15 Best Movies About Social Justice That You Should Watching Update 04/2024

Movies About Social Justice

No one needs to tell us our country is in turmoil right now due to long-standing issues with systematic racism that have been left unresolved. Protests and significant demands for social fairness and reform have taken place as a result of this. At times like these, many people are left wondering how or why things are the way they are, or how they, as individuals, might contribute to a more positive future. There is a variety of information available to those who want to learn more, including films and television.

Many people just see movies as a way to escape, but we believe that they can also help us understand and reflect on the world around us. This is a list of movies that we’ve thoughtfully compiled for everyone who wants to expand their horizons by hearing from different perspectives. For a more in-depth look at how race affects our culture as a whole, check out any of the books on this list. Regardless of their diverse opinions, these films are all worth watching and analyzing. Even while we don’t have all of the solutions, we hope these serve as a starting point toward a greater understanding of the serious problem our country is currently dealing with.

1. Just Mercy (2019)

Just Mercy (2019)

Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) is a genuine lawyer who battled diligently to free Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) off death row for a murder he didn’t commit in this riveting legal drama (and true story). Despite the fact that Just Mercy’s events took place in 1989, they still resonate today. Just Mercy, despite its many flaws, serves as a textbook example of how the criminal justice system is faulty and how we still have a long way to go before we achieve true equality for all.

2. The Hate U Give (2018)

THUG is a phrase some people like to use to blame African Americans after they have been murdered as a justification for said murder. The Hate U Give is based on Angie Thomas’ novel of the same name and directed by George Tillman Jr. The majority of her travel is spent contemplating the central question: Should she keep quiet about what she saw or testify and risk being slandered? Sadly, given recent occurrences involving the police, this narrative has a lot of resonance right now.

3. Selma (2014)

Selma (2014)

Director Ava DuVernay’s unique take on a biopic, Selma, follows the efforts of Dr. King (played by David Oyelowo) and others in Selma, Alabama, to make it easier for African-Americans to vote. Selma to Montgomery tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement in this country through the eyes of those who risked their lives to walk from Selma to Montgomery, arm-in-arm. Seeing as how recent protests have shown that the fight for freedom does not belong to one race or ethnic group, it is an excellent movie to watch right now. When we march in unison, we are far more formidable.

4. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Directed by Barry Jenkins, the film If Beale Street Could Talk is based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name and tells the narrative of two lovers, Clementine “Tish” Rivers (Kiki Layne) and Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (played by Stephan James). Tish is pregnant with Alonzo’s child while he is in prison for a crime he did not commit. Tish is determined to liberate Alonzo so he may be present for the birth of their kid, but she encounters numerous obstacles. Because Fonny is convicted of a crime he did not commit, If Beale Street Could Talk remains relevant now, even though the film takes place in the 1970s.

5. Fruitvale Station (2013)

It’s hard to watch Fruitvale Station, directed by Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler, if you’re already familiar with the events depicted in the film. Based on a true tale, this film tells the story of Oscar Grant, a young man who was shot and murdered by a police officer in San Francisco’s Fruitvale Station. It’s difficult to see the movie since it portrays Oscar’s existence as a character and then shows him having his life taken away from him unfairly.

6. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

During its release in 1989, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was not nominated for Best Picture. It’s likely to take home the top honors today. Race relations in the Brooklyn neighborhood are depicted via the lens of one single day of simmering hostility. As a historical capsule for today’s Brooklyn, the novel also touches on gentrification. The film’s terrible conclusion, which again involves a police officer using excessive force on a person of color, makes it relevant for many reasons. George Floyd, may you rest in peace.

7. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

Lupita Nyong’o earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this 2013 film. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery for 12 years in Steve McQueen’s film 12 Years a Slave. Watching this film, which depicts the terrible realities of slavery in all its gory detail, is a horrible experience that leaves you with no sense of relief or joy. It’s only sadness. Many people will tell you that slavery still has an impact on African Americans today, so this movie is still relevant. Do not watch it for the sake of entertainment, but rather for its historical significance.

8. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary by Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck based on James Baldwin’s unfinished memoir Remember This House, aims to complete the memoir and tie it to current events, such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Baldwin’s comments on Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers, all of whom were slain, are recounted in a narrated account by Samuel L. Jackson. I believe that the documentary is still relevant now because it’s crucial that we look back in time to understand the future, and this film does that.

9. The Learning Tree (1969)

The Learning Tree (1969)

Newt Winger (Kyle Johnson) must mature quickly in Gordon Parks’ period piece The Learning Tree after a sequence of incidents including murder and race-blaming force him to confront his own prejudices. When a young African American guy goes to the police to report a crime, he has to wonder whether or not the system will do the right thing. The Learning Tree is the first film directed by an African-American for a major studio by an African-American.

10.  Killer of Sheep (1978)

The film Killer of Sheep, directed by Charles Burnett, explores Los Angeles’ African American community. The plot revolves around a butcher named Stan (Henry G. Sanders) who works in an abattoir. What little plot there is is muddled and confusing. But he’s been estranged from the family he works so hard to support because of the recurrence of senseless killings he executes at work. That Killer of Sheep is about life’s fragility as well as its stark reality as an African-American and how life is different in many ways from that of other Americans but also somewhat similar, intrigues me.

11. Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People shows how effective satire can be when done well. An Ivy League school and several of its Black students are the focus of this narrative. Tessa Thompson (swoon) and a slew of other Black celebrities demonstrate that racial tensions persist even at the most prestigious of institutions. This year will also see the fourth and last season of a Netflix show.

12. Ken Burns: The Central Park Five (2012)

Ken Burns The Central Park Five (2012)

These five Black and Latino adolescents’ actual story of being falsely accused of rape in Central Park is told here. The perspective of the teenagers was presented for the first time in this film’s theatrical run. Netflix has a series called When They See Us based on the events that are difficult to see the first time around. The police were called on a black bird watcher just a few weeks ago (in Central Park, no less), because he asked a woman to leash her dog. The woman then used his race against him. Racism continues to be used as a weapon despite the Central Park Five’s events taking place over 30 years ago. Because of films like this, the victims may be clearly seen.

Both Ken Burns: The Central Park Five and When They See Us are available to watch on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively.

13. 13th (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s somber documentary, which takes its title from the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States, examines how African-Americans in this country are disproportionately incarcerated. Slavery, it claims, hasn’t gone away; it’s just been rebranded as jail.

14. Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight, another Barry Jenkins film, won the Best Picture Oscar and made Mahershala Ali the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar. Since homosexuality is still a taboo subject in the African American society, Moonlight is an important film. Because of the film’s daring approach, it was well-received.

15. Get Out (2017)

Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-nominated Get Out, one of the most important films about race ever made mainstream, has perhaps said more about the hypocrisy of white liberalism and its intersection with black culture than any other film in American history. About half the movie is funny, half scary, and the rest is smart. Even if you’ve watched this film before, it’s worth a second viewing. There are many facets to explore.