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Using Films to Teach Peace & Justice
Lutheran Peace Fellowship

Many youth and adult groups have discovered the value of using films for discussion. Films may be shown singly or as part of a series. One group organized a “Wednesday Evenings at the Movies” series, served popcorn, and had a great time. Most of these films have short segments that can be used to teach specific peace and justice insights or skills, and can encourage folks to want to see the rest of the film. Here are a few films that have been successful with film groups (well-known stars and directors in parentheses).

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All the President’s Men, young reporters, step-by-step, uncover the Watergate conspiracy (Dustin Hoffmann, Robert Redford, Jason Robards)

Beyond Rangoon, grieving young American woman is transformed by the heroic human rights efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma (Patricia Arquette)

Cry Freedom, a journalist’s friendship with Steven Biko, the South African nonviolent hero (Denzel Washington, Kevin Kline; dir. Attenborough)

Dave, an average guy hired to impersonate the president wants to do good in this wise comedy (Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley)

Dead Man Walking, illuminating story of a nun’s work with a killer on death row (Susan Sarandan, Oscar; Sean Penn; dir. Tim Robbins)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Memories & Perspectives, the story of a heroic Lutheran youth leader, pastor, and theologian in Nazi Germany

Children of a Lesser God, moving story of a teacher for the deaf and a hearing impaired woman (Marlee Matlin, Oscar, William Hurt)

A Class Divided, eye-opening exploration of discrimination among children.

A Force More Powerful, six superbly produced half-hour stories of nonviolence in action around the world are perfect for youth group of adult forum discussion (narrated by Ben Kingsley)

Gandhi, gripping story of the pioneering genius of nonviolent action in South Africa and India (Ben Kingsley, Oscar; dir. Richard Attenborough)

Grand Canyon, dramatic, humorous exploration of love, race, and the meaning of life (Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell

Long Walk Home, this story of the Birmingham bus boycott is filled with moving, insightful moments (Whoopy Goldberg, Sissy Spacek)

Matewan, this powerful story of a coal miners’ strike in West Virginia has both heart and humor (James Earl Jones, dir. John Sayles)

Missing, wife and father pursue the truth of a young journalist missing during the bloody US-backed coup in Chile (Sissy Spacek, Jack Lemon, Oscar)

Norma Rae, moving story of a young woman’s efforts to win better working conditions in textile plant in the Sounh (Sally Field, Oscar)

Northern Lights, rich chronicle of Swedish farmers in the Dakotas in the early 20th century

Romero, heartfelt account of the struggle for human rights by the courageous archbishop of El Salvador (Raul Julia)

Shindler's List, one man’s struggle to save the lives of 1000 Jews during the holocaust (Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fines; dir. Steven Spielberg, Oscar for best picture)

Silkwood, a young worker’s efforts to expose the dangers at an Oklahoma nuclear plant where she is employed (Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher)

Under Fire, powerful drama of journalists covering the overthrow of the Samoza dictatorship in Nicaragua (Gene Hackman, Nick Nolte)

True Colors, TV cameras follow two young men, one white, one black, to reveal prejudice (19 min)

Wag the Dog, satire of presidential aides who invent a war to try to ensure a president gets re-elected. (Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro)

Weapons of the Spirit, story of the Le Chambon village in France that hid Jews from the Nazis

Witness, alternatives perspectives on violence are explored through the story of an Amish boy who is witness to a murder (Harrison Ford)

Witness to War, former Air Force pilot becomes a doctor to serve in El Salvador’s war zones (Academy Award for best documentary)

Year of Living Dangerously, romantic drama of an Australian reporter in war-torn Indonesia (Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt, Oscar, Sigourney Weaver)

Z, Greek peace movement leader is targeted by a terrorist group (Oscar for best foreign film)

It’s generally a good idea to preview a film to make it easier to tell folks why they might come, and to help you guide the discussion. We would be grateful if you would tell us about films you have shown, how it went, and what other films folks might want to try.


Recent Films

Here are a few films people have suggested adding to the list:

Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, The Quiet American, Amandla, Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Good Night and Good Luck, Why We Fight, The Constant Gardner, The Girl in the Café, The Fog of War, Syriana, Control Room, Gallipoli

Send your suggestions to with a few words about why you recommend the film


Domestic Violence, Media Violence, GLBT

Broken Vows, on domestic violence (FaithTrust)

Hear Their Cries, on child abuse (FaithTrust)

Beyond Blame: Media Violence (Center for Media Literacy)

Love, All That And More on Teen Date Rape…( FaithTrust)

Ethics, Theology

View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (excellent 1 hr 50 min, mainly interviews)

Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (90 min) feature film

The Table (video on a biblical approach to reconciliation and inclusion from the ELCA Mosaic series)

Foreign Policy

The Good War and Those Who Refuse to Fight It (Bullfrog, 2000, 57 min)

Landmines: Overcoming a Lethal Legacy; Landmines: One Step at a Time; Landmines Survivors Stories,

Lessons from a Distant Road (Center for Global Education)

Nuclear Reduction & Disarmament Initiative: A Partnership for Peace (NRDI, 20 min)

War, with Gwyn Dyer (PBS), lot’s of terrific segments (esp 2-6, 7); see also superb companion volume (Crown, 1981)

Hunger and Development

Bread for the World, Who We Are

Crick! Crack! (16-minute video shows how animal projects funded by ELCA World Hunger make a difference in the lives of families in Haiti; good print resources).

Offering of Letters videos (high quality annual videos on Bread for the World focus for the year)

Share the Joy (Church World Service)

Middle East

Seeds of Peace, Israeli and Palest teens meet at a camp in Maine, take video cameras back to their homes, very powerful (longer film edited to 40 min. for “Nightline”)

The Dividing Wall (high quality interviews and visuals of the Israeli wall, accessible, Mennonite Central Committee)

Children of Abraham, journey of 22 Jewish Americans to Israel and Palestine (Compassionate Listening Project)

Nonviolence Movements

Eyes on the Prize (Blackside), well done series of ten excellent segments

A Force More Powerful (2000, six superb half-hour segments on Gandhi, Denmark vs the Nazis, resisting Pinochet in Argentina, the Rise of Solidarity in Poland, anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Nashville sit-ins )

Nonviolent Peaceforce in Sri Lanka (2004, 14 min)

75 Years of NV Struggle (Fellowship of Reconciliation)

Unarmed Commitment (Court Worthington Productions, 1994, 29 min)

Where There is Hatred (Maryknoll)

(see feature films on Gandhi, Romero, etc.)

Racism, Anti Prejudice, Diversity

Color of Fear by Lee Mun Wah, men on a weekend retreat discuss racism, “best multi-cultural resource for men's study group”

True Colors (24 min., TV cameras follow two young men, one white, one black, to reveal prejudice)

Eyes on the Prize (Blackside), well done series of ten excellent segments

Skin Deep (the fight against legislated racism, People’s Century, 1999, 60 min.)

Top Ten List
(pdf, html)
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