The 10 Best Social Justice Movies to Stream Right Now

The social justice movement is more energized than it’s been in a long time, moved by a world that continues to limp along to the tune of systemic racism, inequity, and persecution. Sure, humanity has made some serious progress but it’s alarming how so much of the song remains the same.

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Enter the social justice program, an empowering experience that sheds light on wrongdoing and often advocates for positive change. Often, they come in the form of telling documentaries but some deliver a message through more traditional movies (or miniseries), often based on or largely influenced by actual events. The best of the bunch shock viewers to the core, revealing things those in power have often fought long and hard to keep hidden. It’s not always a pleasurable watch, but that discomfort is kind of the point. Social justice movies are here to unveil evil and create a pathway toward good (or, at least better). They’re here to shake some sense into you so the system can be significantly addressed.

Here are some of the best social justice movies out there, just a few convenient clicks away.

13th (2016)

13th
97%
83 %
8.2/10
100m
Genre Documentary
Stars Jelani Cobb, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Directed by Ava DuVernay
A powerful documentary from Ava DuVernay, 13th shines a light on a twisted interpretation of the Constitution’s thirteenth amendment. As it turns out, there is actually a loophole in the amendment that permits the practice of slavery in certain contexts, including prison confinement. Taken together with the fact that American prisons are disproportionately populated by African American men, it may be a good idea to have a notepad and a rag next to you as you watch this film: One to take down choice phrases for inclusion in a strongly worded letter to your congressman, the other to chew on as the injustice gets your blood boiling. The National Review called 13th “politically correct” and “cowardly,” which may be all the endorsement this film needs right now.

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 (2017)

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
100%
92 %
7.8/10
144m
Genre Documentary, History
Stars Jung Hui Lee, Rodney King, Daryl Gates
Directed by John Ridley
This American documentary from 2017 directed by John Ridley is a deep look at a rather tumultuous decade in Los Angeles. The film dives into the ten years leading up to the 1992 uprising that erupted after the verdict of police officers being cleared of beating Rodney King. The similarities between then and now are hard to look away from, and this doc does a good job of giving you a look into the perspectives of both the Black community and the police during these riots.

Who Killed Malcolm X? (2019)

Who Killed Malcolm X?
100%
7.6/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Malcolm X
Created by Rachel Dretzin, Phil Bertelsen
This series launched in 2020 and continues to turn heads as it looks deeply at the assassination of one of our nation’s most iconic and outspoken Black leaders. It’s orchestrated by historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, an individual who has logged three decades investigating Malcolm X’s death. The powerful series has already threatened to reopen the legal case and even thrown out a few wrongful convictions. 

V for Vendetta (2006)

V for Vendetta
62 %
8.2/10
r 132m
Genre Action, Thriller, Fantasy
Stars Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea
Directed by James McTeigue
While this movie takes place in a fictional dystopia, the main themes are eerily relevant to what’s happening in the world right now. In the Year 2032, the United Kingdom is under the tyrannical rule of the Norsefire Party. Those who oppose the government are killed, and the “truth” has become a weapon to control the people. The film follows a shadowy freedom fighter that goes by “V” as he plots to overthrow a tyrannical regime. Don’t be fooled by the flashy action scenes, however, the true purpose of V for Vendetta is to give us a terrifying look at what can happen if a government falls under fascist rule.

Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound
97%
85 %
7.4/10
r 135m
Genre Drama
Stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell
Directed by Dee Rees
Based on a novel by Hillary Jordan, Mudbound is a grim drama following two families — one white, one black — in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s. The forces of economic and racial dynamics breed tension between the two, and the situation becomes more volatile when World War II comes to an end and Jamie McCallan and Ronsel Jackson return to their families, changed by their experiences in the war. Beautifully filmed and attuned to the complexities of American society, Mudbound is a compelling drama about racism in America.

When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us
97%
8.9/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Drama
Cast Jharrel Jerome, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez
Created by Ava DuVernay
A miniseries based on the iconic Central Park Five case, When They See Us shows just how racist police departments and entire justice systems can be. It follows five teens accused and ultimately convicted of attacking and raping a jogger in New York. The series spans the onset in the late 80s to numerous appeals and the tricky navigation of a broken criminal system all the way to a settlement with NYC, which took place in 2014. Throughout, there are incredible performances from an award-winning cast and the overarching trauma of a handful of innocent kids being put away unfairly.

3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets (2015)

3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets
77 %
7.2/10
98m
Genre Documentary, Thriller
Stars Lucia McBath, Ron Davis, Michael David Dunn
Directed by Marc Silver
This documentary tracks the murder of Jordan Davis, a black teenager, in a Florida gas station parking lot back in 2021. The white shooter is now in jail but not without an incendiary trial that grabbed international attention. This film unpacks the embedded racism in American culture, especially when it comes to “standing your ground,” a phrase Florida and other states have used to justify horrendous acts for decades. 

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
80 %
7.4/10
pg 94m
Genre Adventure, Drama, History
Stars Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan
Directed by Phillip Noyce
This movie look at the exploitation so many indigenous communities face, in this case Aboriginal Australians. Released in 2002, it tells the story of the imperialistic policy of assimilation, something this country regrettably knows all too well. Adventure ensues as a couple of the kids resist and attempt to escape from their internment camp. It’s a moving reminder of how indebted so many nations are to the original inhabitants, having given them no choice but to join up and be marginalized or be removed altogether.

He Named Me Malala (2015)

He Named Me Malala
61 %
7.0/10
87m
Genre Documentary
Stars Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai
Directed by Davis Guggenheim
This documentary looks at one of the last decade’s greatest hero’s in Malala Yousafzai, who famously stoop up to the Taliban in the name of women’s rights and access to education. She’s since become a poster child for equality, having spoken eloquently to the United Nations and gatherings all over the world. Here, you get to immerse yourself in the extraordinary girl’s life, gaining a grasp of life under violent rulers and witnessing her emerge as a true social justice force.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Dances with Wolves
72 %
8/10
pg-13 181m
Genre Adventure, Drama, Western
Stars Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Directed by Kevin Costner
Let’s preface this selection with the following: Dances with Wolves is far from perfect, a blockbuster 1990 film that remains Kevin Coster’s best work. While it certainly could have better represented a Native American community, the movie does revolve around the important themes of compassion and injustice amid a federal plan to basically expel indigenous populations. And it comes after generations of cliche western films that portrayed native communities as far from human, making it a significant step in the right direction, on the biggest stage no less. 

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