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Filmography - Documentaries, 500 Essential: U-Z

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017

Filmography - 500 Essential Documentaries (and Mockumentaries) to Watch Before You Graduate

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017.

See also: Films for Teaching School of Communication Topics

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentication by AUID#.


This is a selective list of video holdings in the American University Library. Filmographies are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the library catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible.  All DVDs listed below are located in Media Services on the Lower Level of Bender Library. To search the library’s complete video holdings search the library catalog at:



The U.S. vs John Lennon. 2006.  1 videodisc (96 min.). The story of John Lennon's evolution from beloved Beatle to an outspoken artist and activist to iconic inspiration for peace, and how, in the midst of one of the most tumultuous times in American history, Lennon stood his ground, refused to be silenced and courageously won his battle with the U.S. Government.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 3078

Undefeated. 2011, 1 videodisc (114 min.).  No hope. No future. Until a football season united a team and revealed the character that turned them into heroes. Undefeated is the inspiring and moving tale of three underprivileged student-athletes from inner-city Memphis and the volunteer coach, Bill Courtney, trying to help them beat the odds on and off the field. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 3068

The union: The business behind getting high. 2007.  1 videodisc (104 min.). "British Columbia's illegal marijuana trade industry has evolved into an unstoppable business giant, dubbed by those involved as "The Union." Follow filmmaker Adam Scorgie as he demystifies the underground market and brings to light how an industry can function while remaining illegal. Through interviews with growers, police officers, criminologists, economists, doctors, politicians and pop culture icons, Scorgie examines the cause and effect nature of the business behind getting high. Nobody's innocent in this exploration of an industry that may be profiting more by being illegal."--Container.  DVD 6878

The unknown known. 2013. 1 videodisc (103 min.).  Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discusses his career in Washington, D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 11464

An unreasonable man.  2006.  2 videodiscs (122 min.). Ralph Nader is without a doubt one of the most passionate and determined personalities of our time. Loved, hated, respected and feared, Nader has had more impact on our daily lives than most presidents. This first-hand account takes you behind his groundbreaking consumer advocacy campaigns and contested presidential runs and shows why Nader continues to be one of the most unique and important American political figures of our time.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2981

The untold story of Emmett Louis Till. 2005.  1 videodisc (68 min.). A biography of Emmett Louis Till, an African-American teenager who was murdered for whistling at a white women in Mississippi in 1955.  Chronicles director Beauchamp's decade-long effort to determine the true identities of Till's killers.  DVD 3375

The up series. 1964.  5 videodiscs (576 min.). In 1964 Michael Apted interviewed a group of seven year old children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, Apted has been back to talk to the same subjects.  DVD 5271-5275

Vernon, Florida. 1981.  1 videodisc [56 min.]. Interviews with some of the eccentric residents of a small, backwoods town in the Florida panhandle.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1331

Vietnam: A television history. 1983.  4 videodiscs (660 min.). This is a multi-part series on the Vietnam conflict, covering the history of Indochina, the French wars, and United States involvement, using actual film footage from news and government archives.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1121-1124

Waco: The rules of engagement. 1997.  1 videodisc (136 min.). A documentary film about the series of events that occurred outside Waco, Texas in April 1993 in which 4 federal agents were killed along with 86 men, women and children of the Branch Davidian compound.  DVD 1658

Waiting for Superman. 2010.  1 videodisc (103 min.). Provided is an engaging and inspiring look at public education in the United States. This documentary has helped launch a movement to achieve a real and lasting change through the compelling stories of five unforgettable students such as Emily, a Silicon Valley eighth-grader who is afraid of being labeled as unfit for college, and Francisco, a Bronx first-grader whose mom will do anything to give him a shot at a better life. Included are featurettes, and commentary.  DVD 8017

The waiting room. 2012, 1 videodisc (82 min.).  A character driven documentary film that uses extraordinary access to go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. The film offers a raw, intimate, and even uplifting look at how patients, staff caregivers each cope with disease, bureaucracy and hard choices.  DVD 4512

Waltz with Bashir. 2008.  1 videodisc (87 min.). After not being able to recall the time he spent on an Israeli Army mission during the Lebanon War, Ari attempts to unravel the mystery by traveling around the world to interview old friends and comrades. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, his memory begins to return in illustrations that are surreal.  DVD 6000

