5 Best Documentary Movies of 2017

Source: Jewish Journal

As the year dwindles to an end, 2017 has seen cinematic triumphs and failures alike. Superhero blockbusters and horror-thrillers reign at the box office and biopics are becoming more and more prominent. Despite the pop-culture thrill of the latest film, documentaries have claimed this year for their own. Though a number of documentary pieces have been released, here are the top five that should be watched this year.


Chasing Coral

Chasing Coral, a Netflix documentary, follows scuba diver and CEO of The Ocean Agency Richard Vevers below the waters of the Florida Keys to investigate the perishing of coral beneath. Viewers are taken on virtual dives and scout out the terrain to explore alongside Vevers and his team of coral biologists. Brilliant displays are shown of breathtaking reefs, adorn with the vibrancy of colors that inhabit them. Exposure laboratories show the rapid declination of reefs, an 80% to 90% loss in Florida alone. This piques the question of what to do with the life they have. Vevers delves deeper into his investigation and discovers that over the past 30 years there has been a greater loss of half the coral population. Chasing Coral emphasizes the problematic event of ‘bleaching’ coral, the obliviousness that we face to dying reefs, and the call to public action to preserve these habitats.



Deriving the title from the famed Greek myth, Icarus flies too close to the sun as cyclist Bryan Fogel pinpoints the steroid and testosterone epidemic that has overcome over 90% of Russian athletes. The documentary transitions from the infamous truth of Lance Armstrong and the federal investigation that resulted to Fogel’s perspective as he undergoes his own doping treatment. Failed drug testing systems allowed athletes to compete with the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs, and the invalidity went unseen. Injections of testosterone and TBC are “how Russia makes its winners.” The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is introduced as clinical studies continue in Moscow. The complexity of Icarus unravels further as the “black market” trade of urine samples is explained, and lab manipulation cases are re-opened. The conspiracy leeches onto the 2012 London Olympics, where Putin and his nation feel the consequences.


Long Strange Trip

The LSD-laced minds behind The Grateful Dead are pulled apart as the genre of music played is expound upon and the life of being in the band is opened up further. This strange documentary is a period piece for the post-beatnik, hippy society that lost their faith in reality. Band members discuss the physical aspects of being on LSD, and how the self-medication has brought them closer together through the experience. The influence on The Grateful Dead’s genre is said to take from bluegrass and banjo roots, creating a relaxed and eased sound that reflects within each band member as an individual.


Gaga: Five Foot Two

Compared to other documentaries that circulate around their successes, Stefani Germanotta allows audiences to be up front and personal with her and her journey to becoming Lady Gaga. Though it’s cliche to see the pop star wander into a Wal-Mart to seek attention while her album Joanne drops, she forms a personal connection to the viewers and those in the documentary. Raw scenes of panic, anxiety, and restlessness are gladly bared as Gaga confronts the unironic trauma of fame. Whether it be casually building her story on the basis of her personality, or the aftermath of fighting with then-fiance Taylor Kinney, self-awareness is gained. Wallowing scenes of reflection are countered with flashbacks or performance scenes, though scarce and scattered.


An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

This documentary is a six-year echo to An Inconvenient Truth as Al Gore continues his crusade for climate change. An energy revolution is on the brink as Gore travels the world to make his case for environmental help. This swift call to action is the lecture that Advanced Placement Environmental Science professors have been pushing for years, but it isn’t enough to stop global warming dead in its tracks. An Inconvenient Sequel aims to influence the view on climate change, despite the dismal state.

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