The Top 5 Documentaries That Feel like Thrillers–Top 5 Tuesday
We got eccentric individuals, dangerous individuals, identity theft, healthcare and tickling.
The documentary about people with autism, The Reason I Jump, releases later this week. It is getting a lot of acclaim and even I jumped in on the discussion with a review of my own. I was having a difficult time figuring out what top five I would make this week but I decided to do something to honour the release of The Reason I Jump because despite my issues with it, it’s an important subject.
So what did my mind conclude I should do? Well, I was originally just going to give a list of my top five documentaries of all-time but that was a daunting task. I wanted to include films such as Mysterious Object at Noon that were part fiction, part documentary, but then I felt that I was getting out of whack.
In looking over the documentaries I’ve seen, I noticed that there were quite a few that were so exciting that they were more akin to thrillers. These are films with twists and turns that felt like a fictional narrative playing out–only they are real. So I regrouped and recharged and resolved to make a list of the top five documentaries that feel more like thrillers. No, I don’t think The Reason I Jump unfolds like a thriller; the flick was just a jumping off point for this article.
Before I dive in, realize that this is not a list of the best documentaries of all-time. These are all films I hold in high esteem but there are documentaries I like more that don’t subscribe to my parameters that I’ve laid out here.
Nuts! is about the controversial medical doctor John R. Brinkley who used to “cure” male impotence by inserting goat testicles into the men’s scrotums. I don’t want to reveal anymore about who this guy was mostly because that would eliminate the thrilling aspect of the film, but just know that this guy did some stuff.
I chose Nuts! to begin this list because thriller is often synonymous with horror, and I would say that this guy, in a few ways, is straight out of a horror movie. On top of that, it’s just a strange documentary because he was such an oddball.
People have feelings about Michael Moore–as they should–but I’ve always complimented the man’s ability to craft a narrative. Sometimes this is manipulative and calls into question his credibility as a documentarian, but it’s impossible to deny that the guy has a talent for making the viewer feel. You go along for the ride, much like in a thriller.
I could have chosen Bowling for Columbine but I enjoy Sicko more so I went with that one. Both have the typical Moore traits and trappings. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I can’t even remember how much of the information is accurate.
3: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father
I don’t even want to write about this one because it’s so unbelievably tragic. I’m just going to say this: it’s going along one way and then completely shifts, pulling the rug out from underneath the viewer. That’s why it’s thrilling to me, though I wish this didn’t have to exist.
In 2016 I watched two weird documentaries, Nuts! and Tickled. Tickled nuts. Anyway, many may be turned off by a flick that tackles a fetish but believe me, it doesn’t really investigate that particular world that much.
From the first five minutes–when Farrier gets an email criticizing him for being gay–I was hooked and the film just kept getting deeper and deeper until I realized I was watching a pretty haunting account of abuse and threats in an online space. This is about the pathos of a twisted individual and it’s a completely mind-blowing experience.
It’s a thriller because it has a central premise but then completely leaps off of that and travels in unexpected directions.
1: The Imposter
Going in I knew nothing about the real case and had no idea what to expect. I merely liked the premise and wanted to see what came from it. Turns out that this is a complex docu-thriller and not at all what I thought.
It draws you into the world of a pathological liar and identity theft, going from being a gripping tale of a family and loss to a true crime movie. Like his identity, you’re left wondering what the truth is in all of this. What happened to Nicholas? This is the very definition of what I’m trying to explore in this article.
He still can’t tell what’s going on with The Imposter.