50 Informative Movies for Teachers and Students

Updated June 18, 2024 • Staff

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.

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50.

Against the Tide (2023)

Shot and edited in an immersive, unembellished style that makes it seem more like a work of narrative fiction than a documentary, Against the Tide begins from a personal place—the friendship between two Indigenous fishermen—before branching off into an exploration of a myriad of issues that these men and their families are involved with. Major credit goes to director Sarvnik Kaur not only for capturing life in Mumbai with loving (but never whitewashed) detail, but also for being a truly silent, invisible observer who never uses her camera to frame any of her characters as right or wrong. There's a dizzying amount of material that Kaur manages to tackle even in the simplest, candid conversations: class, caste, gender, the environment, technology outpacing the communities most affected. And to see the film's central relationships slowly be chipped away by all this change is as heartbreaking as any fictional tragedy.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Documentary
Director: Sarvnik Kaur
49.

Selma (2014)

The award-winning third feature by director Ava DuVernay, Selma, was released around the 50th anniversary of the historically significant marches (Selma to Montgomery) that aided the civil rights movement's efforts to assure African-American citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote, harassment-free. The film has been celebrated not only as an artwork, but also as a historiographically accurate one. While it features the role Martin Luther King Jr. played in the marches, it does not reduce the activists' effort and struggle to make it come to fruition. With her uncompromising directorial approach, DuVernay crafts a thrilling period film that has all the markers of a well-done genre feature, but uses its mechanisms to tell an emotionally potent story about both the peaceful marches and the nation-wide outcry resulting from the violence they were met with.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama, History
Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Andre Holland, Carmen Ejogo, Charity Jordan, Charles Black, Colman Domingo, Common, Corey Reynolds, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Dwyer, David Oyelowo, Dylan Baker, E. Roger Mitchell, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Maness, Harry Belafonte, Haviland Stillwell, Henry G. Sanders, Jeremy Strong, Jim France, Jody Thompson, John Lavelle, Kent Faulcon, Lakeith Stanfield, Ledisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Sheen, Michael Papajohn, Montrel Miller, Niecy Nash, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nigel Thatch, Omar J. Dorsey, Oprah Winfrey, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr., Stan Houston, Stephan James, Stephen Root, Tara Ochs, Tessa Thompson, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Bennett, Trai Byers, Wendell Pierce
Director: Ava DuVernay
Rating: PG-13

Free Watching Options:

Watch Selma (2014) on Fubo for free
48.

The Resurrection of Jake The Snake (2015)

This journey is as much about Jake Roberts overcoming his addiction and damaged self-outlook, as it is about the heroic, life-changing efforts that DDP made to get him there. DDP's brand of aggressive wholesomeness and belief in Roberts is palpable, and the rawness of the presentation only accentuates how real this friendship is, and how urgent DDP's mission is—he will do this himself because no one else can. The documentary is inspiring with its vulnerability alone, as the underlying story is of men renouncing toxic behaviors that keep them looped into destructive habits. It doesn't waste time with fluff minutes or details, just straight to your heart from start to finish.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Adam Copeland, Aurelian Smith Jr., Chris Jericho, Cody Hall, Dustin Runnels, Gene Okerlund, Jim Duggan, Jim Ross, Page Falkinburg Jr., Scott Hall, Steve Austin, Ted DiBiase Sr.
Director: Steve Yu

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Resurrection of Jake The Snake (2015) on Fubo for free
47.

Turtles Can Fly (2005)

Regardless of where, when, and why war came to be, war inevitably makes children grow up faster than they ought to. Turtles Can Fly depicts one such boy, a thirteen year old refugee nicknamed Kak Satellite whose limited English and resourcefulness transformed him into a leader for the rest of the children as they scrounged for scraps, sweep for landmines, and set up satellites for news. It’s a harrowing experience. Writer-director Bahman Ghobadi depicts it in a grounded, real way, with the Kurdish cast directly re-enacting the same horrors that they’ve gone through the year before, and the same practical nonchalance that they cling to for survival. Regardless of how viewers feel about the Iraq invasion, or other wars with refugee crises, Turtles Can Fly simply asks viewers to see their faces.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Abdol Rahman Karim, Avaz Latif, Emre Tetikel, Hiresh Feysal Rahman, Saddam Hossein Feysal, Soran Ebrahim
Director: Bahman Ghobadi
46.

Godzilla Minus One (2023)

The film starts with an atmosphere of almost peaceful defeat. We see a rather stealthy Godzilla, but it doesn’t last long until we’re back to regular programming with the metal-chewing monster. Time spent without Godzilla is spent on people trying to be heroes, armed with admirable optimism. The many scenes of wreckage turn this into a very human story about shared trauma. Godzilla vs other kaiju is usually an easy sell, but Godzilla vs people is a hard story to root for, just because of how unbalanced it gets. But the film finds a way to make it work—the final battle is epic, packed with a lot of heart and preparation.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Action, Horror, Science Fiction
Actor: Akio Nakadai, Eisuke Sasai, Etsuji Harada, Gohshuu, Hidemasa Mase, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Hirotaka Akatsuma, Hiroyuki Toritani, Ippei Sasaki, Keisuke Fujita, Kenji Anan, Kenji Mizuhashi, Kentaro Furuyama, Kisuke Iida, Kiyomi Aratani, Kota Kawabata, Kunihiro Suda, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Mami Tokuda, Masataka Matsubara, Michael Arias, Miki Mirai, Minami Hamabe, Mio Tanaka, Munetaka Aoki, Ozuno Nakamura, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Saki Nakatani, Sakura Andô, Saori, Seiji Okuda, Sentarou Kusakabe, Shinsuke Kasai, Sho Nishigaki, Shohei Abe, Shoji Omiya, Shota Taniguchi, Takato Yonemoto, Takumi Matsui, Tetsu Hirahara, Tetsunori Akira, Touta Tawaragi, Yosuke Minokawa, Yuji Komatsu, Yuki Takao, Yuki Yamada, Yukio Tsukamoto, Yuya Endo
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Rating: PG-13
45.

