Documentaries You Should Watch!


By Junaid ibn Amjad

WebbStaff NoteDocumentaries are meant to be thought-provoking, and bring critical new information to the general populace. These documentaries were not chosen to espouse specific views; rather, they are included on this list in order to provoke reflection and discussion. The documentaries where chosen by the author and do not necessarily represent the views of suhaibwebb.com.

I’ve gathered a list of some of the best documentaries I’ve seen. While these films may not have been made with a Muslim audience in mind, both student and Imam will appreciate the eye-opening details each film has to offer. As a community, I believe we need to be more informed of the history behind the realities and societal ills taking place before us.

Before you delve into these documentaries, there’s one more thing I should mention. Though I believe it’s important for us to be aware of our surroundings, and more so for the community’s leadership, we must never forget that the best source of guidance is the speech of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) – the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him), and the knowledge of the scholars (may Allah preserve the ones alive and have mercy on the ones that have passed). Above all, we should turn to the Qur’an for enlightenment and guidance. A truly successful personality and truly successful society can only be built via the lessons and implementation of the concepts outlined in the Book of Allah. Without true internal direction from the heart, there can be no true external direction for society. And Allah knows best.

Note: Clicking on the title will open up its trailer or short preview. You can find many of these documentary films at your local video store. Others that are not copyrighted can be seen free at: www.topdocumentaryfilms.com


POLITICS AND HISTORY

  1. Why We Fight(BBC, 2005)
  2. Fahrenheit 9/11(Michael Moore, 2004)
  3. War on Democracy(John Pilger, 2007)
  4. Hijacking Catastrophe(Sut Jhally, 2004)
  5. Breaking the Silence(John Pilger, 2003)
  6. Fog of War” (Robert McNamara, 2003)

 

HEALTH, FOOD, AND NATURE

  1. Food Inc.(Robert Kenner, 2008)
  2. Super Size Me(Morgan Spurlock, 2004)
  3. Planet Earth” (Discovery Channel, 2006)

 

MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

  1. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People(Jack Shaheen, 2006)
  2. Control Room(Magnolia Pictures, 2004)
  3. Hearts and Minds(Peter Davis, 1974)
  4. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media(Herman, 1992)
  5. Weapons of Mass Deception(Danny Schechter, 2004)
  6. The War You Don’t See(John Pilger, 2010)

 

SOCIETY AND CULTURE

  1. The Century of the Self(BBC, 2004)
  2. Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech(HBO, 2009)
  3. Debate: Political Islam – Is it a threat to the West?(Doha Debates, 2009)
  4. Bowling for Columbine(Michael Moore, 2002)
  5. Hamza Tzortzis: Liberalism & Islam” (LSESU, 2011)
  6. Jesus Camp(A&E Indiefilms, 2006)
  7. A Time for Burning” (William C. Jersey, 1966)
  8. Malcolm X: Make it Plain” (AE, 1994)

 

PALESTINE

  1. Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land” (Sut Jhally, 2004)
  2. The Israel Lobby” (Stephen Walt, John Mearsheimer)
  3. Defamation” (Norman Finkelstein, 2009)
  4. Palestine Is Still the Issue” (John Pilger, 2003)
  5. Occupation 101” (Abdallah Omeish, 2006)

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

  1. The Road to Guantanamo(Michael Winterbottom, 2006)
  2. Taxi to the Dark Side(Moazzam Begg, 2007)
  3. Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre(Italy, 2005)
  4. Generation Kill” (Journeyman Pictures, 2004)
  5. The War Tapes(Deborah Scranton, 2006)

 

ECONOMICS AND GLOBALIZATION

  1. Commanding Height: Battle for the World Economy” (PBS, 2002)
  2. The Corporation” (Noam Chomsky, 2003)
  3. Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices” (Brave New Films, 2005)
  4. Money as Debt” (Paul Grignon, 2006)
  5. Darwin’s Nightmare” (Hubert Sauper, 2004)
  6. End of Suburbia” (Gregory Greene, 2004)
  7. Life + Debt(Stephanie Black, 2001)
  8. Smartest Guys in the Room” (Alex Gibney, 2005)

