Social Justice Films
July 24, 2007 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me a film with a theme centering around a social justice issue. Preferably fictitious, or at least not a documentary (sorry Michael Moore fans). I realize that "social justice" is a loosely-defined term; basically, if the screenwriter is trying to make a point about a social justice issue, it's fair game. An archetypal example would be The Constant Gardener, but also acceptable would be movies along the lines of American History X, Crash, Children of Men or Gattaca. Thanks, green!
posted by charmston to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
A recent favorite of mine is Lord of War, also the Quiet American is good although in these cases the social justice element might be a bit esoteric if you aren't somewhat familiar with what is happening in these places.
posted by Deep Dish at 6:20 PM on July 24, 2007

I just saw ...And Justice for All recently. The word "justice" is right there in the title!
posted by Ms. Saint at 6:23 PM on July 24, 2007

Erin Brockovich, Philadelphia, Hotel Rwanda
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:30 PM on July 24, 2007

Polanski's Death and the Maiden
posted by hermitosis at 6:31 PM on July 24, 2007

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Fantastic film.
Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her (patriarchy, consumerism....)
And, finally, Ilya Kazan's Gentlemen's Agreement (I think it's Gregory Peck's best movie).
posted by nasreddin at 6:31 PM on July 24, 2007

I think Twelve Angry Men is a good example of this, and fun to watch. Same with To Kill a Mockingbird in a similar way. I mean on the surface they're about obvious justice, getting a fair shake in the legal system. But they're also about class issues and issues of poverty and our ideas of The Other coming to bear on how we mete out that justice within our society. Other obvious titles from a few social justice directions are

Norma Rae - union and workplace issues
Philadephia - sexual orientation and discrimination
Apocalypse Now & Full Metal Jacket - the complications and awfulness of war
The Caine Mutiny & A Few Good Men - what is "justice" in the military, also M*A*S*H

Not all of these are trying to make one social justice point, but they all approach social justice angles which I sometimes think can be more useful than a blatant in your face Free Willy sort of message
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 PM on July 24, 2007

wow. how about Darwin's Nightmare ? the harshest movie I have ever seen... and absolutely required viewing for all humans.

doesn't really count as fiction though.

how about lords of war?
posted by specialk420 at 6:51 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not entirely ficitious, but perhaps: Cry Freedom
posted by pompomtom at 6:52 PM on July 24, 2007

John Sayles specializes in this kind of thing.

Is there a historical period or specific subject that interests you most?
posted by lemuria at 6:57 PM on July 24, 2007

Damaged Care - Extremely effective drama based on the experiences of Dr Linda Peeno, HMO whistleblower.
Erin Brockovich - Better known whistleblower movie
The Architect - Fictional film about the architect of a dangerously unlivable public housing complex and his run-in with an activist tenant
Rosetta - This is more of a character study, but the portayal of the deadening effect of poverty on an emotionally destroyed girl is deeply moving and humane
posted by maryh at 7:03 PM on July 24, 2007

Blood Diamond
The Fog of War
Good Night, and Good Luck
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Insider

Also, you might want to consider The Wire. It's a TV show (and at first it might seem like a run of the mill cop show), but it addresses a lot of issues about urban decay. It's also, hands down, the best thing I've ever seen on television.
posted by MidAtlantic at 7:05 PM on July 24, 2007

Les Ordres is an awesome French Canadian film about the FLQ/October crisis in Quebec in 1970, when Trudeau authorized the War Measures Act which allowed the cops to bust anyone for no reason and haul them off to jail. They were trying to bust up terrorist groups, you see.
Shot in Cinema Verité style, but not a documentary.
posted by chococat at 7:34 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Three Kings. The Mission.
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on July 24, 2007

Heterosexism, homophobia, men wearing condom hats: Le Placard.
posted by mdonley at 7:47 PM on July 24, 2007

Missing depicts one version of the events surrounding the overthrow of the Chilean President Salvador Allende and in particular the alleged involvement of CIA.

