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Year in Review: Our Top 9 Best Documentaries of 2017

Another great year for documentaries, 2017 hosted a strong selection of genuinely moving and informative entries well-worth watching. Here’s our top nine reviewed documentaries of the year.

Art of the Prank

Art of the Prank, 2017 © Relight Films LLC

The modern prank is typically a one-note blip, a short video on YouTube or a goofy text message, but decades ago, Joey Skaggs was doing things on a whole different level, who some now call the ‘fake news’ originator. The depths he goes to in developing and executing his projects is finally revealed and we get an inside look at the mind behind the madness. It’s fascinating and a little disturbing.

READ MORE: Our Review of Art of the Prank

Out Of Nothing

Out of Nothing, 2017 © P-51 Pictures

You might think that a documentary about a niche sport in the deserts of Utah would be only for a small audience, but that is not the case with this insightful and energizing look at people dedicating their lives to land speed records, building all kinds of machines to do so. Gearheads and bike lovers will flock, but there’s so much personality here that almost anyone can walk away from this feeling charged.

READ MORE: Our Review of Out of Nothing

A New High

A New High, 2017 © Red River Rising Entertainment

Recovering from addiction is at the forefront of this powerfully emotional story of a man named Mike Johnson, who works at a shelter, using a radical new strategy in helping people find new direction and free themselves from a lifestyle that has essentially ruined them. Training them for a year to prepare them for a hike to the top of Mt. Rainer, the documentary is a testament to human perseverance, vulnerability, disappointment and inspiration. A must see.

READ MORE: Our Review of A New High

They Call Us Monsters

They Call us Monsters, 2017 © BMP Films

Ben Lear‘s They Call Us Monsters is a shattering story of the American justice system and the quandary of youth crime and its punishment. Shining a light a few young men who have spent much of their lives incarcerated, it offers a deep examination of the legal and ethical questions at the heart of a system with few answers. It’s a huge conversation starter and while it doesn’t offer any solutions, does lay out the problems in harrowing detail.

READ MORE: Our Review of They Call Us Monsters


Cameraperson, 2016 © Big Mouth Productions

A deeply moving visual experience, documentarian Kristen Johnson compiles unused footage from two decades of work, taking us on a challenging and insightful journey into the human condition. Randomly assorted, they slowly stitch together a rich tapestry of love, loss and more, detailing much about what it means to be human. A striking, affecting film, this is like nothing you’ve seen before.

READ MORE: Our Review of Cameraperson

The Longest Game

The Longest Game, 2017 © Carriage House Media

There’s something to be said about a group of elderly men who take to playing paddle tennis every day as they reflect on their lives. Camille Thoman‘s The Longest Game is a highly-personal experience that inspires as well as provokes, forcing us to think about our own journey through life. Simply one of the most moving films of the year.

READ MORE: Our Review of The Longest Game


Leftovers, 2017 © Balance Light Studios

Tackling a growing problem across the United States, filmmaker Seth Hancock spends a few years observing the plight of an often overlooked food crisis causing many elderly people to go without meals. A troubling yet inspiring look at those at the forefront trying to keep people fed and the elderly citizens it effects, this deeply personal and compelling call to action is a must watch. We spoke with Hancock about the experience and he had much to say.

READ MORE: Our Review of Leftovers

A Life In Waves

A Life in Waves, 2017 © Window Pictures

Here’s one of the most unique and ethereal experience you’ll have watching a movie, a documentary about something you’d never once thought about, even though it is centered around things that affect you ever day. Suzanne Ciani makes music, but highly experimental music and is behind some of the most iconic sounds in advertising and more, from the Coke splash to pinball games. Her story is a one you won’t soon forget.

READ MORE: Our Review of A Life in Waves

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, 2017 © Vice Films

What it took for Jim Carrey to become Andy Kaufman in the 1999 Milos Foreman film, Man on the Moon is one of the more chilling and emotional experiences you will have this year. Carrey sits and candidly details the toll it took it on him and the lasting consequences of what filming had in letting himself become entirely consumed by the late comedian. It’s a dark, challenging documentary that will alter just about everything you think you know about one of cinema’s most acclaimed funnymen.

READ MORE: Our Review of Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond