4 Must-See Documentaries to Make You Feel and Think

We’re in the midst of midterms, and chances are, you’re opening up Netflix or Hulu or another streaming service to avoid your studying or wind down from it. While you’re not educating yourself for your classes, you might as well be educating yourself more generally, whether about a subject that’s constantly in the news or one you’ve never heard of before. These four documentaries are the perfect opportunities to take that much-needed study break and to bless yourself with some feelings and thoughts not related to college.

1. HOMECOMING: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

Beyoncé is one of the most important women (and one of the greatest artists) of our time, and if you aren’t particularly familiar with her, now’s your chance. Her latest creation is the documentary HOMECOMING: A Film By Beyoncé (2019), just released in April, that details the blood, sweat, and tears that went into delivering her headlining performances at Coachella in 2018, allowing you to get a behind-the-scenes look at her unbelievable work ethic and an experience of her masterpiece. 

The documentary and the performances at large are more than a tribute to the grueling preparations; they are a tribute to black cultural expression. An emblem of power and self-determination, Beyoncé has not only carved out her place in history but has strategically used her voice, her artistry, and her fame to shine the spotlight on the history of black experience and culture in the United States, a subject that is too often overshadowed, misrepresented, or outright ignored.

2. Chasing Coral (2017)

A Sundance Film Festival award-winner, Chasing Coral (2017) depicts the devastating effects of climate change on coral reefs around the world, as mass coral bleaching is caused at an unprecedented rate. Confronted with the raw beauty and painful reality of the changing ocean ecosystem, viewers follow a team of divers, photographers, and scientists as they work to discover the causes behind this epidemic and document the disappearance for the world to see.

The masterpiece took over three years to film and 500+ hours spent underwater, an immense amount of work to personally bring you face-to-face with the alien world that makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface. Chasing Coral (2017) encourages you not only to watch and to experience, but to create awareness by sharing with your friends, your family, your community, and to take action to help protect the reefs.

3. FYRE FRAUD (2019) and/or FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019)

In a generally un-shocking turn of events, Hulu and Netflix go head-to-head in their production of original documentaries about the flaming failure that was the Fyre Festival. You may remember this point in time back in 2017 (aka an entire lifetime ago) from the memes that started popping up on Twitter, but it’s likely that Fyre Festival was just a mere blip on your radar and you never gave it another thought.

Both FYRE FRAUD (2019) and FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019) emphasize that for many people, Fyre Festival was much more than a blip and dramatically impacted their lives, even stripping some of their hard-earned financial security. Both documentaries will have you on the edge of your seat in painful anticipation, yet they’ll also force you to more seriously consider the harmful impact that social media and advertising can have on our lives. If you’re not sure which to watch, Quartz offers a breakdown of what each one does best

4. Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018)

This one’s for the foodies: watchable through Netflix, Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018) is a four-part docuseries based on the book of the same name that follows chef and food writer Samin Nosrat around the world to explore the four elements that make food delicious and cooking great. Filled with beautiful shots of several countries and mouth-watering dishes, Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018) will make you happy and hungry and may inspire you to travel and cook more, or at least eat more. Most importantly, Nosrat reminds us of the joy, comfort, and connection that food offers to our lives, teaching us to reach out to others and explore the unfamiliar.

Plus, you can even try making some of the very dishes featured on the show, or convince your more culinary-gifted friends to cook with you for a cozy and fun night in! Nosrat’s book also makes the perfect gift for any and all food lovers in your life, or maybe the perfect opportunity to treat yo’self after your midterms are done.

Here’s to happy (and thought-provoking) watching!