Documentary Academy Awards

Documentary Academy Awards

The Academy Award for Documentary Feature is an award for documentary films

Documentary Academy Award Nominees and Winners

Winner is listed first and in bold for each year, followed by other nominees

(Movie Titles in  PURPLE  or  Purple  are links to Wikipedia articles about those movies.)



In 1942, there was one Documentary category, twenty-five nominees and four winners.

1942 – Winners:

The Battle of Midway

Kokoda Front Line!

Moscow Strikes Back

Prelude to War


Africa, Prelude to Victory

Combat Report

Conquer by the Clock

The Grain That Built a Hemisphere

Henry Browne, Farmer

High Over the Borders

High Stakes in the East

Inside Fighting China

It’s Everybody’s War

Listen to Britain

Little Belgium

Little Isles of Freedom

Mr. Blabbermouth!

Mister Gardenia Jones

The New Spirit

The Price of Victory

A Ship Is Born

Twenty-One Miles

We Refuse to Die

The White Eagle

Winning Your Wings


From 1943 there were two separate documentary categories (features and short films)


Desert Victory

Baptism of Fire

The Battle of Russia

Report from the Aleutians

War Department Report



The Fighting Lady

Resisting Enemy Interrogation



The True Glory

The Last Bomb


1946 – none given



Design for Death

Journey Into Medicine

The World Is Rich



The Secret Land

The Quiet One



Daybreak in Udi

Kenji Comes Home




The Titan: Story of Michelangelo

With These Hands




I Was a Communist for the FBI



The Sea Around Us

The Hoaxters




The Living Desert

The Conquest of Everest

A Queen Is Crowned



The Vanishing Prairie

The Stratford Adventure



Helen Keller in Her Story (also known as The Unconquered)




The Silent World

Where Mountains Float (Danish: Hvor bjergene sejler)

The Naked Eye



Albert Schweitzer

On the Bowery




White Wilderness

Antarctic Crossing

The Hidden World

Psychiatric Nursing



Serengeti Shall Not Die

The Race for Space




The Horse with the Flying Tail

Rebel in Paradise



Sky Above and Mud Beneath  —  Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau

La grande olimpiad  —  Romolo Marcellini



Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler

Alvorada  ––  Hugo Niebeling



Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World

Le Maillon et la chaîne

The Yanks Are Coming

Note: Originally Terminus was announced as one of the nominees, but it was subsequently discovered that the film was first released prior to the eligibility period, and thus the nomination was withdrawn.



World Without Sun



The Finest Hours

Four Days in November



The Eleanor Roosevelt Story

The Battle of the Bulge… The Brave Rifles

The Forth Road Bridge

Let My People Go: The Story of Israel

Mourir à Madrid



The War Game

The Face of a Genius

Helicopter Canada

The Really Big Family

Le Volcan interdit



The Anderson Platoon



A King’s Story

A Time for Burning



Journey into Self

Note: At the 41st Awards ceremony on April 14, 1969, Young Americans was announced as the winner of the Documentary Feature Oscar. On May 7, 1969, it was revealed that the film had played in October 1967, which rendered it ineligible for a 1968 Award. The first runner-up, Journey Into Self, was awarded the statuette on May 8, 1969.

·A Few Notes on Our Food Problem

Legendary Champions

Other Voices



Arthur Rubinstein – The Love of Life

Before the Mountain Was Moved

In the Year of the Pig

Olimpiada en México

The Wolf Men





Erinnerungen an die Zukunft (English language version title “Chariots of the Gods?”)

Jack Johnson

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis

Say Goodbye



The Hellstrom Chronicle

Alaska Wilderness Lake

Le chagrin et la pitié

On Any Sunday





Bij de beesten af

Malcolm X


The Silent Revolution



The Great American Cowboy

Always a New Beginning

Journey to the Outer Limits

Schlacht um Berlin

Walls of Fire



Hearts and Minds

Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman

The Challenge… A Tribute to Modern Art

The 81st Blow

The Wild and the Brave



The Man Who Skied Down Everest

The California Reich

Fighting for Our Lives

The Incredible Machine

The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir



Harlan County, USA directed by Barbara Kopple

Hollywood on Trial

Off the Edge

People of the Wind

Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry



Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?

The Children of Theatre Street

High Grass Circus

Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love

Union Maids



Scared Straight!

