The 12 Best Making of Movie Documentaries

Star Wars. The Shining. The Godfather. Apocalypyse Now. Aliens. RoboDoc.

Here are my favorite Making of Movies documentaries:


1) Making The Shining

I’ll open with a dark horse: “Making ‘The Shining'” is my favorite Making of a movie doc for good reason.

We get a behind-the-scenes peek at arguably the best horror film of all time courtesy of Director Stanley Kubrick’s sweet seventeen year-old daughter Vivian.

Talk about an all access backstage pass!

The young lady must have charmed dear old dad into letting her tail him with her handycam.

She captures all The Overlook Hotel’s creepy shenanigans.

I can only imagine the therapist bills for that family viewing night!

From blood gushing elevators to crazy ol’ Jack Nicholson’s unhinged axe-wielding, seems Viv caught it all on tape.

The opening 6 minutes are gold.

Watch ultra-cool Jack Nicholson in his dressing room before the big “Here’s Johnny” scene.

And then see him walk to the set, get into character and then nail the scene. Just unbelievable.

Watch “Making The Shining” on Vimeo by clicking the video embed above or here: (35 minutes).

If that doesn’t work, check out this page I dedicated to the doc: “Making the Shining” (it has 3 other links).

Thanks to BJ Colangelo of SlashFilm for pointing out this doc.

2) Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

There are a couple of links to Heart of Darkness trailers here and here but they were so low quality I decided to instead share the video embed for the full movie (above)

We got ourselves another behind-the-scenes doozy!

This time it’s the making of that Vietnam heart-of-darkness classic, Apocalypse Now.

And hoo doggy, turns out that production was its own kind of war zone!

Gather ’round and watch director Francis Ford Coppola grapple with typhoons, heart attacks, and Marlon Brando’s hefty appetite.

And that Martin Sheen, he nearly lost his dang mind in the Philippine jungle!

But ol’ man Coppola somehow managed to wrangle all those big egos and logistical nightmares into a masterpiece of a movie.

Now that’s some feat of strength.

Course, his wife Eleanor (co-director with Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper) is the one who kicked off this making of doc (96 minute run time).

Maybe a family member of the director should always do the “Making of” doc!

With Eleanor Copolla’s VIP access, “Hearts of Darkness” gets behind-the-scenes footage of Brando, Dennis Hopper, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall and all the cast.

Sure, Apocalypse Now may have darn near killed everyone involved, but you can’t deny it makes for some rip-roaring entertainment.

Watch “Hearts of Darkness”:

“Hearts of Darkness” on Netflix? — I saw a rumor online that Netflix was going to show “Hearts of Darkness” but it’s just rumor for now.

3) Pure Imagination: The Story of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The “Pure Imagination” doc opens with the awesome origin story of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” film.

Director Mel Stuart’s daughter, Madeline, loved Roald Dahl’s book and suggested her father make a movie out of it.

Stuart convinced producer Dave Wolper and Quaker Oats, which financed the film with $3 million to promote their new candy bar, the “Wonka Bar.”

The doc interviews all the major players:

Gene Wilder tells the story of the fake limp and somersault scene he insisted on (he was willing to walk away if they didn’t do it).

The doc discusses why filming took place in Munich, Germany (it was chosen for its timeless, fairy-tale ambiance).

The doc shares how originally there was no music in the film.

The doc ends on a cute note with an update on where all the actors are today.

You can watch the full “Pure Imagination” documentary for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or at

I love this doc so much that I dedicated an entire 1,000+ word review for it with tons more details including where all the actors are today!

Here it is:

4) RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop

“RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop” is a 5-hour sag directed by Christopher Griffiths and Eastwood Allen

They dive deep into the production of the 1987 sci-fi landmark, RoboCop, its sequels, and its enduring influence over three decades.

The original cast and crew are all there, including Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Ray Wise, and director Paul Verhoeven.

“RoboDoc” offers covers the intricate process behind the film’s creation—from the initial script challenges and the design of the iconic $1 million RoboCop suit by Rob Bottin to the innovative sound design by Dean Winkler and the logistical hurdles of filming in Detroit’s harsh winter.

“The doc also covers the film’s special effects, notably the stop-motion animation techniques that were groundbreaking at the time.

This fan-funded project (523 Kickstarter folks gave the makers £34,000 in 2016 to get it going (it was released i n2023).

Directed by the team behind “Pennywise: The Story of IT,” “RoboDoc” is crafted for fans, scholars, and newcomers of cinema’s most influential sci-fi stories.

