Louis Theroux is a gift to humanity. His delightful, heart warming, raw and informative documentaries are an absolute must-watch for any die-hard documentary fan. So it goes without saying I would wholeheartedly recommend Louis Theroux’s entire body of work, but if you’re new to the wonderful world of Louis, here is a list of some good places to start, and some of my personal favourites (all of which are available on Netflix, by the way!).
1. Louis Theroux: Behind Bars – ‘Louis Theroux spends two weeks in California’s San Quentin State Prison, which houses 6,000 inmates, nearly twice its capacity’. This is a heavy place to start, but it’s an amazing look into the lives of the inmates of a really brutal prison. The men pictured are from many different backgrounds, and Theroux shines a compassionate light on a violent and difficult subject matter. This is one of Theroux’s first more serious pieces, and he handles it with amazing frankness and understanding. As always, he walks the tightrope with perfect balance, a feat rarely achieved so gracefully by other documentary makers.
2. Louis Theroux: Extreme Love: Autism – ‘Louis Theroux visits one of the best schools in America for autism. He meets the students and experiences their family lives’. This is beautifully heart-warming and will definitely make you cry. It also has something of a sister episode called Extreme Love: Dementia which is equally touching, and they both centre around people doing amazing, unimaginable and difficult things for the people they love, and provide a window into the lives of the families of people struggling with diseases and how they deal with it. Again, we see Theroux on top form and you can see him genuinely caring about the people he speaks to.
3. Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America – ‘Louis Theroux Visits the infamous Phelps family, who picket the funerals of Iraq war vets as a protest against an America that condones homosexuality ‘. This makes for difficult viewing purely because of how intolerable the Phelps family is, although they are so ludicrous at times it would be hilarious if not horrific. However it is darkly fascinating and Theroux asks all the right questions, so if you can stomach the hateful attitudes of the family it’s centred around, it’s still absolutely worth a watch.
4. Louis Theroux: Louis and Michael – ‘In this episode filmed six years before Michael Jackson’s untimely death in 2009, Louis Theroux sets out on a quest to meet the ultimate pop idol’. This is one of my personal all-time favourites, purely because we get to see a different side to Louis as he attempts in vain to deal with some of the most absurd (and faintly sinister?) members of the pop community. I have no shame in telling you that the first time I saw this I loved it so much I watched it again immediately afterwards. It is THAT good.
5. Louis Theroux: Weird Weekends – Weird Christmas – ‘ Louis is reunited with four of his former interviewees at the top of the Empire State Building as he invites them to spend Christmas with him’. I wanted to tilt my hat to the spectacular Weird Weekends, and I have played a sneaky trick on you, because in order to watch this episode to its full potential, you also have to watch the rest of season one. Ha! Weird Weekends is unfalteringly amazing, and this episode is so lovely and adorable with little baby Louis back in the day you simply can not resist. All in all, just like all of Theroux’s work, it’s absolutely glorious.