The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
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The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
Jun 10, 2015

Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels.

Over the last 8 years, we've watched hundreds of social change documentaries and cataloged the best of them on the site. There's now so many that we realized we needed to filter this down even further. So what follows is our list of the very best 100 - hand-picked for their quality, insight and potential to inspire positive change. 

All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films we would have loved to add to this list, but they currently don't have an accessible way to view them. As that changes, we'll be updating this list over time. Enjoy!


The Economics of Happiness (2011)
65 min Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and...
Money & Life (2013)
86 min Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous...
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min A New Story For Humanity presents a beautifully and sensitively woven tapestry of the rich diversity that is the human family. Featuring interviews on the essential topics of...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
War Made Easy (2007)
70 min War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after...
The Corporation (2003)
145 min The Corporation is today's dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future...
Human (2015)
382 min What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview (2013)
65 min Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview is a documentary exploring the depths of the current human condition and the emergence of a worldview that is recreating our world...
Within Reach (2013)
87 min Within Reach explores one couple's pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to 'bike-pack' 6500 miles...
Dirt! The Movie (2009)
80 min DIRT! The Movie takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth's most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility--from its miraculous beginning to...
United Natures: a United Nations of all Species (2013)
103 min United Natures explores the Rights of Mother Earth, Environmental Philosophy, Wisdom, Spirituality and the potential for a Neo-indigenous future for humanity. Directed and...
Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)
95 min From Venezuela's Communal Councils, to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
The Choice Is Ours (2016)
59 min This film series explores many aspects of our society. To rethink what is possible in our world, we need to consider what kind of world we want to live in. Although we refer to...
In Transition 2.0: A Story of Resilience & Hope in Extraordinary Times (2012)
66 min This film is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. There are stories of...
Occupy Love (2013)
85 min Join acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper on a journey deep inside the global revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet. Humanity is waking up to the fact that...
Earthlings (2005)
95 min EARTHLINGS is a feature length documentary about humanity's absolute dependence on animals (for pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research) but also...
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (2015)
92 min Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were...
PROPAGANDA (2012)
95 min Since it mysteriously appeared on YouTube on July 18, 2012, ‘Propaganda’ has been described as ‘1984 meets The Blair Witch Project’, ‘A mouthful of scary porridge’, and ‘Even...
Real Estate 4 Ransom: Why Does Land Cost the Earth? (2012)
39 min REAL ESTATE 4 RAN$OM outlines a genuine alternative to the global property speculation that forced so many into debt. Doubling the pressure, the tax game has become just that...
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)
52 min When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years...
Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (2011)
162 min A feature length documentary by Peter Joseph that presents the case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world...
The Crisis of Civilization (2011)
87 min A dark comedy remix mash-up bonanza about the end of industrial civilization. featuring clowns, car crashes, explosions, super heroes, and xylophones and much, much more ...
The Evolution of Ecological Consciousness (2013)
109 min Permaculture designer Andrew Faust gives us an inspiring and heady narrative about the evolution of all life and human consciousness on Mother Earth. 
Plutocracy: Political Repression In The U.S.A. (2015-2017)
330 min Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class. A multi-part series by filmmaker Scott Noble, Part I focuses on...
The War You Don't See (2010)
98 min A powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of embedded and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction...
Edible City: Grow the Revolution (2012)
60 min Edible City tells the stories of the pioneers who are digging their hands into the dirt, working to transform their communities and do something truly revolutionary: grow...
Lifting the Veil:  Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy (2011)
114 min This film explores the historical role of the Democratic Party as the "graveyard of social movements", the massive influence of corporate finance in elections, the absurd...
Peace, Propaganda And The Promised Land (2004)
79 min Provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have...
The Canary Effect: Kill the Indian, Save the Man (2006)
63 min From multi-award winning directors Robin Davey and  Yellow Thunder Woman, comes this 'Illuminating Documentary' (Time Out). Delving deeply into the often misunderstood and...
Disruption (2014)
56 min This is the story of our unique moment in history. We are living through an age of tipping points and rapid social and planetary change. We’re the first generation to feel the...
Inequality For All (2013)
90 min A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, INEQUALITY FOR ALL features Robert Reich—professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member—as he demonstrates how...
2012: Time For Change (2010)
85 min "2012: Time for Change" presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom. Directed by Emmy Award nominee João Amorim, the film follows j
First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture (2010)
90 min FIRST EARTH is a documentary about the movement towards a massive paradigm shift for shelter -- building healthy houses in the old ways, out of the very earth itself, and...
For The Next 7 Generations (2009)
