A list of must-see documentaries about beauty and ugliness

3 de març de 2022

What is beautiful and what is ugly in modern society is a question that is more relevant than ever in today's world.

This discussion serves as one of the main premises of the following documentaries on beauty and ugliness, whether in the realm of art and aesthetics, as well as in the aspect of the body

But, what is "pretty" in today's world?

Over the centuries, the notion of beauty has changed throughout the ages and cultures. In Western civilization, for example, the Greeks established their classical conception of aesthetics, where symmetry, proportion and sobriety were very important values when cataloging what was beautiful and what was ugly.

Our current civilization is overthrowing many preconceptions and myths about beauty. Cosmetic surgery, the art of recycling and collage, and more progressive ideas of inclusion continue to grow in influence and are questioning all the canons of beauty imposed until now. 

What are the best documentaries about beauty, ugliness, and the physical body?

NoBody's Perfect


Filmmaker Niko von Glasow and his family

Commonly marginalized to comedic figures or victims of pitying glances, midgets actually have a lot to tell us about life and beauty. This documentary is directed by one of them, Niko von Glasow, a filmmaker who was born with a disability commonly produced by the consumption of the drug thalidomide.

The documentary follows Glasow as he tries to find eleven other "thalidomiders" to complete a calendar with their photographic portraits. During this quest, the filmmaker raises an open discussion about the relativity of beauty and human capabilities: Are thalidomiders as beautiful as each of us can be, or the other way around?

Watch this documentary now on Guidedoc

The House Is Black

An Iranian woman who suffers from leprosy in the documentary The House Is Black

As soon as The House is Black starts, we hear a lapidary phrase: "The world is full of ugliness. There would still be more if the human being looked away". 

Warned of the type of images that we are going to see, the film then reveals the scene of a group of Iranian children who suffer from leprosy during a class at the school in the leprosarium where they are being held. 

In the following minutes of this short film, we only see the quotidian daily life of the small inhabitants of the leprosarium, whose disease has damaged the figure of their faces and limbs

Refused to ignore a reality that otherwise could be classified as horrifying, the magnificent Iranian filmmaker Forugh Farrokzad makes a poetic essay on the suffering of these people isolated from the outside world, for which a relative ugliness has become normal

To fight against this ugliness and achieve the right to beauty are the main motivations of the director for the creation of this documentary jewel.


Desire For Beauty


Four people who resort to plastic surgery in the documentary Desire For Beauty

Filmed entirely in Poland, this documentary follows four people who resort to plastic surgery to change parts of their bodies. The mission: to achieve the ideal beauty.

The documentary directed by Agata Kulesza invites us to ask ourselves several questions: To what extent is it legitimate to enter the operating room to shape our bodies? Is it worth following the prevailing beauty standards for this purpose? What psychological effects can these procedures have on these people?

Watch this documentary now on Guidedoc

Bello Bello Bello!


A painted face in the documentary Bello Bello Bello


When the doors of the National Gallery of Havana are closed and the great halls are left in the shadows, the echo of a particular conversation travels among the paintings that now seem lonely. 

While the landscapes, abstractions and figures of the paintings pass before our eyes, we hear a dialogue that comes from outside the screen. In a tropical Cuban accent, we listen to humorous yet passionate comments emanating from invisible art enthusiasts that interpret each painting we see, as if it was the unforgettable voice of a commentator of a football match

The difference is that here they do not narrate facts, but rather free thoughts that try to grasp the strokes of the painter of the work. As a festival jewel, this short film directed by Spanish director Pili Alvarez takes us on a witty and exciting journey through beauty and ugliness that remind us of the subjectivity and magic with which each person judges them.

Pretty Ugly


An ugly man in a poster in the documentary Pretty ugly


After having been a model for brands such as Levys, the British Del Keens faces his middle age in a kind of involuntary retirement. The truth is that Keens is known for being "the world's ugliest model".

While the imperfections of his cartoonish face were published in several photographs of brands that came to show that "other" beauty to advertise their products, now Keens wants to take control of his own "ugliness".

The documentary follows him in his attempt to start his own modeling agency for ordinary people. Underlying this sort of rebellion of the "ugly", the documentary is a humorous reflection on the social use of physical appearance.

Watch this documentary now on Guidedoc



A girl from Panama is a queen


This documentary delves into the navel of a continent obsessed with beauty pageants. In Panama, like many other countries in Latin America, a queen is elected to represent with her beauty not only a city or a town but also a primary school or even a public ministry. 

The Panamanian director Ana Endara Mislov portrays the phenomenon of the celebration of physical beauty from an immersive approach, in which the participants of these contests tell their own experience within the carnivalesque world that surrounds them. 

The images, however, navigate between dissimilar sensations, being sometimes endearing and other disturbing. The film makes us feel complicit in the wishes of the participants to become the chosen ones, but it also makes us wonder if some change is needed in the way that West measures the beauty of a human being.


The Pretty Ones


An young argentine woman in the documentary The Pretty Ones

What make girls attractive? How do they manage their beauty? In this essay film, Argentine filmmaker Melisa Liebenthal sets out to find these and several other answers about the myths about physical appearance that girls grow up with.

The reflection delves into issues such as the characteristic features of the female gender and how upbringing reinforces behaviors and stereotypes of the ideal feminine beauty. Comical, intelligent, and made with a lot of Indie spirit, this documentary is a kind of youthful breath of fresh air to break down taboos.

Watch this and more great documentaries now on Guidedoc

Join GuideDoc