The 44 Most Important Documentaries To Watch In 2017, Hands Down

Adam Berry/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This year is already shaping up to be a crazy one. Obviously the president is bonkers, but there are a number of other issues that are also of great consequence to society. That is why I've compiled a list of the most important documentaries to watch in 2017. Now, while some of these documentaries are being released in 2017, the majority of them have been released in prior years. And that's because these issues didn't just pop up overnight, they have been building for some time. So what kinds of issues am I talking about?

Well, there are a lot of them. Social justice, especially racial injustice, is certainly a major theme in 2017. A number of flashpoints around the world, most notably Syria and Ukraine, will continue to threaten world peace in 2017. Then there's climate change, the single biggest threat to the planet, which is becoming more frightening by the day. And of course, there is a documentary about Donald Trump in here. But it's not all doom and gloom. I've mixed in a few docs that are optimistic or inspiring, just so you don't completely abandon all hope this year. So take a look below at the 44 most important documentaries to watch this year.

1. '13th'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

If you want a snapshot of race relations in 2017, and why things are the way they are, start here.

2. 'Audrie & Daisy'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

Online bullying and rape culture are major issues today.

3. 'Food, Inc.'

Screen Time on YouTube

A major overhaul is needed when it comes to the way Americans obtain and consume food.

4. 'The Ivory Game'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

Elephants are likely to go extinct in our lifetime. That can not happen.

5. 'Welcome To Leith'

moviemaniacsDE on YouTube

A quiet town in North Dakota sees an attempted takeover by white supremacists. I would not be surprised to see towns like this pop up all over the country this year.

6. 'Gasland'

Cinema Management Group on YouTube

Fracking is super harmful to both the environment and humans, as this doc shows, but the political climate of 2017 will likely see it used more frequently.

7. 'The Hunting Ground'

RADiUS on YouTube

Rape culture is rampant on college campuses, and it's a subject that deserves more attention.

8. 'An Inconvenient Sequel'

Paramount Pictures on YouTube

Due out later this year, the sequel to Al Gore's 2006 climate change documentary will show how things have only gotten worse.

9. 'Tricked'

3GenerationsOrg on YouTube

Ashton Kutcher is doing his part, but more people need to be aware of the modern slavery epidemic.

10. 'Lo And Behold: The Reveries Of The Connected World'

Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing on YouTube

From Warner Herzog, a look at how the Internet shapes life today — and how it will change it even more in the future.

11. 'Happy'

FilmBuff Movies on YouTube

The secret to happiness will never not be relevant.

12. 'Miss Representation'

The Representation Project on YouTube

The representation of women in the media has a profound effect on what women can accomplish in society, and if you don't think that's a relevant topic today then I would direct your attention to the phrase "Trump that bitch."

13. 'Race To Nowhere'

ReelLinkFilms on YouTube

The education system in America is in serious trouble, and it's looking like it's only going to get worse.

14. 'Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things'

The Minimalists on YouTube

Is modern life too much for you? There is another way to live.

15. 'Requiem For The American Dream'

saarthak tomar on YouTube

Noam Chomsky, possibly the greatest thinker of our time, talks about the crisis of wealth inequality in America — and how it's not sustainable.

16. '(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

With truth under assault in 2017, what better time to learn about the science behind lies?

17. 'Chasing Ice'

Exposure Labs on YouTube

Glaciers are disappearing due to climate change, and that's going to affect everyone.

18. 'Chasing Coral'

sff on YouTube

The sequel to Chasing Ice, this new doc focuses on the disappearing coral reefs of the world — and the surprising effect their absence has on the environment.

19. 'Whose Streets?'

Ford Foundation on YouTube

The story of the people involved in the Ferguson protests, and what it means for the country of a whole.

20. 'Racing Extinction'

Oceanic Preservation Society on YouTube

Many scientists agree we're in the middle of the world's sixth mass extinction event, where half of all species could soon cease to exist. And this time, humans are the cause, which makes the fact that Congress is currently planning on gutting the Endangered Species Act all the more terrifying.

