Netflix is a vital tool for watching commercial-free reruns of Friends and Family Guy, as well as stand-up comedy specials from your favorite performers (as you huff down hits from your favorite bubbler, of course). And these days, it’s an equally valuable resource for its cache of socially conscious documentaries.
At High Times, we realize that the state of affairs on our planet is getting dicier by the day, with governments, politicians and policymakers around the world losing focus of the important issues our planet is facing. Because of this, it’s crucial that we inform ourselves of horrendous things happening with our government, the environment, human rights, and other global issues.
Luckily for us, Netflix has done us a major service by adding a ton of eye-opening, paradigm-shifting films to its instant streaming service, so now you can get up to speed on many of the things plaguing our one and only planet without having to invest much more than your already-devoted TV-watching time.
The following films are some of the best socially conscious documentaries available on Netflix for the foreseeable future. We encourage you to watch them, talk about them, and take action.
Oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmental activist Sylvia Earle, a pioneer for female scientists, shows us firsthand just how badly humans have depleted the resources in Earth’s waters in just the past 50 years—and how badly we need to implement change if we want the human race to survive.
The Zeitgeist film trilogy serves as the ultimate wake-up call to people who think the current socioeconomic structure of extreme capitalism is beneficial and sustainable for our world (hint: it’s not). Moving Forward is the third in the trilogy. That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch the first two Zeitgeist films; in fact, they’re the next two movies on this list. Moving Forward is chock-full of incredible information which is extremely polarizing, but all of it is sourced and available to fact-check. You might not be the same after watching this. It’s one of the most important works of film you’ll ever see.
Peter Joseph’s original Zeitgeist documentary from 2007 shines a harsh light on exactly what is wrong with our monetary system. It also shows an interesting connection between the religions of the world, which will surely rile up heavily indoctrinated believers. This is Joseph’s most abrasive film, so don’t be surprised if some of it offends you and challenges your belief structure.
The follow-up to the original Zeitgeist was Peter Joseph’s response to the public’s calls for solutions to the issues he put forth in his first film. After watching this, you’ll be amazed at how the American government operates financially, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to change the world around you.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts this epic series that will open your mind to the immense universe around us. Renowned scientist (and marijuana advocate) Carl Sagan hosted the original Cosmos back in the ‘80s, and Tyson does an incredible job paying homage to his idol by making tough-to-comprehend information very digestible. If there’s any subject that we should all learn more about, it has to be science. This show is a perfect gateway to understanding.
This unflinching film about a group of rangers trying to conserve and protect Virunga National Park (home of the world’s last mountain gorillas) in the Democratic Republic of Congo is so unbelievable that it feels like a blockbuster Hollywood production, but unfortunately it isn’t. Watch this documentary and you’ll get a glimpse of just how corrupt, inhumane, and disgustingly money-hungry oil companies and poachers are—so much so that you might just be compelled to take action.
How do we fix the widening income gap in America and across the world? Professor of Public Policy and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, argues that we need to take a six-pronged approach, or else our society will continue to suffer. This is a great film to get informed about economics and the current state of inequality in our nation.
Four young men journey to Guatemala to document what it’s like to live on $1 a day for eight weeks, battling hunger, parasites, illness, and extreme poverty. The thing is, that’s the normal way of life there and in plenty of other parts of the world. This documentary will teach you a thing or two about empathy, and that you should appreciate every little thing you’ve got in your life.
Orcas, or killer whales, are a highly intelligent species, but humans have been keeping them captive and using them for entertainment at parks like SeaWorld for decades. This film exposes why this practice is inhumane and dangerous, with intense accounts of how nature can surprise man in the worst of ways when we don’t understand it. After watching this, you’ll never want to visit another SeaWorld-type park ever again.
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