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10 Must-See Social Issue Documentaries to Watch Right Now

Are you interested in exploring social issues and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around you? Look no further than these 10 must-see social issue documentaries. Each film tackles a different topic, from inequality and injustice to environmental concerns and political corruption. Get ready to be informed, engaged, and inspired by these powerful and thought-provoking works of cinema.

1. Introduction

Documentary films have the power to educate, inspire, and provoke audiences. They shed light on important social issues that are often overlooked or ignored by mainstream media. In this article, we have compiled a list of 10 must-see social issue documentaries that are worth watching right now. From environmental concerns to human rights issues, these films cover a wide range of topics that are relevant and thought-provoking. Whether you are a documentary enthusiast or new to the genre, these films are sure to leave a lasting impression.

1.1. The Power of Social Issue Documentaries

Social issue documentaries have the power to educate, inspire, and spark meaningful conversations about the most pressing issues facing our world. Through powerful storytelling and compelling visuals, these films shed light on important social, environmental, and political issues, and challenge viewers to think critically about the world around them. In this article, we’ll explore 10 must-see social issue documentaries that are sure to leave a lasting impact on anyone who watches them.

1.2. Why Social Issue Documentaries Matter

Social issue documentaries are an important tool for bringing attention to important and often overlooked issues in society. These films shed light on a range of topics from poverty and homelessness to immigration and environmental concerns. They offer a unique perspective on complex issues and can inspire change by raising awareness and encouraging action. Through powerful storytelling, social issue documentaries can spark conversation and motivate viewers to take action. In this article, we’ll highlight 10 must-see social issue documentaries that are both informative and thought-provoking.

1.3. How to Choose the Right Social Issue Documentary

When it comes to choosing a social issue documentary to watch, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, identify the social issue that you are most interested in. This will help you to narrow down your options and find a documentary that speaks to your personal interests. Secondly, research the documentary and the filmmaker behind it. Look for reviews, awards, and any controversy surrounding the documentary. This will help you to determine the credibility and accuracy of the information presented in the documentary. Lastly, consider the format of the documentary. Are you looking for a traditional documentary style or something more experimental? Keep these factors in mind when choosing the right social issue documentary for you.

2. Recommendations for Social Issue Documentaries

1. The True Cost – This documentary explores the impact of fast fashion on workers and the environment. It sheds light on the dark side of the fashion industry and encourages viewers to consider the true cost of their clothing choices.
2. 13th – This powerful film examines the history of racial inequality in America, particularly in the criminal justice system. It is a must-see for anyone interested in social justice.
3. Blackfish – This documentary exposes the cruel treatment of captive killer whales in marine parks and the dangers they pose to their trainers. It sparked a national conversation about animal welfare and the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity.
4. The Hunting Ground – This film sheds light on the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and the institutional failures that perpetuate it. It is a call to action for universities and individuals to take a stand against sexual violence.
5. Food, Inc. – This eye-opening documentary exposes the corporate control of the food industry and the impact it has on our health and the environment. It challenges viewers to reconsider their relationship with food and the systems that produce it.
6. The Invisible War – This film exposes the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and the systemic failures that allow it to continue. It is a powerful call to action for reform and justice for survivors.
7. Bully – This documentary follows the lives of several students who are victims of bullying in schools. It sheds light on the devastating impact of bullying and the need for systemic change to prevent it.
8. The Corporation – This film examines the history and impact of corporations on society and the environment. It challenges viewers to consider the role of corporations in shaping our world and the need for greater accountability.
9. Inside Job – This documentary explores the causes and consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. It exposes the corruption and greed that led to the crisis and the ways in which the system is still broken.
10. Poverty, Inc. – This film challenges the traditional approach to foreign aid and development. It argues that many aid programs do more harm than good and perpetuate poverty rather than alleviate it. It is a thought-provoking look at the complexities of global poverty and the need for new solutions.

2.1. 1. The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma is a documentary that explores the negative impact of social media on society. It delves into the ways in which social media platforms use algorithms to manipulate user behavior and the resulting societal consequences. This documentary serves as a wake-up call for individuals to be more aware of their online activity and to take steps to protect their privacy and mental health.