Mysterious Castles of Clay


Le vent des amoureux

With Babies and Banners: Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade



Best Boy

Generation on the Wind

Going the Distance

The Killing Ground

The War at Home





From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China  —  Murray Lerner

Agee  —  Ross Spears

The Day After Trinity  —  Jon Else

Front Line  —  David Bradbury

The Yellow Star:  The Persecution of the Jews in Europe 1933-45  —  Dieter Hildebrandt



Genocide  —  Arnold Schwartzman

Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey  —  John Brousek

Brooklyn Bridge  —  Ken Burns

Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott  —  Mary Benjamin

El Salvador: Another Vietnam  —  Glenn Silber



Just Another Missing Kid  —  John Zaritsky

A Portrait of Giselle  —  Muriel Balash

After the Axe  —  Sturla Gunnarsson

Ben’s Mill  —  Michel Chalufour and John Karol

In Our Water  —  Meg Switzgable



He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’  —  Emile Ardolino

Children of Darkness  —  Ara Chekmayan and Richard Kotuk

First Contact  —  Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly

The Profession of Arms  —  Michael Bryans and Tina Viljoen

Seeing Red  —  Jim Klein and Julia Reichert



The Times of Harvey Milk  —  Rob Epstein

High Schools  —  Charles Guggenheim

In the Name of the People  —  Frank Christopher

Marlene  —  Maximilian Schell

Streetwise  —  Martin Bell



Broken Rainbow  —  Maria Floria and Victoria Mudd

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo  —  Susana Blaustein Muñoz and Lourdes Portillo

Soldiers in Hiding  —  Malcolm Clarke

The Statue of Liberty  —  Ken Burns

Unfinished Business  —  Steven Okazaki



Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got (tie)  —  Brigitte Berman

Down and Out in America (tie)  —  Lee Grant

Chile: Hasta Cuando?  — David Bradbury

Isaac in America: A Journey with Isaac Bashevis Singer  —  Amram Nowak

Witness to Apartheid  —  Sharon I. Sopher



The Ten-Year Lunch  —  Aviva Slesin

Eyes on the Prize  —  Henry Hampton

Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima  —  Michael Camerini, John Junkerman, James MacDonald

Radio Bikini  —  Robert Stone

A Stitch for Time  —  Nigel Noble



Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie  —  Marcel Ophüls

The Cry of Reason: Beyers Naude:  An Afrikaner Speaks Out  —  Robert Bilheimer

Let’s Get Lost  —  Bruce Weber

Promises to Keep  —  Ginny Durrin

Who Killed Vincent Chin?  —  Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña



Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt  —  Rob Epstein and Bill Couturié

Adam Clayton Powell  —  Richard Kilberg

Crack USA: County Under Siege   —  Vince DiPersio and William Guttentag

For All Mankind  —  Al Reinert

Super Chief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren  —  Judith Leonard and Bill Jersey





American Dream  —  Barbara Kopple and Arthur Cohn

Berkeley in the Sixties  —  Mark Kitchell

Building Bombs  —  Mark Mori and Susan Robinson

Forever Activists: Stories from the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade  —  Judith Montell

Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey  —  Robert Hillmann and Eugene Corr



In the Shadow of the Stars  —  Allie Light and Irving Saraf

Death on the Job  —  Vince DiPersio and William Guttentag

Doing Time: Life Inside the Big House  —  Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond

The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945  —  Hava Kohav Beller

Wild by Law  —  Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey



The Panama Deception  —  Barbara Trent and David Kasper

Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker  —  David Haugland

Fires of Kuwait  —  Sally Dundas

Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II  —  Bill Miles and Nina Rosenblum

Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann  —  Margaret Smilow and Roma Baran



I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School  —  Susan and Alan Raymond

The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter  —  David Paperny and Arthur Ginsberg

Children of Fate  —  Susan Todd and Andrew Young

For Better or For Worse  —  David Collier and Betsy Thompson

The War Room  —  D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus



Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision  —  Freida Lee Mock

Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter  —  Deborah Hoffmann

D-Day Remembered  —  Charles Guggenheim

Freedom on My Mind  —  Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford

A Great Day in Harlem  —  Jean Bach



Anne Frank Remembered  —  Jon Blair

The Battle Over Citizen Kane  —  Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein

Fiddlefest: Roberta Tzavaras and Her East Harlem Violin Program  —  Allan Miller and Walter Scheuer

Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream  —  Mike Tollin and Fredric Golding

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern  —  Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher



When We Were Kings  —  Leon Gast and David Sonenberg

The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story  —  Susan W. Dryfoos

Mandela  —  Jo Menell and Angus Gibson

Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse  —  Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson

Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press  —  Rick Goldsmith



The Long Way Home  —  Marvin Hier and Richard Trank

Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life  —  Michael Paxton

Colors Straight Up  —  Michèle Ohayon and Julia Schachter

4 Little Girls  —  Spike Lee and Sam Pollard

Waco: The Rules of Engagement  —  Dan Gifford and William Gazecki



The Last Days  —  James Moll and Ken Lipper

Dancemaker  —  Matthew Diamond and Jerry Kupfer

The Farm: Angola, U.S.A.  —  Jonathan Stack and Liz Garbus

Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth  —  Robert B. Weide

Regret to Inform  —  Barbara Sonneborn and Janet Cole



One Day in September  —  Arthur Cohn and Kevin Macdonald

Buena Vista Social Club  —  Wim Wenders and Ulrich Felsberg

Genghis Blues  —  Roko Belic and Adrian Belic

On the Ropes  —  Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen

Speaking in Strings  —  Paola di Florio and Lilibet Foster





Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport  —  Mark Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer

