7 Best Mockumentaries of All Time
The newest entry in the mockumentary genre, Apollo 18, opened this week. Though they’ve been around since the 1950’s, it has only been since the breakthrough popularity of This is Spinal Tap that fake documentaries have really hit the cinematic mainstream. The term “mockumentary” has even appeared in some form in the Oxford English Dictionary since 1965, possibly following the Beatles documentary style fictions film “A Hard Day’s Night.” It is without debate, however, that the term and the genre got their current level of popularity from the Spinal Tap team of Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean. With Eugene Levy, Guest followed up Tap with a string of mockumentaries that were not only critical successes, but also held their own at the box office. Recent entries of the genre have branched out from comedy into drama and even horror. Here are my seven favorite mockumentaries of them all.
1 – This is Spinal Tap – This doesn’t get the top spot simply because it’s the most important mockumentary, it’s also one of my five favorite films ever and simply the greatest comedy ever made. It has more classic scenes than the rest of the movies on this list put together, and Christopher Guest’s turn as lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel is nirvana.
2 – Blair Witch Project – The hand held amateur video style turned a lot of people off and actually made quite a few viewers queasy, but it didn’t bother me. The documentary style was unbelievably believable and utterly terrifying. The climax of Mike standing in the corner still haunts my dreams.
3 – Best in Show – Guest’s team’s second best film and probably the most popular. This send-up of dog shows never takes its foot off the satire pedal, and boasts the strongest ensemble performance of any mockumentary. The world may not have Jane Lynch to enjoy if not for Best in Show.
4 – The Office (UK) – Okay so I guess I implied with words like “cinematic” that this would be a movie list, but Ricky Gervais’ UK classic may be the funniest sitcom in television history, and don’t even say a word about the American version.
5 – A Hard Day’s Night – Richard Lester’s 1964 classic about a day (or two) in the life of the Fab Four was groundbreaking for its camera work and soundtrack. Commonly considered one of the cinema’s best films. And the Beatles showed their versatility and talent as comedic actors.
6 - Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – Sasha Baron Cohen is nothing short of a comic genius. No recent movie made me more uncomfortable and sore from laughter at the same time. And I can never get enough of the ultra-conservative getting put on the spot in overtly offensive ways.
7 – Incident at Loch Ness – Movie legend Werner Herzog wrote the movie and plays himself as a documentary filmmaker tracking Nessie while being the subject of a documentary himself. Herzog is hilarious and the movie is an underrated gem.