Films on Consumers

Generation Like

Documentary Frontline 2014 TV-PG 53m. Author Douglas Rushkoff explores how social media is attracting teens but also exposing them to corporations who see them as young consumers. This film demonstrates a new way for persons savvy in technology and “social media” (YouTube, Facebook) to create economic opportunities that are relatively rare in this era. “Generation Like” can help persons of all ages to “get with the times” and become successful 21st century entrepreneurs. It is indeed empowering for young people, as they are learning marketing tools. There was a dream…years ago, you remember it, right? It was called the Internet and it was going to be a miracle that was going to change our lives for the better, forever. But then…the corporations got a hold of it. The marketing scum “discovered” it and now we’re all much poorer…and stupider for it. Oh what could have been! A gathering place for ideas, education, a place that would have made our lives rich and easier. A universal library that would have let to a golden age. But what did we end up with? The dreck, the absolute dung that this program is showing. Remember kids, the most important thing you do in a day is CONSUME. Oh and don’t forget to OBEY. FOLLOW. RETWEAT. LIKE. This is a quality documentary which shares some important insight into what is happening with the young generation and the media of today. This is not much fun to watch, but it can be beneficial to look at our vacuous consumer culture every once in a while.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s

Documentary 2013 PG-13 1hr33m.  This documentary peels back the curtain at Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic New York store that’s been launching design careers for more than a century.  The whole point of the movie is to celebrate the history behind two New York tailors turning their shop into a multi-million dollar company, and the story of how their store has evolved.  It tells you the history of the store and about the recruitment of designers for the store.  It also discusses things such as their personal shoppers and the designs for their Christmas window decorations.  It’s an amazing history told from the perspective of people who have worked with BG for years.  Before watching the documentary, I did not fully grasp the importance of Bergdorf’s to the city and the international Fashion world.  One of the women interviewed in the film said, “This is the American dream.” Really? For whom? Clearly not for us 99%. But I think it is a great film.

Ralph Nader
An Unreasonable Man

Documentary 2006 NR 2hr 2m. Thought-provoking and revealing, this biographical documentary profiles the personal and professional life of Ralph Nader, one of America’s most controversial consumer advocates and political activists. Interviews and archival footage help illuminate the career of an influential public figure whose willingness to take on big industry earned him a reputation as both a working-class hero and a public pariah after the 2000 presidential election. See Full Review


Documentary 1997 NR 56m. Tongue-in-cheek in style but still representing sharp-edged social commentary, this documentary produced for PBS takes an in-depth look at the social effects of America’s love affair with materialism and boundless consumption of resources. Hosted by Scott Simon, Affluenza examines the high price of the high life — both financially and emotionally — and shines a light on some Americans who are following a different path.

Waging a Living

Documentary 2004 NR 85 minutes. This thought-provoking documentary tests the mantra “get a job” to see whether low-wage jobholders — otherwise known as the “working poor” — can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Filmed in California, New York and New Jersey over a three-year period, the film tracks the ups and downs of four ethnically diverse Americans living below the poverty line as they face a persistent struggle to make ends meet.See Full Review

See also: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr1m. A young couple with no construction experience attempts to build a tiny house in this documentary that contemplates shifting American values. The message is not about the square footage of your house, but the quality of the life you lead, and what makes you happy. It showed me that I do not want to live in a tiny house — I can live in a small house but not a tiny house. I think living simple and getting rid of things you really don’t need is important, but I’m just not ready for extreme small living and bare minimum. Interesting concept, but uninteresting delivery. Not gonna lie, I thought this was going to be a documentary about people with dwarfism. This is what happens when you don’t read the synopsis.

Fed Up

Documentary 2014 PG 90 minutes. The film focuses on the causes of obesity in the United States. It presents evidence showing that the large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked root of the problem. It points to the monied lobbying power of “Big Sugar” in blocking attempts to enact effective policies to address the issue. This eye-opening documentary examines the underlying causes behind the obesity epidemic, including the marketing strategies of major U.S. food producers. How did 60% of the country get so fat?  2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight, with 1 in 3 adults considered obese. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. The film includes touching video self-portraits by young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, who are considered obese. The obese parents who raise obese children — why aren’t they in the least bit curious as to how they’ve become 300 pounders when their ancestors were all normal. This film is an expose of the food industry’s pedaling of sugar-rich junk food to kids and the epidemic of obesity that has resulted from it. It rightly points to the chief villain in our food choices–sugar–as addictive and toxic. Sugar is clearly added to food products that historically had none in an effort to elicit a crave factor, so you can’t stop eating them. See Full Review

Killer at Large:
Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr44m. This probing documentary explores the ever-expanding issue of obesity in America from individual, political, scientific and cultural perspectives. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the US today. But how did 60% of the country get so fat?  2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight, with 1 in 3 adults considered obese. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. The film includes touching video self-portraits by young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, who are considered obese. There are poignant moments, such as a 12 year old girl having liposuction. The film gives a range of reasons why we have this issue regarding obesity in America: school junk food, too much sugar, lack of information about high fructose corn syrup, portion sizes, television, intense advertising aimed at children, cozy cartoon characters hawking sugar, parents, food companies, politics, lobbying, greed, and economics. See Full Review

House of Cards

Documentary CNBC Originals 2009 TV-PG 1hr 30m. This documentary on the housing and economic crisis explains in great detail exactly what caused the US economic crash of 2008, the most crushing economic crisis since the Depression. CNBC investigates the defining story of our time with inside accounts from key players, tracing the origins of the calamity from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington. The financial industry has so many layers and so many players that it makes it difficult for the average person / homeowner to truly understand how we got into this mess. This lays it out step by step. See Full Review

Cigarette Wars

Documentary CNBC Originals 2011 TV-PG 43m. Correspondent Brian Shactman reports on an industry that continues to thrive despite all we know about the dangers of smoking. Cigarette taxes continue to skyrocket in the United States, driving the price up to as much as $14 per pack.

