11 Best Movies That Talk About Social Issues

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Movies are a powerful storytelling medium for promoting awareness about social issues.

Recently, we’ve witnessed several world events that have exposed social issues bubbling just below the surface. For example, the pandemic exposed the economic and racial issues in our society.

Tensions between nations have served as another wake-up call for the world. With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are all now acutely aware that peace, which many of us in democratic countries take for granted, is a fragile thing.

At the very least, we have a responsibility to make ourselves aware of these social issues. We are also called to action—to do what we can to create positive change in our communities and the world as a whole.

Social issues take many different forms, and the most prevalent social issues differ from one geographic area to another.

In America, some of the most common social problems we encounter include:

  • Environmental Issues
  • Corruption
  • Poverty
  • Discrimination based on sex, race, and physical disability
  • Immigration/refugee crisis
  • War
  • Substance abuse

Today, we are sharing a collection of movies about social issues. These movies challenge us to think more deeply. They can help us understand social issues better, change our perceptions, and inspire us to take action.

Read on to check out the films in our collection.

1. Dark Waters

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Social Issues: Environmental Pollution, Corruption

Released: 2019

In this film, an attorney advocates to expose a corporate giant suspected of dumping toxic waste in West Virginia.

Based on true events surrounding the debacle of DuPont’s chemical plants, this movie shows the horrific effects of environmental pollution.

It also depicts corporate corruption and the attorney’s fight to hold the multi-billion-dollar company accountable for its ruthless actions

2. The Lorax

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Social Issue: Environmental Degradation [Deforestation]

Released: 2012

This animated movie is based on a book of the same title written by Dr. Seuss and published in 1971.

The film is a great way to encourage children to respect the environment and introduce them to the concept of environmental sustainability.

3. The Whistleblower

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Social Issues: Human Trafficking, Corruption

Released: 2011

The United States considers human trafficking a “grave crime” and “human rights abuse.” Our country acknowledges that there are nearly 25 million individuals all over the world who fall victim to human traffickers at any given time.

This movie is about the real-life experience of Kathryn Bolkovac during the time she worked as a UN police officer assigned with a private American military contractor in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the course of her work, she discovered a sex trafficking ring and attempted to expose and bring to justice those who were involved while UN officials turned a blind eye.

4. The Grapes of Wrath

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Social Issue: Poverty

Released: 1940

This movie is based on John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel of the same name. It is a harrowing depiction of poverty during the era of the Great Depression.

The story introduces viewers to the Joad family, who had lost their farm during this unfortunate time. Viewers witness the family’s journey as migrant workers from Oklahoma to California in search of a better life.

5. The Pursuit of Happyness

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Social Issues: Homelessness, Unemployment, Poverty, Single Parenthood

Released: 2006

This movie is based on the life of motivational speaker and businessman Christopher Gardner. In the film, we see the far-reaching effects of unemployment on a single father determined to keep his son and provide a better life for him.

6. On the Basis of Sex

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Social Issue: Sexism

Released: 2019

Gender discrimination and inequality are still prevalent in many workplaces, even within the American government.

This biographical drama depicts the early life of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The film shows her as a young mother and struggling attorney who must do everything she can to achieve equality in career.

7. The Hate U Give

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Social Issue: Racism

Released: 2018

This film tackles the issue of racial discord that devolves into racism and white privilege. It is based on a YA book of the same title written by Angie Thomas.

If you are looking for a film that introduces the social issue of racial discord to your teens, this movie is worth a try.

8. Selma

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Social Issue: Racial Injustice

Released: 2014

Here is another film that tackles the issue of racism.

This movie highlights the movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to fight for voting rights. The movement led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, color, race, and/or national origin.

This movie also depicts the humanity of Dr. King, showing his effort and passion to make the world a better place for his brothers and sisters.

9. Letters From Iwo Jima

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Social Issue: Crisis of War

Released: 2006

When war happens, people take sides and the enemy is usually de-humanized.

This film not only shows the effects of war, but also reminds us, in a poignant way, of our shared humanity.

10. Gia

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Social Issue: Drug Addiction

Released: 1998

Drug addiction robs people of their destiny. It prevents them from reaching their full potential.

This is the core message of this movie featuring the life of one of America’s first supermodels, Gia Marie Carangi. After succumbing to drug abuse, her life ended in tragedy.

11. Flight

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Social Issue: Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Released: 2012

Here is another film reminding us of the negative effects of substance abuse. It also encourages viewers to choose to do the right thing.

In this film, a pilot is initially considered a hero for crash-landing a plane, but the effects of his actions hound him until he is forced to face the consequences.

Final Thoughts

Movies are more than a form of entertainment. They often contain messages that reflect what’s going on in society.

Whether it’s a box-office hit, a short, or a documentary, a movie can encourage us to look more closely at the social norms we often take for granted in our communities and the world as a whole.

It can inspire us to create social goals that can transform the world into a better place for everyone.

Hopefully this collection of movies about social issues will inspire you to always choose to do the right thing.

That might involve adopting healthier habits that promote positive change in all areas of your life.

If you enjoyed this collection, here are other resources that you might want to check out:

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