Fun Facts

10 Hilarious Documentaries You Need to See


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Documentaries are thought to be many things. Educational. Provocative. Life affirming. But hilarious isn’t often on the list. Still, there are the occasional docs that have something to say, and find a way to say it in hilarious fashion. While most of these films use comedy to arrive at a larger point, that doesn’t discount the fact that they are flat out funny. As we get closer to Documentary Now!‘s August 20th premiere, check out some of the most laugh-out-loud docs around.

10. Anvil! The Story of Anvil

For one glorious summer, back in 1984, the heavy metal band Anvil toured the world alongside the biggest names in rock. But unlike Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, they never went on to sell millions of albums. The 2008 documentary finds the band still together after all these years, just barely holding onto their dreams. What could be a sad look at failed music biz dreams, instead becomes a tour de force performance for the members of the band, who fight to keep moving forward. The group’s larger-than-life personalities, in particular lead singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow, make the film both joyful and hilarious. Thankfully, there is no expiration date on rocking.

9. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Steve Wiebe didn’t mean to become the world’s greatest Donkey Kong player, but once he claimed the throne, he was willing to do anything to keep it. A down-on-his-luck public school teacher, Wiebe killed the long hours of the day playing Donkey Kong in his garage. One day he noticed that he’d somehow beaten the highest score ever recorded, and notified officials. Pandora’s Box, consider yourself open. Previous record holder Billy Mitchell, a reigning gaming champ and supposed “Hot Sauce King” of Florida, was not pleased. He soon showed up, challenging Wiebe to prove himself on the joystick. A rivalry was born. Basically Rocky set in the world of 8 bit video games, the movie manages to be both more bizarre and hilarious than even its premise suggests. It also added “There’s a Donkey Kong kill screen coming up” to our list of favorite movie quotes.

8. The Aristocrats

These days, the Internet seems to be caught up in a holy war about what comedians are allowed to say, and how they are allowed to say it. This film savors not just crossing that line, but sh*tting all over it. The premise here is simple: Filmmakers Paul Provenza and Penn Gillette simply ask the world’s greatest comedians to tell their version of ‘The Aristocrats,” a famously dirty joke that changes every time it’s told. Everyone from George Carlin to Jon Stewart to Carrot Top takes their turn, stating, “a man walks into a talent agent’s office,” before letting loose with the filthiest filth humanly possible. A look at how the minds of some of the best comedians of our time work, this film was a sensation for being rip-roaringly hilarious, while also challenging the very premise of political correctness in comedy.

7. Winnebago Man

How many of us have watched some bizarre viral video, of some crazy person doing some crazy thing, had a laugh and then completely forgotten about it? This documentary doesn’t forget. Instead, the filmmakers dig deep, tracking down the star of an odd RV infomercial from the ’90s whose R-rated outtakes became a sensation on the Internet. A look at the real world just underneath our bite-sized culture, the man they find is every bit as entertaining as his one bad day two decades ago would suggest.

6. Bowling for Columbine

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, something which filmmaker Michael Moore has always been well aware of. While this 2002 hit has largely been overshadowed by Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech railing against the Iraq War, people forget how effective this movie was at simply making us laugh. Wherever you stand on the gun control debate, Moore did a brilliant job of proving his point with humor, and not just statistics.

5. Slasher

It’s no surprise that filmmaker John Landis could find laughs in his documentary work, considering he’s the man behind some of our most beloved comedies, including The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Coming to America. Still, this doc is a surprise, if for no other reason than Landis himself never meant to make it. Instead, he actually set out to make a movie about politicians, but while gathering footage comparing them to used car salesmen, he realized he’d struck gold. The movie follows Michael Bennett, otherwise known as a “slasher.” Slashers are typically hired by used car dealerships to organize sales extravaganzas that whip customers into such a frenzy that they end up buying cars well out of their price range. Bennett proved to be such a singularly unique and hysterical character, sipping beer and puffing cigarettes as he put on the hard sell, that there was no choice but to center the entire movie around him.

4. Religulous

Bill Maher doubles down on his unique ability to skewer religion with humor in this 2008 doc. Instead of safely lobbing bombs at the holy world from behind a desk, Maher gets out into the world, taking his critiques to the believers. An equal opportunity offender, he roasts everyone from Born Again Christians to Scientologists to their faces. You don’t have to agree with him (although it helps) to find the humor in a museum dedicated to people and dinosaurs living side by side. Then again, if you think the world is 6,000 years old, this might not be the movie for you.

3. American Movie

Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt has a dream, and that’s to make a short film called Coven (which he seems unable to pronounce). He’ll then use that short to raise money for a feature called Northwestern. And from there, take over Hollywood. He just has to finish the damn short first. Whether it’s casting his parents, relying on his burnt-out best friend Mike Shank, or injuring his actors with poorly planned stunts, Borchardt’s dedication to finishing the film above all else makes this one of the best, and funniest documentaries around. No matter how dark the film goes, it always finds humor in the situation, without ever mocking the people its about. A one-of-a-kind film that will make you want to chase your dreams, even if they involve a lot of low budget special effects.

2. Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

A cult hit about a cult hit, this is another look at the people behind a viral sensation. The difference here is that this all happened before the Internet. Here, we see the story of two old men, Peter J. Haskett and Raymond Huffman, whose insane fights were so hysterical, their neighbors taped them surreptitiously, and then released those tapes onto the world. Little did they know those recordings would become a sensation, inspiring artists and filmmakers, and creating a strange world of its own. If this doc doesn’t prove that truth is stranger than fiction, nothing will.

1. Tabloid

Sex! Kidnapping! Mormons! This doc has it all! Legendary documentarian Errol Morris tells the story of Joyce McKinney, who was accused of kidnapping her boyfriend in the 1970s, and trying to counteract what she claims was Mormon brainwashing by continually having sex with him. The story became a tabloid sensation at the time and McKinney a household name. Morris interviews all the key players, trying to get to the bottom of what really happened. Plus, the sex stuff.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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