10. Man on Wire (2008)
In 1974, Philippe Petit and a crew of mostly French wanderers and hippie types broke into the World Trade Center and wired a tightrope between the Twin Towers. He didn’t do it for any particular reason, or even for the attention, though he hardly minded it. For Petit, “there is no why.” It was simply to amaze, to test the boundaries of human endeavor.
This has been a recurrent theme for director James Marsh, whose Man on Wire won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and who returns to the Oscars on Sunday with The Theory of Everything. But of the two, Man on Wire is his more substantial work, the story of an idealist seemingly unreached by the cynicism of the modern world, a man who simply wants to do incredible things that nobody’s done before. It’s as breathless and sincere as documentary filmmaking gets. —Dominick Mayer