Watch “RoboDoc: The Creation of RobCop” on Screambox (if you’re a subscriber) (fyi — you can do it through Amazon Prime Video) or buy it on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play or Vudu. Full streaming options should be here:

5) Jodorawaski’s Dune

In 1975, Alejandro Jodorowsky embarked on an audacious endeavor to adapt Frank Herbert’s “Dune,” starring a remarkable cast including his son, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger, with music by Pink Floyd.

The project, filled with groundbreaking art and a visionary director at its helm, promised a cinematic revolution.

Yet, financial hurdles and a script promising a 14-hour epic led to its collapse.

The 2013 documentary, “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” directed by Frank Pavich, chronicles this fascinating “greatest movie never made,” showcasing Jodorowsky’s undying spirit and the project’s profound influence on future sci-fi blockbusters.

Watch “Jodorowsky’s Dune” on HBO’s Max or Starz (subscription); or rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube, DirecTV and most such places. Full streaming options should be here:

6) Light and Magic

If you had to watch just one documentary on special effects, “Light and Magic” the 6-part docuseries) is it.

The series explores the saga of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), established in 1975.

It highlights its transformative impact on movie-making through groundbreaking visual effects.

The doc traces ILM’s journey from inception to becoming a pivotal force in film’s visual effects evolution.

You’ll see the tech behind the making of Star Wars (probably the movie that gets the most air time) and also blockbusters such as E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park and Ironman.

“Light & Magic” has a higher dose of history than other making of movie docs, but you need that set up to understand what leads up to aTerminator 2-type experience

Highlights for me include:

  • Killer to see early footage of Darth Vader swiping his lightsaber versus Obi-Wan Kenobi in the studios in England.
  • The Millennium Falcon’s design was inspired by a designer seeing 2 plates stacked on top of each other in the kitchen.
  • Ron Howard says that George Lucas told him that he only got 25% of what was in his head for Star Wars onto the screen.
  • When Ron Howard and his wife saw Star Wars opening night at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Afterwards, he asked her if she wanted to see it again. And they got back in line (2 hour wait) and watched it again.
  • In The Empire Strikes Back, the team reassembles and moves to Marin County, California.
  • They develop the “Pixar Image Computer” for computer graphics — a $120,000 piece of hardware. But the team’s breakthrough was their spin-off of a paint software program that turns into Photoshop.
  • George Lucas sells the Pixar technology to Steve Jobs for $56 million.

Watch “Light & Magic” on Disney+ at

7) The Movies That Made Us

This Netflix docuseries is the cotton candy of the making of movies genre.

It’s lightweight but still sweet.

I liked it way more than I thought I would.

And it’s fun to skip through movies to my favorites.

Here’s the full episode lineup:

Season 1

  • E1 · Dirty Dancing — Girl comes of age with dance
  • E2 · Home Alone — Boy defends home from bungling thieves
  • E3 · Ghostbusters — Comedic scientists start ghost extermination business
  • E4 · Die Hard — Cop foils terrorists in office tower

Season 2

  • E1 · Back to the Future — Teen travels through time in DeLorean
  • E2 · Pretty Woman — Prostitute falls for corporate raider client
  • E3 · Jurassic Park — -Dinosaurs run amok at theme park
  • E4 · Forrest Gump — Simple man journeys through US history

Season 3

  • E1 · Halloween == Masked killer stalks babysitting teens
  • E2 · Friday the 13th — Teens meet grisly end at camp
  • E3 · Nightmare on Elm Street — Scarred killer haunts teens’ dreams
  • E4 · RoboCop — Cop resurrected as crimefighting cyborg
  • E5 · Aliens — Space marines battle queen xenomorph
  • E6 · Coming to America — African prince finds love in Queens
  • E7 · Nightmare Before Christmas — Pumpkin King makes Christmas frightening
  • E8 · Elf — Man raised as elf meets biological father

My favorite parts:

On Dirty Dancing:

  • Jeffrey Katzenberg and every major studio rejected “Dirty Dancing” (42 rejections). Vestron (Stamford, CT) took a chance on it.
  • Emile Ardelino, new to full-length features, pitched to direct “Dirty Dancing.” Lost his voice during the first interview with Vestron.
  • Winona Ryder and Sarah Jessica Parker auditioned for “Baby.” Jennifer Grey won. Benicio Del Toro considered for the lead male, Patrick Swayze won.