The war at home. 1979. 1 videodisc (100 min.). The war at home chronicles the growth of the anti-war movement through a combination of archival footage and interviews with students, Vietnam veterans, and community leaders.  DVD 3102

The war room. 1993.  1 videodisc (96 min.). Documentary about the Clinton presidential campaign, from the New Hampshire primary to the victory party 10 months later.  At the center are the two men most responsible for Clinton's victory- James Carville, the campaign manager, and George Stephanopoulos, the communications director.  This is a compelling portrait of the two men and the skill and determination required to bring about a victory.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1013

Warrendale. 1967.  1 videodisc (101 min.). Examines the lives of residents and staff at an experimental residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed youth in Toronto. Shows the special treatment devised for the children by the director, Dr. John Brown.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 9886

Waste land. 2009.  1 videodisc (99 min.). Top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz takes viewers on an emotional journey to the world's largest landfill of the day, Jardim Gramacho. Here the catadores, who number in the thousands, work under the hot sun collecting recyclable materials such as bottles, plastic, and metal to be sold to wholesalers. Muniz invites the catadores to add refuse to his art, photographing the work from overhead. The finished artwork will then be on display in museums and auctions around the world.  DVD 8166

The Weather Underground. 2002.  1 videodisc (93 min.). This remarkable documentary traces the rise and fall of the Weathermen, a group of radical students, who, outraged by the Vietnam War and racism, tried to overthrow the U.S. government in the 1970's, bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. Here former members speak candidly about the idealistic passion that drove them to "bring the war home" and the trajectory that placed them on the FBI's most wanted list.  DVD 1726

Weiner. 2016. 1 videodisc (96 min.).  An examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's disastrous 2013 mayoral campaign. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13499

Welcome to Leith. 2015. 1 videodisc (86 minutes).  "Welcome to Leith chronicles the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor. With incredible access to both longtime residents of Leith and white supremacists, the film examines a small community in the plains struggling for sovereignty against an extremist vision."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13676 and Streaming Video.

West of Memphis. 2012, 1 videodisc (147 min.).  True story centering on the new investigation surrounding the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Evidence surrounding the murders exposed the wrongful conviction of three teenagers who lost 18 years of their lives imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 8871

What happened to Kerouac? 1986.  1 videodisc (96 min.). Investigates the personal history and creative process of Jack Kerouac, father of the Beat Generation, author of "On the road", and a pivotal figure of the fifties countercultural revolution. Shows what happened when fame and notoriety were thrust upon an essentially reticent man.  DVD 2931

What happened, Miss Simone? 2015. 1 videodisc (102 min.).  Profiles the life and career of American singer Nina Simone. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13721

When the levees broke: A requiem in four acts. 2006.  3 videodiscs (255 min.). Four acts document distinct perspectives on the pivotal events that preceded and followed Katrina's passage through New Orleans, a catastrophe during which the divide between race and class lines has never been more pronounced.  DVD 8351-8353

When the mountains tremble. 1983.  1 videodisc (83 min.). A documentary describing the struggle of the Indian peasantry in Guatemala against state and foreign oppression. Uses a variety of forms -- interviews, direct address, newsreels, re-enactments, video transmissions, and on-the-spot footage shot at great hazard. Loosely centered on the experiences of 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchù.  DVD 5009

When we were kings: The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle. 1997.  1 videodisc (94 min.). A documentary on Mohammad Ali at the time of the famous 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" match with George Forman in Zaire. Includes a music festival featuring America's top African American performers, James Brown and B.B. King.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 5802

Where to invade next. 2015. 1 videodisc (120 min.).  Presents the theory that the American dream, all but abandoned in the United States, has been adopted successfully in other countries, including Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Tunisia, and Iceland, looking at such areas as worker benefits, public expenditure for the common good, and state-funded higher education. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13177

White light, black rain : The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 2007.  1 videodisc (85 min.). In August 1945, the world was transformed in the blink of an eye when American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. The destruction was unprecedented and the bombings precipitated the end of World War II. Contains archival footage and stunning photography. Interviews are from both Japanese survivors and the Americans who believed that their involvement would help end a brutal conflict.  DVD 3453

