#WatchNow: Top 5 Documentaries of All Time

Nonfiction film-lovers, look no further! Here’s a list of the best green docs to stream online.

When you take a look at all the great documentaries available on EFF’s #WATCHNOW collection, it’s not hard to see that we’re living in a golden age of documentary.

This important form of filmmaking is being used to shine a light on pressing environmental issues on the local, national and international stage. The fact is, we need more documentaries and documentary filmmakers to investigate these existing and emerging threats, in order to educate and engage the public at large.

The five documentaries selected below are some of the best you’ll find, not only on this list, but anywhere today.

For those lookingfor a way to break into the world of non-fiction film, George Washington University’s Institute for Documentary Filmmaking is a great place to start. [DEADLINE: WEDNESDAY, NOV. 1. APPLY NOW!]

At The Documentary Center, we’re gearing up for our 30th year offering this unique, graduate certificate program. Our concentrated six-month Institute focuses on both theory and hands-on practice and offers an optional internship program, preparing filmmakers (like EFF’s own Director of Programming, Brad Forder) for exceptional careers in the industry.

Media and technical production experience are not a prerequisite and students from a variety of backgrounds are accepted.

Check out the GWU Doc Center’s website for more information about the program and application process. Contact gwdocs@gwu.edu, if you have any questions.

And, in the meantime, get inspired by the outstanding docs included below. It’s clear, there’s a world of stories out there to tell …





In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten and a gripping expose of the realities of life in the congo. A 2015 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary Feature.

Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. Produced by Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara.



City of Trees

At the height of the recession, a DC nonprofit struggles to implement an ambitious “green jobs” program that hires 150 unemployed residents to plant trees in underserved parks. With only six months until their grant money runs out, serious obstacles block their path and speak to deep rifts in the life of the city — racial tensions, uneven government support, and locals who feel their voices have not been heard. But for the trainees the program represents something much more hopeful: the means to give a child a better life, a second chance after a conviction, or a path to community leadership.=

Directed by Brandon Kramer and produced by Lance Kramer, Meridian Hill Pictures.




Silencing the Thunder

Every year hundreds of Yellowstone’s bison are shot to prevent a disease — brucellosis — from both infecting Montana’s domestic cattle herds and collapsing ranchers’ livelihoods. Will this controversial practice prevent the restoration of America’s last wild-bison population?

Directed and produced by Edward M. Roqueta.




How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster

This documentary traces the rise of Britain’s leading architect, Norman Foster. The film explores the passions and influences of this 76-year-old award-winning architect, whose buildings include some of today’s most stunning and innovative architectural structures: the Beijing airport, the Hearst building in New York, the remodeled Reichstag in Berlin and the world’s tallest bridge in Millau, France.

Directed by Carlos Carcas and Norberto López Amado.





Filmmaker Josh Fox grew up in the verdant woods of the Delaware River valley. In 2009, he learned his land was on top of the Marcellus Shale—a giant reservoir of natural gas that stretches across the Appalachians—and that he would be paid to lease his land for natural gas extraction. GASLAND documents Josh’s cross-country odyssey to find out if the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—is actually safe. As he interviews people who live on or around current fracking sites, Josh learns of things gone horribly wrong, from illness to hair loss to flammable water, and his inquiries lead him ever deeper into a web of secrets, lies, conspiracy, and contamination. Nominated for a 2011 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Directed by Josh Fox.



* Honorable Mention: The Capital Buzz (2011 Institute for Documentary Filmmaking production and 2012 DCEFF Official Selection) follows Washingtonian Jeff Miller as he builds hives, raises bee colonies, and advances the growing urban beekeeping movement.

Directed by Laura Wilson.