1920s Documentary Movies

Public list by WPS with 45 movies or TV shows/series

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45 movies found (page 1/2):

Man with a Movie Camera(1929)

| 1h 8min | Documentary
4.0/5 (with 226 votes)

A cameraman wanders around Moscow, Kharkiv, Kyiv and Odesa with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.

Directed by Dziga Vertov

Nanook of the North(1922)

3.6/5 (with 90 votes)

This pioneering documentary film depicts the lives of the indigenous Inuit people of Canada's northern Quebec region. Although the production contains some fictional elements, it vividly shows how its resourceful subjects survive in such a harsh climate, revealing how they construct their igloo homes and find food by hunting and fishing. The film also captures the beautiful, if unforgiving, frozen landscape of the Great White North, far removed from conventional civilization.

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City(1927)

1h 9min | Documentary, History
4.0/5 (with 33 votes)

A train speeds through the country on its way to Berlin, then gradually slows down as it pulls into the station. It is very early in the morning, about 5:00 AM, and the great city is mostly quiet. But before long there are some signs of activity, and a few early risers are to be seen on the streets. Soon the new day is well underway. It's just a typical day in Berlin, but a day full of life and energy.

Directed by Walter Ruttmann


1h 17min | Documentary
3.2/5 (with 13 votes)

Robert J. Flaherty's South Seas follow-up to Nanook of the North is a Gauguin idyll moved by "pride of beauty... pride of strength.".

Directed by Robert J. Flaherty

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness(1927)

| 1h 9min | Adventure, Drama, Documentary
3.3/5 (with 7 votes)

Elephants disrupt the lives of a family deep in the jungles of Northern Siam, and an entire village.


12min | Documentary
3.7/5 (with 23 votes)

A beautiful and evocative portrait of Ivens' native city of Amsterdam.


11min | Documentary
3.3/5 (with 23 votes)

Morning reveals New York harbor, the wharves, the Brooklyn Bridge. A ferry boat docks, disgorging its huddled mass. People move briskly along Wall St. or stroll more languorously through a cemetery. Ranks of skyscrapers extrude columns of smoke and steam. In plain view. Or framed, as through a balustrade. A crane promotes the city's upward progress, as an ironworker balances on a high beam. A locomotive in a railway yard prepares to depart, while an arriving ocean liner jostles with attentive tugboats. Fading sunlight is reflected in the waters of the harbor. The imagery is interspersed with quotations from Walt Whitman, who is left unnamed.

The Great White Silence(1924)

1h 48min | Documentary
3.7/5 (with 12 votes)

Herbert Ponting travelled to Antarctica as part of Captain Scott's ill-fated South pole expedition and shot the footage that makes up this extraordinary documentary.

Directed by Herbert Ponting - With Robert Falcon Scott, Herbert Ponting

A Sixth Part of the World(1926)

1h 5min | Documentary
3.8/5 (with 8 votes)

Through the travelogue format, it depicts the multitude of Soviet peoples in remote areas of USSR and details the entirety of the wealth of the Soviet land. Focusing on cultural and economic diversity, the film is in fact a call for unification in order to build a "complete socialist society".

Directed by Dziga Vertov

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life(1925)

1h 11min | Documentary
3.7/5 (with 8 votes)

A silent documentary which follows a branch of the Bakhtiari tribe of Persia as they and their herds make their seasonal journey to better pastures.

Mechanics of the Brain(1926)

2.6/5 (with 3 votes)

"Though not given a New York showing until 1935, V. I. Pudovkin's Mechanics of the Brain (Mekhanika Golovnovo Mozga) was written and directed by Pudovkin in 1926. A full year in the making, this scientific documentary concentrates on the behavioral studies conducted by Prof. Ivan Pavlov. The laboratory dogs used in Pavlov's research don't seem too happy about it, and as a result this film might be hard to take for the more sensitive viewers (the vivisection sequence is particularly rough). The progress of the research is detailed with charts and graphs, hardly the "cinematic" touches one might expect from Pudovkin. Interestingly, Mechanics of the Brains was released two years before the results of Pavlov's studies were printed in book form.".

Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin


49min | Documentary
3.0/5 (with 6 votes)

A silent film by John Grierson. It tells the story of Britain's North Sea herring fishery.

Directed by John Grierson
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The Bridge(1928)

16min | Documentary
3.2/5 (with 7 votes)

The Hefbrug may not be a remarkably beautiful bridge, but through a mix of close-ups, long shots, bird’s eye views and low angles, Joris Ivens conveys a sense of the bridge’s structure, its intricate mechanisms and ways of operating, the way it fits into the overall transport infrastructure and therefore the immense importance of this bridge for the whole city of Rotterdam.

Directed by Joris Ivens

Melodie der Welt(1929)

49min | Documentary
3.3/5 (with 5 votes)

An impression of the state of the world in 1929, contrasting similarities and differences in religion, customs, art and entertainment from all over the world. The film is constructed like a symphony.

Directed by Walter Ruttmann - With George Bernard Shaw, Grace Chiang, Ivor Montagu

The Making of an American(1920)

2.1/5 (with 4 votes)

Docudrama encouraging immigrants to master English and become successful, assimilated Americans.

