I’ve been passionate about social justice issues since I was a teenager, and I’ve also had a long-standing love affair with the documentary genre of film.  So it’s no surprise that when a documentary turns the lens on social justice issues, I’m intrigued. Here are a few of my favorite films that explore both local and global issues.

best documentaries about social justiceChildren Underground
This documentary is a brutal look into what happens when orphans in
Eastern Europe age out of the system or run away from institutions. It
provides a startling context to the orphan crisis and the fate of
children who do not get adopted.

Flow How did a handful of corporations steal our water
This movie is a revealing expose about the water industry, and the way
major corporations are profiting from practices that make water scarce
for certain regions.

Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County
This film turns the lens on the Orange County we rarely see: struggling
families who cannot afford rent so they are stuck in a cycle of living
in residential motels.

The Cove
This film depicts the shocking slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Even if
you aren’t an animal rights activist, this movie will move you to tears.

Waiting for “Superman”
This movie exposes the inherent problems in our country’s public
educational system, and the heartbreak for families who don’t win the
lottery in their chance to attend a good school.   

War Dance
If you’ve seen Invisible Children, then you know about the plight of
the Ugandan children in the face of Kony’s terror. This story follows a
group of children from the Acholi tribe who try to move forward through
dance.

Who Killed the Electric Car?
This movie details the shocking turn of events that led to the downfall
of the electric car via the big automotive companies. It’s a sad but
true revelation about how corporations can impede environmental
progress.

An Inconvenient Truth
This is a must-see for every single person who calls earth home. It’s a
wake-up call to what our practices are doing to our planet, and how we
need to change to make sure our children grow up in a safe place to
live.

Born into Brothels
This documentary explores the life of children who are born to women in
the sex industry in India, and the difference that one photographer
makes in their lives.

God Grew Tired of Us
This documentary follows three “Lost Boys” from the Sudan who are forced
to leave their homeland due to a tumultuous civil war. The film
chronicles their triumph over adversities and a relocation to America,
where the Lost Boys build active and fulfilling new lives but remain
deeply committed to helping friends and family they have left behind.
This film takes
on the central moral challenge of the 21st century: the oppression of
women and girls worldwide, and how we can begin to empower women living
in poverty.

Miss Representation
This film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led
to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

Sicko
This documentary takes an unflinching look at the health care industry
in America. Stocked with research and staggering statistics, it is a
compelling look at how our country compares to others, and the
consequences for those who get sick in our current system.