10 best documentaries to watch as a family!

July 10, 2018 | Tech Talk with Screenagers Filmmaker Delaney Ruston, MD

I am really excited to write this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday because it is on a subject I care deeply about–documentaries. I am a firm believer that exposing our children and adolescents to films that promote a deeper understanding of our world and instill empathy is key to offsetting the negative values shown in so many shows. Last year I wrote a list of documentaries that are great for family movie night and the list was so popular that I have decided to do it again. All the films below were thoroughly enjoyed by my family. Some of these documentaries came out a while back but they are still as relevant and engaging as when they were first released.



Card shark and renowned magician Richard Turner declares, “I don’t consider myself disabled,” but he is. Try not to tell your family anything about this film because there is a powerful reveal early on in the movie which is best to keep a surprise. The story is so compelling and the cinematography is great. I plan to watch it again.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor


Released this summer, I just saw this one with my family, and we all enjoyed it. There are many laugh out loud moments in this fascinating and deeply poignant film. As TV came on to the scene, Mr. Rogers was increasingly distraught by the inane shows targeted to kids. So with incredible creativity he and his team made nearly 1,000 episodes focused on respecting and educating young kids. The scene where he saved public television from getting the axe was one of my favorites. Believe it or not, even older teens will be moved by this documentary. Don’t be surprised if after watching this film you find yourself telling your kids all sorts of details about your childhood you had forgotten for years.

Touch the Sound


Witness how Evelynn Glennie excels as a world-famous drummer even though she is deaf. The movie is a bit slow paced but it is brilliant in its visual and sound design. Evelynn is an incredible woman and my family and I especially enjoyed the scenes where she is teaching and interacting with children.

Becoming Warren Buffett  


This movie looks at how Warren Buffett’s moral code has steered him into becoming one of the biggest philanthropists in the world. I love the beginning of the film—I don’t want to give it away— but Buffett says one thing to a group of students, and then does the opposite (hint: McDonald’s). The film is long, but even if your crew just watches half of it, it will be well worth it. Don’t be surprised if your kids want to run outside and set up a lemonade stand after seeing the film.



I met the director Josh Tickell when his film opened in Seattle and he had the super cool van from the film outside the movie theater. His film completely grabbed us with its upbeat music and his charismatic personality. Viewers follow his journey to find solutions to how we as a nation and as individuals can reduce oil consumption.

Revolutionary Optimists


My friend Maren Monsen made this powerful film. The movie follows young people taking action to improve their lives and communities in Calcutta, India. The film is filled with wonderful characters and role models. It aired on PBS.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill


Can wild birds teach us about navigating human life together? Maybe. At least that’s one of formerly homeless street musician’s Mark Bittner’s many discoveries after taking a studious interest in this unusually located San Francisco flock. This documentary has romance, comedy, and surprises!

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World


Renowned director Werner Herzog “examines the past, present and constantly evolving future of the internet.” I love the scenes of the Carnegie Mellon University robotics team. What a great way for our kids and teens to look deeper at what they and (us) love so much. Be prepared, Herzog has a strange sense of humor and aesthetics.

Films better suited for teenagers

The Internet’s Own Boy


Reddit co-founder and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz turned into a political activist and was eventually arrested and tragically committed suicide. It is important to note that his suicide is not the focus of the film. I think this is an incredible film to watch with teenagers because the subject’s story is fascinating and the issues the movie brings up about technology are so important to discuss.

He Named Me Malala


Pakistani teenage Nobel Prize winner Malala is the subject of this incredibly poignant film. Malala became a children’s rights advocate after the Taliban tried to kill her for speaking out on behalf of girls’ education. “Be silent or stand up,” is the choice Malala faced. There are so many things to talk about after seeing this film.

For more discussion ideas, you can peruse past Tech Talk Tuesdays. If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site and find out how to host a screening. 


Delaney Ruston, MD
Screenagers’ Filmmaker

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