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37 Thought-Provoking Documentaries from Europe

Post Author Take1 / August 11th 2016


Ah, the great documentary, one of today’s most popular styles of media. It seems that documentaries are having their moment and that some of the greatest stories never told are now coming out of the woodwork.

Having one of the first American feature documentaries aired in 1922, Nanook of the North, a story of life and love, the power of the documentary has been around a long time. Coming from the Latin word documentrum, meaning lesson or proof, there’s real meaning and a gritty truth when you go to sit down and watch a documentary.

But what exactly is it that grips us so much that we want to sit and watch an in-depth story about another person’s life or subject matter? Could it be human empathy? Curiosity? Do we just like to be shocked by the truth? Or is it because we’ve lost touch with reality due to social media and therefore the documentary is a refreshing take on something that isn’t controlled by a studio environment. Speaking of social media…

Heard of Making a Murderer? How could you not, one of THE most-watched American documentaries on Netflix, over 19 million viewers watched it in its first 35 days in fact! The series examines the criminal justice system, where pretty much everyone on social media became an overnight lawyer and Steven Avery was the talking point on everyone’s Facebook feed. The crime-investigation documentary has been a favourite for a while now, going back to Making a Murderer and the likes of The Staircase and The Jinx hitting our TV screens in a gripping way as well.

Click a country – discover a documentary.

Discover new material from Europe…



"Every stitch tells a tale. International artists and knitters take a simple skein of yarn to create their extraordinary ideas and stories."

Directors: Þórdur Bragi Jónsson, Una Lorenzen

Writer: Krishan Arora

Stars: Barbara Kingsolver, Olek, Tinna Thorudottir Thorvaldar



"A documentary about the Kon-Tiki expedition of the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl."

Directors: Thor Heyerdahl

Writer: Thor Heyerdahl

Stars: Thor Heyerdahl, Herman Watzinger, Erik Hesselberg

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Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

"Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe."

Directors: Benjamin Christensen

Writer: Benjamin Christensen

Stars: Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen, Maren Pedersen

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Diving Into the Unknown

"After a terrible accident deep inside an underwater cave, the survivors are forced to risk their own lives to bring the bodies of their friends home."

Directors: Juan Reina

Writer: Antti Apunen, Juan Reina

Stars: Patrik Grönqvist, Kai Känkänen, Sami Paakkarinen

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Red Army

"The story of the Soviet Union's famed Red Army hockey team through the eyes of its players.

Directors: Gabe Polsky

Writer: Gabe Polsky

Stars: Viacheslav Fetisov, Scotty Bowman, Mark Deakins

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"There is a sacred place called Sanctuarium. It is not physically fixed. You can discover it within yourself. But if it's difficult to find it, you might visit such the place in Tallinn's Old Town where you can also meet its Founder."

Directors: Slavik Bihun

Writer: Slavik Bihun

Stars: Mykola Berestiuk, Taylor Hanson, Hannah Harkes

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Family Instinct

"Family Instinct is a film about incest - an illegal act, social taboo and a violation of religious norms. Zanda is a 28-year-old woman, worn out by hard work. Surrounded by poverty and despair, she is trying to survive with her two children in a god-forsaken Latvian village."

Director: Andris Gauja

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The Other Dream Team

"The incredible story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, whose athletes struggled under Soviet rule, became symbols of Lithuania's independence movement, and - with help from the Grateful Dead - triumphed at the Barcelona Olympics."

Director: Marius A. Markevicius

Writer: Marius A. Markevicius

Stars: Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas Sabonis, Rimas Kurtinaitis

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Viva Belarus!

"Belarus has been under the dictatorship of Lukashenko for 15 years. MIRON (23) is not interested in politics, he thinks his friends from democratic opposition make just a bunch of daydreamers. However, the next concert of his 'apolitical' rock band triggers off an anti-regime manifestation among the audience. MIRON is enlisted for the army for 15 months by way of punishment for 'something political unrest among young people'."

Director: Krzysztof Lukaszewicz

Writers: Krzysztof Lukaszewicz, Franak Viacorka

Stars: Dzmitry Vinsent Papko, Karolina Gruszka, Anatolij Kot

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Love Me

"Sincere and unflinching, Love Me follows Western men and Ukrainian women as they embark on an unpredictable and riveting journey in search of love. Each character's experience exposes the myths and realities of this unique industry, while also exploring the much deeper, human story that is too often overlooked."

