50 Informative Movies for Teachers and Students

50 Informative Movies for Teachers and Students

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Whether you’re a teacher trying to switch things up in your lesson plan or a student looking for a fun way to get into a research topic, you have to admit that movies can be useful tools for class, too. And while many filmmakers set out to entertain us or express themselves through cinema, just as many also seek to educate or bring a little-known subject to light—be it through documentaries or through stories inspired by real situations. So we at agoodmovietowatch have compiled a varied selection of little-known but highly-rated movies that we think could teach you something new and keep you engaged in the process.

30. Touching The Void (2003)

7.7

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Kevin Macdonald

Actors

Brendan Mackey, Joe Simpson, Nicholas Aaron, Richard Hawking

Moods

Dramatic, Inspiring, Suspenseful

A documentary about two “climbing” friends who attempt to summit Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. I say climbing friends because they are both somewhat egotistical, yuppie risk takers and seem to be the type who are only friends when their interests align. Nevertheless, they are truly ambitious, driven adventurers. A storm hits and one of the climbers gets injured. They both know that this is a death sentence, and events go on from there. The story is epic and nearly unbelievable, but for the fact that it actually happened. I am not a climber, but the plot and story will speak to any adventurer who must accept inherent risks, including death, in their outdoor endeavors.

29. By the Grace of God (2018)

7.8

Country

Belgium, France

Director

François Ozon, François Ozon

Actors

Éric Caravaca, Alexandre Steiger, Amélie Daure, Amélie Prevot

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Thought-provoking

In Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris, a man confronts the church about a prominent priest who sexually assaulted him and his friends when they were young.

The man, being religious, wanted to keep the issue within the church. He only asked that the pedophile’s priesthood be revoked so that he doesn’t assault more children.

When it becomes clear that the church will not act, he considers legal action, even though the statute of limitations has expired. But, as is usual in these cases, he was far from being the only victim.

28. Good Bye, Lenin (2003)

7.8

Country

Germany

Director

Wolfgang Becker

Actors

Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaussner, Christine Schorn, Chulpan Khamatova

Moods

Lighthearted, Sweet

An intriguing, funny and rather bizarre movie which serves as a fantastic introduction to ‘new-wave’ German cinema. Featuring a cast of young talented actors and excellent direction, this movie takes place around the time the Berlin wall fell and East and West Berlin were still united. Christiane, a devout socialist activist in East Berlin suffers an accident which leaves her in a coma, during which time the Berlin wall comes down and Western capitalism encroaches on her beloved East Berlin. Fearing that she may relapse into a coma after waking up, her doctors warn that she must remain calm and not endure any shocks. Despite the somewhat contrived premise, the film really takes off from this point as her son Alex and his friend aim to hide this fact from her, by faking news reports on the television, coming up with excuses for a giant Coca Cola banner and a whole host of other amusing exploits to prevent her from knowing. While categorised as a comedy, it is also a moving portrayal of a loving family enduring great, historic change.

27. Argentina, 1985 (2022)

7.9

Country

Argentina, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Santiago Mitre

Actors

Alejandra Flechner, Alejo Garcia Pintos, Antonia Bengoechea, Brian Sichel

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Smart

Argentina, 1985 is a legal drama about how a prosecutor and his young team were able to mount evidence—despite all threats and odds—against the officials behind a brutal military dictatorship. The public trial is supposedly the first of its kind in Latin America, a marker of true democracy that made a hero out of Julio Strassera and Moreno Ocampo, who both led the case.

Despite the presence of very serious themes, there are moments of lighthearted humor here that work to stress the film’s underlying message of goodwill and perseverance. Argentina, 1985 competed at major festivals this 2022, and it’s Argentina’s official entry at the upcoming Academy Awards.

26. Zana (2019)

7.9

Country

Albania, Georgia, Kosovo

Director

Antoneta Kastrati, Female director

Actors

Adriana Matoshi, Alketa Sylaj, Astrit Kabashi, Bislim Muçaj

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Intense

Antoneta Kastrati’s debut feature film Zana follows Lume, who appears guarded and subdued as she goes about her daily routine: milking the cows, harvesting crops and flowers, hanging laundry out to dry. Part of Lume’s routine also includes visits to the doctor, accompanied by her mother-in-law and husband, who pressure her to conceive.

When conventional medical advice does not yield a viable pregnancy, Lume is brought to a witch doctor, and later a televangelist. The former suggests Lume may be cursed, while the latter insists she is possessed by a supernatural creature called a jinn. Lume appears largely apathetic, at least outwardly. But slowly, she starts to unravel—and with her undoing comes the reveal of the war that traumatized her. 

Kastrati’s family drama has elements of horror, but the real terror here is psychological. It makes for an important exploration of a deeply patriarchal society that is only beginning to heal the collective traumas of a complicated war, and how its violence continues to ripple through time and into domestic life. 

 

25. Just Mercy (2019)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Destin Daniel Cretton

Actors

Adam Boyer, Al Mitchell, Alex Van, Andrene Ward-Hammond

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Inspiring

This drama is based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young Harvard graduate who moved to Alabama in the 80s to defend wrongly accused prisoners on death row. He’s played by Michael B. Jordan, who brings to the surface the unstoppable determination and ambition of the character. Components that were necessary to go on such a difficult task, especially with the racist barriers at the time. Not to mention, no one had ever been released from death row in the history of Alabama at that point. An inspiring and well-acted movie, made by Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton.

24. Descendant (2022)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Margaret Brown

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Smart

Although Descendant is built around the finding of the Clotilda—the last ship to bring African slaves to the United States—this documentary knows that there’s so much more potent drama in the stories of the ordinary people of Africatown, Alabama. As this painful reminder of the roots of their community is salvaged from the water, their view of history itself begins to change. Now they face the responsibility of making sure that the Clotilda doesn’t just become a tourist attraction, and that their call for reparations unites the Mobile region of Alabama more than anything else. Its a gripping, complex documentary that feels like reading a great novel.

23. Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Chloé Zhao, Female director

Actors

Derrick Janis, Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard, Jashaun St. John

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Emotional, Slice-of-Life

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors’ stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex – but so important to listen to and understand. It’s an incredible feat to make an observational film that’s so grounded in reality – only a genius could: that’s Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

22. Dark Waters (2019)

best

8.0

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Todd Haynes

Actors

Abi Van Andel, Aidan Brogan, Amy Morse, Amy Warner

Moods

Dramatic, Thought-provoking, True-story-based

Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins star in this well-executed and eye-opening drama based on a true story. Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) is a successful corporate lawyer in New York. He is visited by a distressed farmer from his hometown in Cincinnati whose cows have been developing strange behaviors and diseases. Robert decides to take on this case in what will become one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in the country: the use of cancerous chemicals by the company that commercializes Teflon (the stuff in pans). Excellent acting in an incredibly frustrating but necessary story that will trouble you more than any other legal thriller you have watched in the past: prepare to be outraged (and throw away your pans).

21. The Report (2019)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Scott Z. Burns

Actors

Adam Driver, Alexander Chaplin, Annette Bening, April Rogalski

Moods

A-list actors, Instructive, Thought-provoking

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.

Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.

If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. 

I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

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