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Ranking the Best Documentaries

Graphiq Logo By Nick Selbe of Graphiq | Slide 1 of 51: <p>There's a scene at the end of "<a href="http://movies.prettyfamous.com/l/34645/Hoop-Dreams-1994">Hoop Dreams</a>," the 1994 documentary that follows two black high school basketball players who aspire to one day make it to the NBA, that is equal parts heart-warming and devastating. The film follows the journeys of William Gates and Arthur Agee as they devote their lives to basketball, commuting 90 minutes daily to attend a predominantly white high school with a renowned basketball program. They hope to one day move their families out of their poor Chicago neighborhoods, and basketball appears to be their best shot at doing so.</p><p>At the end of the film, Gates, now playing college basketball at Marquette, says to the camera with a worn-out and tired voice, "Four years ago, that's all I used to dream about — playing in the NBA. I don't really dream about it like that anymore. Even though I love playing basketball, I want to do other things with my life, too. If I had to stop playing basketball right now, I think I'd still be happy. I think I would."</p><p>As Gates recites these words, trying to convince himself that he actually believes them, the audience is shown pictures of Gates' girlfriend and infant son as the three talk on the phone. Gates simultaneously grasps that he has more to offer the world than just playing the game, but must still grapple with the disappointment of a lifelong dream unfulfilled.</p><p>"When somebody says, 'When you get to the NBA, don't forget about me,'" Gates <a href="https://vimeo.com/25031215">continues</a>. "I should say to them, 'Well, if I don't make it, don't forget about me.'"</p><p>It's scenes like this, so genuine and grounded in reality, that enable documentaries to resonate in ways other films can only strive for. From in-depth looks at well-known subjects (like Michael Moore's "<a href="http://movies.prettyfamous.com/l/64770/Bowling-for-Columbine-2002">Bowling for Columbine</a>") to exposés on controversial scandals (like the 2013 SeaWorld investigation "<a href="http://movies.prettyfamous.com/l/138194/Blackfish-2013">Blackfish</a>"), documentaries can be at once informative and captivating. There is a long history of groundbreaking documentaries, plus more contemporary takes on the genre — including Disney's upcoming "<a href="http://movies.prettyfamous.com/l/5419267/Born-in-China-2016">Born in China</a>" nature doc — that are more than worth a watch. <a href="http://www.prettyfamous.com/">PrettyFamous</a>, an entertainment data site powered by <a href="https://www.graphiq.com/">Graphiq</a>, used data to rank the best documentaries of all time.</p><p>To do this, PrettyFamous took into consideration all documentaries with more than 7,500 votes on IMDb and ranked them based on their Smart Rating — a score out of 100 that takes into account a film's IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and Audience Score, Gracenote rating, Metacritic Metascore and inflation-adjusted domestic box office gross. From there, the team ran through the top 50, providing plot summaries for each doc along the way.</p><p>Note: Plot summaries were sourced (with minor edits) from Gracenote.</p>

Ranking the Best Documentaries

There's a scene at the end of "Hoop Dreams," the 1994 documentary that follows two black high school basketball players who aspire to one day make it to the NBA, that is equal parts heart-warming and devastating. The film follows the journeys of William Gates and Arthur Agee as they devote their lives to basketball, commuting 90 minutes daily to attend a predominantly white high school with a renowned basketball program. They hope to one day move their families out of their poor Chicago neighborhoods, and basketball appears to be their best shot at doing so.

At the end of the film, Gates, now playing college basketball at Marquette, says to the camera with a worn-out and tired voice, "Four years ago, that's all I used to dream about — playing in the NBA. I don't really dream about it like that anymore. Even though I love playing basketball, I want to do other things with my life, too. If I had to stop playing basketball right now, I think I'd still be happy. I think I would."

As Gates recites these words, trying to convince himself that he actually believes them, the audience is shown pictures of Gates' girlfriend and infant son as the three talk on the phone. Gates simultaneously grasps that he has more to offer the world than just playing the game, but must still grapple with the disappointment of a lifelong dream unfulfilled.

"When somebody says, 'When you get to the NBA, don't forget about me,'" Gates continues. "I should say to them, 'Well, if I don't make it, don't forget about me.'"

It's scenes like this, so genuine and grounded in reality, that enable documentaries to resonate in ways other films can only strive for. From in-depth looks at well-known subjects (like Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine") to exposés on controversial scandals (like the 2013 SeaWorld investigation "Blackfish"), documentaries can be at once informative and captivating. There is a long history of groundbreaking documentaries, plus more contemporary takes on the genre — including Disney's upcoming "Born in China" nature doc — that are more than worth a watch. PrettyFamous, an entertainment data site powered by Graphiq, used data to rank the best documentaries of all time.

To do this, PrettyFamous took into consideration all documentaries with more than 7,500 votes on IMDb and ranked them based on their Smart Rating — a score out of 100 that takes into account a film's IMDb rating, Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer and Audience Score, Gracenote rating, Metacritic Metascore and inflation-adjusted domestic box office gross. From there, the team ran through the top 50, providing plot summaries for each doc along the way.

Note: Plot summaries were sourced (with minor edits) from Gracenote.

© Kartemquin Films / Fine Line Features

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