The witness. 2015. 1 videodisc (90 minutes). "On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was repeatedly attacked on a street in Kew Gardens, Queens. The New York times published a front-page story asserting that 38 witnesses watched her being murdered from their apartment windows-and did nothing to help. The Witness follows the efforts of her brother, Bill Genovese, as he looks to uncover the truth buried beneath the story."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13734 and Streaming video.;3401967

The Who: The kids are alright. 1979.  2 videodiscs (109 min.). Experience the most explosive rock band ever to take the stage. If you've never experienced them live, get ready because you're going to feel like you’re on stage with Pete, Roger, John and Keith during their rise through the rock n' roll hierarchy.  MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 144

Who is Harry Nilsson (and why is everybody talkin' about him)? 2010.  1 videodisc (116 min.). A brand new portrait of the late Grammy Award-winning musician, Harry Nilsson, who the Beatles once proclaimed as their favorite artist. This gripping retrospective traces Nilsson's rise and his turbulent life as seen by many friends, including Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Richard Perry, Robin Williams, and more.  MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 159

Who killed the electric car? 2006.  1 videodisc (93 min.). Investigates the development and demise of the fuel-efficient, environment-friendly electric car. Examines the Bush administration's role in the car's being peremptory pulled from production, the influence of the automobile industry and oil interests, and implications for the future of sustainable energy in the United States.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 9711

Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? 2006.  1 videodisc (74 min.). Teri Horton, a 73-year-old former truck driver with an 8th grade education, buys a painting in a thrift shop for five dollars, but unbeknownst to her, the artist is Jackson Pollock. This adventure documents a 15-year war with the art world's inner circle, lifts the veil on how art is bought and sold in America and introduces audiences to the funny, profane and utterly unforgettable Teri Horton.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 291

Why Viet-nam? 1965.  1 videodisc (33 min.). Presents the official U.S. government rationale used in 1965 to justify our involvement in Vietnam citing the "domino theory" and the idea that "aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed." Opening with a speech by President Johnson intending to enlist support for the war, the film shifts to a series of images equating the threat of Communism with that of the Third Reich. Can be useful in explaining the cold war context of this war and in examining governmental techniques of persuasion.  DVD 6395

Why we fight. 2005.  1 videodisc (98 min.). Reflects the sharp divide that exists among the American people on why we are in Iraq. Also asks some pertinent questions about the economic necessities of war.  DVD 4671

The wild and wonderful whites of West Virginia. 2009.  1 videodisc (88 min.). A shocking and outlandish year-in-the-life documentary about the White Family of Boone County, West Virginia's most notorious extended family, with shoot-outs, robberies, gas-huffing, drug dealing and using, pill popping, murders, and tap dancing. Nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, the White family glorifies their criminal behavior and lives an existence more like something from the Wild West than modern-day America.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 421

The wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. 2004.  1 videodisc (ca. 83 min.). Follow the ups and downs of a flock of wild urban parrots within the green niches of San Francisco. Along the way meet unforgettable characters like Picasso and Sophie, the inseparable parrot lovers, and Connor, the lovable outcast of the flock.  DVD 1737

William S. Burroughs: A man within. 2010.  1 videodisc (87 min.). An in-depth look at the troubled and brilliant world of American author William S. Burroughs, one of the first writers to cross the boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s. Features never-before-seen archival footage and exclusive interviews with colleagues and confidants including John Waters, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Gus Van Sant, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Laurie Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Jello Biafra, and David Cronenberg.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 8144

Winged migration. 2001.  1 videodisc (89 min.). Follows bird migrations flying over the seven continents: from one pole to the other, from the seas to snowcapped mountains, from the canopy of heaven to mangroves and swamps.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 657

Winnebago man. 2009.  1 videodisc (85 min.). In the '80s, RV salesman Jack Rebney's profanity-strewn, on-the-job meltdown was captured on video and passed around on VHS tapes before exploding into an Internet phenomenon seen by millions. When a young filmmaker goes in search of the legendary man, he finds Rebney living alone on a mountain, as sharp-tongued as ever, but more intelligent and lovable than anyone could have imagined. Here is one man's response to unwanted celebrity, and proof that truth is stranger and funnier than fiction.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 7958

