14 Documentaries That Defy Expectations and Deliver the Unexpected

Many documentaries out there follow a typical mold of storytelling through interviews. But there are other types of documentaries out there that are worth exploring.

One cinephile turned to social media for suggestions for good documentaries to watch that aren't the usual suspects.  “Not the classical people talking and telling the story,” they wrote. “Not that there is something wrong with that, it is a classic. But interested to see some fresh takes on documentaries.”

Documentary fans took to the comments with their suggestions.

1: Jim and Andy: the Great Beyond (2017)

u/tondsn shared, “Jim and Andy. Jim Carrey goes all in playing Andy Kaufman. He stays in character during the whole recording. It is insane (in a good way I guess) I saw it last night for the 4th time.”

2: The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)

u/Owasso_Landman answered, “‘The Kid Stays In The Picture’ is kind of a rich visual audiobook if that makes any sense.”

3: The Act of Killing (2012)

u/theciderowlinn said, “The Act of Killing – documentarians let a group of fascist soldiers recreate their genocide campaigns by letting them act it out however they want, most choosing to portray their actions like Hollywood movies.”

4: The Amazing Jonathan (2019)

u/theciderowlinn suggested, “The Amazing Johnathan– a magician comedian known for playing with people's minds is now chronically ill and the documentarian sets out to find out whether he is really dying or it's all a joke.”

5: Leviathan (2012)

u/Sgt_Slutbags added, “Leviathan (2012).It’s a strange and moody atmospheric documentary about a fishing boat. IIRC there isn’t really much narrative or talking in it if any. It’s just an unusually hypnotizing snapshot of life. Look up the trailer and you’ll see what I mean.”

6: The Velvet Underground (2021)

u/TheShipEliza responded, “The Velvet Underground doc that came out a year ago does some great stuff with music/image.”

7: Paul T. Goldman (2023)

u/jaybeau1979 said, “Paul T. Goldman tells a wild story in a variety of ways, including talking heads, but there's so much more to it.”

8: Let the Fire Burn (2013)

u/jbomb1080 answered, “If I recall, “Let the Fire Burn” has no talking heads and is all news clips from the standoff between Philadelphia police and the black liberation group MOVE was happening.”

9: Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns (2003)

u/FloridaFlamingoGirl replied, “Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns. It’s an antidote to the typical sex and drugs rock doc.”

“Instead of covering drama and scandals, it follows the band They Might Be Giants, who are very wholesome and free of controversy. There’s a unique and charming angle in how it focuses on the friendship of the two guys at the core of the band, and also interviews a diverse variety of fans.”

10: American Movie (1999)

u/Cortevecks shared, “American Movie (1999) is a transcendent fly-on-the-wall film of two suburbanites trying to make a movie.”

11: Alamar (2009)

u/Covertvecks added, “Alamar (2009) is ASMR of a daughter and father fishing at a reef. I cried.”

12: Uncle Yanco (1967)

u/Covertvecks said, “Agnes Varda has a bunch of incredible short documentaries, but my favorite is Uncle Yanco (1967). Hang on a boat with Uncle Yanco. Do it!”

13: The Seasons (2015)

u/jupiterkansas replied, “The Seasons (2015) is about the history of Europe since the ice age, and the animal work is like nothing I've ever seen.”

14: Icarus (2017)

u/Odd_Appearance_2239 answered, “Icarus. It’s amazing, and the reason it’s “different” is because the story unfolds as the footage is taken in a totally unexpected and incredible way.”

This thread inspired this post.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more. She loves horror, history, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically. Her favorite pastimes include needle felting, gaming, and drawing.