Home Alone:

  • “Home Alone” was filmed at New Trier Township High School, Winnetka, Illinois. Warner Brothers dropped it for budget issues, Fox picked it up.
  • John Candy improvised his “polka, polka, polka” line. Dan Charles, the pizza guy, earned more than John Candy. Siskel & Ebert initially hated it.
  • “Home Alone” became the top domestic box office comedy.


  • Original “Ghostbusters” cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy. Belushi’s death changed the lineup to Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson.
  • “Ghostbusters” produced in 10 months, with 85% first takes.

Nightmare Before Christmas:

  • Tim Burton worked on “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Batman Returns” simultaneously. Danny Elfman scored “Nightmare.”
  • “Nightmare Before Christmas” team produced about 1 minute of footage per week. Tim Burton was frustrated with the first writer’s ending. Henry Selick directed, not Burton.

Other Highlights:

  • “Die Hard” sought many leads before Bruce Willis accepted.
  • “Elf”: Gary Shandling was the first choice for Elf’s dad; James Caan replaced him. Katie Holmes was first choice for the love interest; Zooey Deschanel replaced her.

Watch it “The Movies That Made Us” on Netflix at Check back here for other streaming options.

8) Star Wars:The Mandalorian (Disney Gallery)

We’ve got over 5 parsecs—fine, 5 hours—of behind-the-Beskar access to the making of The Mandalorian.

From the sizzling Dune Sea to the icy caverns of Ilum, this zippy docuseries follows Mando and The Child’s path to global domination.

We explore the tech behind those cutting-edge virtual sets that dropped jawas’ jaws, with Jon Favreau geeking out over innovative StageCraft LED screens and “video wall” wizardry.

Composer Ludwig Göransson gives us an exclusive tour of his odd instrument collection, demonstrating how alligator jaws (yes, really!) and obscure Tunisian reed flutes helped craft the show’s singular score.

We even get to watch Carl Weathers choreograph the casually brutal stunts that landed Greef Karga in the director’s chair.

And it’s not all firing blasters and disintegrations here either—we also get unprecedented access to the creative minds sculpting Baby Yoda into an emotional anchor that connects the original trilogy to the Mando expansion era.

Executive producer Dave Filoni offers wit and wisdom explaining how characters like Anakin Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn laid the mythos groundwork that allows The Child’s story to feel like coming home.

You will marvel (pun intended) at the astonishing attention to detail—right down to the Aurebesh embroidery on crew jackets.

From deleted scenes to debunked rumors, this binge-worthy behind-the-magic joyride earns its camtono of beskar steel!

Watch “Star Wars: The Mandalorian (Disney Gallery) here on Disney+. at

9) Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner

Boot up your personal photos and buckle in.

We’re time-warping back to 2007 for Charles de Lauzirika’s exhaustive 3 hour and 34 minute documentary on the making of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic “Blade Runner.”

Drawing from a vast vault of unseen footage and 80 illuminating new interviews, this behind-the-scenes deep dive transports us to a neon-stained Los Angeles of 2019.

That’s where cast and crew grapple with grueling working conditions to realize Scott’s pioneering vision.

We see how a pensive Harrison Ford collided with an aggressive Scott while cyberpunk worldbuilder Syd Mead puzzled over the last-minute “Spinner” additions.

The David Bowie intrigue! Rutger Hauer’s improvised soliloquies!

Discussions range from the writing process to Sean Young’s challenging on-set behavior to Jordan Cronenweth’s richly atmospheric lensing.

No wonderfully wonky design detail escapes examination.

Even after 25 years and 7 different cuts, de Lauzirika persuasively illustrates how the electric legacy of “Blade Runner” continues to seep into our own dystopia-tinged 2020s.

I don’t see any place to stream the full “Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner”.

But I did find a decent chunk of the doc here for free on YouTube:

10) Burden of Dreams

Forget cinema verité – Les Blank’s stunning behind-the-scenes making-of chronicle “Burden of Dreams” plunges us straight into the maddening heart of darkness that was Werner Herzog’s disastrous 5-year struggle to birth “Fitzcarraldo.”

This is visionary filmmaking at its most chaotic extreme.

Blank’s crew embeds deep in the untamed Amazon, braving berserk conditions.

They reside alongside the dedicated-to-the-point-of-delusional Herzog.

We bear witness as one catastrophe after another befalls the accursed production – we’re talking lead actors coming and going, plane crashes, tribal warfare nearby.

An unblinking Herzog somehow wills his 320-ton steamship over a muddy mountain.

You can’t script this audacious brand of ambition!

In candid interviews, a prophetic Herzog cites the vital importance of universal dreams, no matter the burden required.

