These 17 Netflix Documentaries Will Help You Stay Woke


It's not easy being woke. Especially in today's political and cultural climate, which grows more volatile and disorienting every day. To stay woke, one has to not only be aware of shifts in politics and society, but also know the history of political and social movements. Being woke is a tall order, and, while movie-lovers might have a tough time being enlightened by Hollywood movies (they tend to be low on the woke scale), documentaries are an entirely other story. If you're a film lover who wants to be socially aware, then you're going to want to check out these 17 Netflix documentaries that'll help you stay woke.

What does it mean to "stay woke"? Well, that honestly depends on who you ask. The top definition on Urban Dictionary defines the term as "to keep informed of the sh**storm going on around you in times of turmoil and conflict." Essentially, "stay woke" means that you can cut through media lies and easy narratives to see the truth of a situation. In today's political climate, being woke mainly pertains to politics and issues of identity relating to race, gender, sexuality, and class. The modern term is most traced back to Erykah Badu's song "Master Teacher" released in 2008, according to Fusion, and was embraced by Black Lives Matter activists in recent years. For the purposes of this article, staying woke doesn't just address matters of race, but also matters of gender, sexuality, and political history. These 17 Netflix documentaries will help you stay woke and aware of the intersectional issues facing us today.

1. '13th'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated documentary on the 13th Amendment and the prison industrial complex is as riveting as it is necessary.

2. 'Growing Up Coy'

Still Point Pictures on YouTube

Growing Up Coy offers people a front row seat to one of the continuous legal battles emerging in the fight for transgender rights.

3. 'Lost For Life'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

The American justice system is oftentimes, well, not so just. Lost for Life examines the complicated cases of juvenile offenders serving life in prison without parole.

4. 'She's Beautiful When She's Angry'

Music Box Films on YouTube

She's Beautiful When She's Angry traces the rise of the women's movement form 1966-1971 — a must for those who insist they are down with women's issues.

5. 'How To Survive A Plague'

IFC Films on YouTube

Learn more about the AIDS crisis and the political climate that accompanied it in How to Survive a Plague.

6. 'Welcome To Leith'

moviemaniacsDE on YouTube

Scared of the rise of white nationalism in America? Welcome to Leith probably won't help with that, but it will convince even the most ardent denier that this is a problem that needs addressing right now.

7. 'The Hunting Ground'

RADiUS on YouTube

Men, please learn about the constant fear of being a woman with The Hunting Ground.

8. 'The True Cost'

Untold on YouTube

Ignorance truly is bliss when it comes to clothing manufacturing, but part of being woke is chasing uncomfortable truths. The True Cost exposes the political and economic conditions of massive clothes production.

9. 'We Are Legion'

FilmBuff Movies on YouTube

What is Anonymous, really? We Are Legion attempts to answer that question.

10. 'Audrie & Daisy'

Netflix US & Canada on YouTube

Again, men, allow me to introduce to you to the harsh realities of growing up female. You're welcome.

11. 'Food, Inc.'

Screen Time on YouTube

Watching Food, Inc, will definitely make you feel guilty about your contribution to certain food corporations, and make you question your health at the same time. You've been warned.

12. 'Inside Job'

SonyPicturesClassics on YouTube

Because what's more fun than a documentary on the financial crisis of 2008?

13. 'Miss Representation'

The Representation Project on YouTube

Miss Representation is all about the lies the media feeds the public about women. If you want to develop the skills to look beyond what the mainstream media is telling you, this documentary's a great place to start.

14. 'Citizen Koch'

MovieCutTrailer on YouTube

Citizen Koch explores the rise of the Tea Party and the political influence of the mega-rich Koch brothers.

15. 'The Mask You Live In'

The Representation Project on YouTube

The Mask You Live In attempts to expose the pressures placed on men to be "masculine" and what that means. Seeing past gender roles is difficult, but it's necessary for any self-respecting "woke' citizen.

16. 'Race To Nowhere'

ReelLinkFilms on YouTube

Relive how awful it is to be a student with Race to Nowhere, and ponder the state of education while you're at it.

17. 'Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine'

Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films on YouTube

Matt Shepard is famous for how he died — the victim of a brutal hate crime, beaten and killed because he was gay — but Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine lets you know who he was.

Staying woke isn't easy, but hopefully these documentaries will be able to help you keep on fighting the good fight.