1. Home
  2. Stories
  3. 10 inspiring films on social change that you need to see

10 inspiring films on social change that you need to see


Films are great. They can capture your imagination and educate you about issues you might not know much about. But the best thing about films is that they tell you a story.

Sometimes it can be hard to really understand what discrimination, poverty or suffering are like when it doesn’t affect you personally. The journey a films takes you on can immerse you in other lives for a few hours and help you empathise with people you’ve never met.

Films can motivate you, inspire you to live a bit differently and even transform your beliefs. So next time you’re going to settle down to a film with friends or family, why not watch one of these incredible films about social change.

5 films you probably know and love


In a line: The story of Nelson Mandela, from childhood to anti-apartheid activist, prisoner and eventually to President of South Africa. (2013)

Best Bit: When Mandela (Idris Elba) ignores his lawyer’s advice and you realise just how much he sacrificed for the cause he believed in.



In a line: High-flying lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is dismissed from his job when it’s revealed that he has AIDS, so he hires homophobic lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) for his case. (1993)

Best Bit: When Joe sees the discrimination Andrew faces and it changes his mind about representing him.


In a line: Set in a dystopian future, the UK is being ruled by an oppressive regime, which imprisons those deemed to be different. But agitators like ‘V’ (Hugo Weaving) are standing up for freedom and revolution, with the help of Evey (Natalie Portman). (2005)

Best Bit: When Evey reads Valerie’s (Natasha Wightman) note, where she writes that even though she doesn’t know the reader, she loves her, with all her heart.


In a line: Story of William Wallace who led the Scottish uprising in response to English invasions in the 14th Century. (1995)

Best Bit: When William Wallace (Mel Gibson) says, “They may take our lands, but they will never take our freedom” – with excellent face paint.


In a line: The life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his struggle for independence from colonial rule. (1982)

Best Bit: When Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) defines non-violence resistance: “I, for one, have never advocated passive anything. We must never submit to such laws. And I think our resistance must be *active* and provocative!”


5 films you might not have seen – but should


In a line: A young boy comes up with a social movement that could change the world. (2000)

Best Bit: When Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) explains Pay It Forward to Eugene (Kevin Spacey) and you’re like:



In a line: The story of the car manufacturer Ford’s sewing machinists strike of 1968 in Dagenham, England, which played a significant role in passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970 in the UK. (2010)

Best Bit: When the journalist asks Rita (Sally Hawkins) how they’ll cope and she says: “Cope? How will we cope? We’re women. Now, don’t ask such stupid questions.”



In a line: The story of one young Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution, written by and loosely based on the life of Marjane Satrapi. (2007)

Best Bit: When Marji rocks out in her room.


In a line: An adaptation of a novel, Tsotsi is about the life of a street boy in South Africa  who discovers a baby in the back seat of a car he steals. (2005)

Best Bit: When Tsotsi has to change the baby’s nappy, and thinks using a knife and newspaper is a good idea…


In a line: In India, there was a time when scripture dictated the fate of widows, who are powerless and left to exist in poverty. This film explores the social restrictions imposed on women and the movement that wanted change. (2005)

Best Bit: When you realise you can help break the cycle by supporting Girls not Brides.

Films have the power to anger, motivate and change us. Now you’ve seen some truly motivational films, join the movement of more than 4 million people fighting to end extreme poverty.

What is the most inspiring film you’ve ever watched? Tell us in the comments below.

Up Next

A 10 point plan for the IMF managing director

A 10 point plan for the IMF managing director

This community in Tanzania is planting 1,000 trees every week 

This community in Tanzania is planting 1,000 trees every week 

9 facts you need to know about gender equality 

9 facts you need to know about gender equality