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    31 Mockumentaries You Need To See Before You Die

    Just because they're not real documentaries doesn't mean you won't learn anything.

    1. The War Game (1965)


    Directed by: Peter Watkins

    Written by: Peter Watkins

    Told in the style of a news report, The War Game garnered incredible amounts of controversy well before it aired — and it didn't end up seeing the light of day on the BBC until 20 years after it was made. It's a highly realistic (and thus, incredibly unsettling) look at a Soviet nuclear attack on Britain. Think of it as War of the Worlds but with an actual looming threat instead of aliens.

    2. Punishment Park (1971)

    Project X

    Directed by: Peter Watkins

    Written by: Peter Watkins

    From the man who brought you The War Game comes the equally harrowing Punishment Park, which imagines the Nixon administration's totalitarian response to growing Vietnam War protests: Convicts can opt to spend three days at Punishment Park, where they are deprived of food and water and chased through the California desert by law enforcement officers.

    3. The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

    Cheezy Flicks Entertainment

    Directed by: Charles B. Pierce

    Written by: Charles B. Pierce

    Not that the preceding two films aren't horrifying, but The Legend of Boggy Creek is the first of multiple horror mockumentaries on this list. The movie sends its faux documentarians to the small town of Fouke, Arkansas, where the titular Fouke Monster (a Bigfoot-esque cryptid) has been spotted by several residents and accused of killing local animals.

    4. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)


    Directed by: Eric Idle and Gary Weis

    Written by: Eric Idle and Neil Innes

    Fictitious musical groups are another recurring mockumentary theme, and in this one, as you might have guessed, The Rutles are an entirely unsubtle parody of The Beatles. Something about the humor may have been lost in translation, though: All You Need Is Cash bombed when it premiered on NBC, and ended up doing much better when it aired on the BBC a week later. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da!

    5. Zelig (1983)


    Directed by: Woody Allen

    Written by: Woody Allen

    Allen was one of the first auteurs to explore the mockumentary format. In Zelig, he chronicled the life of "human chameleon" Leonard Zelig, who was able to take on the characteristics of anyone around him. Zelig is one of the filmmaker's most beloved movies, blending his distinctive sensibilities with talking heads like Susan Sontag, Bruno Bettelheim, and Saul Bellow, among others.

    6. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

    20th Century Fox

    Directed by: Rob Reiner

    Written by: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner

    Arguably the most famous mockumentary of all time — about the most famous band that never existed — This Is Spinal Tap established many of the genre's most notable conventions, as well as introducing audiences to Guest, who went on to perfect the form. It's an endlessly quotable film that is as funny now as it was when it was released 30 years ago.

    7. Bob Roberts (1992)

    Paramount Pictures

    Directed by: Tim Robbins

    Written by: Tim Robbins

    Robbins wrote, directed, and starred in this political satire, in which he plays the eponymous Bob Roberts, a conservative Republican running against Democrat Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal). Robbins was directly influenced by This Is Spinal Tap, and used the mockumentary form to poke fun at the political system, particularly the way the media covers elections.

    8. Man Bites Dog (1992)


    Directed by: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoît Poelvoorde

    Written by: Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Vincent Tavier

    In the searingly dark comedy, charming serial killer Ben (Benoît Poelvoorde) lets a film crew follow him as he brutally murders and espouses his horrifying philosophy on killing. Man Bites Dog has been lauded as an ahead-of-its-time satire of our cultural fixation on violence, and the way the media becomes complicit in it. But the graphic violence and sadistic protagonist make this one a tough watch.

    9. CB4 (1993)

    Universal Pictures

    Directed by: Tamra Davis

    Written by: Chris Rock, Nelson George, and Robert LoCash

    CB4 stars Chris Rock, Allen Payne, and Deezer D as the rap group of the title, named after Cell Block 4, where they formed. The mockumentary satirizes gangsta rap culture, but also the contemporary controversies over obscenity (Phil Hartman plays Virgil Robertson, a politician intent on shutting the group down). CB4 also gave us the song "Sweat From My Balls."

    10. Fear of a Black Hat (1994)

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Directed by: Rusty Cundieff

    Written by: Rusty Cundieff

    Released a year after CB4, Fear of a Black Hat covers similar terrain. The title is, of course, a reference to Public Enemy's iconic album Fear of a Black Planet, and the group that this mockumentary chronicles — N.W.H. ("Niggaz With Hats") — is based on N.W.A. Once again, "obscene" lyrics are a focal point, e.g. one of N.W.H.'s most controversial songs is "Kill Whitey."

