One purpose for documentary films is to urge the viewer to take action. Acting as a capture of a particular time, place, event, or way of life, the documentary film is a highly effective form of filmmaking because it utilizes the emotional power of film with the bracing punch of reality. When it comes to Netflix documentaries that will kickstart your activism, there's a ton you can stream right now. These movies will probably leave you speechless, scared, shocked, or dumbfounded at first; how could this really be the world we live in? Then, once the films get under your skin, you'll be inspired to take action.
These documentaries aren't easy to watch. They require your full attention. They may even, without directly asking, demand some introspection. They'll have your questioning your own moral compass, hopefully in a good way. These films will finish rolling the credits and have you ready to start Googling your local representatives, groups in your area, and spreading the word on Facebook. This is absolutely the point.
Whether it hits you right away or takes a while to sink in, each of these politically- and socially-minded films will have you ready to take up a cause and fight for what you believe in.
1. Miss Representation
If you're a creative-type looking to make a difference, then you'll be inspired by Miss Representation, a doc that examines how media shapes the way women dress, act, and relate to others.
2. Tyke Elephant Outlaw
Your heart may break watch Tyke Elephant Outlaw, but the eye-opening treatment of one elephant cause in the institutional cycle of abuse for entertainment purposes will touch your animal activist nerve.
This doc may get a bit histrionic, but its more than an interesting watch. Chillingly, Cowspiracy examines just how widespread the harmful effects of factory farming and industrialized meat and dairy products are for our environment and society.
4. Russell Brand: End The Drugs War
Brand has gradually moved away from his larger-than-life comedic persona and, over the last handful of years, has leaned more into his political inclinations. In a UK TV documentary, now on Netflix, Brand, a recovering drug addict, dives into the country's conversation around drug reform. This doc is a must-see.
5. White Helmets
The Oscar-winning documentary gives a unique look into the lives of the emergency service known as The White Helmets. This group of Syrian volunteer aid workers — who hold down regular jobs, too — go into heavily and recently bombed areas to make sure that nobody has been caught in the crosshairs or left behind.
6. Fed Up
Taking on the sugar industry, Fed Up will make you rethink your eating habits immediately. Going in deep, examining the physical effects of sugar and how its incorporation into the American healthcare and political system is affecting us, the doc will have you putting down the chocolate bar and picking up a phone to call your representatives.
This movie has been at the center of various animal rights platforms since its release a few years ago. Taking a deep dive (pun intended) into the treatment of whales at SeaWorld, you'll be forced to reckon with how your patronage affects the lives of animals.
8. How To Survive A Plague
How To Survive A Plague tells the story of the civil fight taking up on behalf of Americans living with AIDS just as the epidemic broke out. Following ACT UP and Treatment Action Group (TAG), the doc will show you how people fought with their lives to ensure the right medication got government approval and that others could be saved.
9. The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975
Honing in on a very specific moment in time, The Black Power Mixtape incorporates actual documentary footage of the time to track the developments of the Civil Rights movement in the waning years of the '60s and into the '70s. The film will inspire you to keep up the fight by continuing to work for what's right.
10. The Student Body
A local Ohio high schooler takes on Washington in The Student Body. When a law is introduced that would affect students' placement in school because of their BMI, one young woman seeks answers and a chance to argue that there are better ways to keep kids healthy.
11. Ukraine Is Not A Brothel
Following Femen, one of the Ukraine's most active feminist groups in the country, this documentary will leave you spellbound and ready to fight for the sisterhood and against the patriarchy.
Are you ready to hop into action now?