9 Documentaries to Educate Yourself on Social Justice Issues

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that there are more things we need to learn about in this world we live in today. Between the chaos of the pandemic, the existing racial systemic divisions, and a complicit voter demographic of people who think we don’t have a problem, educating ourselves about different issues is more important than ever.

Here are a list of documentaries about different social justice issues that everyone must watch.


In 13th, Ava DuVernay explores the history of Blackness and racial inequality in the United States while focusing on the prison system and the disproportionate number of African-Americans incarcerated. The documentary explains the 13th Amendment and the ” War on Drugs” term and how it was used to suppress African-Americans while incarcerating them rather than actually fighting against drugs. It goes on to explain how mass incarceration is an extension of slavery and to serve the economy of the U.S. instead of real reformation.

You can watch this documentary on Netflix.

5 Broken Cameras

The Palestinian struggle with the Israeli occupation has been going on for over 50 years. In this documentary, viewers get to see the struggle of Palestinians in the fight for their homeland. Emad, the filmmaker, tells the story of his village’s resistance encroachment of Israeli settlements. The film shows the difference in power and resources between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian villagers.

In this documentary, viewers get to see the struggle of Palestinians in the fight for their homeland.

5 Broken Cameras is a frontline documentary that tells the story by directly recording and witnessing it. It’s a really simple movie without much tools and techniques, yet, it’s so deep that it moves you and educates you on what is happening in Palestine.


Blackfish is an investigative and expository film that tells the story of corruption and reveals dirty secrets behind one of the activities people enjoyed watching, whale shows and whale training. Fascinated and disturbed are some of the feelings this film delivers. We learn about Tilikum the Killer Whale, and how his life in captivity spiraled into humiliation and the death of several people. The film exposes Sea World and their inhumane conditions they put their animals through in captivity. With testimonies from former Sea World trainers and visitors, the story of Tilikum the Killer Whale turns into a story of corporate corruption.

You can watch this documentary on Hulu.

Jihad: A Story of the Others

Deeyah Khan, in this documentary, speaks about a topic feared by many people – “jihadists.” In particular, she looks to answer questions such as what draws people to radicalism, and why do some people choose violent extremism in the name of religion. Also, what is jihad, and, are all jihadists extreme people? It follows up with an introduction of former jihadists who tell their own stories. This documentary challenges implicit biases and allows the viewer to step into the minds and lives of people that are feared by others and viewed as violent and aggressive.

Knock Down the House

In this film, we see the journey of four different candidates running for Congress: a New York bartender, a nurse from Missouri, a coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia, and a grieving mother from Nevada. They are considered the fighters in the film while telling their stories, taking us on the journey with them and sharing their dreams and hopes for making real change happen.

You can watch it on Netflix.


16 Shots

In lights of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and calls against police brutality, 16 Shots becomes a must-see documentary. It investigates the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, and the cover up that happened after the arrest. Laquan’s case could have been like many other cases of police killing Black people – forgotten. But because people fought for justice, Van Dyke was found guilty and imprisoned.

You can watch it on Hulu.

Strong Island

In this Black murder documentary, filmmaker Yance Ford investigates the murder of his brother, William Ford, while capturing the lack of action taking by the police department. This documentary discusses a heavy topic with a sense of calmness that inspires one to think. Yance interviews people who knew William personally and is able to create and connect a special bond between the viewer and his family.

You can watch it on Netflix.

How to Survive a Plague

The world has been battling COVID-19 for months now, and a film like How to Survive a Plague is what can give many people hope for a good ending to this pandemic. The film educates people about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and the efforts of activist groups ACT UP and TAG. The film shows individual efforts fighting for better health conditions and how they managed to end an epidemic that was killing many Americans slowly.


Crip Camp

Crip Camp is an activist film that tells the story of Camp Jened while shedding light on disability movements. It puts the spotlight on the struggles of people with disabilities and the negligence they faced by both the community and the government. In particular, it shows how the campers became activists for disability legislation. It shows how a movement that started from a small camp for people with disabilities led to greater action and social change and real improvements.

You can watch it on Netflix.