2.2. 2. 13th

13th (2016) is an Academy Award-nominated documentary that explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. The film takes its name from the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime. The documentary argues that this loophole has been exploited to justify the disproportionate imprisonment of black Americans, perpetuating a legacy of systemic racism. Directed by Ava DuVernay, 13th features interviews with activists, scholars, and politicians, as well as archival footage and powerful imagery that illuminates the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.

2.3. 3. Blackfish

Blackfish is a documentary that sheds light on the captivity of killer whales in theme parks. It focuses on Tilikum, a captive orca responsible for the deaths of several people, and the ethical implications of keeping such intelligent and social animals in captivity. The film sparked public outrage and led to changes in legislation regarding the treatment of captive marine mammals.

2.4. 4. The True Cost

When it comes to creating social issue documentaries, it’s important to consider the true cost of production. While many filmmakers are passionate about shedding light on important issues, the reality is that making a high-quality documentary can be expensive. From equipment and crew costs to travel expenses and post-production work, the costs can quickly add up. However, the impact of a well-made documentary can be invaluable in raising awareness and sparking meaningful conversations about important topics. As viewers, it’s important to support these films and their creators to ensure that important stories continue to be told.

2.5. 5. Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is a powerful documentary that exposes the hidden truths of the industrial food system. The film uncovers the unethical practices of large corporations that prioritize profit over the health and well-being of consumers and animals. Food, Inc. also highlights the negative impact this system has on the environment and small-scale farmers. This documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about the food industry and the need for a more sustainable and ethical approach to food production.

3. Themes in Social Issue Documentaries

Social issue documentaries have become increasingly popular in recent years, shedding light on important topics and often serving as a call to action for viewers. One common theme among these documentaries is the exploration of inequality and injustice, whether it be related to race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Other themes include environmentalism, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. These documentaries offer a unique perspective on the world and can inspire viewers to take action and make a difference.

3.1. 1. Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is a crucial issue that affects communities all over the world. This theme is explored in many social issue documentaries, which shed light on the disproportionate impact of pollution and environmental degradation on marginalized communities. These documentaries help to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment in a way that is equitable and just for all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Through powerful storytelling and compelling visuals, these documentaries inspire viewers to take action and make a positive impact on the world around them.

3.2. 2. Racial Justice

Racial justice is a prominent theme in many social issue documentaries. These films explore the systemic racism and discrimination that exist in various aspects of society, from the criminal justice system to housing and education. They shed light on the experiences of marginalized communities, including people of color, and highlight the urgent need for change and reform. Some notable documentaries that address racial justice issues include 13th, I Am Not Your Negro, and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.

3.3. 3. Economic Justice

Economic justice is a crucial theme in social issue documentaries. These films shed light on the financial struggles faced by individuals and communities, and the systemic inequalities that perpetuate poverty and economic hardship. Many social issue documentaries explore the experiences of low-wage workers, the challenges faced by small businesses, and the impact of globalization on local economies. These films challenge viewers to consider their own role in creating a more just and equitable economic system.

3.4. 4. Animal Welfare

Animal welfare is a critical social issue that has received increasing attention in recent years. Many documentaries have been produced to shed light on the mistreatment of animals in various industries, including factory farming, animal testing, and the exotic pet trade. These documentaries often feature undercover footage and interviews with experts and advocates who work to protect animals from cruelty and exploitation. Through these films, viewers can gain a greater understanding of the impact that human actions have on the lives of animals and the importance of ethical treatment and responsible stewardship.

3.5. 5. Health and Nutrition

When it comes to social issue documentaries, health and nutrition is an important theme that is often explored. These documentaries shed light on the ways in which our food systems and healthcare systems impact our health and wellbeing, as well as the health and wellbeing of our communities. From examining the impact of industrial agriculture on our environment and our bodies, to exploring the ways in which access to healthcare is often tied to socioeconomic status, these documentaries provide important insights into the ways in which social issues impact our health.


These 10 social issue documentaries provide a powerful and thought-provoking look at some of the most pressing issues facing society today. From environmental concerns to social justice, these films are a must-see for anyone interested in learning about and engaging with the world around them.

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