 

MISCELLANEOUS

  1. Inside Islam: What a billion Muslim really think” (Dalia Mogahed, 2009)
  2. Islam: Empire of Faith” (PBS, 2000)
  3. Inside Mecca” (National Geographic, 2003)
  4. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple” (PBS, 2006)
  5. Death of the Freedom Fighter” (Al Jazeera, 2009)
  6. The Trouble With Atheism” (Dimitri Collingridge, 2006)
  7. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” (Premise, 2008)
  8. To Catch a Predator” (Dateline, NBC)
  9. An Islamic History of Europe” (Omaar Rageh, BBC)
  10. Free Fahad” (Siraj Wahaj, 2008)
  11. Entrapment or Foling Terror?” (Amy Goodman, 2010)
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40 Comments

  1. Zahid says:

    Assalamualaik and may Allah reward you for the list. I have seen a few of these documentaries and there are some I have to watch. Will go through the rest, inshallah. One of those I recommend is ‘Collapse’ with Mike Ruppert. While the documentary name and trailer make it sound like a conspiracy genre film with half-baked facts, it is one of the most eye opening and paradigm shifting film I have ever seen. Simply put, it shows how the world’s hopes of an increasingly better lifestyle rely on one critical assumption: That Oil can be replaced as the foundation of modern life and how close we really are to the end of the age of oil. I cannot recommend it enough. I believe its on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=2B8E6E1995F8A544

    • Omar says:

      This documentary really piqued my interest in the theory of Peak Oil. Look up the Hirsch Report I think you’ll really enjoy reading that.

  2. beea says:

    “The Arrivals” is also a v good documentary which every muslim should watch

    • Jinn says:

      Anyone who is interested in becoming more dumber and ignorant should watch ‘the arrivals’. As it is, Muslims from East to West are dumbfounded and soaked in conspiracy theories. Arrivals fulfils only one prophecy i.e. to make its audience (mostly Moslems) stupid.

      • Nd says:

        rather than passing foul remarks, give explanations.

        • Dar says:

          I must say, “The Arrivals” can be very good, BUT only for a specific audience. that audience is probably
          1)the Non-Muslim youth of the west or
          2)the Muslim-youth who care more about watching television then their own religion.
          i would Not recommend this to the average student-of-knowledge or to the average SuhaibWebb.com user, as there is a lot of inappropriate material ,over-exaggerations and falsehoods in it. even the makers of the series can admit to the mistakes in it.

    • MSE says:

      not only muslims…all of people must watch it..its very important documentary

  3. Junaid Ibn Amjad says:

    Asalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

    If I forgot anything, please share it in the comments, or tell us your favourite documentary. Jazak’Allah Khair.

    Another reason why I felt this list should be composed is for those of us who wish to engage the media. To a certain extent, these films provide material for intellectual debate and counterargument to many opinions being regurgitated by Islamophobes.

    Barak’Allahu Feek.

    • T Hoss says:

      JAK, this is an excellent list.

      However, is the video for Hamza Tzortzis really considered a documentary?

      • Junaid Ibn Amjad says:

        It may not officially be a documentary per se, but the work of Br. Hamza Tzortzis is eye-opening and he’s tackles many modern-day issues (which I believe should be covered in a documentary film
        one day).

        I know this list can be contested with regards to its choices and ordering. Nonetheless, please keep the comments coming. This post needs constructive feedback! Jazak’Allah Khair.

        Asalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah

        P.S. I’d really like to hear what some Imams have to say after watching a few of these. I’ve heard an Islamic lecture which discussed the Muslim Psyche and our Nafs, and the speaker incorporated many of the themes of the documentary film “Century of the Self,” which I though was interesting…

  4. Suhail Mulla says:

    JAK. This is going to keep me busy for some time!

