You may have noticed that I didn’t include any documentaries when I ran my list of 2015’s best movies last week. I’m never sure how to evaluate documentaries alongside fiction films — comparing fiction movies to one another is hard enough as it is. That’s partly why I compile a separate list for docs every year, for the nonfiction films that informed me, enthralled me, and entertained me. Here’s the best of 2015:
1.) The Pearl Button. A movie about water! Does that sound boring? Chilean master Patricio Guzmán spins the subject into a spellbinding meditation on astronomy, climate change, and his country’s blood-soaked history (both colonial and recent). His film is the most beautiful one on this list to look at, but he also infuses you with wonder at the seamanship of the Patagonian indigenous peoples and at a drop of water trapped in a block of quartz for uncounted millions of years.