56 Up!

As you may know, the Up series is a series of eight fascinating documentary films that has tracked the lives of fourteen English schoolchildren since 1964, when they were seven years old. Every seven years, the director Michael Apted releases a new documentary that checks in on their increasingly varied lives (when they’re aged 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49…). The children all came from very different socio-economic backgrounds, and the director, Michael Apted, wanted to see how this would affect their futures.

The documentary films are wildly compelling—you follow these people as they graduate from school, move cities, find jobs, lose jobs, have children, get married, have affairs, dash their dreams, find happiness, lose their way, face whatever life brings. Each episode, you think you know where their lives are headed, but I’ve been shocked, thrilled and devastated to see certain updates. The most recent installment — 56 Up — came out in England this past May, and I’ve been waiting with baited breath for it to reach the United States.

Well, 56 Up is finally released today! (Right now I see showtimes for just New York, but it should be hitting more cities on January 18th.) Film critic Roger Ebert called the films, “Brilliant! The ‘Up’ series is on my list of the 10 greatest films of all time.” He also wrote a great overview here.

Will you see it? I highly, highly recommend the series.

P.S. 19 more fantastic documentaries

  1. There’s also a South African version (28 Up South Africa was the latest one).

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  5. Can’t wait until it comes to DC! Sunday Morning did a great profile on the “Up” series.

  6. Very exciting project! Thank you for sharing. We are living in London and never heard before about this series. Same day of your post we ordered 56 up and the box of the previous movies. Can not wait to wath! Thank you again.

  7. about eight years ago my friends and i got obsessed with this series and got together a couple times a week to watch them ALL. we were glued. then 49 up came out, so satisfying to pick right up where we left off. i can’t believe it’s already been seven more years and i am so excited to see what’s become of these old friends.

  8. I had never heard of this, and it sounds amazing! I really, really want to watch it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. came out last year in the UK. Really good! xx

  10. My husband and I watched these all a few years ago after you recommended them and were hooked. they are fascinating! We’ll look forward to seeing 56 up.

  11. Thanks for the recommendation. I just got this from the library. Looks so interesting!

  12. Thank you thank you thank you! I have watched the UP series for years so I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your blog.

  13. “The most recent installment—56 Up—came out in England this past May”

    Nooo! It came out in all of the UK! Not just England lol. Sorry to be picky, but I hate the generalisation. The UK is more than just England ;) xx

  14. My husband did some research in school recently after watching this series. He ended up contacting one of the “kids” now a professor in Wisconsin. He replied back and was very helpful answering questions my husband had for him! Cool thing:)

  15. WHEEEE! It’s crazy to look forward to a movie for YEARS! I really miss living in New York right now, I have to wait another month.

  16. I had no idea this amazing series was shown around the world (I’m in the UK). Wow.

    I saw 56 Up on tv and I noticed how the poverty aspect is still there (good old class system) but people don’t seem as “piss poor” as they did in the black and white ones!

    Prof Robert Winston has been doing a similar child development series called called ‘Child of Our Time’ with kids born in 2000. It’s shown every 3 years I think.

  17. Thank you for the heads-up. I love this series! It is so interesting to see how everyone turned out.

  18. I love the series, I started watching it a couple of years ago. I love seeing how the children have turned out, particularly Neil, Tony and the girls.

  19. I LOVE this series. As an anthropologist it is on the top of my charts.

  20. What a coincidence!!! I’ve never heard of this until I accidentally came across it on YouTube a month ago and thought “Wow. I love the proper way these English children speak. So cute”. Never knew it was an ongoing documentary. I will have to check the rest of them out on Netflix.

  21. I love love love this series! It’s so beautiful and heartbreaking. Can’t wait to see the new installment. <3

  22. This is such a great idea! I heard of it for the first time and I need to see them now.
    And I would love to share another great documentary with you: Breathing Earth – Susumu Shingus dream by Thomas Riedelsheimer.
    He is a german filmmaker, maybe you know one of his films about Andy Goldsworthy (Rivers and tides) or Evelyn Glennie (Touch the sound). He also has a very interesting project called ‘Be invited’ where he shares a new little film every monday with the purpose to give yourself a pause and maybe some inspiration.
    Hope you enjoy this as well! Thanks for your great recommendations Joanna!

