1. Icarus – Director Bryan Fogel intended to experiment with doping in order to win a cycling competition—only his investigations into the practice opened up a bigger, more sinister scandal in this Oscar-winning documentary.
2. 13th – Ava DuVernay examines the legacy of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—which officially ended slavery—and the ensuing Jim Crow era, the mass incarceration of African Americans, and the modern-day prison industrial complex that acts as slavery-as-punishment.
3. Strong Island – Director Yance Ford’s Oscar-nominated feature looks into the 1992 murder of his brother William and the ensuing case, which saw an all-white grand jury choosing not to indict the white man who killed him.
4. Faces Places – The iconic filmmaker Agnès Varda teams up with photographer and artist JR in this Oscar-nominated documentary, which sees the pair traveling across rural France and taking portraits of the many individuals they encounter.
5. Casting JonBenet – Decades after the still-unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey, director Kitty Green goes to Boulder, Colorado to cast local actors in a film about the murder—only to discover the lasting impact the little girl’s murder has left on the area’s residents.
6. What Happened, Miss Simone? – This film examines the career of Nina Simone, the acclaimed singer, songwriter, and activist whose tumultuous life influenced her fierce and dynamic artistry—but, at times, proved too intense for Simone herself.
7. I Called Him Morgan – The turbulent relationship between jazz saxophonist Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is the subject of this fiery documentary. Told through Helen’s own narration from an interview before her death in 1996, the film is a somber recollection of an artist whose career was cut short in a tragic act of violence.
8. Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened – Lonny Price reexamines the 1981 Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along,” forming a reunion for its cast, largely made up of teenage actors, who saw their first chance at stardom squashed when the show closed after 16 performances.
9. Paris is Burning – Jennie Livingston’s seminal “Paris Is Burning” documents the Harlem drag ball scene of the late 1980s, which helped push drag into the mainstream. More importantly, it chronicles the intersection of race, gender, and class at the height of the AIDS crisis, but does so with humor, joy, and affection for its subjects.
10. Quincy – Rashida Jones produced this look at her father, the renowned musician, composer, and producer Quincy Jones, which reveals the personal side of the music icon.
See the rest of the list at Esquire.
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