Winter soldier. 1972.  1 videodisc (95 min.). Vietnam veterans speak about atrocities committed upon Vietnamese soldiers and civilians during their time in the U.S. armed forces in Vietnam. Through testimony given at the Winter Soldier Investigation held by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971, press conferences, and interviews with individual participants, the film graphically portrays the effect of U.S. government policy and practice, which turned soldiers into animals bent on destruction and Vietnamese into "gooks"--Non-human "targets" for murder, rape, and mutilation. The veterans struggle to come to terms with the devastation they caused so that others will not make the same mistake again.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2600

The Wobblies. 1979.  1 videodisc (ca. 90 min.). A look at the forgotten American history of radical unions, paying tribute to workers who took ideals of equality and free speech seriously enough to die for what they believed in. The Industrial Workers of the World were one of the few unions to be racially & sexually integrated, and often met with imprisonment, violence, and the privations of prolonged strikes. The film uses interviews, archival photographs and footage and music from the IWW songbook to tell their story.  DVD 2597

The wolfpack. 2015. 1 videodisc (89 min.).  The six Angulo brothers have grown up in their Manhattan apartment, home schooled by their parents, rarely if ever leaving their apartment. Their only connection to the outside world is television and the movies they watch and act out, complete with homemade costumes, in the apartment. When one of the brothers sneaks out for a few days on his own, the whole family dynamic is changed when he returns home. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12857 

The wonderful, horrible life of Leni Riefenstahl. 1993.  1 videodisc (188 min.). Interviews with Leni Riefenstahl, now in her nineties, flash- backs and modern film sequences tell the story of the most famous woman film director of all time.  Known for her films made during the Third Reich, Riefenstahl's story is a controversial one.  Best known for her film Triumph of the will, the film made of the 1934 Nazi Party Congress, it proved to be her undoing.  DVD 731

Woodstock: 3 days of peace and music. 1970.  4 videodiscs (225 min.). This documentary film captures the unique communal experience and many of the performances of the most famous of outdoor rock concerts.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1

Woody Allen a documentary. 2011, 2 videodiscs (195 min.).  Iconic writer, director, actor, comedian, and musician Woody Allen allowed his life and creative process to be documented on-camera for the first time. With this unprecedented access, Emmy®-winning, Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Robert Weide followed the notoriously private film legend over a year and a half to create the ultimate film biography. Exploring the ultimate "independent filmmaker's" writing habits, casting, directing, and relationship with his actors, Weide traveled with Allen from the London set of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - a major coup "considering Woody has never allowed so much as an EPK [Electronic Press Kit] crew on his sets," claims Weide - to the Cannes premiere of Midnight in Paris this May. He also filmed Allen at home, in the editing room and touring his childhood haunts in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. New interviews provide insight and backstory: actors Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Seth Green, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Diane Keaton, Martin Landau, Louise Lasser, Sean Penn, Tony Roberts, Chris Rock, Mira Sorvino, Naomi Watts, Dianne Wiest, and Owen Wilson; writing collaborators Marshall Brickman, Mickey Rose and Doug McGrath; cinematographers Gordon Willis and Vilmos Zsigmond; Allen's sister and producing partner Letty Aronson; producers Robert Greenhut and Stephen Tenenbaum; longtime managers Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe; casting director Juliet Taylor; pal Dick Cavett; and Martin Scorsese; among many others. DVD 9678

Word is out: Stories of some of our lives . 1977.  1 videodisc (132 min.). Interviews with 26 diverse people who speak out about their experiences as gay men and women.  DVD 8002

Word wars: Tiles and tribulations on the Scrabble game circuit. 2004.  1 videodisc (81 min.). Follow four Scrabble game fanatics as they advance to the North American Championship. The film is a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious look at a board game that's an occasional amusement for some - and a serious obsession (or disturbing addiction) fo. Follow four Scrabble game fanatics as they advance to the North American Championship. The film is a thoroughly entertaining and hilarious look at a board game that's an occasional amusement for some - and a serious obsession (or disturbing addiction) for others.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1218

Wordplay. 2006.  1 videodisc (ca. 94 min.). A journey into the world of Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor at The New York Times. Shortz has spent his entire lifetime studying, creating and editing puzzles, and has built a huge following along the way including Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2286

