The Fantastic Mr. Feynman


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“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
– Richard P. Feynman

This is my favorite documentary of one of my favorite people, Richard Feynman.

His lectures and books — such as Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) — have greatly inspired many of my best decisions in life. He also inspired me to teach.

I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did. Whether you like bongo drums, safe cracking, go-go dancers, or physics, there’s something for everyone.


Question of the day: If you had to pick your favorite documentary, which would it be and why? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: June 30, 2013.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

184 comments on “The Fantastic Mr. Feynman

  1. Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” without a shadow of a doubt.

    If I had to pick a single episode, it would be the mind-blowing elegant conclusion, “Who Speaks for Earth?”


  2. Wow, talk about gret timing… I’ve looking for a good documentary to watch for the last hour or so and suddenly saw your tweet… with this!

    Last week I watched this one on Che Guevara and immediately became one of my all-time favorites: very well-balanced account of one of the most polarizing historical characters of all time…


  3. I have to say Buck. Inspiring to see someone take a childhood of abuse and turn it into a mesmerizing life’s work of training horses. The best part is the training of horses is actually training people (horse’s owners). Even if you know nothing about horses, it’s totally worth watching as Buck is one of the most authentic people (& philosophers) on the planet.

    The Fog of War is another one. Robert Mcnamara’s reflections on his life and the Vietnam War. A reflective piece that brings up all sorts of questions about power, control, and bias.


  4. Feynman is one of my favourite people, too. What a hero.

    I saw this great documentary on the BBC a few months ago, although I prefer the ‘Please of finding things out’ documentary Tim posted a year or two ago.


  5. Hey Tim,

    My favourite documentary is Craigslist Joe.

    Joe Garner lives off Craigslist for 31 days. It’s a compelling watch and offers many insights into the human condition.

    I had to rely on the Australian version of Craigslist to sell all of my personal possessions before I relocated to Australia and the cross-section of folks I met was fascinating – it made for some entertaining blog posts!

    There were 1 or 2 unsavoury characters, but on the most part it was a ton of fun and I made a few new friends.



  6. Thanks for the tip on this intriguing man
    And his memoir.

    “One has to be an open palm.
    As soon as it clenches into a fist
    the person loses the ability
    to learn and to enjoy new things
    and that is the onset of old age.”

    Quote I read by physicist in an
    amazon reader comment
    on his memoir

    Thanks to you!


  7. Great question, Tim. My favorite documentary would have to be “Gates of Heaven”, the first documentary made by Errol Morris. It’s a charming and deeply moving film about a Bay Area animal cemetery, interviewing the owners of their late pets.

    Interestingly, it gave rise to another wonderful Les Blank documentary, “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe”. Errol Morris, then a film school professor, had been friends with Herzog, and Herzog finally tired of Morris’s constant proclamations that he was going to make a documentary someday. Finally Herzog pointed at his foot and told Morris that Morris would NEVER make a documentary, and if he ever did, Herzog would eat his shoe.

    Whereupon Morris finally got off his ass and made the transcendent “gates of heaven”, resulting in the documentary by Les Blank, shot at Chez Panisse. (Alice Waters had simmered the shoe for five hours.)

    Morris, as you probably know, went on to become one of the greatest documentary filmmakers in history, and Blank himself made “Burden of Dreams” about Herzog (which itself is in the running for best documentary every ever made.)


  8. Who was it that said pick yourself?

    I pick me, my own documentary. I made a documentary about an Oscar nominated animator, Bill Plympton to inspire others that they could also be a full time artist and live the life of their dreams. It is called Adventures in Plymptoons! and it is available to view for free on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon or Yekra. I always encourage others to have their library buy it.

    So many great documentaries, a good second of the day is by D.A. Pennebaker about the french pastry competition.

    Enjoy the day!


  9. The part of Feynman’s work that sticks with me most is the paraphrase of his quote, “if we can’t teach it simply, then we don’t really understand it.” Well, that and his habit of safe cracking the file cabinets at Los Alamos during the Manhattan project.

    Thanks for posting this, Tim.


  10. Dogtown and Z-Boys, a nice trip down to memory lane

    Restrepo, very impressive war docu

    Cave of forgotten dreams, Werner Hertogenbosch goes cave exploring

    The powers of nightmare, disturbing yet enlightening

    The fog of War, McNamara tells it

    When we were Kings, Ali and Foreman in Zaire

    Sorry Tim, couldn’t pick one :)