Stop Binge Watching, Start Learning: Must-Watch Documentaries

Happy-Movie-Cover-jpgAs the time left in the semester dwindles, it seems procrastination levels get higher. Hours are spent doing anything other than that eight page paper due in a week. College students are all guilty of putting things off to the last minute, but what if you could procrastinate while still doing something good for your brain?

Online streaming channels offer the genre of documentaries among their thousands of other movie options. Can it really be considered wasting time if you are using it to gain knowledge on a subject that interests you? There are thousands of option but with so many it's possible to spend hours just finding a documentary worth watching. To save you time, here are options and recommendations on on some of the most useful documentaries on Netflix, Xfinity and Amazon Instant Video.

If science is your passion look no further than these great flicks. Werner Herzog's Encounter at the End of the World delves into the human condition. Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime, Herzog follows researchers and contract workers who risk their lives and sanity in the great Polar South.

Peter Chace, a senior chemistry major, said, "Herzog captures a narrative that transcends the traditional format associated with any film I've seen about [Antartica]." Plus, there are lots of cute penguins.

Blackfish is a documentary about the controversial captivity of killer whales and the threat this activity poses to both humans and whales. This documentary about the orca whales has been so powerful it has resulted with many lawsuits against Sea World. It is definitely worth not studying for classes.

All the stress that comes from school and jobs can sometimes put you down. The documentary Happy, available on Netflix, really helps to put life into perspective. This documentary travels from the swamps of Louisiana to the ghettos of Kolkata in search of what makes people happy. Along with interviews of top researchers on the subject of happiness it is sure to change your outlook on being happy.

Chad Dell, Department of Communication Chair, just screened Happy this weekend for a group, and they loved it.

"The film is provocative, using both scientific evidence and compelling stories of real people from all walks of life. It challenges us to concentrate on the intrinsic goals that make us happy (personal growth, helping others, relationships) rather than the usual extrinsic characters -- money, status and image. I highly recommend it," said Dell.

For business majors looking to postpone accounting homework but still gain a little knowledge: The Smartest Guys in The Room, available on Netflix and Amazon Prime, shows an in-depth look at the fall of Enron. Scott Jeffrey, a professor of management, said, "I think it shows how people tend to remain silent about bad behavior when they are benefitting from it." The Smartest Guys in The Room is a thought-provoking look into business ethics and greed.

Inside Job is an Oscar winning documentary that features in-depth interviews with financial experts and details the deep-rooted corruption that surrounds the 2008 financial crisis. Jeffrey said, "It shows how avoidable the financial crisis was and why it will most likely happen again.." Available to stream on Amazon Prime, this documentary sheds light on a crisis that affected us in 2008 and could affect us again later on.

For a more political view of the 2008 financial crisis Frontline: The Warning looks at why government officials refused to regulate emerging derivative markets that later ruined global financial systems.

Mike Kulik, a senior political science major, said, "The documentary displayed the effects that policy and regulation can have on the money of the American people, as well as how unethical political behaviors were as a direct cause of the 2008 financial crisis." This documentary can be found online to stream on Amazon Prime.

Although it takes an extremist view of Wal-Marts unethical behavior, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, shows the inside workings of the super power store. Jeffrey said, "It exposes the labor practices of Wal-mart and discusses the anti-competitive nature of their business.  Particularly interesting is what happens to local businesses when a Wal-Mart comes to town."

A fairly popular documentary called Food Inc. is Oscar nominated and looks at the detrimental effects the food industry is not only having on the environments but also humans. Jeffrey said, "The film is a wake up call about the "big business" of food production." Streaming this documentary on Netflix will shed light on some of the truths behind what you are eating.

Fed Up is another food documentary that health studies and marketing majors may be particularly interested in. The film focuses on the ingredients in major food corporations foods, and the ethical dilemma of marketing to kids. It is eye opening to whether or not these companies can be blamed for the obesity epidemic. Watch on Amazon Prime.

Next time you go to spend a few hours wasting time, hopefully you find an intriguing topic you wouldn't mind learning about through documentaries like these. This way, you can feel productive about your time spent doing anything but studying.