Director: Jonathon Narducci

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Love Me

"A new era is coming, and Warsaw stands uncomfortably at its edge. Art school classmates Christopher and Michal, on the precipice of their own coming of age, restlessly roam their city's streets in search of living forever inside the beautiful moment. Never content with answers, they push each experience to its breaking point, testing what it might mean to be truly awake in a world that seems satisfied to be asleep."

Director: Michal Marczak

Writers: Michal Marczak, Katarzyna Szczerba

Stars: Krzysztof Baginski, Michal Huszcza, Eva Lebuef

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Nicky's Family

"This docudrama tells the story of Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who organized the rescue of 669 Czech and Slovak children just before the outbreak of World War II. Winton, now 102 years old, did not speak about these events with anyone for more than half a century."

Director: Matej Minac

Writers: Matej Minac, Patrik Pass

Stars: Ben Abeles, Denisa Augustinova, Martin Bandzak

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"This unique documentary follows the life of a Slovak hockey legend, Pavol Demitra. It takes us from the very begining of his career in Slovakia through successful years in NHL to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and his tragic death in a plane crash in 2011. His family, friends and fans around the world remember him not only as a top sportsman but also as a good man with strong character."

Director: Daniel Dangl, Lukas Zednikovic

Writers: Daniel Dangl, Lukas Zednikovic

Stars: Zdeno Chara, Pavel Demitra, Maria Demitrova

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"Train to Adulthood is a coming-of-age story about three youngsters who find an escape from life's ordeals by working on the Budapest Children's Railway. While they enjoy playing at being responsible adults on the Train, at home they are forced to mature abruptly."

Director: Klára Trencsényi

Stars: Viktor Al Hajjar, Carmen Al Hajjar, Tünde Al Hajjar

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Waiting for August

"Fifteen year old Georgiana is left to raise her 6 siblings in Bacau (Romania), since mother has to work abroad to get by. Torn between adolescence and heavy responsibilities, the teenage girl struggles to keep everyone afloat."

Director: Teodora Mihai

Writer: Teodora Mihai

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Waiting for August

"Follows the story of Andrei, a young and promising basketball player growing up in Moldova, a European country still coming to terms with the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and struggling to find its own identity in the face of political tensions and economic hardships."

Director: Matthew Copson

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Waiting for August

"The story of six young people addicted to heroin in Sofia, Bulgaria."

Director: Konstantin Bojanov

Stars: Alexsandar Bunovski, Stanislav Pavlov, Kamen Petrov

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You Leave, I'll Stay!

"A story about the suffering of the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija."

Director: Hadzi-Aleksandar Djurovic

Writer: Hadzi-Aleksandar Djurovic (screenplay)

Stars: Patrijarh Srpski Irinej, Mitropolit Amfilohije, Vladika Teodosije

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Trapped by Law

"In 2010, thousands of Kosovo Roma were forcibly repatriated from the European Union to their original home. And this despite the fact that many had spent years living in the EU."

Director: Sami Mustafa

Writer: Sami Mustafa

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"Margina (On the margins) reflects upon life in the Gypsy community, giving very intimate insight into the life of a Gypsy family in Macedonia, who exists 'at the edge' of European Society."

Director: Ljupcho Temelkovski

Writer: Ljupcho Temelkovski

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Lost in the Bewilderness

"Lost in the Bewilderness is a modern-day Greek myth - a documentary about the filmmaker's cousin Lucas, kidnapped at age five from his native Greece, and found on the eve of his sixteenth birthday in the U.S."

Director: Alexandra Anthony

Writers:Alexandra Anthony, Alexandra Anthony

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Dear Albania

"Dear Albania is a powerful documentary featuring Eliza Dushku taking on her homeland of Albania."

Director: Nate Dushku

Stars: Eliza Dushku, Nate Dushku, Fadil Berisha

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Rescued from Oblivion

"A documentary on the life, poetry, and legacy of Vito Nikolic, one of the most beloved Montenegrin poets."

Director: Maja Janjusevic

Writer: Maja Janjusevic

Stars: Milorad Boskovic, Ratko Bozovic, Rajko Cerovic

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Back to Bosnia

"A family returns to post-war Bosnia to reclaim their stolen property and are forced to examine their past."

Director: Sabina Vajraca

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The Blue Cage

"Twelve stories of courage, commitment, passion and love. The Blue Cage explains what happens when sailors and ship workers leave their homes and families for several months or even years, thousands of miles away."

Director: Bruna Bajic

Writer: Bruna Bajic

Stars: Nenad Bajic, Alfonso Bezmalinovic, Nikica Mrdjen

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In the Basement

"A documentary that reveals what its subjects do in their respective basements."

