The Best Non-Fiction Films of the 21st Century – Jordan Ruimy

This year’s 12th edition of the Scary Movies festival at Film at Lincoln Center premiered Ari Aster’s extended version of “Midsommar” this past Saturday.
I’m honouring non-fiction today.
Can you believe, in its 93-year history, there has never been a documentary nominated for the Best Picture Oscar?
Odds are that streak will continue next year unless “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” shocks. Don’t get me wrong, Laura Poitras’ film has a shot, but it’ll take a major push from critics for that to occur. Maybe a Best Film prize from the NYFCC or LAFCA, but I just don’t think that’s possible.
So, what docs actually came close to be Best Picture nominated these last few decades, especially if there was a ten nominee field?
The failure, and subsequent backlash, to nominate a documentary in the BP category really kickstarted in the ‘80s when both Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” and Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me” were snubbed. You can still find a few archived think-pieces from that era, especially for Morris’ seminal work, that make the case for Documentary inclusion into the Best Picture lineup.
Those that came closest were 1994’s “Hoop Dreams” and 2004’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”. In 2006, there was a bit of talk about “An Inconvenient Truth” sneaking in, it was a big deal at the box-office, but that never materialized. “Bowling For Columbine” should have absolutely been nominated in 2002, but was, if you can believe it, too controversial.
Weinstein had a major campaign push for “Fahrenheit 9/11”. It had won the Palme d’Or, grossed over $100 million domestically and came at a time when vehement opposition towards the Iraq war was starting to seep into the mainstream. It would have absolutely gotten in if there was a 10-nominee rule back then.
It’s honestly a travesty that no documentary has ever been recognized by the Academy, especially in the 21st century where non-fiction film has become a very popular medium. Netflix has only further boosted people’s interests these last few years.
My top 10 docs of the 21st Century:
“O.J. Made in America,” “Grizzly Man,” “Bowling For Columbine,” “This is Not a Film,” “Capturing the Friedmans,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Faces Places,” “The Act of Killing,” “Citizenfour,” and “Cameraperson”
Another 10 runners-up:
“Icarus,” “Bloody Nose Empty Pockets” “The Truffle Hunters” “Être et Avoir,” “The Gleaners & I,” “I’m Still Here,” “Midnight Family” “They Shall Not Grow Old” “Three Identical Strangers” “Weiner” “Amy” “Heart of a Dog” “Searching For Sugar Man,” “The Cove,” “Anvil,” “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” “Spellbound,” The Look of Silence,” “American Dharma,” and “Fahrenheit 9/11”
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