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10 Documentaries That Will Open Your Eyes To The Real Issues

Social justice is what we need

Where movies and films are to entertain, documentaries are here to slap you across the face and open your eyes to the reality that we’d sometimes rather ignore. As a sociology major, I watch a lot of documentaries in class. I find that sometimes you just need another voice, a different perspective to speak to certain experiences you may not understand. Documentaries have the ability to change lives and these are 10 of the most hardcore, captivating, can’t take your eyes off the screen documentaries out there.

1. Clothing Industry & Globalization – “The True Cost”

This is a chilling expose on the clothing industry and how it affects people on an international scale. The film shows the way the industry not only affects people working in sweatshops or for cheap labour, but also the environmental consequences. It needs to be brought to our attention.The clothing we wear is a decision we make everyday, and everyday we reinforce these tragedies through consumerism. The True Cost is a must see.

2. Food Industry & Waste – “Just Eat It.”

This documentary takes you on a journey through the food and farming industry. Each piece of produce has strict criteria in regards to it’s appearance curvature, size, and shape. If the food grown does not meet the standards for size and shape, it is thrown out. What is even more disgusting is that given the horrific poverty rates, this perfectly edible food is not even re-distributed. Where does our food come from? Where is it going? It’s time to start paying attention.

3. Pharmaceutical Industry & The Medicalization of Female Bodies – “Orgasm INC.”

This is a documentary left me speechless. Women feel deviant because they are not able to reach an orgasm and this documentary reveals the shocking extents some women are willing to go to “fix” this socially constructed problem. This documentary needs to be watched by everyone. What the pharmaceutical industry is doing to women is not okay and it is truly scary how much control and power they have.

4. Animal Oppression for Entertainment – “Blackfish”

Having a background in animal welfare activism, I thought I knew this issue inside and out; but boy was I wrong. There is no other way to describe this film but as a psychological thriller that captures what happens when you keep wild animals in captivity. This is an exposé that digs for truth in a sea of deception. It will make you cringe and boycott any amusement park immediately. Available on Netflix.

5. Palestine & Apartheid – “5 Broken Cameras”

A lot of people try to stay away from this “conflict” because it is often regarded as “a messy grey area.” However, this wild injustice must be addressed. Palestinian Emad Burnet records his village’s resistance to the encroachment of Israeli settlements. The documentary 5 Broken Cameras sheds a harsh light on the Israeli Apartheid and the biggest open air prison in the world.

6. Rape Culture on University Campuses – “The Hunting Ground”

This new film was released on Netflix this year. This documentary tells the story of how Universities silence, blame victims, and slut-shame survivors of sexual assault. The Hunting Ground addresses rape culture and calls out Universities as “businesses” and institutions aimed at protecting a brand rather than their students. A sinister yet inspiring story, The Hunting Ground is a must see.

7. Sexism & Advertising – “Killing Us Softly” 1-4

As the name suggests, Jean Kilbourne has being studying problematic advertising for years. We all know it’s problematic, but no one does a better job at breaking this down than this film. Themes such as sexualization, victimization, objectification, and infantilization of women are critically evaluated. How do these images of women reflect cultural values? How are they reinforced in our society? You can find the full documentary on YouTube.

8. Behavior & Obedience – Stanford Experiment

This film is a remake of a social experiment that concerned power, control, and social behavior. If you aren’t familiar with this experiment; let me break it down for you. A sample of college students from Stanford University are recruited, and are randomly given status as “inmate” or “guard”. Then, they play house. The ways in which false power affected people was disturbing and the psychological effects are chilling. Research ethics were forever changed because of this very project.

9. Homelessness and Addiction – Streets of Plenty

This documentary is about the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia where addiction, poverty, and homelessness are rampant. One college students decides to live 31 days on the streets of Vancouver, and what intrigued me most was the lengths he was willing to go to in order to understand the psyche of people who live this reality everyday. While some aspects may be problematic, my eyes have been opened about this issue, and isn’t that what documentaries are really all about?  

10. Women & Racism in America – “The Way Back Home”

The stories of these women are so incredibly important. This documentary gives these women a safe platform to come together and share their experiences, relate, and be inspired by each other’s experiences. This documentary does an incredible job capturing the complexities of racism in our sense of self, sense of belonging, our social interaction, and so much more.

Watching these documentaries was incredibly humbling for me, and made me come face to face with the amount of privilege I have, and the amount of social injustices that are in the world. If you would like to suggest a documentary that I didn’t note, or would simply like to spread awareness, please share and comment!

Remember, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Featured image via Sammy-Williams on Pixabay


  1. Hello !

    Thank you so much for your suggestions! I really appreciate your feedback.
    This list was a collection of films that I have seen over the years, and unfortunately I can’t see them all (although I will try hahah), I will add the invisible war and cowspiracy to my list, and possibly create a part 2 to this article featuring more documentaries!

    With love,

  2. killing us softly was definitely eye opening. I also love the documentaries forks over knives or misrepresentation


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