From sustainability to the education system to protests against the Vietnam War, there’s a documentary here to interest everyone.
The idea of changing the world may seem vast and unattainable, but with the many ways people are achieving this on a daily basis, it seems more and more doable as time goes on. With social media, it’s easier to find out about people making a difference in their community all around the world, and those people often inspire others to do the same, creating this beautiful ripple effect of positive change.
With the rise of documentaries being produced comes a rise in the awareness of all kinds of problems, from the ethics of the palm oil industry to the starvation of children in different parts of the world, and with it has come a new generation of people looking for a way to help.
If you are one of those people, you might be confused about where to start when it comes to learning about what’s going on and what needs to be done, but you need to look no further. This article contains a comprehensive list of documentaries that are life-changers and will motivate you to get up and make a difference.
The best part is that all of the below films are free to watch online unless otherwise stated. Just click on the title and it will direct you to the site where they can be viewed. Go forth and watch these films, then let us know in the comments what you thought of some of these titles.
Explores the world’s conflicting states: those who want to consolidate corporate power and advocate for globalization and those who want to de-regulate these old institutions of power.
This documentary asks a fundamental question: what if we saw the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as an opportunity?
Promotes learning from other cultures to create a new story for humanity going forward that relies on the interconnectedness of humans and the environment.
Takes a look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last remaining indigenous cultures.
Exposes a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has forced the U.S. into war over and over again.
Examines the nature, evolution, impacts, and future of the modern business corporation and the increasing role it plays in society and our everyday lives.
Captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness.
The film reveals the inner workings of the human experience in the 21st century, urging viewers to step out of the box and challenge their own assumptions about who we really are, and why we do what we do.
Within Reach ($5)
One couple sold all of their belongings to “bike-pack” 6500 miles around the U.S. to explore 100 ecovillages, cohousing communities, co-op houses, communes, transition towns, and their own principles and commitment.
It tells the story of Earth’s most valuable and under-appreciated source of fertility–from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.
Explores the Rights of Mother Earth, Environmental Philosophy, Wisdom, Spirituality and the potential for a Neo-indigenous future for humanity.
This documentary is a journey, which takes us across the Americas, to attempt to answer one of the most important questions of our time: What is Democracy?
Offers a theory of political power as a tool for making tools of human beings — an engine that converts human energy into authority and privilege for the rulers.
Explores lots of aspects of our society to look at how we can actually become “civilized”
This film is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things like printing their own money, growing food, and localizing their economies.
journey deep inside the global revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet, showing that humanity is waking up and choosing love over power.
Documents humanity’s absolute dependence on animals but illustrates the lack of respect humans show these “non-human providers.”
INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture, which is the replication of designs found in nature.
‘Propaganda’ mysteriously appeared on YouTube in 2012 and has since gone viral and undergone tons of speculation about its origins… It’s recommended that you just watch the film without reading too much about it first.
Outlines a genuine alternative to the global property speculation that forced so many into debt.
This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to a cut in oil imports and food.
Fall and Winter ($5)
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.
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 society.
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.
Permaculture designer Andrew Faust gives us an inspiring and heady narrative about the evolution of all life and human consciousness on Mother Earth.
Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class.
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 of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq.
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 local food systems that are socially just, environmentally sound, economically viable and resilient to climate change and market collapse.
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 disparities of wealth in the United States, the continuity and escalation of neocon policies under Obama, the insufficiency of mere voting as a path to reform, and differing conceptions of democracy itself.
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 reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Delving deeply into the often misunderstood and frequently over looked historic realities of the American Indian, The Canary Effect follows the terrifying and horrific abuses instilled upon the Indigenous people of North America, and details the genocidal practices of the US government and its continuing affects on present day Indian country.
The film enlarges the issue beyond climate impacts and makes a compelling call for bold action that is strong enough to tip the balance to build a clean energy future.
Inequality For All ($4)
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 the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy.
Presents an optimistic alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom.
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 living together like in the old days, by recreating villages.
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 alliance: The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. This is their story.
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 sitcoms, reality shows, police dramas, and daytime talk shows.
“Can We Do It Ourselves?” asks if it is time to start pushing for a democratic, cooperative way of doing business, showing case studies of businesses who are surviving as democracies within our capitalist system.
A feature-length documentary that follows a community in Australia who came together to explore and demonstrate a simpler way to live in response to global crises.
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.
Utilizing a systematic model based on massive empirical research, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky reveal the manner in which the news media are so subordinated to corporate and conservative interests that their function can only be described as that of “elite propaganda.”
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 on Drugs and expose what it calls the biggest failure of global policy in the last 40 years.
Follows the journey of Professor Timothy Beatley as he explores urban projects around the world, representing the new green movement that hopes to move our urban environments beyond sustainability to a regenerative way of living.
Takes a look at the dramatic economic collapse that occurred in Argentina and writes a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century.
Provides a realistic alternative for our future sustainability, a gentler way that treads lightly on our Mother Earth.
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 considered speech.
