There are two documentaries Louis Theroux says everyone has to watch.


Louis Theroux, the best documentary-maker of our time/anytime, has some recommendations for anyone who considers themselves a documentary enthusiast. 

The first, he said, is Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing. 

Released in 2012, the film was nominated for The Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards and won a number of accolades including the BAFTA for Best Documentary.

Theroux told Mamamia he often finds himself thinking about The Act of Killing, which explores the individuals who perpetrated mass murder in Indonesia in 1965-66.

LISTEN: Clare Stephens interviews Louis Theroux on the latest episode of The Binge. Post continues below. 

“There’s something about the way it’s made… the shocking level of violence it depicts that’s absolutely upsetting, riveting but also massively instructive.”

The Act of Killing is considered by many as one of the best documentaries ever made.

The second, Theroux said, would be Hoop Dreams. 

“I saw it in the ’90s when I was first coming out with Weird Weekends, and it’s a depiction of life in Chicago with two up-and-coming basketball stars – well they’re not stars, they’re talented school kids.

“When I came out I just thought, ‘Wow, that really represents a new benchmark of depth and it was novelistic in its sense of intimacy and sense of life displayed at every level’.”

Originally, Hoop Dreams was intended to be a 30-minute short film, but the story gave way to five years of filming and hundreds of hours of footage. In the end, the film was 171 minutes, almost three hours long. Despite its unconventional approach, it received critical acclaim and, like The Act of Killing is regarded by critics as one of the best documentary films of all time.

Theroux, 47, has spent more than half his life making documentaries, mostly with the BBC.

His most recent work titled Dark States explores three American subcultures, which are home to devastating human crises; heroin addiction, sex trafficking and murder as a result of gun violence.


The first in the series, Heroin Town, sees Theroux visit Huntington, West Virginia, a community ravaged by opiate addiction. Following a crackdown of over-prescribed painkillers, more than two million Americans have turned to the next best thing: heroin.

Heroin is cheaper, stronger and easier to access than prescription painkillers. For the first time in 20 years, life expectancy in the United States is declining, and experts attribute this phenomenon largely to the significant rise in heroin overdoses. The drug currently claims more lives than gun violence or road accidents.

Huntington is one of the regions that has been hit the hardest, with one in 10 babies being born dependent on opiates. With a population of 48,000, one in ten are using opiates irresponsibly, and more than 1,000 die annually from a drug overdose.

Louis Theroux. Image via BBC.

Theroux immerses himself in the day-to-day lives of users and emergency service workers, in an attempt to understand this devastating epidemic.

Heroin Town has been released in select cinemas across Australia, including Hoyts, and Village Cinemas.

Sex Trafficking, set in Houston, Texas, premieres on BBC Knowledge on Tuesday, 21st of November, 8:30pm.

Murder in Milwaukee premieres on BBC Knowledge on Tuesday, 28th of November, 8:30pm.

Heroin Town premieres on BBC Knowledge on Tuesday, 5th of December, 8:30pm.

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You can watch The Act of Killing, here, and Hoop Dreams, here.

What is your favourite Louis Theroux doco of all time?