The BEST episodes of Storyville
Every episode of Storyville ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of Storyville!
Storyville has developed an enviable reputation since it was launched by the BBC in 1997 as a showcase for the best in international documentaries. Screening over 340 films, from some 70 different countries, the strand has garnered a staggering array of awards: five Oscars, 15 Griersons, three Peabodys and two International Emmys.
#1 - Hitler, Stalin, and Mr Jones
Season 2012 - Episode 18 - Aired 7/5/2012
An investigation into who killed Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. Jones's greatest scoop was to reveal the starvation to death of millions in 1930s Ukraine, caused by Stalin's policies. A portrait emerges of a fiercely bright young man who preferred a journalist's life of courage and danger which took him from smalltown Wales to even hitching a lift in Hitler's private plane. However, in a 1930s world of competing ideologies, there existed a fine line between journalism and spying. This film explores to what extent this dual role, and taking on Stalin, may have contributed to his early death on the plains of Mongolia.
#2 - Hijack Hell: Bus 174
Season 2012 - Episode 13 - Aired 4/18/2012
During the early morning rush hour in Rio de Janeiro on 12 June 2000, a hijacker seized control of a bus near the city's historic botanical gardens. A lone gunman, seemingly insane or on drugs, held his victims captive as the authorities and the media surrounded the parked bus. Unable to determine his motives or purpose, the authorities stood their ground for four hours and tried to talk the hijacker into giving himself up while the television cameras broadcast every second with shocking intimacy, capturing the attention of the entire nation for the duration of the standoff. Jose Padilha's nail-biting documentary not only recounts the events of that fateful day, but also gives voice to the hijacker, 21-year-old Sandro do Nascimento. At a very young age, Sandro watched his mother be murdered. Later, as an orphaned teenager living on the streets of Rio, he survived the brutal police slaughter of several of his homeless friends. Poor, hopeless, and hooked on cocaine, Sandro finally reached his breaking point. Padilha's unflinching thriller boldly gives voice to Nascimento, proving that he also was a victim in this unfortunate situation.
#3 - The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea (1)
Season 2020 - Episode 15 - Aired 10/13/2020
A real-life undercover thriller about two ordinary men who embark on an outrageously dangerous ten-year mission to penetrate the world's most secretive and brutal dictatorship: North Korea.
#4 - Red Penguins: Murder, Money and Ice Hockey
Season 2020 - Episode 21 - Aired 12/7/2020
A tale of capitalism and opportunism run amok - complete with gangsters, strippers and live bears serving beer on a hockey rink in Moscow. Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the famed Red Army hockey team formed a joint venture that showed that anything was possible in the new Russia. Eccentric marketing whiz Steve Warshaw is sent to Russia and tasked with transforming the team into the greatest show in Moscow. He takes the viewer on a bizarre journey, highlighting a pivotal moment in US-Russia relations in a lawless era when oligarchs made their fortunes and multiple murders went unsolved.
#6 - The Trial of Ratko Mladic
Season 2019 - Episode 6 - Aired 4/1/2019
The war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic, accused of masterminding the murder of over 7000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in the 90s Bosnian war, the worst crime in Europe since WW2.
#7 - The Internet's Dirtiest Secrets: The Cleaners
Season 2019 - Episode 5 - Aired 3/19/2019
7,000 miles from Silicon Valley in downtown Manila, a secret team of content moderators have a target of 25,000 Facebook, Google and Twitter posts to delete each day. Trawling through the world’s most violent, disturbing and highly contentious online material - in the form of terrorist videos, child pornography, self-harm material and political propaganda - 'the cleaners' are individually responsible for deciding what stays online and what gets removed. This film explores the hidden and complex world of digital content moderation where undesirable material is 'cleaned' from the internet by a hidden army of nameless people. The Cleaners raises important questions for all of us who use these platforms daily without knowing what goes on behind the scenes: Who are these people that 'clean up' social media and what criteria do they operate by? Where does content moderation end and censorship begin? And what happens when their split-second decisions affect the lives of people in political hotspots like Myanmar or Istanbul?
#8 - This is Congo
Season 2018 - Episode 4 - Aired 6/27/2018
A Storyville documentary. A raw and unfiltered insight into the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War. Over the last two decades, the mineral-rich Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed over five million conflict-related deaths, multiple regime changes and the impoverishment of its people. Following the lives of four diverse characters - a government whistleblower, a patriotic military commander, a mineral dealer and a displaced tailor - this programme offers a visceral, yet intimate insight into a nation caught between the foreign-backed M23 rebels and the government ruled by president Joseph Kabila, who cancels elections and refuses to relinquish power. As the conflict resonates through their lives, the film reveals the insidious legacy of colonialism, resource exploitation and the genocidal wars that has created a never-ending cycle of violence.Watch Now:Amazon
#9 - Weiner - Sexts, Scandals and Politics
Season 2016 - Episode 16 - Aired 11/6/2016
Documentary about American politician Anthony Weiner, renowned for scandals relating to sexting. Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after his sexting exploits were made public. He attempted a political comeback by running for mayor of New York City, but his ambitions were thwarted once more as he was foreced to admit to fresh allegations. The programme also traces the personal cost to Weiner, his family and campaign team and the unrelenting media scrutiny on him.
#10 - A Death Row Tale: The Fear of 13
Season 2016 - Episode 3 - Aired 1/31/2016
After more than 20 years on death row, a convicted murderer petitions the court asking to be executed. But as he tells his story, it gradually becomes clear that nothing is quite what it seems. This film is a stylistically daring experiment in storytelling, in effect a one-man play constructed from a four-day interview. In a monologue that is part confessional and part performance, Nick, the sole protagonist, tells a tale with all the twists and turns of classic crime drama. But as the story unfolds it reveals itself as something much deeper, an emotionally powerful meditation on the redemptive power of love and literature. A final shocking twist casts everything in a new light.
#11 - Last Days in Vietnam
Season 2015 - Episode 16 - Aired 7/13/2015
Documentary which combines astonishing footage from Saigon in April 1975 with contemporary reflections from those who were there. During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary - whether to obey White House orders to evacuate US citizens only - or to risk punishment and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. The events recounted in the film mainly centre on the US evacuation of Saigon, codenamed Operation Frequent Wind. Vividly annotating one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War, that of dozens of South Vietnamese struggling to climb the steps to a rooftop helicopter as Saigon fell, Last Days in Vietnam is a moving and visceral insight into this key moment in history.
#12 - Love Hotel
Season 2015 - Episode 5 - Aired 2/16/2015
Through remarkable access, this documentary explores daily life inside a Japanese 'love hotel'. In this intimate portrait, we meet the everyday people who frequent the fantasy-themed rooms for refuge, privacy and play - a married couple visit to keep a spark alive in their relationship, two gay lawyers have nowhere else to stay and a popular dominatrix runs a thriving business. Pay by the hour or the night and order sexy underwear, condoms or anything else imaginable. Anything goes at the Angelo Love Hotel in Osaka, run by manager Ozawa and his efficient staff. Small living spaces, long work hours and the need for privacy drive 2.8 million Japanese a day to visit 'love hotels'. But now, these unique establishments are fighting to stay afloat against the 'entertainment police' who are shutting them down for what conservative groups deem to be overly risqué elements. A rare glimpse into a world destined to disappear.Watch Now:Amazon
#13 - Arms Dealer: The Notorious Mr. Bout
Season 2014 - Episode 20 - Aired 9/29/2014
Storyville follows Viktor Bout, Russian entrepreneur, arms smuggler and, strangest of all, amateur film-maker. Until three days prior to his 2008 arrest on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, Bout kept his camcorder running. He documented a life spent in the grey areas of the arms industry, crossing the line morally, if not legally, many times over before he was eventually undone by a post-9/11 crackdown. Dubbed by some the Merchant of Death and portrayed by Nicolas Cage in Hollywood's Lord of War, Viktor Bout gained notoriety as the world's most famous arms dealer. With unprecedented access to Bout's home movies and US surveillance material gathered during the sting operation to bring him down, this film is a portrait of a garrulous, adventurous individual, intent on exploiting the murky loopholes of the arms industry. Interviews with his wife, family and former business partners describe moments both comical and harrowing in a career which ended in a 25-year prison sentence.
#14 - Muscle Shoals: The Greatest Recording Studio in the World
Season 2014 - Episode 9 - Aired 3/7/2014
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals in Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America's most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the 'Singing River', as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. At its heart is Rick Hall, who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming poverty and tragedy, Hall brought black and white together in Alabama's cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations. Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals's magnetism, mystery and why it remains influential today.
