Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th” is a must-watch. PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

As temperatures drop and motivation wanes, it can be tempting to spend hours procrastinating by streaming mindless TV shows. Now, what if I told you there was a loophole to this conundrum in which you can still take some much needed relaxation time while technically being productive? That’s where this list comes in. Documentaries are the perfect way to take your mind off of midterms but still learn something in the process. Here’s five must-watch documentaries on a variety of topics for the next time you need a constructive way to take a study break.


1. “13th”

In this Academy Award-nominated documentary, director Ava DuVernay delves into the connection between political agendas, a history of racial inequality in the United States, and criminalization of African-Americans by looking at the state of prisons and the prison system in the United States. The film, which features insights from politicians, scholars and activists, provides a well-outlined explanation of an issue that many people may be unaware of and is definitely worth a watch.


2. “Where to Invade Next”

In this documentary, filmmaker Michael Moore satirically “invades” other countries to demonstrate what the United States could adopt from their cultures to improve on American lifestyle. As an international student living in the United States, I think this documentary can offer my American peers eye-opening insights into what quality of life can be beyond what we are exposed to in the United States.


3. “Forks Over Knives”

There are countless food documentaries that examine the benefits of a plant-based diet, but this one specifically focuses on the scientific research that has shown that incorporating plant-based meals to one’s diet can reduce obesity, diabetes and cancer. Even if you aren’t considering going vegetarian or vegan, “Forks Over Knives” is a well-presented argument for making small changes to your lifestyle that could result in drastic improvements to your health.


4. “Inside Job”

Finance is truly not everyone’s cup of tea, but understanding complex issues like the 2008 financial crisis is definitely an asset. This Academy Award-winning documentary narrated by Matt Damon provides a detailed yet engaging analysis of how the economic market crashed and what that means. Even if you’re not in Questrom, this is an entertaining and informative watch.


5. “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years”

Arguably the best band of all time, The Beatles are also a symbol of outlying success with 23 studio albums in 10 years. In this documentary, filmmaker Ron Howard explores the band’s early years and the journey they took to becoming icons of pop culture. Warning: you will definitely want go through their whole discography after watching this.