  5. Atif says:

    Assalamu’alaykum
    I recommend the documentary “Fat-Head”: http://www.fathead-movie.com/
    It’s basically a refutation of “SuperSize-Me” and provokes discussion on what a healthy diet really is.

  6. Amani says:

    Assalamu alaykum

    WONDERFUL list, JazakumAllahu khayr. However you might want to edit number 1 under Media and Communications. Instead of Sut Jhally, it was Jack Shaheen who directed/edited/narrated the Reel Bad Arabs documentary.

    Sut Jhally is also a wonderful source to look towards – you might want to fish out his documentary “Dreamworlds 3″ although it may not be too kosher (or halal for that matter) to many Muslim audiences.

  7. M says:

    subhan Allah this is SO useful. Greatly need a list like this. jazak Allahu khayran. InshaAllah we’ll be watching these!

  8. Ali Shabaz says:

    Assalaamu alaikum,
    Jazak Allah khairan for this list. Looks quite comprehensive.
    I would like to add one to it called ” The Inside Job”. It’s about what really happened during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Brilliantly told and very insightful.

  9. Hafiz says:

    http://www.intelligencesquared.com/
    i really recommend this. From here, you can see debates by professionals… The list is endless there, some debates regarding islam/muslim are also present packed with very thought-provoking arguments…enjoy thinking!

    Wallahua’lam.

  10. Junaid Ibn Amjad says:

    Asalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah:

    Jazak’Allah Khair for the comments. All contructive criticism is needed and welcome.

    Someone mentioned “The Arrivals.” I won’t say much, but will direct you to the following post on Muslim Matters:

    http://muslimmatters.org/2010/05/03/analysis-of-the-arrivals-video-series

    Also, the brackets after the title were not meant to credit the actual director, but is just there to give you an idea of who was involved in the documentary and the approximate year it was made.

    Allah grant us all Ikhlaas.

  11. “Smartest Guys in the Room”

    We were shown this documentary as part of our technical communication course. This documentary has a brief nude scene in the middle of it.

  12. Jeremiah says:

    Race relations & State of the Working Class in America

    1. Eyes on the Prize, America’s Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1965
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4FAep1X-jg
    2. When the Levees Broke by Spike Lee (documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina)
    3. A Class Divided – Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes Experiment (must-see documentary highlighting the effects of discrimination) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/etc/view.html
    3. You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train (The Life and Times of Howard Zinn)

  13. Munadi Al Islam says:

    Assalamu alaikum

    jazakALLAHu khairan :)

  14. Just a small correction – On the Palestine section, you put Defamation for Norman Finkelstein. Defamation is actually not about or by Norman Finkelstein, it is actually by Israeli filmaker Yoav Shamir. There is an excellent documentary about Norman Finkelstein called American Radical which has recently been aired by Al-Jazeera English. You can watch it here, it really is excellent:

    http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/2011/04/2011412103819678591.html

  15. Tiger by the tail, another good documentary exposing the propaganda techniques used to report on the Palestinian issue:

    http://fromleedstopalestine.blogspot.com/2009/10/tiger-by-tail-new-doc-about-israel.html

  16. Oh and why arent the incredible BBC series Planet Earth and Human Planet not on here – these documentaries are a particularly good tool for tafakkur.

  17. Omar says:

    Salaams,

    May I suggest a few myself

    Casino Jack and the United States of Money
    Film about the rise and downfall of one of the most
    powerful lobbyists.

    When we were kings
    Documentary covering the Ali-Foreman fight

    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Documentary about the street artist Banksy

    All in this Tea
    Organic tea movement in China

    Diamonds of War: Africa’s Blood Diamonds
    Great film about Africa’s blood diamonds every brother and sister who are thinking about getting married should watch this and think again before buying a diamond.