    11. Forgotten Silver (1995)

    Anchor Bay

    Directed by: Peter Jackson and Costa Botes

    Written by: Peter Jackson and Costa Botes

    Jackson plays himself in his film about discovering "lost" New Zealand filmmaker Colin McKenzie. While more subtle than many of Jackson's early works, Forgotten Silver hilariously posits that McKenzie essentially conceived every major cinematic innovation, from tracking shots to talkies. Talking heads, from Leonard Maltin and Harvey Weinstein, add some serious authenticity to this mockumentary.

    12. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Directed by: Christopher Guest

    Written by: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

    The first movie in Guest-Levy's unofficial but essential mockumentary trilogy is a brilliant send-up of small-town life and regional theater. The filmmaker stars as Corky St. Clair, the flamboyant director of a musical chronicling the history of the fictional Blaine, Missouri. Guest and Levy created the outline for the script, with the cast providing pitch-perfect improvisation — and songs from Guest and his Spinal Tap bandmates.

    13. Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

    New Line Cinema

    Directed by: Michael Patrick Jann

    Written by: Lona Williams

    Though a flop when it hit theaters in 1999, Drop Dead Gorgeous has become a cult classic, offering a look into the fictional town of Mount Rose, Minnesota, and its annual beauty pageant. Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards star as bitter rivals Amber Atkins and Becky Leeman, but it's all about Kirstie Alley and Ellen Barkin as their wretched mothers — and Lona Williams' sharp script.

    14. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Directed by: Woody Allen

    Written by: Woody Allen

    Sweet and Lowdown isn't as straightforward a mockumentary as the other entries on this list, but it uses the device in an innovative way. Amid the story of jazz guitarist Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) and his affair with mute Hattie (Samantha Morton), talking-head-style interviews interrupt the action to comment on the characters as though they're real people. And Allen actually appears as himself, reflecting on Ray.

    15. Best in Show (2000)

    Warner Bros.

    Directed by: Christopher Guest

    Written by: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

    The second Guest-Levy improvised mockumentary saw the duo team up with their unofficial troupe of actors — Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, and Fred Willard, among others — to depict what goes on behind the scenes at the fictional Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show, including the eccentric dog owners it brings out. Best in Show is often regarded as the funniest Guest mockumentary, and it's certainly the most appealing.

    16. Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

    Focus Features

    Directed by: Daniel Minahan

    Written by: Daniel Minahan

    Like Sweet and Lowdown, Series 7: The Contenders is not a traditional mockumentary — it actually plays out as a marathon of a fictional reality show in which six contestants (five new contenders and last season's winner) kill each other for the audience's entertainment. It's a brutal satire of humanity's bloodlust — think The Hunger Games or Battle Royale — with a lot of dark humor aided by Will Arnett's voiceover.

    17. FUBAR (2002)


    Directed by: Michael Dowse

    Written by: Michael Dowse, David Lawrence, and Paul Spence

    Based on a comedy routine by David Lawrence and Paul Spence, FUBAR stars the duo as Terry and Dean, beer-swilling headbangers in Alberta who have been friends since childhood. The cult comedy, which premiered at Sundance, went on to spawn the higher-budget sequel FUBAR II, as well as the popularity of the slang phrase "give'r."

    18. A Mighty Wind (2003)

    Warner Home Video

    Directed by: Christopher Guest

    Written by: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

    Completing the Guest-Levy unofficial improvised mockumentary trilogy — though not their last film collaboration — A Mighty Wind centers on a reunion concert for '60s folk groups, and sees Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean reunite not as Spinal Tap, but as The Folksmen. A Mighty Wind is somewhat more melancholy than the preceding films, but it's still appropriately hilarious.

    19. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)

    IFC Films

    Directed by: Kevin Willmott

    Written by: Kevin Willmott

    This brutal satire imagines an alternate history for the U.S. if the Confederates had won the Civil War. Presented as a broadcast, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a dark film, complete with commercials that are largely aimed at slave-owning white families. In addition to looking at the modern-day C.S.A., the movie presents an entire timeline of things gone very, very wrong.

    20. Incident at Loch Ness (2004)

    20th Century Fox

    Directed by: Zak Penn

    Written by: Zak Penn and Werner Herzog

    Incident at Loch Ness is a bizarre and very funny movie, but you could probably assume that based solely on Herzog's involvement. The filmmaker plays himself, the subject of the documentary Herzog in Wonderland, which is being filmed as he makes his own documentary about the Loch Ness Monster, Enigma of Loch Ness. Yes, it's very confusing.

    21. LolliLove (2004)

    Troma Entertainment

    Directed by: Jenna Fischer

    Written by: Jenna Fischer and Peter Alton

    Fischer wrote, directed, and starred in this largely improvised mockumentary about a young couple who "helps the homeless" by handing out lollipops with inspirational slogans on the wrappers. LolliLove stars Fischer and her then-husband James Gunn in their actual then-home and incorporates footage from their wedding, giving the movie an extra realistic feel.

    22. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

    Anchor Bay

    Directed by: Scott Glosserman

    Written by: Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve

    A smart spoof on slasher films, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon imagines a world in which the villains from these movies are real — and the titular Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is poised to join their ranks. Like other movies about documentarians following psychotic killers, the filmmakers get too close for comfort to their dangerous subject.

    23. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

    20th Century Fox

    Directed by: Larry Charles

    Written by: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham, and Dan Mazer

    Borat was Baron Cohen's first effort to bring one of his TV characters — Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev — to the big screen. The movie, which follows Borat through the U.S. as he struggles with American culture, generated its fair share of controversy. But, like Baron Cohen's work as a whole, Borat is a cultural satire that uses the fictional character's sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism with ironic intent.

    24. Death of a President (2006)

    Newmarket Films

    Directed by: Gabriel Range

    Written by: Gabriel Range and Simon Finch

    Death of a President's title alone was bound to generate controversy. Through interviews and news reports, the movie provides a very realistic look at what might happen if George W. Bush had been assassinated while in office, specifically a crackdown on civil liberties by President Dick Cheney.

    25. Chalk (2006)

    Virgil Films

    Directed by: Mike Akel

    Written by: Mike Akel and Chris Mass

    Based on Akel and Mass' real-life teaching experiences, Chalk was mostly improvised and cobbled together from more than 60 hours of footage. The subtle comedy focuses on three teachers and an assistant principal, showing the less-than-satisfying aspects of their jobs as an intentional counterpoint to the "inspirational teacher" genre.

    26. Kenny (2006)

    Thunderbox Films

    Directed by: Clayton Jacobson

    Written by: Clayton Jacobson and Shane Jacobson

    As a plumber who specializes in portable toilets, Kenny Smyth, played by co-writer Jacobson, is an odd subject for a documentary. But that makes him perfect for this mockumentary. Obviously there's something unseemly about what the man does, but Kenny is actually a sensitive portrayal of its title character — more about his genuine decency than the expected poop jokes.

    27. Confetti (2006)

    BBC Films

    Directed by: Debbie Isitt

    Written by: Debbie Isitt

    Clearly, 2006 was a big year for mockumentaries: The last on this list, Confetti is a charming improvised comedy in which three couples compete in a bridal magazine contest for most original wedding. There is ample nudity (one of the couples wants a naturalist wedding) and there are plenty of familiar faces to British comedy fans, including the omnipresent Martin Freeman.

    28. Finishing the Game: The Search for the New Bruce Lee (2007)

    IFC Films

    Directed by: Justin Lin

    Written by: Josh Diamond

    Actor and martial arts star Bruce Lee did actually die while filming Game of Death — and Finishing the Game is a mockumentary that imagines the search for a replacement. Directed by Lin (of Better Luck Tomorrow indie cred), this is a satire of how Hollywood stereotypes Asian actors and whitewashes characters of color.

    29. Lake Mungo (2008)

    Arclight Films

    Directed by: Joel Anderson

    Directed by: Joel Anderson

    It's worth noting that in the 2000s, there have been countless found-footage horror films, but few are actually mockumentaries, seeing as those have to employ the documentary format. Lake Mungo, however, qualifies — and it's pretty terrifying. The film stars Talia Zucker as Alice Palmer, a 16-year-old who drowns and then begins to appear in ghostly visions to her grieving family. Things only get weirder from there.

    30. I'm Still Here (2010)

    Magnolia Pictures

    Directed by: Casey Affleck

    Written by: Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix

    At one point, we were all pretty sure that Phoenix had lost his mind, largely because he did a pretty convincing job of making that seem like the case. And that was part of the thrill of I'm Still Here, Affleck's mockumentary that satirized celebrity culture by making sure the media wasn't in on the joke. Sure, Phoenix pissed off David Letterman, but it made for some great footage.

    31. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

    Madman Entertainment

    Directed by: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

    Written by: Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

    While it hasn't premiered in U.S. theaters yet, New Zealand horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows has generated plenty of buzz on the festival circuit. It's a mockumentary about vampire roommates (played by writer-directors Waititi and Clement), who are several hundred years old and subsist on human blood while trying to live normal lives regardless.