  23. I’ve watched this all my life (I’m British) and look forward to every new series with great anticipation. I find Neil’s life story particularly heartbreaking. He was such a beautiful and appealing little boy. I always hope his situation has improved and he has found happiness.

  24. What a coincidence I just watched this documentary on television this evening ;) Loved it.@

  25. I’ve never heard of these! Want to see them all now!

  26. wow…that is fascinating! i’ll definitely be looking into watching the entire series. thank you!

  27. What a coincidence you wrote about this today!
    It airs here in the Netherlands tonight!
    Watched in college, love it!

  28. I’m a sucker for documentaries about anything and everything. I just love learning through film. Thanks for showing me that this installment has been released!

    Kate from Clear the Way

  29. I remember watching these films in psychology classes! I had no idea there would be another installment, excited!

  30. I’m so interested but have no idea where to watch the past episodes! I’m in Canada, so it’s not on netflix here and amazon doesn’t have any of the dvds. Any suggestions? Is it on itunes?

    • We just bought from the box of the first 6 DVDs and the 56up. Maybe they can ship to Canada.

  31. Wow I’ve never heard of this! I have to check it out when i get home and have sound on my computer!! =)

    Ergo – Blog

  32. i saw this on netflix, i think, a couple wks ago. it’s beautiful, but slightly depressing…
    that little boy in the top picture, is just the cutest.

  33. Holy Moly!
    I hadn’t even heard of this.
    So amazingly excited about it! :)

    Gracias for sharing.
    Eat Cake

  34. I feel like I’ve been growing up with these kids too, I’ve been watching since I was a child so I always want to know how they’re doing. There’s one particular man who always breaks my heart – neil. What I find so interesting is how one decision, one bit of good luck or bad luck can change the course of someone’s life. on the upside – i love how some of the women look better today than they did 30 years ago! There’s hope for us all!

  35. Joanna,

    Where you find information on all the documentaries that you post about? Is there a certain website or newsletter that your receive or just word of mouth/random? Would love to be more on top of these!


  36. I discovered the Up Series in the last year. (Perfect timing for this release, right?) I am so glad that Susie is back, and I can’t wait to see Neil’s update. He is one of my favorites.

  37. i had no idea! this the kind of project i dreamed of doing, i’m so happy someone actually did it!

  38. Thanks for the info! Glad it’s coming to Houston.

  39. This is one of my favorite documentary series! I did an entire course (psychology of the personality) in college based on this series! So excited to see 56!!

  40. dc says...

    So excited, thanks for the heads up!!

  41. I’m a huge fan of the Up series! If it makes it to Portland, I will definitely be seeing it!

  42. I felt a little sad watching the trailer too. It’s a bit sad to think they will probably have passed away in my lifetime, and there will be a documentary about their passing.

  43. Absolutely will watch it!! It looks SO interesting! And if it doesn’t come to Portland, I’ll wait (expectantly!) for the DVD release…

  44. I’ve read about these and seen several of the films. It is facinating…I’ll have to catch up on those I missed before I check this latest one out!

  45. These look fascinating! I know what Mark and I will be doing this weekend! Catching up on the first films.

    Oddly enough, I became overwhelmingly sad watching the trailer. Maybe it’s the passing of time and how short life truly is.

    Thanks for the heads up!

    Happy Weekend!

  46. I watched it when it aired last year(sounds strange to say last year!) it’s a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people through the years,and I agree,you think you know the outcome,but often there are surprises and disappointments!

  47. Just added 7 Up to my instant queue. Sounds amazing.

  48. i started watching the series on netflix after your previous post and now i’m hooked! i’ll be watching on the 18th when it opens in LA. can’t wait!

  49. I watched these back to back when the last installment came out and found it riveting! I was especially fascinated by Neil and am wondering what has happened to him in the last 7 years. Also interesting is seeing how the class system in Britain is still very much prevalent.

  50. Thanks for sharing this announcement. I too have been waiting for the “56” installment; sadly, it likely won’t make it to Montana theaters so I’ll have to wait for a DVD release!