84 min In 2004, thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers from all four corners, moved by their concern for our planet, came together at a historic gathering, where they decided to form an...
Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class (2005)
64 min Based on the book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow working class representations from American television's beginnings to today's...
Can We Do It Ourselves? (2015)
59 min Within modern life exists a paradox: we celebrate democracy as a political system, but not as an economic system, even though our workplaces have a far greater impact on our...
A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (2016)
79 min A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity is a feature-length documentary that follows a community in Australia who came together to explore and demonstrate a simpler way to live in...
Prout: Economic Democracy in Practice (2004)
30 min Economics of Prout covers the basic economic principles of Prout, which offers a viable alternative to the materialistic, anti human philosophies of Capitalism and Communism.
Affluenza (1997)
56 min AFFLUENZA is a groundbreaking film that diagnoses a serious social disease - caused by consumerism, commercialism and rampant materialism - that is having a devastating impact...
The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News (1997)
59 min Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish one of the central tenets of our political culture, the idea of the "liberal media." Instead, utilizing a systematic model based on...
Breaking The Taboo (2011)
2 min Narrated by Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman, the film follows The Global Commission on Drug Policy on a mission to break the political taboo over the United States led War...
The Nature of Cities (2010)
39 min "The Nature Of Cities" follows the journey of Professor Timothy Beatley as he explores urban projects around the world, representing the new green movement that hopes to move...
The Take: Occupy, Resist, Produce (2004)
87 min In the wake of Argentina's dramatic economic collapse in 2001, Latin America's most prosperous middle class finds itself in a ghost town of abandoned factories and mass...
Anima Mundi: Permaculture, Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Soul of the World (2011)
77 min Many people do not realize that permaculture is much more than about growing fruit and vegetables, it is a whole view incorporating the environment, energy, resources, housing...
Legalize Democracy (2014)
30 min Legalize Democracy is a documentary film by Dennis Trainor, Jr. about a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Corporations are not considered people, and money is not...
The Secret of Oz (2009)
110 min Thirteen years ago, in a documentary called "The Money Masters", we asked the question why is America going broke. It wasn't clear then that we were, but it is today. Now the...
The Yes Men Fix The World (2009)
95 min The Yes Men Fix the World is a screwball true story about two gonzo political activists who, posing as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business...
Gasland (2010)
102 min The Halliburton-developed drilling technology of “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a “Saudia Arabia of natural gas” just beneath us. But is fracking safe? When...
Not Business As Usual (2014)
61 min Not Business As Usual is a provocative look at capitalism and its unintended price of success. The film tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of...
Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics (2009)
87 min The definitive documentary explaining the influence of money on politics by Jonathan Shockley. If you like it, consider buying the high quality DVD or donating a few $ at...
DIVE! Living Off America's Waste (2009)
53 min Inspired by a curiosity about our country's careless habit of sending food straight to landfills, the multi award-winning documentary DIVE! follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and...
Unwasted: The Future Of Business On Earth (2011)
54 min Unwasted presents the alluring ideal of zero waste as a key element of the sustainable business model. While some may shake their heads thinking this an impossible task, it’s...
Class Dismissed (2004)
27 min Class Dismissed provides a critical look at how U.S. history is taught in high school, at the myths that reduce the complexity of history into simple soundbites, and the...
Waste = Food (2007)
49 min Man is the only creature that produces landfills. Natural resources are being depleted on a rapid scale while production and consumption are rising in na­tions like China and...
The Evilness of Power (2008)
92 min THE EVILNESS OF POWER examines the ways in which power and hierarchy affect individuals, society, and the world at large. It's possibly the best film on the subject ever made. ...
Enough Is Enough (2014)
18 min Enough Is Enough lays out a visionary but realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth-an economy where the goal is enough, not more. “Based on the...
END:CIV (2011)
75 min Directed by Franklin Lopez, END:CIV examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned...
Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price (2005)
98 min The film dives into the deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to fight a goliath. A working mother is forced to turn to public...
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: The Public Relations Industry Unspun (2002)
45 min While advertising is the visible component of the corporate system, perhaps even more important and pervasive is its invisible partner, the public relations industry. This...
Words From The Edge (2013)
50 min Words From The Edge is a film about the unprecedented transition that we are undergoing from a culture of industrial growth and inequality to what must inevitably be more...
The Global Brain: Peter Russell (1983)
35 min Peter Russell’s award-winning video, based on a live audio-visual presentation in 1983. He explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism...
Law Enforcement Opposed to the War on Drugs (2006)
54 min Cops and former cops who have put in decades fighting the war on drugs speak out against prohibition.
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992)
167 min Funny, provocative and surprisingly accessible, the film explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. A...
Growing Change: A Journey Inside Venezuela's Food Revolution (2011)
2 min Growing Change follows the filmmaker's journey to understand why current food systems leave hundreds of millions of people in hunger.  It's a journey to understand how the...
Capitalism Is The Crisis (2011)
