And now for something completely inappropriate…

I know many will think ill of me for degrading/simplifying the non-fiction filmmaking genre with the following list. But I can’t help myself. I recently got to wondering: why shouldn’t we have fun with the genre we love so much? Isn’t a new way to look at/debate documentaries a good thing? And the magazine editor in me asks: if it’s actually possible to think of a list that hasn’t been listed before, shouldn’t it be done?

Of course, you may ask, What do I mean by “Sexiest”? Am I talking about actual erotic content or a sleek, hip style? When I look at this list I’ve cobbled together, I realize that each of these documentaries, in its own way, really asks the same question, “What is sexy?” And that’s something worth asking, I’d say. So that’s what I’m getting at here. And, anyway, in the words of Nigel from that great work of fictional non-fiction filmmaking This is Spinal Tap, what’s wrong with being sexy?

The 10 Sexiest Documentaries of All Time
Madonna: Truth or Dare10) Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)

Sure, this film was more vanity project puffery than actual documentary, but that’s what we wanted to see when Madonna was at her highest height. And at the time, it felt intimate. And it was…hot!

9) Dogtown and Z-boys (2002)
This nostalgia trip into Southern California’s 1970s skateboarding scene was as much about the freedom of youth as it was a paean to the idolatry of cool.

8) Gimme Shelter (1970)
I don’t know, maybe this is one of the greatest anti-sex movies. The Maysles’ brothers’ documentary about the concert at Altamont marked the end of the free love of the 1960s. But, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones just saunter through in their silk scarves, suggesting the fun times had just begun.

7) Unzipped (1995)
It’s hard to believe there was a time when the fashion world of supermodels wasn’t overexposed. But Unzipped delivered an eye-opening look behind the catwalk, and although it was ultimately a fawning portrait of designer Isaac Mizrahi, it revealed a whole hell of a lot more truth than Robert Altman’s fictional flop, Ready to Wear.

6) Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997)
This really is not my thing, but it definitely takes you to a new level of understanding the line between pleasure and pain.
Sherman's March5) Sherman’s March (1986)
There’s something about a neurotic’s search for love. How else could Woody Allen make women swoon in the 1970s and 1980s? (Oh, was that just in his movies?) Ross McElwee’s search for a girlfriend brings him in contact with the most odd, strangely alluring southern belles.

4) Europa di Notte (1959)
I haven’t seen this film but I am assured it’s hot! It’s a tour of European nightlife, and it helped launch the “mondo movie” movement, most often associated with Russ Meyer. I can’t say I know much about all this, but it sounds sexy, right?

3) Paris is Burning (1990)
This drag ball extravaganza was, at its heart, a serious depiction of an urban subculture. But it was also a celebration of dance, movement and identity — and the first time real voguing would be depicted in popular culture.

2) The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
The story of Hollywood producer Robert Evans is one of sex, drugs and celebrity. But more than anything else, it’s about seduction.

1) Crumb (1994)
Perverted maybe, but sexy? Yes. Terry Zwigoff’s film about cartoonist R. Crumb is an unbridled ride into the Id of one wacked-out, sex-obsessed man. But it’s just plain sweet to see him, at the end, moving to France with his wife.
So, that’s my list. Now, show me yours.

Published by

Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen