My Favourite Documentaries…(including some railway films)

My friend and colleague, Jaap, just asked me to compile a list of my favourite film documentaries on youtube. Here’s the list I posted to him…they’re not all railway films, but there are a few…I’ve made a note against the title of each film to warn anyone who isn’t that interested in trains…
The documentary form is about the only type of cinema in which Britain is recognise dinternationally as having made a real contribution…the potential of documentary was identified by Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays in the aftermath of WW1. The potential was enthusiastically embraced, in Britain, by Stephen Tallents of the Empire Marketing Board and, subsequently, the GPO.
I’ve written about this period of film and design history and worked with the Post Office Archive and Museum at Mount Pleasant in London.
That reminds me, they have their own underground railway!
My favourite film from this list is the GPO film, Night Mail, for its complete integration of image, movement, music and word…my second favourite is the French film, Pacific 231, by Jean Mitry…the opening sequence of this film is brilliant, with its machine-noise soundtrack antipating the kling-klang of Kraftwerk…
I’ve posted before about Pacific 231, here
and about Night Mail, here
The arrival of the Train at Le Ciotat (Lumiere) Includes a train!
Ce court-métrage fut filmé, comme son nom l’indique, à la gare de La Ciotat en cours d’année 1895 (la famille Lumière possédait une résidence secondaire dans…


 Man with a Movie Camera (USSR) Includes a train!
Man with a Movie Camera (Russian: Человек с киноаппаратом (Chelovek s kinoapparatom) is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no …
Night Mail (GPO) Includes a train!
This is a Documentary from 1937 about the night Mail train
Listen to Britain
Humphrey Jennings
National Archives and Records Administration LISTEN TO BRITAIN Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch. New York Office …
Pacific 231 (music and film) Includes a train!
Grey Gardens


Peter Greenaway
The Sea in their Blood
Peter Greenaway. The Sea in their Blood 1976/83 (aka The Coastline). Full length. Sorry about the sound quality.


Robinson in Space
2002 (in French)
Etre et Avoir
Être et avoi es un documental francés dirigido por Nicolas Philibert y estrenado en 2002. En el que se muestra la vida real de sus protagonistas. Se trata de…


Miners’ Hymns
The Miners’ Hymns – A film by Bill Morrison. The Miners’ Hymns is a inspired documentary depicting the ill-fated mining community in North East England. The …


The Big Freeze (lots of trains)
Snow (1963) – Geoffrey Jones | BFI Subscribe: Watch more on the BFI Player: ‘Snow’ is available to buy as …
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