  51. I’ve watched them all on Netflix and can’t wait to this next installment! Thanks for the info!

  52. I am a 48 year old Brit and have followed this as long as I can remember – it is the best documentary series, it would never be commisioned now – funding, permissions etc but it is brilliant. Go see it!

  53. This sounds like something I would love! Maybe I’ll be able to find it in France!

  54. great news! my boyfriend and i were already planning to watch the entire series (on Netflix!) this winter. i’m putting the Chicago date for the 56 screening in my calendar as a finale to our viewing.

    might i recommend His & Hers, a documentary focusing on Irish women and their relationships with men throughout life – fathers, brothers, boyfriends, husbands, and sons. it is such a wonderful and touching documentary about how life and love evolves.

    here’s the trailer.

  55. Joanna, would you recommend seeing the first 6 films before seeing this one at the IFC? They look fascinating!

    • Yes Sarah, the best way to enjoy 56 UP is to see what goes before, without the back stories you wont enjoy it as much.

  56. I absolutely love the Seven Up series! Watched various installments growing up and it’s just addictive, isn’t it? I blogged about it last month actually — I’m tempted to re-watch the previous seven before this one is out! Here’s a list of other cities it’s playing in:

  57. For C and anyone else interested in catching up on the series, you can stream all the installments on Netflix! That’s how I discovered them several years ago, and I was instantly hooked. It’s incredible how riveting — and moving — it can be simply to observe the passage of time in ordinary lives… I’ve been so excited about the latest installment; thanks, Danielle, for the wide-release info!

    • C says...

      Thanks Margaret!

  58. I just saw the trailer last night and I can’t wait to see it! I first heard about the series in college, then forgot about it, then couldn’t find it when I finally remembered to check it out. I’m so excited to see it!

  59. As an American, I find the Up series a really fascinating look at the British social classes.. can’t wait to see the latest!

  60. My Husband loves this series (we’re British) but I suspect he doesn’t know the final one is out. It’ll make his day, thanks!

  61. Thanks for the heads up! I’m eager to see it. Here’s another great documentary you should check out — Searching for Sugar Man.

    I was so impressed that I saw it twice in two days!

  62. My parents began taking me to see these when I was a kid and I’m totally hooked on them. I finally got around to 49 the other week and found it interesting how difficult they find these interviews to be, how many of them found the documentary to be an interruption to their lives. But they’re endlessly fascinating, and they give me lots of hope, as many of them seem to have found a great deal of happiness as they’ve grown older.

  63. I’ve heard of this series, but I haven’t watched it yet. Perhaps I’ll start on it this weekend. Those little kids are so, so cute!! I kinda wish we still dressed our kids like they did in the 50’s/60’s.

  64. Thank you for introducing this…and thanks for the schedule…I am looking forward to seeing this.

  65. I’ve watched most of these, cannot believe it’s now “56 Up”!! They are absolutely fascinating….quite sad some of them too.

    I will keep a look out, thanks :)

  66. Oh love this series so much. I always go to see each new one with my best film buddy.

  67. Oh my gosh, I’m so excited! Feb 8th in Minneapolis! Wohoo!

  68. yay! i LOVE the UP series! my boyfriend and i watched them all right in a row last winter, and i’ve been waiting for this one to finally come out. i find them endlessly fascinating!


    **Opens January 4 in New York
    **Opens January 18 in Los Angeles
    **Opens January 25 in San Diego & Hartford, CT
    **Opens February 1 in Chicago
    **Opens February 8 in Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis & Atlanta
    **Opens February 15 in San Francisco, Berkeley, San Rafael, Denver,
    Washington DC, St. Louis & Bellingham, WA
    **Opens February 22 in Philadelphia & Cleveland
    **Opens March 15 in Houston
    **Opens April 11 in Madison, WI

    • Thank you, Danielle! I will head out in February when it comes to DC!

    • It will be playing in Ottawa, Ontario at the Mayfair Theatre really soon too!

      *Jan 18-21 as well as 23rd

  70. Never heard of it but sounds very interesting. Will def. watch it…Thanks for the information!! Let us know your reviews once you see it :)