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The top 14 Louis Theroux documentaries of all time. Ranked.

Louis Theroux is one of the greatest documentary makers of our time and I shan’t be hearing a word against it.

Born in London, Theroux studied at Oxford University before moving to the U.S. and working as a television presenter on Michael Moore’s satirical news series, TV Nation. 

louis-theroux
Louis Theroux. Image via NBC.

Something about Theroux's offbeat, fish out of water approach to American culture caught the attention of the BBC. 

In 1998, at 28 years old, the first episode of Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends aired on BBC2. "The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them" he later explained. "I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd."

With his characteristic glasses, folded arms, and self-deprecation, Theroux earned himself positive reviews and a number of industry awards.

For more than 20 years now, Theroux has travelled all around the world, telling the stories of peculiar subcultures, through the lens of the curious but open-minded visitor.

In his time, Theroux has co-created 67 documentaries, including a feature length film titled My Scientology Movie. 

Watch the trailer for My Scientology Movie. Post continues below. 

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It is of course my recommendation that you watch every single one of his docos, one after the other, and when you finish just start them all over again.

But if you don't have the time, then we've compiled a list of the 14 best Louis Theroux documentaries of all time. Ranked.

(Just a note: Every single one of these documentaries is available to stream on Stan.) 

14. Louis Theroux: Gambling in Las Vegas (2007)

Theroux travels to the Las Vegas Hilton and spends time with people who are addicted to gambling. One woman, a retired doctor, has gambled away $4 million of her life savings in seven years.

13.  Louis Theroux: Behind Bars (2008)

Set inside America's most notorious prison, San Quentin, Theroux speaks to serial murderers, at-risk inmates, gang members and prison guards.

When it first aired in the UK, Behind Bars was the tenth most watched program of the last decade on BBC2.

12. Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity (2015)

A two-part documentary, By Reason of Insanity explores the lives of psychiatric patients at two hospitals in the United States. Each of these patients have been acquitted of serious, and often horrifically violent crimes, by reason of insanity.

11. Louis and The Nazis (2003)

Theroux travels to California to spend time with the man believed to be "the most dangerous racist in America", Tom Metzger.

One of the most remarkable moments of the documentary is when Metzger asks Theroux outright if he is Jewish, and Theroux refuses to answer the question. Despite the fact that Theroux is not Jewish, he allows the tension to escalate, revealing a side of Metzger viewers might not have otherwise seen.

10. Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles (2009)

Theroux spends time with patients in California's Coalinga Mental Hospital, which is home to more than 500 convicted paedophiles who have been deemed unsafe for release.

9. Louis Theroux Dark States: Heroin Town (2017)

Part of Theroux's Dark States series, Heroin Town explores the opiate crisis crippling the community of Huntington, West Virginia.

He sits with a young woman while she injects heroin, putting a microscope on a nationwide epidemic that claims more lives in the United States than car accidents or gun crime.

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Listen to Clare Stephens interview Louis Theroux about his approach to documentary making. Post continues below. 

For the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the US is declining, with many experts insisting that heroin overdoses are a primary cause.

8. Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (2015)

A feature length, big screen documentary, My Scientology Movie explores the infamous Church of Scientology and what compels the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta to stay.

The film alleges the Church has enacted "terroristic activities", and speaks to former senior church official Mark Rathbun. The Church turns its own cameras on Theroux once they discover his interest, leading to multiple confrontations between the documentary maker and his subject.

7. Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion (2016)

Theroux heads to Europe's largest liver transplant centre to spend time with patients in the grips of alcohol addiction. He learns about the physical side effects of alcoholism and the real challenges faced by the medical community and family members in treating it.

6. Louis Theroux's LA Stories: Among the Sex Offenders (2014)

California has some of the toughest regulations in the United States when it comes to sex offenders. Theroux visits the paroled offenders now living on the fringes of society, where redemption seems impossible.

5. Mothers on the Edge (2019)

Theroux spends time with mothers experiencing serious mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Inside two UK specialist psychiatric units he learns of their backstories, including birth trauma and the pressures of motherhood.

4. Louis Theroux's Altered States: Choosing Death (2018)

Immersing himself in the world of assisted dying, Theroux meets four people preparing to take a lethal but legally prescribed overdose.

They grapple with trying to choose the 'right' time and communicating that with the people they love.

3. Louis Theroux: Louis and the Brothel (2003)

Theroux spends time at the Wild Horse Adult Resort and Spa, a brothel in Nevada, and gets to know the sex workers and their clients. He befriends a young sex worker named Hayley, who only agrees to an interview if he lets her perform a massage.

2. The Night in Question (2019)

Theroux delves into the subject of rape on college campuses in the United States, first interviewing two college students accused of sexual assault.

A twist part the way through the documentary, that shocks even Theroux, turns the tables on one of his key interview subjects.

1. The Most Hated Family in America (2007)

The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, mostly made up of one family, are known for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and broadcasting their extreme homophobia.

Theroux gets to know the children, including Meghan Phelps, who would years later defect from the family church.

What documentaries did we miss? Let us know in the comments below. 

You can watch pretty much all Louis Theroux's documentaries on Stan. 

Feature image: BBC. 

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