3 Best Movies to Watch by Orson Welles

Staff & contributors

In his last film, American Serb film historian Peter Bogdanovich celebrates silver screen legend Buster Keaton. The subject alone is compelling to watch. It would be easy to pull clips from Keaton’s works, dig through the headlines, pull in some celebrity interviews, and call it a day. However, in Bogdanovich’s hands, this documentary handles Keaton with respect. Instead of focusing on the scandals, Bogdanovich focuses on Keaton’s brilliant work. Instead of reciting facts, Bogdanovich highlights how his bits influenced film today. Excellent editing - cuts, structure, and scoring - helps us glide through Keaton’s work. The film truly understands Keaton’s life and exactly why he’s brilliant. Comprehensive yet very focused, this documentary honestly feels better than film school.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Ben Mankiewicz, Bill Hader, Bill Irwin, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, Dick Van Dyke, Eleanor Keaton, French Stewart, James Karen, Johnny Knoxville, Jon Watts, Leonard Maltin, Mel Brooks, Nick Kroll, Norman Lloyd, Orson Welles, Paul Dooley, Peter Bogdanovich, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Lewis, Tom Holland, Werner Herzog

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Rating: Not Rated

It’s bold to make a film about a legendary icon of cinema, but it’s even bolder to make one about Orson Welles. Best known for making Citizen Kane (universally agreed upon as one of the best movies ever made), Orson Welles is the renegade filmmaker whose works and techniques form the foundation of modern narrative filmmaking today. In his eyes, he asserts that the best films are made by accident. However, armed with archival footage and interviews with those closest to Welles, director Morgan Neville dares to question one of cinema’s biggest geniuses by examining the production of his last unfinished film, the Hollywood satire The Other Side of the Wind. While Welles was undeniably genius - able to inscrutably visualize a film without scripts - it’s easy to see how his tendency to stoke conflict for art could be so self-destructive. This film presents Welles as he is - both a cinema maverick and also an overly demanding artistic tyrant.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alan Cumming, Andrés Vicente Gómez, Cameron Mitchell, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Huston, Dennis Hopper, Frank Marshall, Gary Graver, George Stevens Jr., Henry Jaglom, Jeanne Moreau, John Huston, Joseph Cotten, Joseph McBride, Keith Baxter, Michael Fitzgerald, Neil Canton, Norman Foster, Oja Kodar, Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Jason, Rich Little, Robert Random, Simon Callow

Director: Morgan Neville

Rating: TV-MA

For kids and kids-at-heart who find Jim Henson's technical mastery of puppets riveting, this documentary on the classic and still-contemporary Sesame Street provides a ton of behind-the-scenes footage that's endlessly fun to watch. Street Gang rebuts any arguments that could be made about children's TV being low-effort—showing just how much craft is needed in a show like this. But more importantly, the film's first act illustrates the risky process of building Sesame Street from the ground-up, specifically as programming for inner-city Black children who weren't getting the education they deserved. It's nothing short of an inspiration to see this ragtag group of creatives and communication experts—none of whom wanted to take sole credit—coming together like a superhero team to create one of the most iconic and enduring TV shows in American history.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bob McGrath, Brian Henson, Caroll Spinney, Christopher Cerf, Dizzy Gillespie, Emilio Delgado, Fran Brill, Frank Oz, Fred Rogers, Holly Robinson Peete, James Earl Jones, Jesse Jackson, Jim Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Jon Stone, Lisa Henson, Loretta Long, Matt Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Norman Stiles, Orson Welles, Roscoe Orman, Sonia Manzano, Stevie Wonder, Will Lee

Director: Marilyn Agrelo