Eccentric boxers. Social advocates. Heavy metal fanatics with a dream.

This year's best documentaries shed light on people and subjects either unknown or misunderstood and used the power of the camera to expose devastating truths and blatant falsehoods. They're not always the images you want to see, but for many of the films listed below, they're things you need to see.

We also have a soft spot for movies that showcase and triumph the underdog, and a good documentary allows us to see, despite different times or cultures, a little bit of ourselves in each subject. Eccentric boxers. Social advocates. Heavy metal fanatics with a dream.

This year's best documentaries shed light on people and subjects either unknown or misunderstood and used the power of the camera to expose devastating truths and blatant falsehoods. They're not always the images you want to see, but for many of the films listed below, they're things you need to see.

We also have a soft spot for movies that showcase and triumph the underdog, and a good documentary allows us to see, despite different times or cultures, a little bit of ourselves in each subject.


10. 'The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers'
When military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked confidential Department of Defense documents concerning the Vietnam War to the New York Times in 1971, he was both derided as a traitor and celebrated as a hero. "The Pentagon Papers" sparked a nationwide debate over how much information should be divulged during wartime and what responsibility the media has, if any, if the government feels its citizens are at risk should the info become public. This incisive documentary takes a look back at the incident and, given America's current climate, still holds particular relevancy today.

9. 'Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country'
A trenchant look into both the power of collective protest and increasing use of technology to further social causes, 'Burma VJ' refers to a group of Burmese video journalists that took part in and documented governmental protests, smuggling the footage to Thai colleagues. The most guerrilla film on this list, the movie stands as a powerful reminder of the lengths and risks some people will go in an attempt to earn their freedom.

8. 'Capitalism: A Love Story'
Arguably the most polarizing documentarian working today, Michael Moore's films inspire equal amounts of admiration and vitriol depending on your political views. 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' naturally, is no different, but it does expose and foment the growing realization that for most people without Wall Street bonuses in the seven figures (or more!), the game is rigged and control of your own money seems more and more like a pipe dream every day.

7. 'Outrage'
Four years ago filmmaker Kirby Dick exposed the MPAA's arbitrary ratings dissemination with 'This Film is Not Yet Rated,' an unique exposé on the nebulous backdoor dealings of the cinematic cabal. In 'Outrage,' Dick turns his attention to gay politicians, both closeted and out, and allegations of hypocrisy when it comes to legislating gay rights. Dick's decision to "out" certain people has come under fire, but regardless, the film serves as a microcosm of the overall hypocrisy sadly found in many of our elected leaders.

6. 'The Beaches of Agnès'
That 'The Beaches of Agnès,' a film about the life and work of French director Agnès Varda directed by the filmmaker herself, doesn't devolve into pretentiousness or self-adulation is a testament to both Varda's storytelling ability and humility. Using footage from Varda's past films as well as re-enactments of her life's key moments, 'Beaches' shows the summation of a life's work from a visionary filmmaker.

5. 'Tyson'
With someone as outspoken and charismatic as Mike Tyson, director James Toback ('Fingers,' 'Black and White') doesn't really have to do anything more than turn on the camera and start asking questions. Even non-boxing fans have marveled over 'Tyson,' equally repelled and enraptured by a man capable of both biting the ear off another fighter and becoming a loving, even playful, father.


4.'Crude'
While Chernobyl is a household word, far fewer people are aware of the plight of 30,000 Ecuadorians that staged a class action lawsuit against Chevron, claiming the company's oil spills led to countless deaths, illnesses and destruction of the Amazonian rainforest. Director Joe Berlinger uses multiple perspectives to indict not just Chevron, but the Ecuadorian government and other oil companies for their neglect and complacency. One of the year's most powerful films.

3. 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil'
Admired by legendary bands such as Metallica and Megadeth, Anvil was a Canadian heavy metal group that, despite their best efforts, never made it past the minor leagues during the genre's 1980s heyday. Twenty-five years later, singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner are still logging the miles waiting for their big break. Ostensibly a film about the virtually insurmountable obstacles it takes to make it as a professional musician, the year's most inspiring movie applies to anyone who is determined enough to not let anything interfere with achieving their goals. The film's snubbing by the Academy Awards is a cinematic travesty.

2. 'The Cove'
Taiji, Japan is a small town on the Japanese coastline whose economy thrives on the hunting, killing and selling of dolphins. When former animal trainer turned activist Richard O'Barry and his team try to infiltrate the town to expose the dangers inherent in the practice -- not to mention the high toxicity levels in much of the meat unbeknownst to Japanese consumers -- they are not exactly welcome with open arms. Described by Rolling Stone as 'Flipper' meets 'The Bourne Identity,' this is the epitome of fearless, courageous filmmaking.

1. 'Food, Inc.'
Forget 'Paranormal Activity.' Robert Kenner made the scariest film of the year by showing us what we're really putting in our bodies every day. A broad, scathing indictment of the major food-producing companies and the governmental agencies complicit in contributing to widespread obesity and over 70,000 E. Coli-related illnesses annually, it's never pretty to watch, but it may be the most important movie of the year.