Alex Gibney Movies


Directors like Woody Allen and Steven Soderbergh are rightfully praised for their seemingly innate ability to churn out films at such a rapid pace. But neither of these men have anything on documentarian Alex Gibney.

Some will chide the fact that Gibney seems to perpetually have a film in theaters. This year, he brought us We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks and the upcoming The Armstrong Lie, and as you’ll see, 2013 is a bit of slow year for Gibney.

Alex Gibney movies tend to be pretty traditional, talking-head documentaries. That’s no slight toward the director; he’s mastered the technique. He presents his information in a way that’s both clear and entertaining. Gibney’s documentaries aren’t puffed up or pretentious; they come and go in a way that makes them feel like a film version of the “For Dummies” book series. But the information usually sticks, and as such, they’re a great primer for those viewers looking an entry point into the form.

The subjects of Gibney’s movies share a bond: they’re all involved in an injustice of some kind. In some cases, they’re the brunt of injustice (Mea Maxima Culpa and Client 9 being two vastly different examples of this). Then there are films like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and The Armstrong Lie, which focus on the source of the injustice. And because he tells these types of stories, he’s a director who regularly transcends the emotionally limited reputation of the genre—something that will be perfectly clear as we dig in…

*Note: Documentary shorts and made-for-TV specials are not included among this rundown of Alex Gibney’s filmography.

Alex Gibney Movies

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

A scathing portrait of a lifeless corporation illegally propping itself up as a Fortune 500 giant.

(2005, 1 viewing)

Gibney started with a bang. Enron is among his best films. It remains an essential cautionary tale of white-collar excess.

Behind Those Eyes

A 3 Doors Down music documentary.

(2005, 0 viewings)

I’m typically a completist when it comes to directors I care about, but I have to draw the line somewhere. No 3 Doors Down doc for me.

Taxi to the Dark Side

Centered around the torture and death of an innocent Afghani cab driver, this documentary examines changes in U.S. policy toward questioning detainees in the wake of September 11, 2001.

(2007, 1 viewing)

Gibney won a Best Documentary Feature Oscar for this disturbing, dispiriting documentary.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Narrated by Johnny Depp, this documentary shines a light on one of the wildest writers to have ever lived.

(2008, 0 viewings)

I gotta say, while I recognize Hunter S. Thompson’s brilliance, his whole scene was never one that called to me—in any medium. So a documentary chronicling his life was never meant to move to the top of my Netflix queue. But hey, it’s not a 3 Doors Down doc, so I won’t rule out coming around to it some time.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money

A probe into the career and downfall of corrupt “super lobbyist” Jack Abramoff.

(2010, 1 viewing)

The better of 2010’s two Jack Abramoff movies (though George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack is mighty entertaining, too).

My Trip to Al-Qaeda

A journalist explores what it’s like to write about Islamic terror in a post-9/11 world.

(2010, 0 viewings)

It’s the Gibney film I haven’t seen that I’m most curious about. A one-man play of sorts, My Trip to Al-Qaeda‘s subject matter contains more gray area than most of Gibney’s other docs.


A documentary anthology of sorts that tells a number of different stories about human nature using statistics and economics in surprising ways.

(2010, 0 viewings)

While I admire the book it’s based on, its cinematic qualities eluded (and continue to elude me). I’m just not sure I need to see it play out in documentary form.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer was on his way to New York’s governor’s mansion before a sex scandal got in his way.

(2010, 1 viewing)

Client 9 is definitely among Gibney’s more disposable documentaries for me. It’s so disposable that I really don’t have much to say about it. It’s fine but far from our definitive take on Spitzer’s story.

Catching Hell

When Cubs fan Steve Bartman reached for a foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, he had no idea he’d become a pariah. This documentary investigates sports fans and their need to lay blame.

(2011, 1 viewing)

Every baseball fan in the world knows about the Steve Bartman incident, and Gibney delves into it here with admirable intentions. He doesn’t want to dredge up the past and merely discuss what happened. Instead, he’s interested in figuring out why silly things like this take off. The Cubs had a million chances to win that game and series. Why, then, is Bartman persona non gratis in Chicago? Like I said, admirable intentions, but I think he’s only marginally successful. Catching Hell is a good, perfectly watchable movie, but great truths elude its director.

Magic Trip

A freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ fabled road trip across America.

(2011, 0 viewings)

A seemingly forgotten title that I heard little about upon its release and even less about today.

The Last Gladiators

A profile of the last true bastion of toughness in sports—the hockey “goon.”

(2011, 0 viewings)

Another sports doc, but not a part of the 30 for 30 series. I know very little about The Last Gladiators, but for a sports fan like me, it certainly sounds like something I’d enjoy.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

Tells a horrifying story about a group of deaf men who were abused by a priest at their Catholic school as boys. Gibney traces the cover up by this man’s superiors to the highest corridors of power at the Vatican.

(2012, 1 viewing)

Gibney’s best movie, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not the only Gibney documentary I’d describe as damning, but it’s his most damning and undeniably his most devastating.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks

A factual chronicling of Julian Assange’s creation of WikiLeaks, which perpetuated some of the biggest information leaks in United States history. (Click here for my full We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks review.)

(2013, 1 viewing)

Prototypical Gibney. His take on Julian Assange is neat and tidy—a fast-paced and entertaining Cliff’s Notes on WikiLeaks and the various scandals that surround it.

The Armstrong Lie

Alex Gibney spent a year with Lance Armstrong in 2009 as he prepared for a cycling comeback. A few years later, the infamously testy Armstrong is banished from cycling, and Gibney is looking for an apology.

(2013, 0 viewings)

Boy, that trailer really makes your blood boil, doesn’t it? Armstrong will always be a controversial figure. His guilt is no longer in doubt, of course, but many argue his good deeds far outweigh his sins. Fair enough. But I’m more interested in what kind of person he is, and if those few minutes (and the first-hand accounts of some colleagues) are any indication, I’m going to come away from Alex Gibney’s latest with very little respect for cycling’s biggest pariah.

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