At one point in Rob Reiner’s seminal 1984 mockumentary, “This Is Spinal Tap,” Michael McKean’s pretentious rock star declares, “I believe virtually everything I read, and I think that is what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.”
The line does a fine job of summing up mockumentaries as a genre, which poke fun at real-life phenomena and events through seemingly “realistic,” faux-documentary film techniques. This art form has been around in a major way since 1938, when Orson Welles read a fake radio news broadcast adapted from H.G. Wells’ alien-invasion tale “War of the Worlds” and convinced many Americans that little green men had in fact touched down on Earth. Since then, film versions of mockumentaries have built upon that dynamic, blurring the line between real-life sensationalism and pointed, fictional comedy.
Mockumentaries began to hit their stride in the 1960s with acclaimed films like 1964’s “A Hard Day’s Night” and 1969’s “Take the Money and Run” leading to the genre-defining British heavy metal spoof, 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap.” From “Spinal Tap” came Christopher Guest, a director whose body of work (including films such as “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best In Show,” and “For Your Consideration”) became synonymous with high-profile, largely improvisational mockumentaries.
Stacker compiled IMDb data to determine the 50 best mockumentaries of all time as of Sept. 11, 2020. Because fewer mockumentaries exist in comparison to other film genres, TV movies and a few films with runtimes between 30 and 60 minutes that met all other requirements were also included. Ties were broken by the number of votes, and each movie on the list has been considered in terms of what it has added to the cinematic development and history of the genre.
Counting down from 50, here are the best mockumentaries of all time.
You may also like: 100 best films of the 21st century, according to critics