In no particular order here are some of Louis Theroux’s best documentaries.
1. The Most Hated Family In America (2007)
Louis visits the Phelps family, of Wesboro baptist church fame. Firmly opposed to any logical reasoning by Louis, it’s interesting to watch their resolutely held convictions come up against Louis’ indirect probing and leading questions. Look out for Fred Phelps, the head Westboro guy, for his bizarre rants and sermon.
2. Weird Weekends: Swingers (1999)
Louis gets involved in Californian swinger culture. Attending a swingers party requires a female companion, so Louis hooks up with a local lady so he can get access to a couple’s party. With nerves of steel louis is pretty unflustered by the writhing flabby suburban flesh on display in the “group room”. Probably one of the best documentaries in terms of how Louis handles such a potentially embarrassing subject.
3. UFO Hunters (1998)
A classic very early Theroux documentary, Louis meets up with several people who have a somewhat obsessive interest in UFOs. The most interesting / crazy is Thor Templar or “The Lord Commander of the Earth Protectorate” who has apparently killed 20 alien beings. Many of Louis’ subjects are borderline mentally “different” but Thor Templar is one of the more genuinely crazy subjects.
4. Black Nationalism (1999)
Louis meets black nationalist groups in Harlem, NYC. Among them Khalid Abdul Muhammad and Reverend Al Sharpton. The best scene out of the documentary is when Louis lists dozens of historical figures to the members of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge to ask if they were black.
Louis: William Shakespeare?
Nationalist: Definitely Black.
The oddball characters in the film don’t detract from the somewhat serious issues that Louis touches on, he follows Al Sharpton on a march protesting against the shoting of a young man by the police, who died of 41 bullet wounds.
5. Law and Disorder : Johannesburg (2008)
Louis visits Johannesburg as part of a 3 part series focusing on Law and Order (the other two are in Lagos, Nigeria and Philadelphia in the US). A really chilling look into one of the most violent places on earth, the depressing state of affairs is fascinating to watch but a little scary at times. Watch out for the scene where Louis interrogates two hardened street criminals who calmly inform Louis that they would (hypothetically) take his wife and child and do some pretty terrible things to them for money. Louis is unflappable as always but the thugs seem devoid of any kind of remorse or care for the actions they are talking about and presumably take part in regularly.
6. Behind Bars ( 2008)
Louis gets some fascinating insights into US prison life in San Quentin prison. Racial segregation (100% self imposed) and what seem like strange rules to outsiders are exposed as louis rather bravely interviews killers and criminals. Particularly interesting are the chats Louis has with the brutal white supremacist gangs as well as the kooky transgender inmate “Deborah”.
7. Weird Weekends: Hypnosis (2000)
One of the funniest documentaries featuring some very unusual people, some great scenes with Louis learning about “hypnotic dating” with a self confessed hypno-dating expert. Louis tries it out in the wild with some funny results. His expression is priceless.
8. Wrestling (1999)
Louis gets involved with some professional wrestlers, who smell a rat and don’t take kindly to the insinuation that their sport may be anything but “real”. They reinforce their point by putting the not overly athletic Louis through some grueling training regimes.