The Best Socially Conscious Documentaries

I’d like to think of myself as a documentary buff, from true crime to political issues, I’ve spent many afternoons on the couch binging hours and hours of footage. Below are some of my favorite, and most politically and socially salient documentaries that I’ve watched; mostly as I have become more socially aware during my four years in college. I highly recommend all of these, but keep in mind that many cover sensitive and heavy topics and are not necessarily a light watch.


 Image source: Pixabay

1. Knock Down the House

This documentary, which recently became available on Netflix, follows the congressional campaigns of some of the women who ran for congress in the 2018 election. It shows the struggles that women face in the election process and highlights the successes and utter heartbreaks that come with running for public office for the purpose of changing your community for the better. I recommend this for everyone, but especially for young women to watch, as it sent an emotionally charged message of female empowerment.

Image source: Pixabay

2. At the Heart of Gold

This film chronicles the sexual assault of the hundreds of women and girls who were cared for by Larry Nassar during their time as gymnasts. This was a scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics and Michigan State Gymnastics, eventually leading to 368 women coming forward to say that they had been assaulted. It dives into the investigation and the blind eye that regulatory and legal agencies turned towards women and girls who needed help, and who had been gaslighted into believing that they could trust their coaches, doctors, and organizations to protect them.

Image source: Pixabay

3. 13th​

13th takes a look at systematic racism that is still alive and well today in a modern America primarily through mass incarceration. It follows the history of legal racism from Jim Crow laws to the War on Drugs that has led to the current state of the prison system today and continuing more insidious forms of prejudice.

Image source: Pixabay

4. The White Helmets

Again, this documentary is not for the light at heart. The White Helmets immerses you in the haunting images and stories of war-torn Aleppo, a city wreaked havoc upon by the Syrian civil war. It shows rescue mission efforts to free innocent civilians from the rubble of buildings taken down by bombs. It follows the work of the group called The White Helmets, who are volunteers for Syrian Civil Defense and risk their lives to save others.

Image source: Pixabay

5. The Death and Life of Martha P. Johnson

This documentary is about an investigation into the unsolved 1992 murder of Marsha P. Johnson, who was and still is a key figure in transgender activism and a strong keystone of the gay liberation movement of New York City that occurred in the 1960s. It draws attention to the violence and inequality that has ravaged the trans and gay communities in their struggle to assert their rights as human beings.