Films about Social Justice

A Note on Copyright: SCM Groups can show films without the permission of the distributor in people’s own homes. However, if shown in a public space chaplaincy or on a university campus, it may be considered ‘commercial’ purposes. In this case, it may be best to contact the distributor to ask their permission.

Pay it Forward (2000)

This film tells the story of Trevor, a young boy who comes up with a way of changing the world through acts of kindness. This goodwill movement, known as paying it forward, involves paying a kind act with three of your own. An interesting theory, and a film which helps opens up discussions on altruism.

Far from Heaven (2002)

Todd Haynes’ brilliant film takes us back to 1950s Conneticut where a housewife played by Julianne Moore finds herself in the middle of a marital crisis and racial tensions in her community. It is a film about social taboos and sexual repression in society at that time.

Last King of Scotland (2006)

Using creative license, the film invents a fictional character called Nicholas who travels to 1970s repressive Uganda to be private physician to real-life brutal dictator Idi Amin. There are some very disturbing and violent parts of the film, but it is educational about Uganda at that time, and Forest Whitaker is brilliant as Amin.

Persepolis (2007)

This is an amazing animation about the Iranian revolution in the 1970s and subsequent Islamist rule, told through the eye of a child called Marjane Satrapi. It is based on the graphic novel of the same name, written and drawn by Marjane herself many years later. It’s political, educational, very sad and also very funny at the same time.

Milk (2008)

This movie follows the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. The film explores his personal as well as political life, particularly his difficult relationship with colleague Dan White. It’s a well-acted biopic which teaches us much about the history of the gay rights movement.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

A difficult but beautiful film to watch, Waltz with Bashir is about an Israeli ex-soldier recounting his witnessing of and involvement in the terrible atrocities and massacre of Palestinians committed by extremist Phalangist Christians and the Israeli army in the Lebanese invasion and war of 1982.

Made in Dagenham (2010)

This film dramatises the 1968 women machinists’ strike at the Dagenham Ford car plant. The women workers were protesting at unequal pay and discrimination. The strike was a landmark moment for women’s’ rights which had reverberations across the world. Sally Hawkins is brilliant as Rita O’Grady.

The Help (2011)

This film explores the lives and relationships of black maids during the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. A major feature for female actresses of colour, the film explores issues of class and race through the lens of black women's’ experiences. A very good movie with a timeless message.

Mandela- Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

A film based on the Nelson Mandela biography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ about his long struggle for justice against Apartheid in South Africa. A true story of the struggle for black rights and equality under an authoritarian, racist regime.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer is set in a future world where a failed climate change experiment has killed all life except the passengers of the Snowpiercer train. Aboard the train, a deep class system has emerged, and those at the back of the train launch a bid to change the status quo. A deeply political film, Snowpiercer asks difficult questions about the ways in which we organise ourselves and allocate resources.

Pride (2014)

A film about the miners’ strikes in the 1980s, but also about the fight for gay rights, this based on the true story of the lives of the members of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners organisation, which got alongside miners in solidarity, and changed a lot of preconceptions and broke down barriers along the way.

Cowspiracy (2014)

Cowspiracy is a somewhat dramatized documentary which explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. The film looks at various alternatives to meat consumption, eventually encouraging viewers to adopt a meat-free diet. This film is sometimes hyperbolic, but it provides a good starting point for discussions on Christian ecology.

Selma (2014)

This film tells the true story of three tumultuous months in the life of Martin Luther King Jr and the campaign for African American freedom and rights. It is not an easy watch, but that’s what makes it so powerful.

The Divide (2015)

A documentary about the growing divide between rich and poor in the US and the UK, based on the book ‘The Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. A chilling look at how the divide affects everyone’s life negatively, but especially the most poor in insecure work.

I, Daniel Blake (2016) - and My Name is Joe, Sweet Sixteen

All three of these Ken Loach films are worth a watch. Loach focuses most of his films on social justice issues and especially the struggles of working class people. My Name is Joe and Sweet Sixteen are both set in tough neighbourhoods in Scotland, and his latest film about the struggles of working class people on benefits in austerity Britain, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, won the Palme D’Or at Cannes Festival.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden figures tells the untold story of three African American women who worked at the NASA headquarters in Hampton USA. Based on a true story, the movie reveals the deeply important role the trio played in launching John Glenn into orbit and safely back. It explores the themes of race and sexism.

Resource type: 
Film Lists
Resource theme: 
Social Justice
Politics and Economics
Peace and Pacifism
Gender and Sexuality
Faith in Action