Great movies on social justice are important and often eye-opening to see. They can start a dialogue and actually help social justice thinking, real-world movements, and positive action. Here is a list of some of the best social justice movies I have seen, that have changed my perspectives, and deepened my knowledge and thinking about different social justice issues. They are not only entertaining to watch, greatly performed but thought-provoking.
Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr. giving some great social activism speeches against violence in pursuit of equal voting rights and opportunity for African-Americans. The acts of violence and eventual victory after more than one march through Selma are well-depicted and wrought with the true emotions of this true historical moment.
Denzel Washington plays a lawyer fighting his own prejudice toward homosexuals and people with AIDS as he defends Tom Hanks, a man with AIDS who is challenging the nature of his firing from a law firm. Hanks believes they were prejudiced against him for having AIDS, not wanting to work with or have employed a person with AIDS. This great social justice movie shows Washington confronting his own ideas as he fights for justice and the rights of Hanks and people with AIDS.
Cher and Meryl Streep play nuclear power plant workers who face daily dangers without proper health and safety protection and workers rights and protections. Meryl Streep plays Karen Silkwood, a real chemical technician and civil rights activist who pursued worker rights from exposure and health effects of plutonium. This movie on social justice well-discusses worker struggles and the bosses and systems that try to keep them down.
12 Years A Slave
This great social justice movie above others of slavery topics is one of the most realistic depictions of the devastation, brutality, and lose-lose circumstances of enslaved persons historically. The acting of the movie is great and the struggles of the characters are well shown. The movie gets up close and personal with the enslaved in the different experiences of enslavement and the pursuits are made all the more righteous.
Chris Evans is a poor resident in the caboose of a futuristic train during an Ice Age fighting for better rights and food for himself and the other lower-class residents. The struggles of class difference and the pursuits of economic and opportunity equality are artistically and thoughtfully shown. Dialogue between Evans and Tilda Swinton among others of the upper-class residents gives interesting perspectives to the class issues.
If you have not seen this great social justice movie or read the book, they are both excellent in their portrayals of the working class of African-American women in the 1960s. The clashes between these key women and their oppressive white female bosses are at times humorous but largely touching in the losing circumstances of caring for and loving children that are not your own who are likely going to later become just like your bosses. You also see the jealousy and insecurity of the white bosses trying to maintain segregation and inequality of treatment and rights.
Remember The Titans
This is one of the most touching sports movies I have ever seen and this movie on social justice gives great thought-provoker to the integration of white and African-American football players of the 1970s. You see them come together despite their differences and racial prejudices to really bond as people and players in the game. Later when they come back to the other people in their lives, they are confronted with the injustices, violence, and inequality felt by their loved ones.
Boyz ‘N The Hood
As a movie regarding the residual, stigmatized nature of violence, especially gun violence in low-income areas, this great social justice movie does a great job of depicting the lives and relationships affected. Few things have come close to equaling that of the father of one of the main characters describing to a small crowd how there are liquor stores and gun stores all around them so they take each other out and don’t succeed just as their oppressors have intended.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Jack Nicholson plays a man placed in a mental institution with other different characters and levels of mental health. This movie on social justice brings into question how you would or could ever really determine the level of sanity of a person or prove it yourself. The primary nurse is a largely emotionless controller of the patients who does a great job of creating doubt for the patients of their own capacities. This movie makes you think about the nature of these types of places, how you get in, and how you can, (if ever), leave, or rather escape.
The Pursuit of Happyness
In this great social justice movie, Will Smith and Jaden Smith play the father and son duo struggling to survive when consistently met with bad luck and poor circumstances. You see touchingly the large efforts of a man struggling with poverty to improve his lot in life and make it. The movie brings up a great dialogue about how you are able to make a living for yourself and be successful unless you already are and have the money to survive and achieve. It gives an interesting Catch-22 to poverty.
An interesting movie on social justice as regards technology, this film, (also starring Will Smith in another great role), discusses the rights to life, justice, and opportunity for artificial intelligence forms. What does make a life and what has a right to life? The movie also shows Smith confronting his own prejudice against the robots that have become parts of daily life. The crime a robot is accused of turns into an interesting trial for the source of murder, human or robot, and also if artificial intelligence is capable of murder as humans.