10 Documentaries You Need To See This Summer

If the summer blockbuster season has you yearning to turn on your brain while enjoying popcorn in a dark, air-conditioned theater (or in your air-conditioned living room), never fear, cinephiles. In addition to explosions and dinosaurs, there is also a crop of serious, thoughtful, and even lighthearted documentaries to dive into this season — including The Wolfpack, a fascinating look at six New York brothers who live largely indoors. The film opens in select theaters tomorrow, and with that in mind, we rounded up the 10 docs you need to check out this summer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kotva Films.
In limited release June 12

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, this extraordinary documentary (expect it to be on a lot of top 10 lists) takes you inside the strange, compelling world of the six Angulo brothers, a band of New Yorkers who spend most of their lives locked up in their downtown apartment. Their understanding of the outside comes primarily from the movies: The siblings watch them constantly and pass the time recreating scenes from their favorite ones, even making costumes and sets. For anyone who appreciates how transcendent — and even life-saving — movies can be, director Crystal Moselle’s sensitive peek into the singular Angulo family will reaffirm that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Candescent Films.
3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets
June 19

This harrowing, timely film directed by Marc Silver focuses on the murder of Jordan Davis, an unarmed 17-year-old black teenager who, in 2012, was shot to death at a Florida gas station by a white customer after they argued over the volume of Davis’ music. An unflinching look at racism and the American justice system, 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is vital viewing in the age of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Freddy Gray. (HBO will also air the Sundance prize-winning doc in the fall.)
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Photo: Courtesy of KTF Films.
Batkid Begins
June 26

Leave your cynicism at the door and pack plenty of tissues because Batkid Begins is likely to make you cry big sloppy tears. Documentarian Dana Nachman dives into the story of Miles Scott, a five-year-old cancer survivor who captured the attention and admiration of the world when Make-a-Wish (and a whole lot of awesome, everyday people) helped transform San Francisco into Gotham City for him. The film features footage of the kid’s heartwarming run through the city by the Bay and explores why the Batkid phenomenon hit such a happy, life-affirming nerve. It may be the only superhero movie you need to see all summer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Hot Girls Wanted
Now streaming on Netflix

What makes a young woman decide to pursue a career in amateur porn? Directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus try to answer that question in their eye-opening doc produced by Rashida Jones. The film only scratches the surface of this particular (and disturbing) side of pornography — but it makes for one hell of a cautionary tale
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Streaming on Netflix June 26

That voice. That stage presence. That commitment to social justice. Nina Simone was a once-in-a-lifetime performer and activist — and she finally gets a film worthy of her greatness. Drawing from rare footage, previously unreleased recordings, and interviews with her family, the behind-the-scenes doc offers unprecedented access to a powerhouse who transformed the industry … and the world.
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Photo: Courtesy of Krishwerkz Entertainment.
July 3

A poignant portrait of an artist greatly missed. Directed by Asif Kapadia, the film chronicles the meteoric rise and tragic demise of the late, great, British singer-songwriter, Amy Winehouse through archived public and private footage, interviews, and performances. (Variety has likened it to “an abnormally intelligent episode of Behind the Music.”) Her family has called the film "misleading," but critics have praised it for its emotional heft. Be prepared to have goose bumps as you see all that her life was — and all that it could have been.
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Photo: Courtesy of Impact Partners.
Do I Sound Gay?
July 10

The title pretty much says it all. Via interviews with David Sedaris, Tim Gunn, Margaret Cho, and Dan Savage, David Thorpe’s bold documentary investigates the speech patterns and stereotypes associated with having a "gay" voice. The movie, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, was partially made through Kickstarter funding.
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Photo: Courtesy of Global Emerging Markets (GEM).
A LEGO Brickumentary
July 31

Why they didn't name this A LEGO Blockumentary is beyond us. But we love the bricks, we do (who doesn’t?). Following the colossal success of 2014’s The LEGO Movie, Beyond the Brick is an ode to the tiny colorful toys, an exploration of why they have remained so successful worldwide for more than 50 years. Did we mention it’s narrated by Jason Bateman? Everything is still awesome!
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Photo: Courtesy of Final Cut for Real.
The Look of Silence
Now in limited release

This one has already been hailed as one of the summer's most anticipated documentaries. Joshua Oppenheimer follows up his powerful 2012 film, The Act of Killing, with a companion piece about a family that suffered devastating loss during the Indonesian genocide of 1965. Like the director’s previous film, the new one is not easy to watch, but it will open your eyes to a chapter in history about which too many of us know too little.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Streaming on Netflix July 17

Tig Notaro has gone through more than her fair share of hard times in her personal life, having endured the death of her mother, a breakup, and a breast-cancer diagnosis in one year. And the way she took that pain and turned into one of the most powerful stand-up performances in recent memory, cemented her status as a crucial voice in the comedy world. Filmmakers Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York look at Notaro's life and career, focusing on the time leading up to her now-iconic 2012 performance at the Largo in Los Angeles. If you love Nataro or comedy (and really, you can't have one without the other), you'll want to make time for this one.
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