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Citizenship

12 Documentaries for Global Citizens to Watch This Holiday Season

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Documentaries often shed light on injustice or tell inspirational stories of uplift. These 12 documentaries explore various social justice issues. You can join us in taking action on these issues here, and watch our own documentary series, ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement, here

For many people, the holiday season is a time to reflect, recharge … and binge-watch TV series and movies they were too busy to catch earlier in the year.

Documentaries, in particular, often fly under the radar, as they are sometimes produced on shoe-string budgets, marketed only by word of mouth, and released in limited formats. 

Some documentaries remain niche films indefinitely. Others immediately gain viral success and critical praise — like Ava DuVernay’s 13th, for example — reaching far beyond their target audience.

Here are 12 documentaries, some released this year, others in the past few years, that you should try to watch this holiday season. 


1. Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of the leading philanthropists of the 21st century. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has invested billions of dollars in public health, women’s rights, education, and poverty alleviation. This insightful series gives Gates a chance to explain his outlook on philanthropy.

Stream it here


2. Chasing Coral 

Coral reefs are vibrant, wondrously diverse ecosystems. In recent decades, warming ocean temperatures and a host of other threats have caused many reefs to collapse. In this urgent documentary, scientists and activists highlight the plight facing coral and rally support for their protection. 

Stream it here


3. Homecoming

Few artists bring as much skill, creative imagination, and force to their performances as Beyoncé. The R&B superstar and Global Citizen ambassador performs at the 2018 Coachella music festival in this powerful recorded show that has a distinctly political tone. 

Stream it here


4. Girl Rising

Girls are overcoming daunting structural and interpersonal barriers all around the world. This documentary follows nine powerful stories of girls achieving more than what society told them they could. 

Stream it here


5. 13th

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the US — or did it? Ava DuVernay’s masterful film explores how the 13th Amendment laid the foundation for a new form of slavery. 

Stream it here


6. Honeyland

Bee populations have plunged in recent years due to rampant pesticide use, climate change, disease, and habitat loss. In this fascinating documentary, ancient bee harvesting practices clash with modern, commercialized techniques. 

Stream it here


7. Living Undocumented

Undocumented immigrants live in the shadows of society, often without access to proper health care and in poverty. In this harrowing documentary, eight undocumented families in the US describe their plight amid an escalating crackdown on immigrants. 

Stream it here.


8. Our Planet

What better way to recharge from end-of-year burnout than with sweeping vistas of the Earth and gorgeous scenes of its creatures as David Attenborough dispenses soothing wisdom and harsh truths?

Stream it here


9. American Factory

Globalization has reshaped economies worldwide, often in negative ways. This moving film shows how disenfranchised laborers navigate the challenges posed by stagnating wages and declining working conditions. 

Stream it here


10. One Child Nation

China’s one-child policy, intended to curb population growth, has had countless negative consequences, from inflicting grief to creating a massive population gap between men and women. This film explores the history and results of the disastrous policy. 


11. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Mr. Rogers tried to teach a generation of people the value of kindness and compassion. This heartwarming film explores why the beloved TV host got into television, how he built a devoted following, and his overarching philosophy. 

Stream it here


12. Gasland

Natural gas has been touted as a cleaner alternative to coal — but that’s a misleading story. In fact, the methane that leaks from natural gas facilities more than makes up for any of the emissions savings when it’s burned, and the amount of water pollution caused by the industry is staggering. This lacerating film explores the repercussions of the shift to hydrocarbon extraction. 

Stream it here.