100 min This documentary explains the nature of capitalist crisis, visits the protests against austerity measures, and recommends revolutionary paths for the future.
Sir! No Sir! - The GI Movement to End the Vietnam War (2005)
49 min This feature-length documentary focuses on the efforts by troops in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to oppose the war effort by peaceful demonstration and subversion...
Breaking The Silence - Truth And Lies In The War On Terror (2003)
51 min "BREAKING THE SILENCE is a film with enormous emotional power, bringing us the human consequences of our military attacks on Middle East countries. It also provides us with...
Zeitgeist: Addendum (2008)
123 min Zeitgeist: Addendum, a 2008 documentary film produced by Peter Joseph, is a continuation of the film Zeitgeist, the Movie. The film includes facts regarding the Federal Reserve...
The Soil Solution To Climate Change (2013)
30 min What If A Solution To Climate Change Was Beneath Your Feet?  Soil is a living universe beneath our feet. As important to our lives as clean air and water, soil also holds a...
Singapore: Biophilic City (2012)
44 min A whirlwind week in Singapore exploring the amazing story of how Singapore came to be one of the most 'biophilic' cities of the world, on the cutting edge of ecocity design and...
Education For a Sustainable Future (2012)
53 min Education For a Sustainable Future presents information on how today's practices in schools are socially unsustainable. The documentary film critically analyses what is...
The Superior Human? (2012)
73 min A documentary that systematically challenges the common human belief that humans are superior to other life forms. The documentary reveals the absurdity of this belief while...
Own The Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time (2015)
20 min Own the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time is a short documentary meant to give an overview of what a worker co-op is, how it can transform lives...
Human Resources: Social Engineering In The 20th Century (2010)
119 min Human Resources explores the rise of mechanistic philosophy and the exploitation of human beings under modern hierarchical systems. Topics covered include behaviorism...
Park Avenue: Money, Power And The American Dream (2012)
59 min Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) presents his take on the gap between rich and poor Americans in Park...
Origins (2014)
101 min This is a movie about how we have left the natural connection to the planet. The movie investigates how this has happened, the incredible amounts of pollutants that we are...
Cointelpro 101 (2010)
56 min COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym but its meaning and continuing impact are absolutely central to understanding the government’s wars and repression against...
The Power Principle: Corporate Empire and the Rise of the National Security State (2012)
95 min "A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the...
The New Rulers of the World (2001)
52 min 'The New Rulers Of The World analyzes the new global economy and reveals that the divisions between the rich and poor have never been greater - two thirds of the world's...
War By Other Means (1992)
52 min John Pilger travels to many third world countries to investigate the devastating results of loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This film shows...
Orwell Rolls In His Grave (2003)
105 min Orwell Rolls Over In His Grave expresses ideas that will never be heard in mainstream media. It is the consummate critical examination of the Fourth Estate, once the bastion of...
PsyWar: The Real Battlefield Is The Mind (2010)
99 min This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the "elitist theory of democracy" and the relationship between...
Transitions For Society: Job Guarantee and Basic Income (2014)
20 min This film presents a huge social problem called technological unemployment. Whilst doing so, the film also presents two potential solutions to this major social issue. The...
The Lottery of Birth (2013)
76 min Do you shape the world or does it shape you? Drawing on leading thinkers from around the world, and with a torrent of mind-expanding ideas and information, THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH...
Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution (2008)
26 min As corporate media fails to provide accurate news of the world's dire environmental predicament, the Earth sends a clear message in the form of record-breaking natural...
What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy (2000)
118 min This is a powerful 10-part compilation that (in important ways) pulls aside the veil of Official myths and Lies about "freedom", "democracy", Human Rights, etc., being the...
The Bloom Episode 3: New Ways of the Sacred
70 min Part III of The Bloom “New Ways of The Sacred” looks at how Transformational Festivals are venues for an active engagement with ancient, universal themes of MYTHOS, RITUAL and...
Sprawling from Grace: Driven to Madness (2008)
2 min For as long as most Americans can remember the car has been the embodiment of the American dream. But with more than 250 million cars and trucks on the road, Americans have...
A Crude Awakening (2007)
82 min Produced and directed by award-winning European journalists and filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack, A Crude Awakening tells the story of how our civilization’s addiction...
No Logo: Brands. Globalization. Resistance. (2003)
40 min In the age of the brand, logos are everywhere. But why do some of the world’s best-known brands find themselves on the wrong end of the spray paint can — the targets of...
A Basic Income for All!
49 min There is enough wealth for all of us.  What if we decided that every human being has a right to income security?  How could a basic income change our lives? Could this relieve...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train (2004)
77 min In these turbulent times, Howard Zinn is inspiring a new generation. This acclaimed film looks at the amazing life of the renowned historian, activist and author. Following his...
PLANETARY  (2015)
81 min We are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected. PLANETARY is a provocative and breathtaking wakeup...
The Century of the Self (2002)
230 min The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in...
The War on Kids (2009)
95 min THE WAR ON KIDS is a 95 minute documentary that shows how American public schools continue to become more dangerously authoritarian. In addition to failing in their mission to...

Did we miss anything really good? What films would you add to the list?

4.7 ·
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