Billionaire Richard Branson thinks everyone should watch these 20 documentaries
War, music and nature are all covered in the tycoon’s top documentaries
By Catherine Clifford
Richard Branson isn’t always flying across the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon, kite-surfing on the English Channel, or running one of his many business ventures.
The iconic billionaire entrepreneur likes to watch movies, just like the rest of us.
“I love sitting down and watching a good film, whether at home, on planes or at the cinema,” says Branson in a blog post .
But while he’s got a soft spot for charismatic fictional characters like Frank Underwood, Branson says he tends to choose more substantive fare: “Every now and then I will watch a box set like [the Netflix show] ‘House of Cards,’ but most of the time my family and I like to choose documentaries.”
Here’s a list of Branson’s top 20 favorite documentaries and why he recommends each one.
1. “ Breaking The Taboo”
“I may be biased, but my son Sam’s film documenting the failed war on drugs has helped to shift the conversation around drug policy reform,” says Branson.
2. “ Fourteen Days in May”
“This offers a strong argument against the death penalty,” says Branson. “It documents the countdown to the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, a young African-American who was put to death in the gas chamber of Mississippi’s state penitentiary in 1987.”
3. “ When We Were Kings”
“This really gets to the heart of the infamous Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight championship match between The Greatest and George Foreman,” says Branson. “As much action outside the ring as inside the ropes.”
4. “ The White Helmets”
“It offers real insight into the horror, and humanity, happening right now in Syria,” he says.
5. “ Searching for Sugarman”
“Rodriguez represents music with the charming story of his discovery and rejuvenation in South Africa,” Branson says.
6. “ Senna”
Branson likes “the innovative nature of his movie about the life and death of Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna.”
7. “ The Island President”
This is “a fast-moving film about the Maldives’ first democratically-elected President, Mohamed Nasheed,” says Branson. “The documentary is particularly moving considering President Nasheed’s subsequent story, and expertly captures his efforts to highlight the threat of climate change on a global level.”
8. “ The Fog of War”
“This stunning film, subtitled Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, gives the former US Secretary of Defence the chance to admit his mistakes in the terrible Vietnam War,” says Branson.
9. “ Man on Wire”
“The classic documentary about tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s awe-inspiring high-wire routine in New York. It set the bar for documentary making from then on,” says Branson.
10. “ Virunga”
This movie “tells the moving story of the amazing people trying to save Africa’s oldest national park,” says Branson.
11. “ Revolution”
“Filmed over four years in 15 countries, Revolution captures some of the most remarkable wildlife spectacles ever recorded, to give us a first-hand look into the biggest battle ever fought: environmental conservation and activism,” says Branson. “The documentary opens our eyes about evolution of life on Earth and urges us to join the revolution to create a better future to us all.”
12. “ Hoop Dreams”
“Following two talented African American teenagers on basketball scholarship at a prestigious Chicago high school, Hoop Dreams raises a number of issues concerning race, social class, economic division, education, and values in the U.S.,” says Branson. “While it appears to be a sports documentary, it’s really a compelling story about the struggles of life in America.”
13. “ Shine a Light”
“The Stones are one of my favourite bands of all time, and signing them to Virgin Records in 1992 was one of the proudest moments in my career. This is a must-watch for all music lovers,” says Branson.
14. “ Waiting for Superman”
“‘Waiting for Superman’ is an eye-opening account of the American public education system, following several students as they strive to be accepted into a prominent charter school,” says Branson. “As someone who struggled at school because of my dyslexia, and left to start a business at 16-years-old, I strongly believe that we need to shake up traditional education and create systems that better cater for students of varying skills and abilities, to set them up for the real world.”
15. “The Space Movie”
Branson’s own movie house made the doc at the behest of NASA to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
16. “Food, Inc.”
“An unflattering investigation of the American food industry; exposing a system rife with shocking practices and products that are contributing to the rise of obesity and deadly disease. This powerful documentary has changed the way millions of Americans eat,” says Branson. “I’m personally committed to eating healthily and sustainably, and encouraging others to do so too, so I feel that this film is a good wake-up call.”
17. “ Meru”
“This is a wonderful film about the power of perseverance, chronicling the first ascent of Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas. The team had attempted but failed to summit Meru, but returned to the mountain in order to conquer its peak – a 4,000 foot wall known as the Shark’s Fin,” says Branson. “We all have our own mountain to climb.”
18. “ The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”
“Let me begin by saying, this is a mockumentary, not a documentary,” says Branson. “Johnny, Sid and the boys were by no means puppets used to swindle cash from record labels, none-the-less the film is an entertaining account of how the band rose to fame and inspired a generation with their damn-the-man attitude.”
19. “ 13th”
“This documentary about the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution argues that slavery is still being perpetuated in the US today, through mass incarceration,” says Branson. “Forecasts show that as many as one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison.”
20. “ The Cove”
“A team of activists, filmmakers and free divers uncover horrifying dolphin hunting practices in a small seaside village in Japan, providing a horrifying snapshot of a much wider issue,” says Branson. “As an animal and ocean lover, I found The Cove to be a provocative film, motivating people to speak out and take action.”