I usually hate doing end-of-year lists like this. As only a part-time reviewer of films, I tend not to see the majority of the "best" until long after the next year has begun. I still haven't had a chance to see 'Marwencol,' for instance. And that's cited on many lists as the best documentary of the year. Maybe once I catch it, I'll agree. I also haven't seen the five top-grossing nonfiction films of 2010 -- 'Jackass 3-D,' 'Oceans,' 'Hubble 3-D,' 'Babies' and 'Waiting for "Superman"'. And when I thought I was watching '45365' in full, I was only seeing an abridged version fit to an episode of PBS' "Independent Lens." So it goes.
The fact is, I have actually seen a whole bunch of documentaries this year. More than I've seen in any year prior. Enough to have considered it potentially the best year for documentary ever. But only some were in their official 2010 theatrical run. Some were on Netflix Watch Instantly, which I consider to be one of the best things to happen to docs in years (those titles include old docs that I finally got around to seeing, such as 2009's 'Crude' and 'Collapse'). Many others were at festivals and haven't yet been officially released, if they ever will be.
So I've got two lists for you. One is a straight top ten of 2010, which will surely, once I see 'Marwencol' and/or other titles, change in the future. The other lists ten from the fest circuit that (note to distributors and theater owners) I really, really hope you have an opportunity to see theatrically or streaming sometime in the future.