I’M SURE THERE ARE A PLENTY of times that you, like me, don’t really have any interest in engaging with the world around you, and just want to hang out and binge-watch crappy shows on Netflix from time to time. It’s okay: no one else can judge. But if you want a half-baked justification for spending all your time in front of the TV, we’re here to help: as it happens, there are a huge number of documentaries and movies available on the major streaming services that are geared towards you, the worldly global citizen. Here are some for you to check out:
In 2012, Laura Dekker became the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The documentary that follows her is a deeply human portrait of a 15-year-old Dutch girl who goes through normal teenaged tribulations like homesickness, rebellion, wanderlust, and pirate avoidance. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s beautiful, it’s inspiring, and it will make you want to learn to sail, see the world, and challenge yourself.
Available on: Netflix
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Banksy’s strange and hilarious 2010 quasi-documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop is very possibly a hoax: the main character in it, Thierry Guetta, is a man who follows around his street artist friends with a camera only to become a famous street artist himself while producing insanely derivative versions of Banksy’s work. It’s bizarre and fun, but most importantly, it’s a look into the vibrant, anarchic world of graffitos and street artists which has spread rapidly across the world in the last few decades. It will, if nothing else, make you want to get out into the streets to explore and, you know, maybe make some mischief.
Available on: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu+
Unlike another recent food documentary which veers into half-baked conspiracy theories and vegan propaganda (looking at you, Cowspiracy), Food, Inc. is a profound, balanced, well-researched look at how humans interact with their food. In a rapidly globalizing world where climate change is becoming a more pressing issue on a daily basis, every small thing we consume can have major impacts. Food, Inc. will help you rethink how you eat and what you eat.
Available on: Hulu+ and Netflix
The Search for General Tso
If you’re an American and have eaten Chinese food, you’ve probably had General Tso’s chicken at some point. But who was General Tso? And why does no one in China seem to have heard of the most popular Chinese dish in America? The Search for General Tso is an awesome (and relatively short) documentary on how a simple plate of chicken perfectly illustrates America’s relationship with the rest of the world.
Available on: Netflix
This Changes Everything
Naomi Klein, the Canadian writer and activist, manages to buck the trend of depressing “Oh man, we’re totally screwed” global warming documentaries by offering a different way of thinking about the global crisis: it may be, she believes, that this is our best chance ever to turn our world into a better place.
Available on: Amazon Prime
When Edward Snowden leaked documents from the NSA to journalist Glenn Greenwald, he invited along documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras to film the entire process from beginning to end. The resulting movie is absolutely electrifying: you get to watch Edward Snowden in real time as, over the course of a few days, he becomes the number one target of the world’s largest superpower. At the same time, the documentary manages to focus on the larger issues of NSA wiretapping and how privacy may not be a thing in a post-internet world.
Available on: HBO GO