And oh what burdens awaited!

Cinematographer Thomas Mauch candidly recalls verge-of-mutiny crew tensions.

Lead actor Klaus Kinski bitterly hints at unthinkable atrocities he’d like inflicted on a co-star.

Jason Robard’s tragic exit still haunts. Triumphs and failures, poetry and madness – it’s all here in spades.

Blank delivers a harrowing reality check on how the mad genius sausage gets made.

The sublime and ridiculous collide!

Watch “Burden of Dreams” for free on Kanopy (requires library card or student ID) at or on Criterion Channel (with subscription) or pay for it on Amazon and Apple TV. Streaming options are here:

Click here for my full 810-word review of this great doc: “Burden of Dreams”

11) American Movie

If you want to see how a rookie filmmaker (i.e. his first film) makes a movie, “American Movie” is your best bet.

Imagine “Beavis and Butthead” meets “Nightmare on Elm Street”.

First off, “American Movie” is largely a funny documentary (that’s why I rank it #1 in my Top 22 Funniest Documentaries)/

But it’s also a real-life rollercoaster story of a talented nobody working hard on making a movie.

You get to see the challenges of making a movie such as:

  • Raising money from friends and family (in this case “Uncle Bill”)
  • How to get realistic looking gore (Mark shoves an actor’s head through a cupboard)
  • How important it is to make one film (“Coven” in this case) to help get the next (more important) movie out (for Mark, a film he wants to make called “Northwestern” is the bigger play)

Watch “American Movie” for free on here:

Or check for other streaming options (Tubi (free with ads), Apple TV and others for $).

12) Superior Firepower: The Making of ‘Aliens’

Buckle up, space marines – we’re rocketing back to LV-426 with Charles de Lauzirika’s rapid-fire 2003 doc “Superior Firepower”.

This is an Aliens making-of gem on Jim Cameron’s 1986 action opus straight from the Ripley rescue squad themselves.

From Sigourney braving a Canadian winter in her undies to Lance Henriksen modeling the original alien design, it’s all here baby!

We dig into slimy mechanics of the creature effects, witness the magic behind that alien nest reveal, and meet the real unsung hero: the power loader.

Turns out Bishop the android wasn’t such a robot on-set after all – causality be damned!

Plus a rare interview with studio fox-in-chief Alan Ladd Jr on unleashing his $17 million investment into Camerons hands.

So pour yourself a cup of synthetic coffee and soak up the goods on this making-of high velocity thrill ride.

It’ll have you quoting Hudson in no time!

Game over, man!

Watch” it on:”Superior Firepower: The Making of ‘Aliens'” for free on YouTube here:–gH9ayR-o

13) The Godfather Legacy

Fire up the cannoli ovens, because the Corleones are getting the all-access documentary treatment (40 years after Godfather 3).

You couldn’t have a Making of Movies list without “The Godfather”, right!?

“The Godfather Legacy” (History Channel) assembles the capos and consiglieres of Francis Ford Copolla and Mario Puzo’s celluloid mob epic (minus Brando).

Director Kevin Burns (no relation to Ken) walks us back through the bloody and momentous journey that cements Godfather in pop culture history.

With narrator Michael Imperioli charting the course like a new underboss running the family business, Burns steers us from Puzo banging out his seminal gangland page-turner through Coppola wrangling with mushrooming budgets.

Peter Bart spills on bankable leading man beefs as Evans and co. angled for Redford and O’Neal over an unproven Pacino to play their reluctant Prince of Darkness Michael.

And Francis himself cops to only taking the gig after an urgent cash flow reminder from housemate George Lucas – hey, THX sound systems don’t finance themselves!

The iconic score’s development, character motivations and De Niro’s transformational arrival in Part II all get made men getting their button.

I agree with Variety’s Brian Lowry that I wish the doc covered Godfather III (even though it’s considered the weakest of the trilogy) in more depth.

The doc has nothing on III’s “SofiaGate” (the addition fo Sofia Coppola) and why Robert Duvall was absent.

Watch “The Godfather Legacy” for free (with ads) on Daily Motion at

I’m a bit surprised that “Godfather Legacy” is not on YouTube (usually, someone uploads an old VHS or DVD Of it).

But, if you want the DVD, Amazon sells it here (last I checked):

Note: There have been a lot of rumors about a Making of The Godfather doc or docuseries on Netflix. This might have stemmed from the 2022 Making of docudrama series “The Offer” which Paramount+ (not Netflix) put out.

“The Offer” is outstanding by the way!

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly