The 10 Best Documentaries to Spark Cultural Interest

Titian.  The Rape of Europa.  1560. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Titian. The Rape of Europa. 1560. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

Documentary filmmaking has really come a long way. Certainly there were plenty of incredible docs made in the 70s, but these days there is something for just about every interest. I find that a good documentary can spark your interest in new topics and open the door for you to become well-versed in a range of subjects. To support that, I've put together a list of ten documentaries that may spark a new cultural interest for you or teach you more about one you already have.

Somm (2012)
A totally fascinating and informative look into the training required to become a Master Sommelier.

Somm: Into the Bottle (2015)
The sequel to Somm provides a trove of information on wine, from the history to production.

First Position (2011)
A wonderful film about kids preparing for ballet competitions.

The Rape of Europa (2006)
In my eyes, this is the best documentary ever made. It recalls the incidents of art looting and destruction during World War II. 

Dior et Moi (2014)
This documentary follows Raf Simons in his first season at Dior and it is exquisitely beautiful.

The First Monday in May (2016)
This newly released film from Vogue follows the planning and execution of the 2015 Met Gala. Not only does it showcase art and fashion, but it also provides an interesting perspective on Chinese-American relations.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)
This documentary is broken into 15 one-hour episodes and takes you through a comprehensive history of film.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)
A fabulous film about the life and work of Vogue editor and icon Diana Vreeland.

Ballerina (2006)
I absolutely love this documentary which follows five Russian ballerinas through their daily rehearsals and performances. Each ballerina is at a different stage in her career, which makes for an interesting narrative.

Bill Cunningham: New York (2010)
Perhaps the most charming film on the list, this documentary follows the late legendary Bill Cunningham around New York as he photographs street style. If you haven't seen it, put this one at the top of your list.