Director: Ulrich Seidl

Writer: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl

Stars: Fritz Lang, Alfreda Klebinger, Manfred Ellinger

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Bottled Life

"Do you know how to turn ordinary water into a billion-dollar business? In Switzerland there's a company which has developed the art to perfection - Nestlé. This company dominates the global business in bottled water. Swiss journalist Res Gehringer has investigated this money-making phenomena."

Director: Urs Schnell

Writer: Urs Schnell, Res Gehriger

Stars: Peter Brabeck, Res Gehriger, Hanspeter Müller

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Triumph of the Will

"The infamous propaganda film of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, Germany."

Director: Leni Riefenstahl

Writer: Leni Riefenstahl, Walter Ruttmann

Stars: Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Max Amann

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My Voyage to Italy

"World-renowned director Martin Scorsese narrates this journey through his favorites in Italian cinema."

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writer: Suso Cecchi D'Amico, Raffaele Donato

Stars: Martin Scorsese

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

"Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity."

Director: Werner Herzog

Writer: Werner Herzog

Stars: Werner Herzog, Jean Clottes, Julien Monney

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The Sound of Belgium

"'The Sound of Belgium' explores the rich but untold story of Belgian electronic dance music. From the grand dance halls with Decap organs to the golden days of Popcorn; From dark and cold Electronic Body Music and New Beat to Belgian House and Techno An alternative chronicle of unique popular music, 'The Sound of Belgium' goes in search of the spirit of a nation and the people that danced to it."

Director: Jozef Deville

Writer: Jozef Deville, Pablo Eekman

Stars: John Flanders

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"When the young republic of The Netherlands is attacked by England, France and Germany and the country itself is on the brink of civil war, only one man can lead the county's strongest weapon, the Dutch fleet: Michiel de Ruyter."

Director: Roel Reiné

Writer: Lars Boom, Alex van Galen

Stars: Charles Dance, Rutger Hauer, Daniel Brocklebank

Read more.



"A father and daughter journey from Denmark to an unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization."

Director: Lisandro Alonso

Writer: Lisandro Alonso, Fabian Casas

Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Ghita Nørby, Viilbjørk Malling Agger

Read more.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

"In April 2002, an Irish film crew is making a documentary about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, when a coup from the opposition is made."

Director: Kim Bartley, Donnacha O'Briain

Stars: Hugo Chávez, Pedro Carmona, Jesse Helms

Read more.


Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends

"Louis Theroux, one of the UK'S most popular journalist, documents some of the US's most bizarre happenings, events and rituals, by getting involved himself..."

Stars: Louis Theroux, J.J. Michaels, Mike Oehler

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Land Without Bread

"A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills."

Director: Luis Buñuel

Writers: Luis Buñuel, Rafael Sánchez Ventura, Pierre Unik

Stars: Abel Jacquin, Alexandre O'Neill

Read more.


José and Pilar

"José and Pilar, a documentary by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes, is a deeply moving story about love, loss and literature. It follows the days of José Saramago, the Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, and his wife, Pilar del Rio. The film shows their whirlwind life of international travel, his passion for completing his masterpiece, "The Elephant's Journey" and how their love quietly sustains them throughout."

Director: Miguel Gonçalves Mendes

Stars: Joao Afonso, Àngels Barceló, Pilar del Río

Read more.

For the music enthusiasts, Searching for Sugar Man is a Swedish-British documentary about the mysterious music icon of the 1970s, Rodriguez, and how his short-lived musical fame continued in South Africa where he became an inspiration for generations, all without his knowledge. There’s also the UK favourite, Amy which is a feature documentary that depicts the life and death of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, which already grossed more than 166% of all the documentaries released during 2010 combined.

There’s also Louis Theroux and his compelling life documentaries where he taps into our emotions with his powerful interviews, putting himself in the forefront of the story and has a way of getting straight to the point and never gives up!

Whether you’re in the mood to cry, want to go on an emotional roller coaster, to be shocked or just want to be taken on a scientific expedition with Brian Cox and the Wonders of the Universe, the documentary is a thought-provoking piece of artwork which has the potential to change your perception on life’s matters.

We’ve done our research and found 37 of the best thought-provoking documentaries in Europe, in our opinion anyway. We wanted to specifically focus on Europe as there are plenty of documentaries out there that don’t get the attention they deserve due to the likes of Stephen Avery taking the spotlight, although well worth the watch! So take a look and escape to a gripping reality where the truth isn’t hidden behind fancy studio equipment.

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