Skip to content

Documentaries for Teens: Varieties of Teen Experiences

Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. This month, we’re highlighting documentaries that capture modern teen experiences from around the world.

Rich Hill

This documentary is an “examination of challenges, hopes and dreams of the young residents of a rural American town.” It focuses on the lives of three young men and their everyday lives. The intimate look at this small Missouri town is deeply moving. Rich Hill is readily available on DVD.

Rachel Is

This film is a portrait of Rachel, a young woman with developmental disabilities. Made by her sister, this film gives a window into a family struggling with their loved ones disability while also capturing a teen evolving from a child into an adult. You can view the movie streaming on Vimeo. Public libraries and schools can purchase it on DVD through 7th Art.

The World is as Big or Small as You Make It 

This short documentary is about a group of Philadelphia teens at a rec center, and the friendships they forge with other teens around the world. You can view the film in its entirety online.

Last Train Home

This documentary explores China and globalization through the families separated when young people move to cities to work in factories, and rush to take the last train home. It first aired on PBS and is available on DVD.

Somewhere Between

This film explores the lives of four young Chinese women who were adopted by Americans and how transracial adoption has impacted their identity.

Documentaries can offer new insight into the world, and more rich learning experience than text and photographs alone. Especially if these are not a part of your teen collection, they can be easily overlooked when recommending resources to teens, but they can be the most relevant information on a topic of particular interest or the format may have particular appeal for some teens. Incorporate them into displays, or readers’ advisory lists. Those available online can be shared in library blog posts, on social media, or in any way you curate content for teens.

Look for a new post each month highlighting documentaries on various topics that may be of interest to teens in our Documentaries for Teens series. We’d love if you’d share your favorites in the comments!

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Saga Vol.5 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples