Believe it or not, the first reality show premiered on PBS all the way back in the early 70s. HBO’s Cinema Verite is based on that show, called An American Family, and the tumultuous aftermath of the show on the family.
Easily one of the most recognizable documentaries ever made, 1975’s Grey Gardens tracks two eccentric former socialites, a mother and daughter, who lost it all and were forced to reside in poverty in a depleted old mansion. Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange starred in the dramatized version of the documentary back in 2009.
Werner Herzog is one of the most interesting and dynamic filmmakers working today. As a result, his 1998 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly translates incredibly well to the dramatized version, 2007’s Rescue Dawn starring Christian Bale.
It’s no mistake that two Robert Zemeckis movies are on this list—the man seems to have developed some sort of fixation on turning great documentaries into special effects-heavy features. This is the case with 2008’s Man on Wire, which he turned into 2015’s The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
When Marwencol was released in 2010, critics and audiences praised it for being a heartbreaking and uplifting examination of the ways grief can manifest itself and the catharsis that comes from expressing one’s self. When Welcome to Marwen was released in 2018, critics felt… differently. Very, very differently.
A lot can change in ten years. As a result, the story told in 2005’s Our Brand Is Crisis, which details the way political campaigns market their messages did not transfer very well to 2015’s dramatized take on the same subject.