star Movie Show review

 

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