7 of the best iPlayer documentaries, according to Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux is the reigning king of documentary making. He’s Britain’s investigative hero, and whether he’s exploring the cult of Scientology, hanging out with wrestlers or shining a torch on the depths of social issues like drug abuse, prostitution and prison, he’s always got the nation’s undivided attention. So, who better than the man himself to provide us with the ultimate list of documentary recommendations?

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BBC iPlayer has released a brand new documentary collection handpicked by Louis, so clear your diary and get ready to hit play. Spanning all the way from 1975 right up to 2016, the famous journalist has named seven documentaries that have not only inspired him but influenced his career.

In no particular order, here are the seven documentaries you should add to your must-watch list, according to Louis Theroux.

  • Inside Story: Mini – This provocative documentary was first broadcast in 1975 and focused on the shocking story of an 11-year-old serial arsonist.
  • Fourteen Days in MayAired by the BBC in 1987, this documentary follows the final days before the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, an American prisoner convicted of rape and murder facing capital punishment.
  • Storyville: Philip and His Seven Wives – a BBC Four documentary based on the life of a Jewish antiques dealer who believes it is his Biblical birthright to take as many wives as he wants.
  • Rain in My Heart – A raw BBC documentary that follows the the lives of four alcoholics for a year.
  • Between Life and Death – A 2010 documentary looking into the British doctors who can interrupt and reverse the process of death, as well as exploring the ethical and moral values in modern day medicine.
  • Exposed: Magicians, Psychics & Frauds – A programme based on the life of renowned magician James ‘The Amazing’ Rand.
  • Life and Death Row – a docu-series exploring capital punishment through the eyes of young people.

Speaking about his collection for BBC iPlayer, Louis said: ‘It is an absolute privilege to be able to be part of sharing these wonderful, powerful documentaries. Each of them had an impact on me in a different way. They cover a range of styles – some vérité-driven, others told more through interview – but in all of them you see life at its most raw, its most strange and therefore its most human.’

On the topic of, Storyville: Philip and His Seven Wives – a BBC Four documentary based on the life of a Jewish antiques dealer who believes it is his Biblical birthright to take as many wives as he wants – he explained: ‘I love documentaries that are about weird religious behaviour, but I also like subjects that are about unconventional sexual behaviour, and Philip and His Seven Wives has both of those.’

He continued: ‘It’s a very intimate look inside how that works, what’s driving Philip and what’s driving the women who are involved with him, and it’s done very well. It could have been a kind of tawdry and tabloid-ish style doc but it’s done very poetically. There’s beautiful imagery of Phillip caring for his horses and it’s infused with a great deal of visual poetry’

He also had a lot to say about, Life and Death Row, a docu-series exploring capital punishment through the eyes of young people. ‘If you’ve seen any Life and Death Rows, I don’t know of any bad ones – all the episodes I’ve seen have been really compelling and powerful,’ he said. ‘This one I thought stood out, as it’s a particularly strong one and I think it’s partly to do with the age of the perpetrators. It’s a pair of very young men, and also the seeming motivelessness and senselessness of the crime. It’s powerful, it’s upsetting, and it really stays with you.’