Directed by Guy Hedlund

In Spring(1929)

1h 1min | Documentary
3.8/5 (with 5 votes)

It pictures the struggle of people against the cold and harsh winter.

Directed by Mikhail Kaufman

Nothing But Time(1926)

3.5/5 (with 7 votes)

The life of a great city (Paris) from dawn until dusk, including the beautiful and the ragged, the rich and the poor, with little or no comment from the director, Cavalcanti.

Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti

The Epic of Everest(1924)

1h 27min | Documentary
3.4/5 (with 8 votes)

The official record of Mallory and Irvine's 1924 expedition. When George Mallory and Sandy Irvine attempted to reach the summit of Everest in 1924 they came closer than any previous attempt. Inspired by the work of Herbert Ponting (The Great White Silence) Captain Noel filmed in the harshest of conditions, with specially adapted equipment, to capture the drama of the fateful expedition.

The Battles of the Coronel and Falkland Islands(1927)

1h 46min | Drama, Documentary
3.2/5 (with 4 votes)

The film focuses on the naval warfare around the Battle of Coronel and Battle of the Falkland Islands during the First World War. It was the last in a successful series of documentary reconstructions of First World War battles by British Instructional Films made between 1921 and 1927.

Directed by Walter Summers

A Trip to Paramountown(1922)

20min | Documentary
2.5/5 (with 1 vote)

Documentary short film depicting the filmmaking activity at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood, featuring dozens of stars captured candidly and at work.

Our Heavenly Bodies(1925)

3.0/5 (with 2 votes)

Wunder der Schöpfung is an extraordinary, fascinating Kulturfilm trying to explain the whole human knowledge of the 1920s about the world and the universe. 15 special effects experts and 9 cameramen were involved in the production of this film which combines documentary scenes, historical documents, fiction elements, animation scenes and educational impact. It its beautifully colored, using tinting and toning in a very elaborated way. Some visual ideas in the sequences with a space shuttle visiting different planets in the universe seem to have to be the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The White Stadium(1928)

2h 4min | Documentary
3.7/5 (with 5 votes)

A profile of the 1928 Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Directed by Arnold Fanck, Othmar Gurtner - With Clas Thunberg, David Carnegie, 11th Earl of Northesk, Erich Recknagel, Per-Erik Hedlund, Sonja Henie

The Einstein Theory of Relativity(1923)

2.5/5 (with 1 vote)

"The Einstein Theory of Relativity" is the short version (587 m) of the lost American long version (1219 m) of Hanns Walter Kornblum's original German feature "Die Grundlagen der Einsteinschen Relativitäts-Theorie" from 1922 that is also lost.

Ways to Strength and Beauty(1925)

1h 44min
3.3/5 (with 2 votes)

The perfect body as an object of cult worship. Based on the mass sports and body worship movement of the 1920s, the film propagates physical training and shows in stylized documentary scenes aspects of physical hygiene, gymnastics, sports and dancing as well as scenes in which supposed sportsmen of antiquity pose naked.

Directed by Nicholas Kaufmann, Wilhelm Prager - With Rudolf Bode, Jack Dempsey, David Lloyd George, Jenny Hasselquist, Gerhart Hauptmann, Camilla Horn, ...

The Co-Optimists(1929)

1h 23min | Music

A British concert musical film directed by Edwin Greenwood.

Directed by Edwin Greenwood - With Davy Burnaby, Stanley Holloway, Melville Gideon

The Steel Road(1929)

1h 17min | Documentary
3.2/5 (with 7 votes)

Bold and exhilarating documentary account of the building of the Turkestan-Siberian railway, presented as a heroic triumph of Soviet progress over natural adversity.

Directed by Victor A. Turin

Shipwrecked Among Cannibals(1920)


After opening scenes showing volcanoes of Java, an underground river, waterfalls, cloud effects, a coral island, the Ghost Rocks of Buru, and a tiger hunt in Siam, documentary footage of the cannibal tribes of New Guinea is framed by a fictional narrative in which the scientific expedition is shipwrecked along the southern New Guinea coast in the land of the Kia Kia headhunters, thus affording the crew the opportunity to film the tribal customs of these cannibals.

Policing the Plains(1927)

Feature film about the history of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, based on the book of the same name by Rev. R. G. MacBeth.

Directed by Arthur D. Kean

The Morning Sun Shines(1929)

2.7/5 (with 4 votes)

The Morning Sun Shines is a fiction-documentary film by Kenji Mizoguchi and Seiichi Ina. The film is a combination of a drama about a reporter, and documentary footage about newspaper production. Only 25 minutes of footage has survived.

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi - With Takako Irie

Simba: The King of the Beasts(1928)

1h 27min | Documentary
3.5/5 (with 1 vote)

Simba: The King of the Beasts is an 1928 American black-and-white silent documentary film, directed by Martin and Osa Johnson, which features the couple's four-year expedition to track the lion across Kenyan veld to his lair.

Directed by Martin Johnson
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