I’ve been on a major documentary kick this year. My inner multitasker loves that they fulfill my need to be entertained and scratch that itch to learn something new.
For me, the best documentaries combine great storytelling with an overarching message that changes the way I think in some way. And every once in a while, I’ll watch one that leaves me feeling challenged to actually be better in some way.
Scroll on for the documentaries that have inspired me most, and I’d love to hear in the comments what I should watch next!
Break out the tissues: the qualities that made Mister Rogers the most endearing guy on television are on full display throughout this look behind-the-curtain that lets us get to know the real Fred a little better. Turns out, all those silly songs and make believe moments were born of an unwavering vision and trailblazing spirit. His life is a true testament to the incredible effects of kindness. When faced with a tough choice, I’ve found myself asking: “What would Fred Rogers do?”
I went into this movie with zero expectations, and walked away feeling inspired and energized… with a perma-smile on my face for days. The film is shot from the perspective of a Bill Murray fan who’s fascinated by the star’s bizarre habit of popping up in the most surprisingly normal situations – when regular people least expect it. What inspired me most was how Murray took so much joy from making others happy, and actually changed people’s lives by showing up and just listening to them.
This is the uplifting story of Owen Suskind, a kid with autism who was unable to speak until his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. At its core is one family’s love, resilience, and determination to never give up on each other. It breaks your heart, makes you laugh, and fills you with empathy for anyone living on the peripheral of what’s considered “normal.”
How did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg go from courtroom boss to pop culture icon? Her signature mix of wit, no BS and sharp intellect make her a role model for every girl and the coolest 85 year old on the planet. This film tells the story of her rise to the Supreme Court. When I grow up, I want to be RBG.
Aside from making you want to move to a tropical paradise and take up surfing, Given will inspire you to be bold, embrace adventure, view the world through a childlike lens, and celebrate nature. Told from the perspective of its 6 year old narrator, Given follows legendary surfers Aamion and Daize Goodwin from their island home of Kauai through 15 different countries in the quest for surf. As the site perfectly describes:
Set in wave after wave of stunningly visual earthscapes, Given blooms into a tender yet stirring exploration of a young boy’s understanding of life through his familial bonds and their reverence for nature. Deeply moving, Given gives us the humbling contrast of a small voice voyaging through a big world as it finds its way home again.