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The Best Thought-Provoking Documentaries to Watch

If you've found yourself watching more television than usual during this unfamiliar period of time, that is A-OK. If you want to learn something new whilst doing so, watch something that'll encourage a good cry, or help you escape into a captivating real-life story, try our tried-and-tested documentaries for a guaranteed stimulating TV experience.


We've been watching a documentary a night to compile a list of our most highly recommended documentaries to watch. They're emotive, empowering, factful, funny, artistic, interesting, and each one has left a lasting impression on us. Awareness awaits...


Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics

Well-known faces Nick Offerman and Adam Scott guide the viewer on this trip of a documentary (pardon the pun), embellished with comedy, vivid graphics, comments by medical professionals and interviews with a handful of musicians and movie stars on their adventures in psychedelics, each one unlike the other, from Sting's realisation "when you treat the world as just an object, you tend to treat it badly. If you see the world as part of you, then you will treat it better" to ASAP Rocky's personal re-telling of a psychedelic experience: "I have no idea why there was a rainbow coming out of my penis. I don't even like rainbows".


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That Black British Feeling

In late 2016, BBC journalist Nesta McGregor investigated the Black Lives Matter movement and spoke to different people with varying views in this easy-to-watch 30-minute doc. This documentary could easily apply to 2020, a reminder of how imperative it is that the movement does not, once again, get swept under the rug of white supremacy.


The Ignorance Project


Hans Rosling, author of one of our favourite books Factuflness, along with his son Ola, gives this TED talk all about ignorance. In 20 short minutes, they give tips on how to be less ignorant in a world that relies on such a trait. A must-watch and a must-read.


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Coronavirus, Explained

In the Explained documentary series, each episode takes on a current, relevant theme and explores it within a short 30-minute-on-average episode, leaving the viewer with a bit of general knowledge on the subject, and a feeling for whether they fancy exploring it further or not. These documentaries are a great option for those who don't want to commit to a full feature documentary film before knowing they're definitely interested in the subject and committed enough to sit and learn about it. Of course, it is impossible to explore all the intricacies of the themes they tackle, which range from sex to memory, dreams, anxiety and the Coronavirus, but these films are a great place to start digging.


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Becoming

What a woman. What a role-model. What a human being. Former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, the first African-American to ever serve that role, brings her bestselling book and memoir 'Becoming' to the screen with this inspirational documentary on her life. The viewer gets a behind-the-scenes look into her life as she works through her book tour, meeting all sorts of people along the way, touching their lives with a genuine love and passion we wish all politicians and people in charge had in their hearts too. Buy the book too, and if you loved the music from the documentary, listen to and download the Becoming playlist on Spotify.


History 101: Fast Food

A History 101 episode is a bite-sized history lesson full of digestible infographics and archival footage. The series tackles a range of subjects and explores them generally, from conception to present day, in short episodes. Episode 1, 'Fast Food' takes the viewer back to when fast food was first being eaten, to the rise in its popularly, to its eventual takeover, and how it impacts the planet and our bodies.


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Films on Ecostreamz

Ecostreamz is an online subscription-based media platform with a unique offering - all the content is chosen specifically to educate, inspire and empower the global activist community. The long list of categories ranges from animal welfare to refugees, conservation to inequality, migration, diversity and so many more. Ecostreamz is the place to stream independent documentaties showcasing real life stories. An eco-conscious Netflix, if you will. Sign up here for either a free subscription or a paid-for service with more content for only $2.50 per month.


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Opening your mind to the ideas shared and explored in this documentary could very well be life-changing. The documentary is largely narrated by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, otherwise known as The Minimalists; two American authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers who deeply believe in and share the message that when it comes to happiness, material things are not the answer. The documentary holds a mirror up and encourages recognition that unconscious consumerism is useless and detrimental, exposing flaws in those ideals we as consumers are so shamelessly pushed to accept as our own. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things also looks at work and the pursuit of money in this sector of life, making it a particularly thought-provoking watch at this moment in time; a period of mass unemployment, furlough and, for some, more free time than ever before.


13th

In this award-winning feature length documentary, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, along with scholars, activists and politicians, expose the deception that is the 13th amendment, which supposedly abolishes slavery. 13th offers the viewer a crucial reality check. Spoiler alert: it was never abolished, the wording just changed. With chilling statistics and personal stories, 13th will no doubt light a fire in your belly and make you hungry for a long-overdue overhaul of our non-rehabilitating, abyss-like prison systems.


The School of Life


The School of Life's YouTube channel is where you'll find short videos exploring a multitude of subjects, on themes such as relationships, the self, work and capitalism, western philosophy, great ideas, comedy, and many how-to's. The School of Life tackles big questions we don't often get guidance on in our academic school careers, and makes them user-friendly, accessible and understandable, with simple terminology, cartoons and colours. Here are the videos we've watched and got something out of:


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