The Fantastic Mr. Feynman

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

— Richard 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!

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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185 Replies to “The Fantastic Mr. Feynman”

  1. We Live in Public – a documentary about conducting a social experiment of living in a community and having your life filmed 24/7. Excellent!

  2. Hi Tim!

    Great documentary. My favorite is Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy…the street artist.

  3. Thx for all the great input Tim, spent my morning watching Feynman and your interview with Neil Strauss, great stuff

  4. Fantastic! Truly enjoyable, A great hour spent watching this. One of my favourite documentaries is DNA: The story of life. Detailing the discovery of the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick.

  5. “Alone in the Wilderness”, Dick Proenneke…

    This man is amazing. He builds an entire cabin and its not just that he builds a cabin he does it with some amazing details and with all hand tools.. Good watch..

  6. I just saw “Fantastic Mr Feynman” and I loved it. I think true curiosity and being able to explore that curiosity freely is how we achieve our very best. Too many people think you have to impose a discipline on that curiosity in order to be successful when all we are doing is killing our own potential.

    Anyway, for my favorite documentary, I just saw “Thrive” after reading some of the comments here and Tim I have to ask you about it, have you seen it? You have to see it and let us know what you think of it. A part of me is pretty sure that it is true on some level. Please watch it and let us know what you think of it. If anybody can get to the bottom of it it’s you. Enough is enough. Thanks

  7. ok .. i m gonna try to be quick and i hope you will have time to read my comment.. 50/50

    i m a believer, dream maker . i m born july 15 1977 in paris, French Senegalese living in new york…and i discover at 31 years old THAT I WAS BORN TO SEE THE WORLD WITH MAGIC ( 2008). i v been producing photography for the last 5 years more than 10000 pictures , i self published a book through kickstarter called ” the gift art book” and i definitely creates a different vision who speak for herself.

    i travel to montana and discover the crow tribe during 2 weeks pow ow .. i documented this amazing journey .. i start kung fu at the shaolin temple 2 years ago and i have to admit since i m training , my focus and my work is way better. i also read a lot of books ( joseph campbell, Krishnamunti, Lewis hyde, Carl Jung, darwin, Richard tarnas and many more)

    who helps me to understand where i was supposed to go in my work.

    understanding different myths and fusion them to create new one..

    i learned spanish and english as i m french

    BUT NOW HERE YOU COME…. i m still fighting everyday to find the way to spread this different visions to the world cause i m not fitting in the photo industry..

    i m not make photojournalism and not even fashion photography.

    i am doing delphine diaw diallo photography and i know i have the power to change the way that people see the world. no more frontiere, one world , one love, one planet..

    to reach this goal … i m still far away from the big pictures and i can t stop to ask myself.. ‘ HOW I CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE” like you did..

    you are a master trickster.. !!


    i m a warrior, i won t stop til i can t breath but i ll need advise.

    thanks tim

  8. Favorite documantary? Maybe “Grizzly Man” by werner herzog. Why? Moving dramatic and unusual story about a man (treadwell) who felt isolated / out of synch with human society and did something unusual to find a peace with himself + great filmmaking by werner Herzog + unique and stunningly beautiful original footage made by the main character himself, with some stunning examples of raw untouched wilderness. A fantastic film in all ways would be my description.

    Love your blog Tim 🙂

  9. At 56:06 Feynman: “but not so much as you think. Because you realize that at some point in your life… You’ve told a lot of stories, and those stories are gonna stay around even after you’re gone.”

    End of life shows what we really got deep inside.

    Fantastic documentary of a fantastic man, thanks Tim.

    Kind of documentary I’m gonna show my futur children, to shape what everybody needs most in life: Heros, deep real heros you emotionnaly connect to.

    A documentary of Thomas Edison I saw at 5 changed my life.

    And 1 line of poetry at 9 shaped it forever:

    Minutes before dying, “Alberonius” a famous polymath of the the 11th century told to a student present at his death bed:

    “Could you remind me the scientific topic we talked about the other day?”

    His student answered: “Master, do you really think this is the right moment?”

    Alberonius: “What do you prefer, me knowing that topic and dying, or me dying ignorant?”

    That last sentence stayed almost as obsession until now.

    He didn’t ask for a last cigarette. No nervous stimulation of any part, by meal, drink, kiss, smell, etc… None.

    Just “knowing” little topic more, 5 min before dying.

    So 5 min to live, is 5 min for anything deep inside.

    That true story was concluded in the school book:

    “From birth to death, learn science,

    Those were words of the wise man.”

    I will keep forever that last 5 min life question: “What do you prefer, me knowing and dying, or dying ignorant?”

  10. Playing for Change, if you do not already know is a very non-traditional documentary film by Mark Johnson building colaborative pieces of music from previously undiscovered talent by overlaying recordings of buskers from all over the world.

    It is a beautiful and uplifting film. No agenda or bias is presented other than the promotion of peace through music. This peace through music idea comes through brilliantly as we watch music break down barriers between people right before our eyes.