The world at war. 1974.  11 videodiscs (ca. 1194 min.). An extraordinary collection of newsreel, propaganda, and home-movie footage drawn from the archives of 18 nations, including color close-ups of Adolf Hitler taken by his mistress, that present an unvarnished perspective of the war's pivotal events. Penetrating interviews with eyewitness participants - from Hitler's secretary to Alger Hiss to ordinary citizens who stood outside the battle lines - and spine-tingling, first-hand accounts to an already unforgettable experience.  DVD 2481-2491

The Wrecking Crew! 2008, 2 videodiscs (approximately 102 min.).  Profiles the group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew--featuring Tommy Tedesco, guitar, Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, drums, Carol Kaye, Joe Osborne, bass--who played on many rock and pop hits during the sixties. Gifted, versatile, and possessing the knack for turning a simple tune into something memorable, the Wrecking Crew were the players who turned the Wall of Sound in Phil Spector's head into a reality, and helped Brian Wilson create the musical vision that would redefine California pop. The Wrecking Crew also backed up everyone from Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas and the Monkees to Herb Alpert, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, but while they became legends in the music business, they were all but unknown to the millions of people who made their records some of the biggest hits of the day. Filmmaker Denny Tedesco--whose father Tommy was a member of the Wrecking Crew and perhaps the most recorded guitarist in history--brings the free-wheeling story of the most famous musicians you've never heard of to the screen. Bonus disc includes interviews with guitarists, various performing artists, drummers/percussionists, producers/arrangers, engineers, bassists, pianists, and saxophonists associated with the Wrecking Crew. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12450

The yes men fix the world. 2008.  1 videodisc (87 min.). The Yes Men again pull off one bold prank after another in an effort to raise political consciousness. Posing as top executives of giant corporations, they lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world's most outrageous pranks.  DVD 7178

The yes men. 2003.  1 videodisc (82 min.). With poker-faced impersonation as their weapon, and World Trade Organization officials as their target, the Yes Men pull off one bold prank after another in an effort to raise political consciousness. And when their outrageous stunts are actually swallowed - hook, line and sinker - the Yes Men must up the satrical ante and push the art of public spectacle to hilarious new heights.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 733

Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg. 2009.  2 videodiscs (92 min.). "Before Oprah, and before Lucy, there was the beloved Gertrude Berg, the entertainment genius who wrote, starred in and produced the first successful domestic sitcom and charmed a beleaguered nation. Animated through a dazzling collage of vintage clips and interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and intimate conversations with friends, colleagues and family members, the box-office smash-hit Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg traces Berg's rise to stardom from her childhood in New York to her early radio days in The rise of the Goldbergs (1929-46) to her enormously influential sitcom, The Goldbergs (1949-56), which brought Berg the first Best Actress Emmy in history."--Container.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 7620

Young @ heart. 2007.  1 videodisc (108 min.). Young at Heart Chorus is based in Northampton, Massachusetts. See the final weeks of rehearsal for the group, whose average age is 81 and many of whom must overcome health adversities to participate. Their music is unexpected, going against the stereotype of their age group, performing songs that range from James Brown to Coldplay. The group has toured Europe and sung for royalty. Now they are focusing on preparing new songs, not an easy endeavor, for a concert in their home town.  DVD 5429

Zidane. 2006.  1 videodisc (90 min.). "During an entire Real Madrid vs. Villaral match before 80,000 fans at the Santiago Berabeu stadium 17 movie cameras under the direction of acclaimed cinematographer Darius Khondji were set around the playing field focusing solely on Zidane. Featuring the legend's thoughts and observations on his playing career and a magnificent score by Scottish rock band Mogwai, this extraordinary feature, conceived and co-directed by Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon and French artist Philippe Parreno, catches in stunning detail all the drama and excitement of a football genius in action--Container.  BLU 8849

Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars the motion picture. 1973.  1 videodisc (90 min.). A concert film of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, his androgynous alter ego ; shot in 1973.  MUSIC LIBRARY DVD 137

Zoo. 2007.  1 videodisc (76 min.). "A look at the life of a Seattle man who died as a result of an unusual encounter with a horse." --taken from plot outline.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 3139