The story is based on the death of US journalist Charles Horman and alleges that how the US government was happy to deny information to his family regarding his disappearance in order to further their geo-polictical goals in Chile.
posted by southof40 at 8:06 PM on July 24, 2007

Code 46 - along the lines of CoM/Gattaca, plus Mick Jones doing karaoke.
posted by doublesix at 8:10 PM on July 24, 2007

great minds...
posted by rob511 at 8:10 PM on July 24, 2007

The Caine Mutiny & A Few Good Men - what is "justice" in the military, also M*A*S*H

Along the same lines as these, I liked William Friedkin's Rules of's not without its flaws, but it features some terrific performances (courtroom drama with Tommy Lee Jones AND Samuel L. Jackson!), and addresses issues pretty relevant to our current military adventures (although it was made a while before we went into Iraq, if memory serves).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:38 PM on July 24, 2007

A Time to Kill - Matthew McConaughey in khakis from the back. Yum! And I'm not even gay. Oh, yeah, and a pretty well-made adaptation of the John Grisham book, with some nice turns by Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Donald Sutherland and Samuel L. Jackson. Recommended.
posted by ZakDaddy at 8:49 PM on July 24, 2007

Maetwan - by John Sayles (a fictionalized account of history)
Vera Drake by Mike Leigh
Hester Street by Joan Micklin Silver
Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee
posted by brookeb at 9:10 PM on July 24, 2007

Boy, I'd wish you'd consider one documentary I saw recently: Bus 174. It really plays out more like a movie, a thriller actually. It involves a real life incident in Rio de Janiero a few years ago where a guy takes a bunch of hostages on a bus and a stand off with the police ensues. As the stand off unfolds, the film maker explores the life of this guy who was born in the Brazilian barrio and raised on the streets, how he witnessed family murdered in front of him, his life in a Rio prison, how all the violence in the world begets more violence. It really blew me away and was done in a way to keep me riveted until the end because I hadn't heard how it ended.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:29 PM on July 24, 2007

The Magdalene Sisters--about abuse of girls and women in a Catholic Magdalene Asylum in Ireland (absolutely shocking--and apparently the abuse in the real Magdalene Asylums was much worse than depicted in the film)

Rabbit-Proof Fence--about aboriginal children in Australia kidnapped by the government from their families and forced into residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their native language or practice their traditional culture (heartbreakingly sad)

Moolaade--about women opposing female circumcision in an unnamed African community (sounds totally grim but is actually pretty uplifting)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:48 PM on July 24, 2007

Soylent Green
Watership Down
Beyond Rangoon
Planet of the Apes
The Killing Fields
Cry, the Beloved Country
When the Wind Blows
A Civil Action
The China Syndrome
Judgment at Nuremberg
The Seige (Eerily prescient for 1998)
Dead Man Walking (for that matter, just look at Sean Penn's IMDB listings)
Dr. Strangelove
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Made for HBO)
And if you're counting Errol Morris work such as The Fog of War noted above you'd have to include The Thin Blue Line.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:06 PM on July 24, 2007

Also, you might want to consider The Wire.. . . the best thing I've ever seen on television.

True that!
posted by Neiltupper at 10:13 PM on July 24, 2007

Minority Report
The War Within
posted by The Deej at 10:16 PM on July 24, 2007

The Oxbow Incident
posted by klanawa at 10:39 PM on July 24, 2007

Battle of Algiers
posted by rhizome at 12:01 AM on July 25, 2007

I don't know if you can get hold of it but the 1966 play Cathy Come Home on homelessness is very powerful.
posted by ceri richard at 12:43 AM on July 25, 2007

Ken Loach and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Mike Leigh.
posted by ninebelow at 2:41 AM on July 25, 2007

Inherit the Wind.
posted by Prospero at 6:24 AM on July 25, 2007

Hate (La Haine)
posted by candyland at 7:37 AM on July 25, 2007

North Country - sexual harassment
In My Country - Truth and Reconciliation trials (post-apartheid South Africa)
posted by puddleglum at 8:33 AM on July 25, 2007

Tueur à gages
posted by SageLeVoid at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2007

Along the lines of Battle of Algiers, Cache.
posted by The Deej at 10:03 AM on July 25, 2007

Life and Times of David Gale
posted by Invoke at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2007

Monsters Ball
City of Ghosts
City of God
posted by clanger at 1:15 PM on July 25, 2007

i strongly second The Insider and The Thin Blue Line
posted by fac21 at 3:27 PM on July 25, 2007

The above recommended Errol Morris films, The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War should be on everyone's must-see list. But, as a heads-up to the OP, they are both documentaries.
posted by The Deej at 5:27 PM on July 25, 2007

Meet John Doe.
posted by nicwolff at 5:34 PM on July 25, 2007

The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 8:43 PM on July 25, 2007

The Rainmaker
posted by cashman at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2007

« Older Cat pee, and how to deal with it.   |   Sci-fi short story with Latin speaking... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.