  11. Feynman is definitely one of my heroes. Extraordinarily inventive and intellectually honest.

    In his TED talk “12 lessons I learned from Steve Jobs”, Guy Kawasaki starts with “Experts are clueless”. Interestingly enough, one of my favorite Feynman quotes is: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

  12. Wow it is amazing no one has said “Hoop Dreams” yet. IT follows two high school kids’ hoop dreams in the hood of Chicago. This is not just the greatest documentary I have ever seen but greatest film in general I have ever seen. It explores so many issues– race, class, the American dream. I almost think of it as a great novel, the characters in the film come to perfectly personify the world around them.

  13. I just saw 20 Feet from Stardom, a documentary on the history of backup singers, starting with the advent of black backup singers in the 60’s. A tie for the best music documentary with The Last Waltz.

    I think Baraka is hard to beat. The most stunning visuals I’ve seen.

  14. My favourite doco is Touching the Void – Joe Simpson and his friend Simon Yates’s ill fated climb in the Andes Mt Siula Grande.

    Although the film is a docu-drama of the event, the film shows what is possible in the most extreme of situations. Both of the climbers have balls of steel but still retain a matter of factness in their attitude towards climbing after the traumatic event that nearly claimed both their lives.

    Man on Wire would be a close second – sadly an event never to be repeated.

  15. DMT – The Spirit Molecule

    Thoroughly interesting doco on a extremely interesting molecule.

    Put together really well, leaves you with so many questions

  16. Alone in the Wilderness is my favorite.

    Dick Proenneke retired to the Alaskan wilderness as an old man post-retirement and recorded himself building his own cabin by hand next to a pristine lake followed by his various other projects and way of life so far from civilization.

  17. Senna was pretty good.

    Vice Magazine has a series on Youtube that has some really interesting documentaries. Two I recommend:

    World’s Scariest Drug –

    They weren’t kidding. SCARRRRY!

    Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic – (Note: Poor lead, he cusses too much and isn’t particularly insightful but the findings and images are powerful)

    Many others depending on what you’re in to: Cults, Guns, Warlords, Drugs, prostitution, all very edgy topics as it’s Vice but very eye opening. Some less edgy topics.

  18. Steve Jobs — Secrets of Life.

    Based on a ‘lost’ interview from long ago. Jobs speaks freely about the mentality needed for inventing and changing the world.

  19. I usually prefer autobiographical movies, rather than documentaries, when learning about the life of some people. I just saw Coco Before Chanel and really liked it. I found it inspiring to see her make life changing decisions, all fueled by her intention to build her own fortune and remain true to her sense of esthetics. Documentaries sometimes lack an emotional dimension imo.

  20. Most recently, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. As a student of history and psychology, and one who loves the outdoors, I found this documentary extremely engaging. Not only does it provide insight into, what for most people is, an entirely foreign culture, but it also delves into philosophy of greed, responsibility, and the relationship between man and nature. A fascinating piece of work!

  21. I like a lot of documentaries, and each one in a different way. One of my favorites is Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but since I watched that one because you recommended it, I’m going to mention this one, which surprisingly, hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    “Indie Game: The Movie”

    This follows a couple teams of independent game developers, before release of their breakout games. The small personal teams behind “Super Meat Boy” and “Fez” as well as consulting by Jon Blow, who did” Braid.”

    To see people who put so much effort, knowledge, and personal angst into their creations, to see their obsession, and deficiencies go into their product, is both inspiring and educational.

  22. Those of us lucky enough to have learned directly from him, or performed with him, know what a joy life is. Larger than life? Check. Infectious curiosity? Check. Humility in the face of the universe’s mysteries, without going solemn? Check. Humor and zeal to explain so others understand? Oh my word, check.

    Thanks for bringing back fond memories of Dick.

  23. I enjoyed that. Thank you. My favorite documentary right now is ‘ a piece of work’ about Joan Rivers. She is kind, enigmatic and she reminds me of my grandmother who I love so much.

  24. I have just come across this site, and finding it interesting and informative

  25. Hey Tim,

    Great documentary on Feyman!

    Here are my favorite documentary’s:

    Finding Joe

    I Am

    Something Unknown


    What the Bleep do we Know

    Next to these, try Step into Liquid and Riding Giants for some amazing surfer docs.



  26. I love books like “The 4 hour Workweek” “Present Shock”, David Allens stuff..etc…and thinking about all the twitter, snapchat, sms chatter that chases people these days I created a new word (ok, wierd I know) say hello to “FURGENCY” and “FURGENT” meaning False Urgency…all the BS that we see every day that passes for urgent but isnt!!! listed it on Wikipedia today! and watch out for FURGENCY in your life, lol added it to wikipedia today!

  27. Hi Tim, very much looking forward to your Australian speaking tour.

    Wasn’t quite sure where to post this (as it covers Philosophy and Entrepreneurs, etc) but here it is. A detailed article on the subject of:


    All the best 🙂


  28. Tricky one. I’ve seen a lot of documentaries in my time, but one that really bowled me over (even having lived in Japan for years) was Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Inspiration personified!

