20 Best Mockumentaries

Because fiction is stranger than fact...

The Last Broadcast (1998)

The Setup: DIY filmmaker David Leigh sets out to probe the fate of another documentary team, slain while shooting a cable TV spot on the Jersey Devil legend.

Why It Rules: Although it touches on the old 'found footage' cliché (banned from this list, hence no Blair Witch ), it's scaffolded by a well-constructed 'live' doc to prevent any air of detached voyeurism. It beat Blair Witch to the punch by a year - better PR might've seen this genre rival triumph.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

The Setup: Street-art royalty Banksy purports to tell us the curious tale of graf superstar Thierry Guetta's rise from LA wannabe to bona fide urban legend.

Why It Rules: Well, is it a mockumentary or not? Tough call, which probably makes it the most spurious entry here, but there's enough speculation to justify a place on the list. And, almost uniquely, it doesn't really seem to matter - it's a thoroughly absorbing ride either way.

Interview With The Assassin (2002)

The Setup: An elderly ex-Marine with terminal cancer asks a neighbour to tape his startling confession - that he was the much-theorised second 'grassy knoll' gunman in the 1963 shooting of JFK.

Why It Rules: Not a high-profile entry, but it offers a fresh twist on the familiar 'unemployed friend with a camera' contrivance, putting an old-timer front and centre of an intriguing story powered along by some superbly natural dialogue.

Incident At Loch Ness (2004)

The Setup: Werner Herzog is filming a sceptical Nessie doc, while another crew is shooting one on Werner. Ever in each other's way, tensions lurk both above and below the surface..

Why It Rules: Herzog mugs along gamely with the faintly wacky premise, apparently taking it all über-seriously. In fact, some scenes are so deadpan, you do wonder what the original project might've been before it segued into this little oddity.

Bob Roberts (1992)

The Setup: Writer/director/lead Tim Robbins plays the titular conservative folk singer, whose Pennsylvania senatorial race is followed to the tape by a British documentarian.

Why It Rules: Although over-reliant on political tropes of the Reagan era, it neatly satirises both the system and the media clamouring to critique it - never more so than when the frequent handycam shots put us right in the mouth of the feeding frenzy.

The Magician (2005)

The Setup: An intimate portrait of Melbourne's lesser-spotted seedy underbelly, courtesy of the alarmingly affable Ray Shoesmith. Who, y'know, just happens to be a hitman.

Why It Rules: Scott Ryan writes, directs and stars in a grimly amusing, tragicomic murder romp. He deserves much credit for the ominously volatile relationship between mercurial Ray and his incredulous young cameraman, Italian neighbour Max.

A Mighty Wind (2003)

The Setup: Having already found parody nirvana with Spinal Tap , Christopher Guest puts in another solid shift down the mock-doc mines with a somewhat less scabrous peek at the world of folk music.

Why It Rules: It may not boast quite the minutes-to-belly-laughs ratio of his other work in the genre, but it inserts a valuable seam of maturity into Guest's stellar CV. Tap devotees' mileage will vary, but this is well worth a slot on your satire shelf.

Death Of A President (2006)

The Setup: Slick, Brit-made 'future mockumentary', asking us to imagine (and witness) events surrounding a successful assassination attempt on George W. Bush.

Why It Rules: Far from critiquing Dubya's administration, this impressively apolitical thought experiment instead sets its sights on the likely social and media reactions to such a high-profile murder. The tech skills on display are pretty nuts, too - it must've made for deeply eerie viewing in the Oval Office.

Kenny (2006)

The Setup: Portable toilet engineer Kenny Smyth is the focus of this gently bathetic, curiously moving paean for the virtues of blue-collar working life.

Why It Rules: Although packing a septic tank full of dryly observational wit, it's Kenny 's colossal heart that sets it apart from the crowd. Writer/director Clayton Jacobson takes key credit for that, but brother Shane is tremendously likeable in the title role.

Forgotten Silver (1995)

The Setup: Bad Taste and later LOTR prankster Peter Jackson is our guide in this stone-turning foray into the overlooked life of pioneering early NZ director Colin McKenzie. Who never actually existed.

Why It Rules: It's played so poker-straight that many viewers didn't realise they'd been taken for a ride at first. Jackson's real coup was in securing talking head cameos from the likes of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein - it's genuinely hard to spot the fakery here.