The observations of “the most intelligent man in contemporary cinema,” to quote Jean-Luc Godard in 1958, led to 20 of the sharpest, toughest, wittiest, and most intricate films to come out of Hollywood at its peak. Why pay tribute to Joseph L. Mankiewicz now? Because, to put it simply, Mankiewicz matters—to cinema, and to you.
It’s a commonplace to think of documentary as an add-on to fiction, something extra, and of course nothing could be further from the truth: cinema started with documentary, and it will always be at the core of the art form. These 15 films, so vastly different in outlook and method and tone, represent the best in documentary filmmaking today.