21. 'This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous'

Gigi Gorgeous on YouTube

Transgender rights have roared into the public's consciousness in recent years, and they're going to continue to be a major civil rights battle.

22. 'Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman'

Teaser Trailer on YouTube

Narrated by Tom Brokaw and set to air later this year on Discovery, this film takes a look at conservation efforts in America's heartland pursued by those who rely on it for their livelihood.

23. 'Kedi'

Syn SOZEN on YouTube

This 2017 doc looks at the stray cat population of Istanbul, and gives a surprising look at human kindness in the process. It's a funny and uplifting break from the depression of these other docs.

24. 'The New Radical'

sff on YouTube

This new doc examines the new type of political disruptor active in 2017: Those who ply their trade online.

25. 'The Mars Generation'

Astronaut Abby on YouTube

This upcoming film follows teens at space camp who are optimistic that they will be the first generation of humans to set foot on Mars.

26. 'Planet Earth II'

BBC Earth on YouTube

The sequel to the most stunning nature documentary series ever, this is absolutely a must watch if you appreciate life and beauty.

27. 'The Best Of Enemies'

Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing on YouTube

If you think the culture wars of the 1960s aren't relevant today, just check out the debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley and try not to hear the voices of today's pundits.

28. 'I Am Not Your Negro'

Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing on YouTube

A poignant look at how little the U.S. has accomplished when it comes to civil rights over the past half-century.

29. 'Killswitch'

Chris Dollar on YouTube

You're going to hear a lot about net neutrality in 2017, and you need to understand what it is — and why it's under attack.

30. 'Citizenfour'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

With President Trump promising to root out the leakers in his government for providing the public with critical information, the story of Edward Snowden seems more timely than ever.

31. 'Cartel Land'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

The battles between citizens and drug cartels in Mexico is a serious one that's still raging.

32. 'Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

If you want to understand why Ukraine is such a hot topic in 2017, this is a good place to start.

33. 'Inside Job'

SonyPicturesClassics on YouTube

The 2008 economic collapse may seem like history, but with the current administration's plans to roll back the regulations that were imposed because of it, it could very well happen again.

34. 'The Vaccine War'

FRONTLINE PBS | Official on YouTube

With a vaccine truther in the White House, the future of scientifically-backed childhood vaccinations could be in trouble.

35. 'The White Helmets'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

The Oscar-winner this year in the short documentary section, this film shines a light on the brave rescue workers in Syria.

36. 'Fire At Sea'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

The refugee crisis is one of the biggest issues of 2017, and this Oscar nominee shows its real toll on humanity.

37. 'Cries From Syria'

HBODocs on YouTube

The war in Syria is the biggest and most horrible conflict currently taking place in the world, and this upcoming HBO documentary (due out March 13) does a great job of explaining it.

38. 'Jesus Camp'

MagnoliaPicturesVOD on YouTube

Ever wonder who this sizable "Evangelical" voting block is in the middle of the country? Wonder no more.

39. 'The Smartest Guys In The Room'

Movieclips Trailer Vault on YouTube

Another Enron could easily happen in 2017, as big business continues to run amok.

40. 'More Than Honey'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

Bees are disappearing, and the effect of their dwindling numbers is more far-reaching than you could possibly imagine.

41. 'Inequality For All'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

With the exception of climate change, wealth inequality is the single biggest issue threatening the U.S.

42. 'The Fence'

HBO on YouTube

Trump wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, but there is already a fence across much of it. And guess what? It's useless and expensive.

43. 'Trump: What’s The Deal?'

Journeyman Pictures on YouTube

This 1991 documentary about the president, which has just now been released due to lawsuits, shows that Trump has always been a con artist, a narcissist, and a fraud.

44. 'Putin’s Way'

PBS on YouTube

Might as well get to know the real President of the United States in 2017.