    Blood Coltan
    Movie about Congo but in regards to conflict minerals
    Can be found here
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4473700036349997790#

    Pressure Cooker
    Story documenting kids in the intercity trying to get scholarships for cooking schools.

    The Lottery
    Sort of like Waiting for Superman (which I also highly suggest watching)

    Man on Wire

    Amazing retelling of a guy who high wired walk across the twin towers.

    The Ascent of Money
    A very good documentary series about money. Among the topics covered were the history of interest within the Christian and Jewish communities, how bonds came about, and other things.

    PBS also has a great docuementaries series all online called Frontline.

    You can watch them here http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/view/

    InshAllah I hope you watch some of these

    - Omar

    Also, Sheikh Webb when are you coming to Chicago? And can you give a speech at DePaul?

  18. Abdullah says:

    Louis Theroux – The Ultra Zionists (2010)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FCyZlzMi-U

  19. Fahtima says:

    I have to second ‘Human Planet’, a truly amazing series with fascinating and incredibly beautiful footage.

    Thanks so much for the link to Top Documentaries, what a treasure!

  20. Dawud Israel says:

    there was an excellent documentary on AIPAC and the Jewish lobby that came out a year ago. BY FAR the BEST documentary on Palestine and American foreign policy that I have seen.

    i can’t seem to find it now…

  21. Dawud Israel says:

    Ah, here it is!

    Defamation trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5jsiLWXGYQ&feature=player_embedded

    Full movie: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/defamation/

    It’s made by an Israeli Jew and yet he is so honest about how Jews, AIPAC in particular, have an interest in perpetuating Antisemitism and how this affects foreign policy.

  22. Melaz says:

    Salam aleykoum,

    I would recommend Robert Fisk’s “Beirut to Bosnia” … I heard it’s very good (here’s an excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBsJis63f9Y)

    also, it’s worth mentionning that “Hearts and minds” has a quite vulgar, explicit scene so I don’t recommend it

  23. Faez says:

    Salaam

    jazakALLAHu khairan!!

    Also, provide a list of Islamic videos that family together could watch.

  24. Ahmed says:

    If I may make a suggestion, ‘When the Moors Ruled Europe’ by Bettany Hughes is also excellent

  25. Hyde says:

    Salaam…where is the stuff from Adam Curtis ? And Fahrenheit 911 but I am weary of these liberals ?

  26. BOB says:

    You can find almost all of these full documentaries at
    http://www.book-cycle.org/media-gallery
    An interesting charity that sends free books to developing countries as well as plants trees… they also got a kick ass documentary archive.

  27. Israt Jahan says:

    Reel Bad Arabs should NOT be watched . It goes against Islam . Please edit this .

    • Junayd says:

      Asalamu Alaykum Israt:

      Allah bless you and your family.

      Reel Bad Arabs was a documentary made by a Christian-Arab, explaining how hollywood for the last few decades has dehumanized Muslims and Arabs.

      I am curious to know though, how is the documentary against Islam? I feel if anything, the documentary empathizes with Muslims and seeks to take back the narrative which has been hijacked by some mainsteam media outlets.

      Kind regards,

  28. Junayd says:

    P.S. I’d also like to add that, this list was mainly made for leaders in the Muslim community and Imams, and Khateebs.

    We need to be aware of the realities out there in light of the Quran and Sunnah.

    In light of that, I realize that there are going to be scenes in every film that may be un-Islamic (i.e. bad words, women without hijaab, etc.). I wish though we had an Imam and scholar’s perspective to add to this, because most of these films simply just tell the truth to what the world has turned a blind eye to.

    And Allah knows best.

  29. Keith says:

    I just wanted to say that this is a great list of documentaries. Many of these are among my favorites and I look forward to watching the others. I am not a Muslim but I respect what you are doing here.

  30. umair says:

    ‘When the Moors ruled in Europe’
    Islamic Spain and History

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