  29. Tim,

    Great work… amazing books as well as blog.

    Many good ones have been listed. However I feel that the following are really worth seeing:

    My Best Fiend – 1999 – W. Herzog – Love and hate relationship between Kinsky and Herzog

    More than Honey – 2012 – Bees and their importance for human life

    Kid Stays in the Picture – 2002 – Legendary Paramount producer Robert Evans

    Klitschko – 2011 – Klitchko brothers’ rise in the world of boxing

    Transcendent Man – 2009 – Concept of “singularity”


  30. Jiro Dreams of Sushi, EL Buli, or Three Stars. They all relate to food but they also let you into the thinking of some very real over achievers! The people that are followed in these films are at the top of their game and it allows you to understand what it takes to attain greatness.

  31. Hey Tim, I’m writing a book right now and I wanted to ask you a couple of short questions about you fear of swimming

    (I realize this doesn’t really have anything to do with the blog post, but I wanna get a hold of you)

    the book is about psychology, and I’m going to reference your fear in one of the sections

    here are the questions:

    1. How strong was the fear?

    2. Did you ever get in the water afterwards (besides when you decided to learn to swim)?

    3. Were you afraid of a specific thing happening or just of getting in water in general?

    the answer’s don’t need to be very detailed, I just need a general idea

    Thanks and have an awesome day,


  32. Some of my favorites are:

    Hoop Dreams

    Between the Folds

    Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids

    The Century of the Self (BBC Mini Series)

    and anything produced by and/or narrated by David Attenborough

  33. The best documentary is “The Light Bulb Conspiracy”. It is about the deliberate shortening of product life spans to guarantee consumer demand. IMHO it is one of the most important question whether we need this growth or must think about sustainability.

  34. Pretty much anything by David Attenborough.

    ‘The Life of Birds’ was stunning, and his ‘Planet Earth’ series had some truly stunning footage.

    All his work gives you a tour of the sublime beauty of the world, from great migrations to the tiniest insects.

  35. This is amazing and it’s a shame it didn’t get more exposure:

    It’s an anti-media mockumentary masquerading as an anti-American North Korean Documentary. Really makes you question which is worse: North Korean or America propaganda (the media). Fantastic critique on American culture and really puts things into perspective.

  36. The BAFTA and RTS Award-winning documentary PARALLEL WORLDS, PARALLEL LIVES follows the lead singer of US rock band EELS, MARK OLIVER EVERETT, on his journey of discovery across America to learn about the father he never knew, HUGH EVERETT III, the quantum physicist author of the Parallel Universe theory.

  37. “Searching for Sugar Man”


    Because it’s as surprising and twisted as any good thriller.

  38. I enjoyed his book, ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.’ I also enjoyed Bukowski’s and Einstein’s documentary.

  39. I adore everything Feynman…even have his Apple “Think Different” poster framed on the wall. Thank you for this!

    Some favorites:

    Saving the Bay –

    Tim, KQED is rebroadcasting all episodes in August, since you’re local – set your DVR!

    The World According to Monsanto

    I am (by Tom Shadyac)

    The Call of the Wild (Ron Lamothe’s documentary story of Chris McCandless; PBS)

    Inside Job & Too Big to Fail

    In the Shadow of The Moon

    (Also HBO’s From The Earth to The Moon series, though not sure it’s considered an actual documentary)

    Speaking of Feynman…I love this Symphony of Science – ‘We Are All Connected’ (ft. Sagan, Feynman, deGrasse Tyson & Bill Nye)

  40. Pretty much anything by Werner Herzog airs on brilliance but I was most deeply affected by Grizzly Man. There is one scene in particular…i have never been so absorbed.

    Recently I was moved by teh Marina Abramovic doc The Artist is Present.

  41. *A Man Named Pearl*

    I stumbled upon this inspiring documentary and loved it so much I immediately watched it again. Commit to your vision.

  42. my favourite documentary is supersize me

    it forced a company who up to that point sued whoever said anything bad about it to change the way they did things

  43. Tim, I just stumbled upon this post from my Feedly reader and it appears that YouTube is claiming that the uploader has closed their account. Do you have another link?

  44. The documentary that has made the biggest impression on me was

    The Iraq War [Full BBC Documentary]. It told the story of how Iraq went from hope to disaster as the situation spiraled out of control.

  45. Hearts & Minds by Peter Davis

    Harlan County USA by Barbara Koppel

    The Times of Harvey Milk by Rob Epstein

  46. Great suggestion list. I would add to learn some language basics ( Please, Thank You. how to count to 10) and be prepared to take chances and trust people where you visit. I have found more people anxious to practice their English with me and not want to listen to my stammering Spanish, Portuguese or French. I have gotten some great tours by agreeing to go somewhere with locals I have just met.

  47. My dad gave me Feynman’s book & I absolutely love it! In terms of documentaries, if you’re up for something a bit sad I’d recommend “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” – if you haven’t seen it or heard about it, don’t do any research. Just watch it.