#15 - Death on the Staircase: 4/8 A Prosecution Trickery
Season 2005 - Episode 4 - Aired 1/11/2005
The defence faces a blow as a new autopsy concludes that Elizabeth Ratliff was unlawfully killed. The prosecution also presents an iron poker - supposedly a replica of the murder weapon. What now for Michael Peterson?
#16 - India's Daughter
Season 2015 - Episode 10 - Aired 3/4/2015
India's Daughter tells the story of the brutal gang rape and murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti on a moving bus in Delhi in 2012, and the unprecedented protests and riots which this horrific event ignited throughout India, leading to the demand for changes in attitudes towards women. The film examines the values and mindsets of the rapists, and interviews the two lawyers who defended the men convicted of Jyoti's rape and murder.
#17 - The Gene Revolution: Changing Human Nature
Season 2020 - Episode 3 - Aired 1/27/2020
The biggest tech revolution of the 21st century isn't digital, it's biological. A breakthrough called CRISPR has given us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life. It opens the door to curing diseases, reshaping the biosphere and designing our own children. This Storyville documentary is a provocative exploration of CRISPR's far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting and the bio-engineers who are testing its limits. How will this new power change our relationship with nature? What will it mean for human evolution? To begin to answer these questions, we must look back billions of years and peer into an uncertain future.Watch Now:Amazon
#18 - The Chef Who Conquered New York: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt
Season 2012 - Episode 24 - Aired 11/12/2012
Storyville takes an intimate look at the driven and talented British celebrity chef, Paul Liebrandt, who at 24 was the youngest chef to be awarded three stars by the New York Times. His controversial and hyper-modern dishes have meant that he soon became a chef whom critics loved or loved to hate. The film follows Liebrandt for over a decade as he rose to the peaks of success in the cutthroat world of haute cuisine in New York City. Exploring the complicated relationships between food critics, chefs and restaurant owners, the film delves into the life of an uncompromising, thought-provoking young chef ahead of his time.
#19 - Poisoning America: The Devil We Know
Season 2018 - Episode 12 - Aired 11/19/2018
A Storyville documentary following a group of citizens in West Virginia who take on a corporation after they discover it has been dumping a toxic chemical into the water supply.
#20 - Petite Fille
Season 2021 - Episode 7 - Aired 6/30/2021
A sensitive and moving account of a year in the life of Sasha, a seven-year-old French girl assigned male at birth, and her family's fight for her acceptance. The film follows her parents as they come to terms with their daughter's gender dysmorphia and reveals how Sasha is affected by the societal norms that make it far from easy for her to experience childhood in the same way as most of her peers.Watch Now:Amazon
#22 - Bus I74
Season 2006 - Episode 14 - Aired 3/28/2006
A chilling Storyville documentary using vivid TV-news footage to recount the hijacking of a bus in Rio de Janeiro by a lone gunman, whose brutal life story of grinding poverty, drugs and random violence is also explored.
#23 - Barca: The Inside Story (2004)
Season 2005 - Episode 13 - Aired 2/20/2005
Documentary following the fortunes of Barcelona Football Club over a year of crisis. With poor performances and spiralling debts, reform of the club is urgently needed. The new board, under the leadership of the charismatic Joan Laporta, attempt to turn an old fashioned Catalan family affair into a global football business.
#24 - Prostitution Behind the Veil
Season 2006 - Episode 29 - Aired 10/2/2006
Prostitution Behind the Veil explores a side of Iran rarely seen or talked about. For over a year, director Nahid Persson filmed the everyday lives of two young female prostitutes in Iran as they eked out a living in a country where the profession is banned. The filmmaker often took great risks to follow Minna and Fariba as they sought out customers-men who would often marry them briefly, so as not to violate the laws of Islam by having extramarital sex. The two women are good friends and neighbor, who have experienced the widespread mistreatment of women and the double standards that permeate Iranian society today.
#25 - Valentino: The Last Emperor
Season 2010 - Episode 16 - Aired 6/7/2010
Film which travels inside the singular world of one of Italy's most famous fashion designers, Valentino Garavani, documenting the colourful and dramatic closing act of his celebrated career and capturing the end of an era in global fashion. However, at the heart of the film is a love story - the unique relationship between Valentino and his business partner and companion of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. Capturing intimate moments in the lives of two of Italy's richest and most famous men, the film lifts the curtain on the final act of a nearly 50-year reign at the top of the glamorous and fiercely competitive world of fashion.