Like all humans, I’m the product of my experiences. And in my case, those experiences include an above average amount of movie watching over the course of my life so far. The movies I love have shaped me and in some instances, completely changed my worldview. Think about it this way: you’re just one person. You may travel and try new things, but you are still limited in what you can experience and the lens through which you can do that. (Gender, race, class, all play a role.) But just like novels can give you the opportunity to live countless lives besides your own, movies can too. And for convenience’s sake, some of those transformative films are available to stream. Keep reading for 21 Netflix movies that could change the way you see the world.
What’s especially cool about movies like these is that you do bring your own perspective to them. No two people are watching a thought-provoking movie in the exact same way. And that makes post-viewing discussions a must. These are movies that you’ll want to talk about with partners, family, and friends. And who knows, those conversations may change your mind and heart yet again. As long as you keep them open.
A cultural obsession with youth breeds the assumption that creativity and coolness both have an expiration date. Not so for Iris Apfel, the then 93-year-old style icon and subject of this Albert Maysles documentary.
2. The Hunting Ground
Young people and particularly young women are encouraged to place their trusts in institutions and individuals in positions of authority. The eye-opening campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground demolishes that feeling of false security but empowers all victims along the way.
3. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Brains are complex and memory is fascinating. This off-beat romantic drama presents the psychological conundrum: do away with the pain or hold onto the memories?
4. Silver Linings Playbook
In many romantic comedies, "imperfections" add up to a couple of falls and maybe an embarrassing speech at a party. Silver Linings Playbook believes that everyone is deserving of love and does its part to de-stigmatize mental illness.
This disturbing noir will cure you of your TV news infotainment addiction for good.
6. The Last Five Years
There are two sides to every relationship, as hard as it can be to recognize from the trenches.
The next time someone starts bemoaning Millennials' dependence on technology, point them to this documentary about a pair of adopted twins living in different countries who found each other on YouTube.
Everyone feels like a weirdo sometimes. Your eccentricities are what make you who you are. Even if you're a rock star who spends his life in a papier-mâché head.
There are no innocent bystanders, according to this documentary about marine life in captivity.
10. Me & You & Everyone We Know
As alone as you may feel at times, you are a part of a fabric of humanity. Me & You & Everyone We Know links separate vignettes and distinct characters in unexpected ways.
The independent drama Pariah is about a teenage New Yorker coming to terms with her sexuality and embracing her identity without fear.
What happened to the real Philomena and other women like her is unforgivable, which is what makes her forgiveness so powerful.
13. Beasts Of No Nation
There is a responsibility in the First World to be aware of the atrocities being committed daily in places you may never even visit. Beasts Of No Nation is a Netflix Original that dramatizes the plight of child soldiers in Ghana.
I guarantee that after watching Amelie, you will be at least 60% more aware of the little instances of every day magic in your own life.
15. The Act Of Killing
This chilling doc uses the medium of film to get into the minds of perpetrators of genocide.
16. The Way He Looks
This Brazilian drama about a blind boy who falls in love with his best friend may not revolve around a catastrophic event, but it's rare that a film features a gay protagonist with a disability and gives that character a happy ending.
17. Short Term 12
Future Oscar winner Brie Larson broke out with this small drama that shines a light on the problems of the foster system and the inability of even dedicated professionals to ensure a safe, happy home for every child.
18. Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan stars in the adaptation of a true story that's far too familiar: the death of an unarmed black man by the hands of a police officer. It's a difficult but necessary film that pre-dates the Black Lives Matter movement by only a few years.
19. Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard gives a candidly desperate performance as a woman who has to ask her colleagues to make a personal sacrifice so that she can keep her job. It's an effective allegory of the struggle to maintain dignity in poverty.
20. The Kite Runner
You probably read the novel in a book club, but have you seen the film? With politicians "othering" Middle Eastern populations for their own gain, this movie about two doomed best friends growing up in Kabul is humanistic and personal.
21. A Clockwork Orange
This movie comes with a list of trigger warnings. If you can stomach the violence, you may come out the other side with some new thoughts on morality and who gets to decide what that really means.
Of course, this list is just a start. Open yourself up to new genres; watch films produced by other cultures; and then pay that knowledge and growth forward.