Legacy  —  Tod Lending

Long Night’s Journey into Day  —  Deborah Hoffmann and Frances Reid

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy  —  Daniel Anker and Barak Goodman

Sound and Fury  —  Josh Aronson and Roger Weisberg



Murder on a Sunday Morning  —  Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and Denis Poncet

Children Underground  —  Edet Belzberg

LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton  —  Deborah Dickson and Susan Frömke

Promises  —  B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro

War Photographer  —  Christian Frei



Bowling for Columbine  —  Michael Moore and Michael Donovan

Daughter from Danang  —  Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco

Prisoner of Paradise  —  Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender

Spellbound  —  Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch

Winged Migration  —  Jacques Perrin



The Fog of War  —  Errol Morris and Michael Williams

Balseros  —  Carlos Bosch and Josep Domenech

Capturing the Friedmans  —  Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling

My Architect  —  Nathaniel Kahn and Susan Behr

The Weather Underground  —  Sam Green and Bill Siegel



Born into Brothels  —  Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski

The Story of the Weeping Camel  —  Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni

Super Size Me  —  Morgan Spurlock

Tupac: Resurrection  —  Karolyn Ali and Lauren Lazin

Twist of Faith  —  Kirby Dick and Eddie Schmidt



March of the Penguins  —  Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau

Darwin’s Nightmare  —  Hubert Sauper

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room  —  Alex Gibney and Jason Kliot

Murderball  —  Henry Rubin and Dana Shapiro

Street Fight  —  Marshall Curry



An Inconvenient Truth  —  Davis Guggenheim

Deliver Us from Evil  —  Amy Berg, Frank Donner, and Matthew Cooke

Iraq in Fragments  —  James Longley and Yahya Sinno

Jesus Camp  —  Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

My Country, My Country  —  Jocelyn Glatzer and Laura Poitras



Taxi to the Dark Side  —  Alex Gibney and Eva Orner

No End in Sight  —  Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience  —  Richard Robbins

Sicko  —  Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara

War Dance  —  Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine



Man on Wire  —  Simon Chinn and James Marsh

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)  —  Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath

Encounters at the End of the World  —  Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser

The Garden  —  Scott Hamilton Kennedy

Trouble the Water  —  Carl Deal and Tia Lessin



The Cove  —  Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens

Burma VJ  —  Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller

Food, Inc.  —  Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers  —  Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith

Which Way Home  —  Rebecca Cammisa





Inside Job  —  Charles H. Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Exit Through the Gift Shop  —  Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz

Gasland  —  Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic

Restrepo  —  Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

Waste Land  —  Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley



Undefeated  —  TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay, Richard Middlemas

Hell and Back Again  —  Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front  —  Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory  —  Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

Pina  —  Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel



Searching for Sugar Man  —  Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

5 Broken Cameras  —  Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers  —  Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, Estelle Fialon

How to Survive a Plague  —  David France and Howard Gertler

The Invisible War  —  Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering



20 Feet from Stardom  —  Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen, Caitrin Rogers

The Act of Killing  —  Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Sørensen

Cutie and the Boxer  —  Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Pilcher

Dirty Wars  —  Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill

The Square  —  Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer



Citizenfour  —  Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier  —  John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam  —  Rory Kennedy and Kevin McAlester

The Salt of the Earth  —  Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier

Virunga  —  Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara


Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated for Academy Awards.

Examples include:


The Thin Blue Line,

Roger & Me,

Touching The Void,

Hoop Dreams,


Paris is Burning,

Grizzly Man,

The Interrupters,

Crime After Crime,


Waiting for “Superman”,


Life Itself

Fahrenheit 9/11

The awards process has also been criticized for emphasizing a documentary’s subject matter over its style or quality.  In 2009, Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman wrote about the documentary branch members’ penchant for choosing “movies that the selection committee deemed good because they’re good for you… a kind of self-defeating aesthetic of granola documentary correctness.”

Films Considered by Others to be Best Documentaries


Man with a Movie Camera

(1929) was voted the greatest documentary ever by 200 curators and critics and 100 film makers, many of whom were documentary specialists, in a 2014 poll organized by Sight & Sound.  It is also the highest placed documentary in The Sight & Sound Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

Bowling for Columbine

(2002), Michael Moore’s controversial documentary relating gun control and the culture of fear in the United States, heads the list of 20 all-time favorite non-fiction films selected by members of the International Documentary Association (IDA).

Grey Gardens

(1975), the Maysles Brothers’ documentary about former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s eccentric aunt and cousin Edith Bouvier Beale and Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, was ranked as one of the greatest documentaries of all time by the International Documentary Association.  The film holds an 89% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Seven Up! series

(1964–) was voted as the greatest ever documentary in a Channel 4 poll of the 50 Greatest Documentaries in 2005.

The Last Waltz

(1978) is considered one of the greatest concert documentaries ever created, and has been deemed as such by Total Film,  Michael Worthington of the Chicago Tribune, and by Rotten Tomatoes, where it holds a 97% favorable rating.


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