Inside: 13 documentaries for teens that are educational and fun to watch.
Nowadays, teens are watching more television than ever. With the widespread implementation of various streaming services, movies and shows of all genres are more accessible than ever.
While there is concern about children watching too much television or spending too much time looking at screens, there are some very valuable and useful films and shows that can help your teens become more educated.
Finding documentaries to watch is easier than it has ever been before, and the production of these educational films has gotten more creative and diverse throughout the years. There is a wealth of wonderful documentaries that are great for helping teens gather a variety of perspectives on various topics, including pressing societal issues, politics, sports, and more.
Read on to see the most inspiring documentaries for teens covers a multitude of genres and topics, and they are actually enjoyable to watch.
Genres of Documentaries for Teens
Teens sometimes shy away from documentaries, as they are sometimes believed to be solely educational and, thus, dull. However, this is totally not true! While you’ll certainly learn something from watching them, most of the best documentaries to watch are genuinely enjoyable, and these films are created for a variety of audiences.
Whether your teen is passionate about sports, space, technology, food, celebrities, music, or ancient history, there is certainly a film for them on our list.
Moreover, there are documentaries for teens that teach incredibly valuable lessons, including those about adulthood, conservation and global warming, perseverance stories, and important historical and political messages. The reason that these films are good for teens and kids is because they are made to be entertaining and educational, so, unlike assigning them a heavy book to read, your teenager will both absorb information and enjoy doing so.
Best Documentaries for Kids and Teens
This is a list of some of the best documentaries for kids and teens. These films are about key lessons that kids in today’s society should all be aware of, and they are very highly rated by viewers. Topics range from the state of our planet to social media to civil rights movements.
These pictures relay information that has shaped the history, present, and future of society, and it is crucial that your future adults are informed.
- A Life On Our Planet (2020): This documentary is just over an hour long, making it a perfectly digestible length for teenagers. In it, the renowned David Attenborough guides viewers through an intimate look at the vast variety of plant and animal species on our planet, placing emphasis on the importance of conservation and protecting the Earth. It is available on Netflix.
- The Social Dilemma (2020): Available only on Netflix, this is an important movie for today’s teenagers as it portrays the vast dangers and secrets of social media use. Former executives from major technology companies are interviewed in this, sharing the dark truth about social media’s addictive and hypnotic effects. As a generation of children grows up using the internet more than ever before, it is crucial that they are exposed to these truths so that they can make informed, safe, and smart decisions when it comes to their internet use.
- Blackfish (2013): This is a film that has garnered tons of recognition and praise since its release. Blackfish tells the true story of one orca that was held in captivity at Seaworld for the entirety of its life. The film exposes the detrimental consequences that occur when a wild animal such as a killer whale is forced to live in refined, unnatural quarters. Though the film focuses on Seaworld and one orca, its message can be applied to animal abuse in general, as it shows how captivating and objectifying wild animals for profit raises many important questions about morals and ethics.
- American Teen (2008): This film is great for teens who are in high school, as it follows the true lives of four American high school seniors. There is nothing incredibly profound about this documentary, but it gives a raw, unfiltered look at the lives of four very different teens, which can provide a great sense of perspective for anyone who watches it. The movie also deals with mental health struggles, familial pressures, and the rocky transition into adulthood.
Best Documentaries to Watch for Fun
While some heavier topics like animal cruelty and pollution can put a damper on things, there are documentaries for teens that are more uplifting but are still sufficiently educational. Many of the below films share inspirational stories about individuals who are arguably just regular people. When teenagers watch these films, they are reminded that they, too, are capable of greatness.
- Hoop Dreams (1994): Children, teens, and adults celebrate this renowned film for numerous reasons. It tells the story of two African American high schoolers and their struggle with classism, racism, and mental health as they pursue their dreams of becoming professional basketball players. Even for teens who aren’t major sports enthusiasts, this film teaches lessons in perseverance, hard work, friendship, and believing in yourself.
- Three Identical Strangers (2018): This unique documentary follows the lives of three men who, unbeknownst to them, are triplets separated at birth. By complete chance, two of the men find each other, and to their surprise, they get contacted by a third brother. This is a mostly lighthearted, inspiring tale of three brothers reuniting and falling in love with each other, developing a beautiful friendship. It also touches on issues within the foster care and child protective industries, and on topics of mental health and suicide.
- Man on a Wire (2008): An entertaining and true story of Phillippe Petit, a 24-year-old French man who, in 1974, attempted to walk a trip-wire suspended between the two World Trade Centers. The award-winning documentary is certainly entertaining, as audiences hold their breath to see whether Petit can safely perform acrobatics on a mere wire over 1,300 feet in the air. With actual footage from the event, this is a gripping story about bravery and willpower.
- I Am Bolt! (2016): Usain Bolt, known as the fastest runner in the world, tells the story of growing up in poverty in Jamaica and becoming a household name. This film is just under two hours and portrays messages of dedication, perseverance, and, most importantly, teamwork. This is a must-watch for aspiring young athletes, and it can be found on Amazon.
Documentaries for Teens Who Want to Change the World
These are some of the best documentaries for kids who really want to make a difference in the world that they are growing up in. Now, not all kids or teenagers necessarily have an explicit mission to change the world, but these documentaries can open their eyes to some of the world’s most pressing current issues, and how they can take part in a better future. If nothing else, adolescents will gather a new perspective on issues they may not know a lot about.
- Very Young Girls (2007): Though it covers grave topics and is unrated, this movie tells of an increasingly problematic issue in society, and brings awareness to all-too-common and widespread occurrences of sex slavery and prostitution. Mature teenagers who watch this film will begin to understand how these issues afflict a staggering number of young girls—some as young as 13 years old—and how problems with classism and prejudice contribute to the spread. It teaches young girls to remain vigilant, and that there is always hope in any dire situation.
- A Place at the Table (2012): This documentary will open teenagers’ eyes to the truth about poverty and how widespread of an issue it is. A Place at the Table follows numerous American families who are unable to feed their families due to food insecurity. While making kids aware of this issue, it will also remind them of the privilege of having a meal to eat three times a day. This film is available on Amazon Prime.
- The Bad Kids (2016): This inspirational and profound story covers topics including classism, oppression, and prejudice. In this movie, a school principal takes strides to get to know students in his school who are considered to be hopeless students that many adults have more or less given up on. The message here is that every single person has value and potential.
- Cowspiracy (2014): A film that gives important information about the crucial need for environmental activism. This film is humorous and entertaining, and teens will enjoy it while gleaning an important message and learning valuable information.
- Bully (2012): Bullying has always been a problem for children and adolescents that often follows them into adulthood. Though it has become a much more talked-about subject, the introduction of the internet and social media brings about a new wave of bullying issues. This is a painful movie to watch as it follows the lives of bullying victims, but it relays a message about the perspective of victims and the difference that can be made by people who take a stand against bullies.
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