With a few exceptions, documentaries rarely become household names—and that’s a shame. Ones that are well done can be powerful, funny, thought-provoking or just plain fascinating. I once turned on Six for Sondheim, an HBO documentary about the legendary music man, by accident and gladly gave over two-plus hours of my time to a subject I knew very little about. I guess that’s why I love documentaries so much—they can expose you to new things in such gripping ways. In recent years, a number of documentaries has been released that touch on issues pertinent to women. These groundbreaking films look at the struggles, challenges, and victories women across the world face. Here are five great documentaries to add to your must-watch list.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Where to see it: In theaters now
This new documentary from Mary Dore sheds light on the feminist movement in the 1960s, exploring the founding of instrumental groups like NOW, the rise of radical feminism, and the key leaders who spurred the movement on through archival footage and current interviews. A groundbreaking film, it’s one of the first to concentrate on this turbulent and transformative period of the women’s movement.
The Invisible War
Where to see it: Hulu, PBS, You Tube
This 2012 documentary by Kirby Kirk about sexual assault in the U.S. military is even more chilling today given the current crisis on college campuses. The film interviews members from different branches of the military who were sexually assaulted who recount their experiences, often revealing how little was done by authorities and reprisal was often inflicted on the victim and not the perpetrator. In the end, the film, an Emmy winner and Academy Award nominee, seeks to change the way the military handles sexual assault cases.
Where to See It: Netflix, Available for rent on Amazon
This 2013 documentary directed by Richard Robbins (and narrated by a slew of celebrities) has turned into a global movement promoting female education. The film follows nine girls from around world who face enormous social and cultural obstacles in trying to get their education. The stories of each of the girls are written by famous authors from their respective countries, presenting an emotional look at gender inequality and the courage of those young women trying to fight it.
Half the Sky Movement
Where to watch it: Netflix, iTunes
Based on the book by married couple and journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, this four-part television documentary aired on PBS in 2012. In it, Kristof and WuDunn (along with a boatload of A-list actresses) travel to underdeveloped countries to discuss social issues through the personal accounts of women they meet there. Tackled in this emotional drama are issues like sex trafficking, prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality. As with Girl Rising, the documentary and book have become a global movement, hoping to reverse the situation for underprivileged women through economic empowerment and education.
Born into Brothels
Where to watch it: Netflix
This 2004 Academy Award-winning documentary directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman shares the heartbreaking stories of children who are born to prostitutes in Calcutta, India. A photographer, Briski initially went to Calcutta to photograph prostitutes there and wound up developing a relationship with their children, offering to teach them how to take pictures. The film focuses on Briski’s classes with the children and reveals their perspective on their life in the slums through their pictures. Briski started the nonprofit Kids with Cameras because of her work with the children in the film and used the money she made on the film to pay for their education.