July 9, 2020 – By Raquel Pacheco
It is no mystery the world is currently facing turbulent times. As protests in favour of the Black Lives Matter movement continue to spark action across the globe and prompt urgent conversations about racism, it is crucial to remember how necessary it is to become more aware of the problems within our society.
As social issues continue to become more notable, and we already recommended the best educational reads to understand racism, we decided to put together a small list of the best social justice movies and documentaries.
Our chosen picks will not only educate you about social issues, but they are also a great example of the systematic problems within our society. Here are the best social justice movies and documentaries.
Angering, provocative and extremely powerful – Ava DuVernay’s staggering documentary 13th is a call to conscience about the mass incarceration in the United States and an inspection of the connection between the US penal system and slavery.
As the title indicates, the movie refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
A potent work which will get your blood boiling.
Available on Netflix.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins manages to uphold his high reputation with this heart-stopping tale of love and injustice. Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk tells the love story between Fonny Hunt (Stephan James) and Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne). After getting accused of a crime he did not commit, Fony is placed in prison. From there, we follow Tish and her mum (Regina King) on their lives and what they have turned into.
Not only beautifully shot and acted impeccably, but also a true example of what life becomes for many black men and women in the system.
Available on Amazon Prime.
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
Raoul Peck’s extraordinary Oscar-nominated documentary is a powerful political statement and a profound look into James Baldwin’s mind.
Based on what would have been Baldwin’s next project “Remember This House”, an unfinished 30-page manuscript, I Am Not Your Negro combines Baldwin’s reflections on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Ever, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and connects it with America’s current events such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
An impactful documentary which conveys how relevant it is to look at the past in order to understand the present.
Available on BBC iPlayer.
Fruitvale Station (2013)
Creed and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station tells the true story of the last day of Oscar Grant’s life (Michael B.Jordan), a 22-year-old who was killed by a police officer in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009.
Fruitvale Station recreates the last 24 hours of Oscar’s life, making it incredibly tough to watch as it reinforces how he lost his life unjustly. A sensitive and powerful feature which will not disappoint.
Available on Netflix.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Both Mattew McConaughey and Jared Leto won the Oscars for their remarkable performances as newly diagnosed HIV-positive cowboy Ron Woodroof and the witty trans woman Rayon.
Set in the mid-‘80s, Dallas Buyers Club is inspired in the real-life story of Ron and how he started working around the system to obtain medication for AIDS patients. Since these were very early days for the AIDS epidemic, the feature thoroughly confronts the striking miseducation associated with HIV during that time.
Available on Netflix.
From impactful real-life stories to powerful documentaries examining the systematic problems within our society, the chosen features are a potent example of the urgent changes that need to be made.
Educating yourself is always a good start to be part of the change our world desperately needs.
If you’re interested in another list of film or documentary recommendations, you can also read our article on the best-underrated films or five eye-opening Netflix documentaries to watch in 2020.
Do you have any other recommendations to add? Let us know what your favourite movies or documentaries on social justice are.