The Brilliance That Is Louis Theroux and His Documentaries

Louis Theroux – the man, the myth, the legend. Theroux is a journalistic legend who doesn’t let bias or his opinion stand in the way of a good story.

Louis Theroux, Behind Bars. Photo Credit: BBC

Theroux has been creating informative and educational documentaries since 1998, that cover any weird, wonderful and wacky topic you could probably think of. Working as a presenter for the BBC, Theroux has been given a huge platform to generate documentary after documentary.

Despite his persistence to get a great story and angle, Theroux’s mannerisms are one to watch. His calm, monotonous nature makes him quite unique in his ability to remain impartial to the topic he is diving into. Oh, and he’s never one to shy away from putting his best foot forward and immersing himself in the topic he’s covering.

Many of his documentaries, and his style of interviewing, sets out to pick apart contradictions and inconsistencies in others stories and lifestyles. Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends was one of the first series audiences around the world were introduced to by the filmmaker. The series followed predominately American subcultures, such as black nationalists, white supremacists and porn stars, by living with them and interacting with those closest to them. Theroux described the series as,

“Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it’s almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don’t have to play up that stuff. I’m not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.”

I think it’s safe to say, that every documentary since has followed that quote.

Here are some of our personal favourite Louis Theroux documentaries:

My Scientology Movie (2016)

After the Church of Scientology declined Theroux’s request to make a documentary, he teamed up with former senior church official Mark Rathbun to recreate notable moments that were witnessed by ex-Scientologists. From auditioning people to play the roles of high-profile Scientologists, to being followed, watched and filmed by the Church and threatened with letters from lawyers, Theroux made the unconventional Scientology documentary he had been planning for years.

By Reason of Insanity (Part One and Two) (2015)

This two-part series takes place in two Ohio state psychiatric hospitals where Theroux meets, interviews and follows the day-to-day of the mental patients who were sent there after committing crimes but who were not found guilty by reasons of insanity.

Behind Bars (2008)

Theroux is granted access to San Quentin, one of America’s most notorious and oldest prisons that still has death row. There he meets and chats with guards, ex-gang members, inmates who are at risk and serial killers about their day-to-day in the State prison.

The Most Hated Family in America (2007)

The Most Hated Family in America is about the family at the core of the Westboro Baptist Church. Theroux observes the family and organisation as they participate in protests, countrywide, against American LGBT+ people at funerals of United States soldiers. Theroux struggles to come to terms with what the Phelps family are promoting.

America’s Medicated Kids (2010)

Travelling to one of America’s leading children’s psychiatric treatment centres, Theroux investigates the possible effects of putting children with diagnosed mental health issues on prescribed medication. Theroux also meets with parents and families who have turned to medication to keep their kids under control.

Miami Mega Jail (Part One and Two) (2011)

In this two-part series, Theroux travels to Miami and takes an in-depth look at the prison system there. He spends time in the prison’s most notorious sections and meets with inmates who are mostly all still awaiting trial. In part two, he spends time in the Miami-Dade Boot Camp.

Altered States: Love Without Limits, Choosing Death and Take My Baby (2018)

In this three-part series, Theroux looks at the way birth, death and love is dealt with by some Americans. He explores open/ private adoptions; the ramifications of the Aid in Dying legislation; and the rise of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy in Portland, Oregon.

Are you a fan of Theroux’s documentaries? Would you add any others to this list? Let us know in the comments.