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The best Social Justice movies and documentaries

“Do The Right Thing.”

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Feb 17, 2021

Social causes have gained traction over the past couple of years—rightly so. With the increase of social awareness and the world’s connectivity, it was only a matter of time before the world realized that we have so much work to do. The entertainment industry has also caught up with the times, and the past five years have witnessed a rise in content that is more socially aware and provides the general public with the tools to understand history, and its repercussions on humanity.

 

Here are some of the best social justice documentaries that you can stream on demand:

 

I Am Not Your Negro (2017)

Photo via Magnolia Pictures

I Am Not Your Negro is an extremely impactful documentary that is based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript “Remember This House.” The documentary ties narratives of Baldwin’s ruminations on the murders and lives of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. This film is crucial in understanding what is happening in America today, and it is a lesson in history that we all need.

 

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Photo via Universal Pictures

This makes up Spike Lee’s third film, and one that is considered one of the best films of all-time. The movie takes place in Bedstuy (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) and explores racial tensions that exist, all set during a hot summer. The violent climax of the film worried reviewers at the time, thinking it may cause black audiences to riot, with the movie ending on two different messages. One by Martin Luther King, Jr. advocating for nonviolence, and the other by Malcolm X advocating for violence as self-defense. Though the film may have sparked controversy, it is well worth watching and ruminating on.

 

13th (2016)

Photo via Netflix

This documentary gets its title from the 13th amendment, you know, the one that banned slavery (except as punishment for a crime). Ava DuVernay gets the expertise of politicians, activists, scholars, and ex-convicts to connect the dots to the current mass incarceration system. It’s a heavy documentary, but one that you absolutely have to watch.

 

Tangerine (2015)

Photo via Magnolia Pictures

Two transgender sex workers in LA are out to get vengeance on someone who was cheating on one of them while she was in prison. This nonfiction movie is funny, and normalizes a group that society normally marginalizes. It’s also a beautifully shot movie that has at its centerstage a beautiful female friendship.

 

Dear White People (2014)

Photo via Roadside Attractions

Obviously, we have to start by mentioning that this movie is clearly a satire. The show that has the same name picks up exactly where the film left off, and takes the story to deeper levels. The show is described as a dramedy about being black in white spaces. The show explores racial tensions at a fictional Ivy League school from the perspective of several black students, and has so much to teach us about existing in white spaces and how that feels.