This award is the first of three new awards in the movie category: best documentaries. We’ve watched many great documentaries this year, including Edgar Wright’s first, the story of an Aboriginal dance group, and the behind the scenes look at one of the most famous pop stars in 2021.

Here are our picks for the Best Documentaries in 2021.

5.) The Velvet Underground (dir: Todd Haynes)

This isn’t a documentary like you’ve seen before. Director Todd Haynes must have worked through thousands upon thousands of hours and images to collectively put together a film that feels like diving into the mind of The Velvet Underground and those who know members of the band, rather than your typical talking-head affair. The split-screen video, layered images, and voice-over that never sounds like it was pulled from an interview and instead a natural conversation leads to The Velvet Underground being a dense, but hypnotic watch.

– Dylan Blight

4.) Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (dir: Nel Minchin, Wayne Blair)

The story of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, an Indigenous Australian contemporary dance company, is filled with incredible highs and heartbreaking lows. Founded in 1989, the documentary covers the history of the company, from its small beginnings to its becoming a world-renown company. With fantastic moments like the success of shows like Orches and Fish and their involvement in the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, the documentary shows what can be accomplished with creativity and dance. The film also explores the tragic losses the company has experienced, with the film focusing on the Page Brothers who had been a central force in the companies rise. A must watch for anyone looking to learn more about Indigenous Australian art and artists.

– Ashley Hobley

Firestarter [Prime Video]

3.) The Truffle Hunters (dir: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw)

I knew very little about truffles going into this film but came out of it with an appreciation for the difficult task these men undergo to find this delicacy. The film follows a group of aging men who search for truffles in the woods of Northern Italy. Each man has dedicated this life to this profession, raising dogs trained for the task and keeping their truffle hunting secrets to themselves, despite the disparity with what they are paid and what they are sold for. Filled with lovable characters and cute dogs, this film will quickly win you over and delight you.

– Ashley Hobley

2.) The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright)

I fell in love with Sparks after watching Edgar Wright’s documentary The Sparks Brothers. The documentary doesn’t do anything notably different to tell its story. Still, it’s such an efficient dive into the history of Sparks that as someone who had never heard of them or heard any of their music, I left the movie finding all of their stuff on Spotify. It helps that the brothers seem genuinely like such artistic and interesting people. Having them in the documentary, able to joke and make fun of themselves, helps elevate this then if Wright had made it years from now. Sure, it’s great to hear from other artists like Beck how much Sparks influenced him, but sometimes hearing from the source is going to be even better.

– Dylan Blight

Make it stand out

1.) Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (R. J. Cutler)

Billie Eilish has quickly risen to become one of the biggest musical performers in the world, despite only just turning 20. In The World’s a Little Blurry, we get a behind the scenes look at the rise as it chronicles the creation of her debut studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and the ensuing tour and success. The film doesn’t shy away from the harder aspects of her life, showing her suffering a major tic attack or dealing with her leg injuries while on tour. A really fascinating look at her and brother/producer Finneas’ creative process, the family support that surrounds her and what it is really like to be a massive music figure. With Eilish ever-evolving, this is a beautiful snapshot of these early beginnings of what will hopefully be a long and successful career.

– Ashley Hobley

Dylan Blight and Ashley Hobley compiled this Top 5 list. The movies nominated must have had a theatrical release in a cinema, VOD or on a streaming platform within December 27th 2020 – December 27th 2021.