Good ‘end-of-the-world’ documentaries

manufacturing consent

I say end-of-the-world facetiously, but if anyone’s in the mood for some heady criticism of our society, culture, commerce and politics, here are some suggestions;

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (Adam Curtis, 2007)

Adam Curtis is an English filmmaker predominantly known for his documentaries which combine archival footage with interviews and narration by Curtis himself. The arguments Curtis constructs are pretty airtight and quite original statements against our society, and his thinking has been quite influential. Century Of The Self from 2002 which explores the Freudian influence on modern advertising and politics is one of his most notable and well worth checking out, as is The Trap from 2007. The Trap explores our ideas of freedom – moving from the influence of John Nash’s Game Theory on cold war politics and how that filtered into economic thought, to discussing psychology treating Humans like machines and later showing the corruption of freedom in politics. Curtis’ arguments are typically broad and require some concentration, but he also spins an entertaining yarn and his use of music and archival footage can get pretty addictive. I watched three of his documentaries in a row and then attempted to start a fourth, it may have been overkill, but that’s testament to the addictive nature of his non-fiction story telling. It’s all extensively researched and far from the zone of conspiracies.


Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick, 1992)

A little old school but by no means any less relevant Manufacturing Consent based on the Noam Chomsky book of the same name is pretty famous, but if you haven’t seen it it’s well worth the watch. Serving as both a history of Chomsky’s life and of criticisms of media found within the original book, film largely seeks to illustrate Chomsky’s ideas on how the media (news, advertising) work to uphold the ideals of the status quo (particularly right-wing ideals) of government and commerce. The central case study in the film is that contrasting the media’s coverage of the genocide in Cambodia under Pol Pot and an equivalent genocide in East Timor supported by the US government, which is quite an eye opener and comparable to the current media coverage of what is happening in Gaza or the Ukraine. A great introduction to Chomsky and if you want more, Achbar and Wintonick’s documentary The Corporation (2003), also highly influential, is a great watch.



The Four Horsemen (Ross Ashcroft, 2012)

There’s been a few good documentaries on the financial collapse of 2008, and although that seems a few years ago now it’s good to remind ourselves of what happened, and to open our eyes to the economic and political system which is arguably holding humanity hostage. This documentary focuses on the neo-classical school of economic thought and the affect this has had on our society. There’s a whole lot of good interviews and once again Chomsky turns up, which lends an element of reputability. It leaves with some suggestions of how we can affect change in the world which rises the documentary above complete doom and gloom rhetoric. A little dry at times, but if you’re in the mood to get some facts in you it’s a good watch.


This is the stuff that has been tickling my fancy lately anyhow. Please feel free to comment below with any discussion or suggestions of other documentaries to watch.


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