Explores an economic solution to the debt crisis facing the U.S. by taking a look at the book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
A screwball true story about two gonzo political activists who, posing as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world’s most outrageous pranks.
When filmmaker Josh Fox is asked to lease his land for drilling, he embarks on a cross-country odyssey uncovering a trail of secrets, lies and contamination.
A provocative look at capitalism and its unintended price of success. The film tracks the changing landscape of business with the rising tide of conscious capitalism through the stories of local entrepreneurs who have found innovative ways to bring humanity back into business.
The film offers an in depth look at the influence of money in politics–analyzing social forces and events that the mainstream media and scholarship have largely distorted or kept hidden. It also analyzes the meaning of democracy.
The multi award-winning documentary DIVE! follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and friends as they dumpster dive in the back alleys and gated garbage receptacles of Los Angeles’ supermarkets.
Presents the alluring ideal of zero waste as a key element of the sustainable business model.
The German chemist, Michael Braungart, and the American designer-architect William McDonough are fundamentally changing the way we produce and build. If waste would become food for the biosphere or the technosphere (all the technical products we make), production and consumption could become beneficial for the planet.
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.
Lays out a visionary but realistic alternative to the perpetual pursuit of economic growth-an economy where the goal is enough, not more.
Examines our culture’s addiction to systematic violence and environmental exploitation, and probes the resulting epidemic of poisoned landscapes and shell-shocked nations.
The film exposes Wal-Mart’s unscrupulous business practices through interviews with former employees, small business owners, and footage of Walmart executives.
This video illuminates this hidden sphere of public relations in our culture and examines the way in which the management of “the public mind” has become central to how our democracy is controlled by political and economic elites.
A film about the unprecedented transition that we are undergoing from a culture of industrial growth and inequality to what must inevitably be more localised, sustainable, living economies.
Explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism and asks what function humanity might have for this planetary being.
Cops and former cops who have put in decades fighting the war on drugs speak out against prohibition.
Funny, provocative and surprisingly accessible, the film explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist.
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 world will feed itself in the future in the face of major environmental challenges.
This documentary explains the nature of capitalist crisis, visits the protests against austerity measures, and recommends revolutionary paths for the future.
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.
A film with enormous emotional power, bringing us the human consequences of our military attacks on Middle East countries.
The film includes facts regarding the Federal Reserve System in the United States, the CIA, Corporate America and others, concluding the advocation of a libertarian movement called the Venus Project, created by social engineer Jacque Fresco.
What if that CO2 could be removed and stored in our carbon-hungry soil through land management practices? Find out how in The Soil Solution.
While not a perfect story, there are few dense cities in the world today that can claim a better record of greening the city than Singapore.
The documentary film critically analyses what is considered socially relevant in a new education system which brings out the most potential in all of humanity whilst also detailing specific educational methods from a wide range of sources on how to nurture social skills, critical thinking techniques and a larger variety of important practices to positively reinforce from our earliest years onwards.
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 exploding human bias.
A short documentary meant to give an overview of what a worker co-op is, how it can transform lives and communities, and the realities of starting one.
Explores the rise of mechanistic philosophy and the exploitation of human beings under modern hierarchical systems.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney presents his take on the gap between rich and poor Americans in Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream. Gibney contends that America’s richest citizens have “rigged the game in their favor,” and created unprecedented inequality in the United States.
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 exposed to, even as a fetus, and the technology that can help resolve these challenges over time.
COINTELPRO represents the state’s strategy to prevent movements and communities from overturning white supremacy and creating racial justice.
A gripping, deeply informative account of the plunder, hypocrisy, and mass violence of plutocracy and empire; insightful, historically grounded and highly relevant to the events of today.
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 children live in poverty – and the gulf is widening like never before.
This film shows how many wars today are not carried out at the barrel of a gun, but by the monetary policies of global banking institutions.
Asking whether America has entered an Orwellian world of doublespeak where outright lies can pass for the truth, director Robert Kane Pappas explores what the media doesn’t like to talk about: itself.
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 war, propaganda and class.
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 Lottery of Birth ($4)
Drawing on leading thinkers from around the world, and with a torrent of mind-expanding ideas and information, THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH will make you think again about what it means to be free.
This timely documentary offers practical steps on how to ‘permaculturize’ our lives in order to become more sustainable.
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 basis of U.S. foreign policy.
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 THE SACRED, exploring ways which both honor the traditional, while reflecting our unprecedented realities of the third millennium.
A documentary feature film about the unintended consequences of suburban sprawl. It illustrates the importance of altering the course of how we develop our nation’s cities.
Tells the story of how our civilization’s addiction to oil puts it on a collision course with geology.
Reveals the reasons behind the backlash against the increasing economic and cultural reach of multinational companies.
Asks these important questions: 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 our society from the stress and anger that comes with the rising inequality?
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 yourself if you’re in the cult and need to escape!
This acclaimed film looks at the amazing life of the renowned historian, activist and author.
A provocative and breathtaking wakeup call, a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species.
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 whose interests?
A documentary that shows how American public schools continue to become more dangerously authoritarian.
Credit: Films for Action