Wisdom//

11 Documentaries That Will Teach You Something New

Press play to open your eyes to an entirely new perspective.

Courtesy of Pla2na / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Pla2na / Shutterstock

We asked members of the Thrive community to share a documentary they recently watched that opened their minds to a new perspective, idea, or passion. You’ll want to add their recommendations to your to-watch list right away.

Planet Earth II

“I watch with my four-year-old daughter because it helps her understand how important nature conservation is, and it helps me understand how my behaviour as a consumer can affect the environment. Documentaries are a way for me to continue my learning about how other humans and animals live.”

—Mark de Rijk, cybersecurity adviser, London, United Kingdom

Fed Up

“Watching this opened my eyes to what society is being fed. I showed it to my three kids, who then brought it to their teachers and watched it at school. Fed Up shows that money, power, and lobbyists make decisions that affect everyone. The narrative on fat versus sugar and the health of our youth is laid out clearly for all to see. It truly made me fed up and fired up for change.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, speaker and life coach, Toronto, Canada

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

“This is a great example of fabulous marketing with horrible execution. The social media concept that the festival planners created was great: beautiful women and men on a gorgeous island, which created great FOMO. Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of such a fabulous opportunity and purchase a ticket? And yet, the actual experience was a nightmare. It’s a great case study in effective social media marketing.”

—Tanya Brown, business coach, Hoboken, NJ 

Apollo 11

“I managed to catch this on a recent flight and it was nostalgic, motivational, and breathtaking. The documentary takes you behind this historic flight for mankind. The footage captures the raw emotions of those involved in the mission, from astronauts to mission control. The film makes the words in the history books come alive to what made this such a momentous event for America.”

—Poornima Peiris, student, Cambridge, MA 

Human

“This film provides a comprehensive look at the human race, through the eyes of regular human beings from all over the world. While it did feature some extraordinary people, like Uruguay’s former president José Mujica, the majority of the interviews explained daily experiences, while also placing the human race in proper relation with the world at large. Punctuated by an incredible soundtrack, Human proves an extraordinary experience.”

—E. Nina Rothe, journalist, New York, NY

A Love that Never Dies

“We can cope with the idea of death as the natural conclusion of a long life well lived, but when death visits the young instead of the old, it causes unbearable grief and fear. Perhaps this is why I was a little uneasy about seeing this film. I expected it to be hard to watch — which it was, in the obvious sense that bearing witness to tragedy is hard — but it was also rewarding. It is a wonderful testament to resilience, imagination, compassion, and, in the case of at least one of the families featured, forgiveness. This is neither a depressing film nor a sentimental one. The children who died are irreplaceable, and the way their loved ones react to the loss is similarly unique, which is why the smorgasbord of grief laid out here, in all its variety — wit and humour, shame and defiance — is a testament to life.” 

—Felicity Everett, writer, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

Order & Disorder

“It’s a wonderful two-hour film about the forces that drive our universe and how we humans have derived inspiration from mother nature. I have never been a ‘physics person’, however, this documentary is so simple and well explained that it intrigued me to know more about the dynamics of the space where we live. Documentaries have now become my way of learning about areas that I always wondered about or completely ignored. I believe they are the knowledge banks of Generation Z.”

—Aakriti Agarwal, coach and facilitator, Hyderabad, India

The Defiant Ones

“As I embarked on my journey of music producing, ‘what if’s’ abounded. During that time I stumbled upon this documentary, which detailed the careers and uprising of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. While I was ready to jump in with both feet, this documentary made me feel like I didn’t care if I inhaled a little water when I did it. I thought the film was so inspiring that I found myself rewatching anytime I was lacking motivation. It might just be TV, but sometimes it’s just what you need to get that little push forward.”

—James Philip, entrepreneur, Chicago, IL

True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality

“It’s the story of a man doing the work of an angel among us. It’s a reminder of how one person can truly change the lives of others. Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, has argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that resulted in a ban on mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 and under. He and the EJI have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for more than 135 wrongly condemned death-row inmates. Stevenson has gotten 35 honorary doctorates and a MacArthur genius grant award. So inspirational!”

—Penny Guyon, communications consultant, Los Angeles, CA

Breaking Their Silence: Women on the Frontline of the Poaching War

“I saw this at the Silicon Beach Film Fest in Los Angeles. It’s a deeply moving film of the unseen perspective of what it takes to fight a silent war to save highly endangered wildlife.”

—Michele Deane, technology founder, Los Angeles, CA

Dinosaur Britain

“It’s educational, as it features and brings to life the magnificent dinosaurs that once roamed the British Isles. It also inspires me by featuring Dr. Dean Lomax, whose story is worthy of its own documentary. In Dinosaur Britain, Lomax references his humble beginnings and creative road to success, which included selling his Star Wars collection to help launch his career. That sacrifice paid off: Dr. Lomax is now an internationally recognized and award-winning paleontologist. So, to me, the documentary and its inspiring young co-presenter represent the power of following one’s passion.” 

—Elaine Howard, attorney and author, Leesburg, FL

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