The Death of Stalin (2017)

This is a hilarious political comedy starring the ever-great Steve Buscemi. Set in the last days before Stalin's death and the chaos that followed, it portrays the lack of trust and the random assassinations that characterized the Stalinist Soviet Union. Think of it as Veep meets Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator. Although to be fair, its dark comedy props are very different from the comedy that comes out today: where there are jokes they're really smart, but what's actually funny is the atmosphere and absurd situations that end up developing.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, History
Actor: Adam Ewan, Adam Shaw, Adrian McLoughlin, Alla Binieieva, Andrea Riseborough, Andrey Korzhenevskiy, Andy Gathergood, Cara Horgan, Dan Mersh, Daniel Booroff, Daniel Chapple, Daniel Fearn, Daniel Smith, Daniel Tatarsky, Daniel Tuite, Dave Wong, David Crow, Dermot Crowley, Diana Quick, Elaine Caxton, Ellen Evans, Emilio Iannucci, Eva Sayer, Ewan Bailey, George Potts, Gerald Lepkowski, Henry Helm, James Barriscale, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeremy Limb, Jonathan Aris, Jonny Phillips, June Watson, Justin Edwards, Karl Johnson, Leeroy Murray, Luke D'Silva, Michael Ballard, Michael Palin, Nicholas Sidi, Nicholas Woodeson, Oleg Drach, Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Paul Chahidi, Paul Ready, Paul Whitehouse, Phil Deguara, Richard Brake, Ricky Gabriellini, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Rupert Friend, Sebastian Anton, Sheng-Chien Tsai, Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Tim Steed, Tom Brooke, Yulya Muhrygina
Director: Armando Iannucci
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Death of Stalin (2017) on Hulu for free
44.

Skin (2018)

This true story of a white-supremacist and the civil rights unit that tried to stop his group was so gripping. 

You might recognize the title from the Oscars ceremony, as a shorter version of Skin (same director but different actors) won the Academy Award for Best Short Film. 

The longer movie provides much more time for the characters to develop, and room for more of a commentary on the current political situation in the U.S.

Fun fact: see that scary man in the picture? That’s Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell who went through a transformation for the role, including always wearing a device to pull his ears closer to his head because they were “too cute”.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ari Barkan, Bill Camp, Cecil Blutcher, Colbi Gannett, Daniel Henshall, Danielle Macdonald, Jaime Ray Newman, Jamie Bell, Jenna Leigh Green, Joanna Herrington, Justin L. Wilson, Kylie Rogers, Louisa Krause, Maliq Johnson, Mary Stuart Masterson, Michael Villar, Mike Colter, Portia, Rob Figueroa, Rob Giumarra, Russell Posner, Samantha Jones, Seán Cullen, Vera Farmiga, Zoe Colletti
Director: Guy Nattiv
Rating: R
43.

Die Beautiful (2016)

It is hard to be unmoved by how Die Beautiful defies conventions and explores the essence of identity, acceptance, and resilience. Centered around the life of Trisha, a transgender woman with a passion for beauty pageants, the film takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions as we witness Trisha's life unfold, both in joyous moments and in the face of painful degradation and assault. The film seamlessly weaves together humor, tenderness, and raw vulnerability, delivered stunningly by its lead, Paolo Ballesteros. With other films such as Kalel, 15 and Bwakaw under his belt, director Jun Lana continues to meld reality with hope, injecting kindness and heart into much-needed queer stories.  

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adrian Alandy, Albie Casiño, Cedrick Juan, Christian Bables, Eugene Domingo, Gladys Reyes, I.C. Mendoza, Iza Calzado, Jade Lopez, Joel Torre, Kokoy de Santos, Lou Veloso, Luis Alandy, Paolo Ballesteros
Director: Jun Lana, Jun Robles Lana
Rating: TV-14
42.

Shinjuku Boys (1995)

Directed by Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams, this documentary combines intimate interviews, fly-on-the-wall observation, and striking cinematography to present a compelling glimpse into the lives of three transgender individuals working as hosts in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district. With unprecedented access to the subjects' lives, the documentary delves deep into their emotional journeys, capturing their hopes, fears, and aspirations surrounding identity, gender, and societal acceptance.  An eye-opening documentary that wastes none of its 53-minute runtime, Shinjuku Boys challenges preconceived notions and invites viewers to empathize with individuals navigating a world that often marginalizes them. 

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Documentary, Drama
Director: Jano Williams, Kim Longinotto
41.

Woman at War

A calm choir leader lives a secret life as eco-warrior in this visually stunning and intelligent story about our complex times. If you're familiar with Icelandic movies, this one has just the right amount of that Icelandic quirkiness - making it a proper feel-good movie with a message. This is added to the superb acting and an off-beat musical score. Not to be missed.

Our staff rating: 8.2/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Björn Thors, Charlotte Bøving, Gunnar Bersi Björnsson, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Hallgrimur Olafsson, Haraldur Ari Stefánsson, Helga Braga Jónsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Jón Gnarr, Jorundur Ragnarsson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada, Magnús Trygvason Eliassen, Margaryta Hilska, Olena Lavreniuk, Ómar Guðjónsson, Ragnheiður Steindórsdóttir, Saga Garðarsdóttir, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, Thorir Sæmundsson, Þorsteinn Guðmundsson
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Rating: Not Rated

Free Watching Options:

Watch Woman at War on Amazon Prime for free

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