The 10 Most Inspiring Documentaries to Watch Online

These films will give you hope that people can change and the world can be healed

If you find yourself feeling down, uninspired, bored, or even downright pessimistic about the future of our world (who could blame you in these times!), I believe watching any of the ten documentaries below can help you feel more optimistic about humanity and hopeful for the planet!

1. Accidental Courtesy

I think about this award winning documentary allllll the time. It is about an accomplished black musician who has dedicated years of his life to befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. In a time of extreme division in America and heightened racial tensions, Accidental Courtesy, more than any other documentary, not only gives me hope that even the most vociferous white supremacists can be reformed, it shows the way.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

This award winning documentary is my go-to source of inspiration any time I feel bored by a task or think I already know something inside and out. It tells the story of a world-renowned sushi chef who, at 85, continues to strive to master his craft. I think it’s perspective-shifting to watch someone dedicate themselves to perfecting seemingly simple actions like cooking rice or slicing fish.

Where to watch: Netflix

3. The Interrupters

This award winning documentary follows a group of activists in Chicago who aim to curb violence by intervening in street fights before they escalate and helping youth resolve their conflicts in a more productive way. As someone who has seen first hand how small “hurt people hurt people,” this film does a tremendous job exemplifying the role we can all play to help heal our communities.

Where to watch: PBS Frontline

4. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

How could I not include this tear-jerker film about Mr. Rogers’ legacy, which became not only the top-grossing biographical documentary, but also the 12th largest-grossing documentary ever? Won’t You Be My Neighbor explores the profound and lasting effect his unique approach had on millions of children. This documentary makes me wonder what problems can’t be solved with a little kindness, empathy, love, and patience?

Where to watch: Amazon Prime & HBO

5. Fantastic Fungi

There are so many climate change documentaries out there (some of my favourites include: David Attenborough’s latest A Life On Our Planet, Last Ice, and Chasing Coral) to make us fear for the future of our planet, but Fantastic Fungi is the first I’ve seen that makes me feel *truly* optimistic, like we already have all the answers we need, right under our feet. As the New York Times put it “Louie Schwartzberg’s informative and kooky documentary offers nothing less than a model for planetary survival.”

Where to watch: available for purchase on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play

6. Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry & Human Flow

This Sundance winning documentary tells the story of a Chinese dissident who blurs the boundaries of art and politics. Ai Wei Wei has become one of my favourite artists and activists, especially with his latest documentary and work of art—Human Flow—about the global refugee crisis. If you ever doubted you alone can make a difference in the world — watch one of these films.

Where to watch: Netflix

Honourable Mentions: Normal People Taking a Stand

Knock Down the House

Probably the best known political documentary online (it at least was the most successful documentary financially, famously selling to Netflix for $10m) follows four relatively unknown progressive female candidates (including AOC) running for Congress in 2018 following the election of Donald Trump. It is inspiring to witness women, who otherwise never would have entered politics, tackle the issues their communities are facing head on by running for office. It reminds us we all have it in us to fight for what is right.

Where to watch: Netflix

On Her Shoulders

This Sundance award winning documentary follows the tireless, albeit reluctant, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and human rights activist Nadia Murad on her quest to raise awareness of the ISIS-led genocide of the Yazidis in Northern Iraq. As inspiring as Nadia is, the weight of this crisis is quite literally ‘on her shoulders’, and this film asks us all to take on some of this burden.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Citizen Four

This award winning documentary follows the journey of Edward Snowden as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). This film exposes the risks and realities of governmental surveillance while positioning Snowden as a hero fighting on behalf of an unsuspecting public.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

The Infiltrators

This documentary combines live footage with re-enactments to tell the story of American immigration activists who get willingly arrested by Border Patrol, to save detained undocumented immigrants from deportation. The bravery of these young undocumented immigrants is astounding and will make you wonder what cause you’d be willing to get arrested for.

Where to watch: PBS POV

Brooklyn based Start-Up Advisor, Impact Investor, Filmmaker, Writer, and Leadership Coach. I focus my time on the future of learning and the future of work.

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