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From Education to Economics: These Are The 40 Best Social Change Documentaries You Have to See
From Education to Economics: These Are The 40 Best Social Change Documentaries You Have to See
By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org
Feb 25, 2013

Over the last 7 years, Films For Action has been cataloging an online library of the best social change films that can be watched free online. Opting for quality over quantity, the site has grown slowly to include 500 documentaries and 900 short films, trailers and presentations indexed into 40 subjects to make it easy to discover content about specific slices of the social change pie.

This feature selects 40 of the best of these 500 feature-length films, each representing one of the 40 subjects on the site. Just click and watch.

For some subjects, it was truly hard to pick a single film rather than several, but consider them all a taste of what lies deeper below the surface. A taste, a taste! 

Enjoy. :)


Howard Zinn: You Can't Be Neutral On a Moving Train (2004)

In these turbulent times, Howard Zinn is inspiring a new generation.

77 min


Animal Rights

Earthlings (2005)

Earthlings is a feature length documentary about humanity's absolute dependence on animals.

95 min


Big Ideas

The Evilness of Power (2008)

An examination of the effects of power and hierarchy on individuals, society, and the world at large.

92 min


Big Media

Rich Media, Poor Democracy (2003)

If a key indicator of the health of a democracy is the state of its journalism, the United States is in deep trouble.

35 min



Sprawling from Grace; Driven to Madness (2008)

Sprawling From Grace is a documentary feature film about the unintended consequences of suburban sprawl.

81 min


Climate Change

The Age of Stupid (2009)

Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite plays an old man living in the devastated world of 2055 in this documentary-drama-hybrid.

88 min



The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006)

Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods.

52 min



Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (2008)

Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine.

67 min



The Corporation (2003)

This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future of the modern business corporation.

145 min



The Superior Human? (2012)

This is the first film to systematically challenge the common human belief that humans are superior to other life forms.

74 min


Drug Prohibition

Law Enforcement Opposed to the War on Drugs (2006)

Cops and former cops who have put in decades fighting the war on drugs speak out against prohibition.

54 min



The War on Kids (2009)

The definitive film on education: shows how American public schools continue to become more dangerously authoritarian.

95 min


Elections & Democracy

Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)

From Venezuela's Communal Councils to Brazil's Participatory Budgeting, the film shows what real democracy looks like.

95 min



The Power Principle: Corporate Empire and the Rise of the National Security State (2012)

"A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire."

95 min



Gasland (2010)

Is fracking safe? When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey..

102 min



The 11th Hour (2007)

Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, this captivating film explores big picture themes with an excellent section of solutions.

94 min



Food Inc. (2008)

For most Americans, the ideal meal is fast, cheap, and tasty. Food, Inc. examines the costs of putting convenience over nutrition.

93 min



Globalization: The New Rulers of the World

Who benefits from globalization? Who really rules the world now? Is it governments or a handful of huge companies?

52 min



Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics (2009)

The definitive documentary explaining the influence of money on politics by Jonathan Shockley.

87 min


Big Bucks, Big Pharma: Marketing Disease and Pushing Drugs (2006) 

Big Bucks, Big Pharma pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry.



Human Rights

The End of America (2008)

Wolf's impassioned arguments prove compelling. If we want to stop human rights abuses, we can start with our own.

72 min


Indigenous Issues

The Canary Effect: Kill the Indian, Save the Man (2006)

Delves deeply into the often misunderstood and frequently over looked historic realities of the American Indian.

63 min


Indy Media

Independent Media in a Time of War (2003)

Part scathing critique, part call to action, this film is composed of a speech given by Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!

30 min


Media Literacy

The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of News (1997)

Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky demolish the myth that corporate news has a liberal bias.

57 min


Money & Economics

The Secret of Oz (2009)

One of the best 'solutions' films exploring the deep-root problems that must be addressed to get us out of the current crisis.

110 min


Net Neutrality

Controlling the web (2012)

In January 2012, two controversial pieces of legislation were making their way through the US Congress...

24 min


Peak Oil

A Crude Awakening (2007)

A Crude Awakening tells the story of how our civilization’s addiction to oil puts it on a collision course with geology.

82 min



Permaculture - A Quiet Revolution (2008)

When the 8th Int. Permaculture Convergence was held in Brazil, it brought together visionary activists from 43 countries.

26 min



Fierce Light: When Spirit meets Action (2008)

Fueled by the belief that "another world is possible," this is a compelling, global journey into the world of spirit in action.

138 min


Police State

The Miami Model (2004)

Martial Law was declared in downtown Miami in 2003. Blatant and unashamed police brutality is caught on film.

91 min



Lifting the Veil: Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy (2011)

A definitive look at politics in the age of Bush and Obama. This is a rare sort of film, lacking the partisan bias of most films.

114 min



The Economics of Happiness

Offers a beautiful alternative to globalization and the paradigm of 'endless' economic growth. This is one of the best.

3 min


Social Issues

Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity (1999)

Argues that the widespread violence in American society needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity.

53 min



2012: Time For Change (2010)

"2012: Time for Change" presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom.

85 min



Awakening the Dreamer: Changing the Dream (2011)

Wake up to your own role in creating a new future. Beautiful. A must see.

90 min


Technology & Design

Waste = Food (2007)

Man is the only creature that produces landfills. This film shows how human design can benefit nature rather than hurt it.

49 min



Breaking The Silence - Truth And Lies In The War On Terror (2003)

This is a film with enormous emotional power, bringing us the real consequences of our military attacks on foreign countries.

51 min


The Big Picture

What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire (2007)

A middle class white guy comes to grips with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, and the demise of the American Lifestyle.

123 min



Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview (2013)

Explores the depths of the human condition and the emergence of a worldview that is recreating our world from the inside out.

65 min


War & Peace

War Made Easy (2007)

Reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin.

70 min


If you'd like a visual look at our library, check out our world-famous "WALL OF FILMS!" ;)

4.3 ·
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From Education to Economics: These Are The 40 Best Social Change Documentaries You Have to See