Miss Representation

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Explore how the mainstream media’s often disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of females in positions of leadership. This film presents startling facts and gives you information that you may have known on some level, but that also needs to be brought to the forefront for anything to change. Men should see this film to help realize how engrained sexism is in our society and how to change it, and women should watch this film to help empower themselves. Everyone should see this film to understand how to treat people (especially women) with the respect they deserve.

The Business of Counterfeit Goods

Documentary CNBC Originals: Crime Inc. 2010 NR 43 minutes. The business of counterfeit goods is the largest underground industry in the world. CNBC takes you on raids with the LAPD anticounterfeiting unit, to inspections at ports and to back-room factories where bogus goods are produced.

Bag It

Documentary Humor 2010 NR 79 minutes. With a humorous tone, Suzan Beraza’s documentary follows average guy Jeb Berrier as he embarks on a personal quest to figure out where plastic bags come from, why they’re so ubiquitous and where they end up after they’re thrown away. One humorous bit points out that Evian spelled backwards is Naive. And Bag It is defined as 1. Put in a bag or 2. Stop doing it.

Plastic Planet

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 39m. This documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets. See Full Review

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Documentary National Film Board of Canada (NFB) 2011 NR 1hr 37m. In showing the real story of breast cancer, this film explores who really benefits from the pink ribbon campaigns: the cause or the company. It documents how some companies use pink-ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use Pink Ribbons to improve their public image. The pink-ribbon movement thus far has done more for marketing than for medicine. See Full Review


Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 15m. The high cost — to both the environment and our health — of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry. Forty percent of bottled water is simply municipal tap water. Americans may rethink their obsession with bottled H20 when they learn of the unregulated industry’s willingness to ignore environmental and health concerns, and the problems that arise as a result. The issues surrounding bottled water — there are no standards, no controls, plastic bottles are a mass-produced waste product that clogs our landfills, and plastic bottles give off chemicals that we ingest along with the water itself. Very informative and concise regarding US water supply, marketing tricks that make consumers believe bottled water is somehow safer when it is certainly not proven to be the case. It defends the fact that water is a basic human right — not a commodity for huge corporations to sell to the public — many times selling the consumer their own municipal water supply that you can get from your tap. This film will change your relationship with the water you drink. Not only is drinking water in general addressed, the bottled water industry is examined. As a daily convenience, bottled water is shown to have little redeeming value as it costs us all in a myriad number of ways. It’s so amazing to me how little the general public in this country knows and how easily they are trained to consume. And how greedy most of the mega-corporations are. This (and a host of other documentaries) should be required viewing for every American. This is a real problem that I was not aware of, but will certainly discontinue purchasing water in plastic containers. I’ll never drink bottled water again… This really needs to be promoted more, people need to know this information.See Full Review

Redefining Clean for a New Generation

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 15m. Blending humor and education, this engaging documentary follows the Goodes, a typical American family, as they attempt to rid their home of all toxins. The film provides simple remedies to help viewers reduce the toxic substances in their lives.

No Impact Man

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 31m. In this engaging documentary, a Fifth Avenue family goes green when writer Colin Beavan leads his wife, Michelle Conlin, and their baby daughter on a yearlong crusade to generate no trash and otherwise make no net impact on the environment.

What Would Jesus Buy?

Documentary 2007 PG 91 minutes. Taking on rampant American consumerism with a focus on Christmas shopping, the Rev. Billy (Bill Talen) and the Church of Stop Shopping go on a cross-country journey to save citizens from the Shopocalypse in this hilarious documentary produced by Morgan Spurlock. Reminding shoppers of the true meaning of Christmas, Reverend Billy exorcises demons at Wal-Mart’s headquarters and preaches his message at the Mall of America and Disneyland.

Big Brother, Big Business

Documentary CNBC Originals 2006 TV-PG 89 minutes. Award-winning correspondent David Faber examines big business and rapid advance of technology that allows companies to monitor our every move and record our most private personal information.

The Persuaders

Documentary Frontline 2004. PBS’s long-running television series “Frontline” examines the inner workings of advertising and public relations and the men and women — dubbed “persuaders” — whose job it is to influence the buying habits of today’s consumers. See how they research the preferences of shoppers, pique their interest, entice them to part with their hard-earned money, and get their own messages across in an increasingly complicated and tech-savvy world.

The Century of the Self

Documentary series 2002.   Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.  To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?  The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.  Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

Episode One: Happiness Machines,  Season 1 Episode 1,  58 min.

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.  Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.  It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

The Merchants of Cool

Documentary Frontline 2001 The award-winning “Frontline” television show trains its investigative lens on marketing moguls who conduct endless surveys and focus groups sampling the tastes, attitudes and aspirations of American teens to determine exactly what they want. As Hollywood and Madison Avenue craft tailored versions of teenage life in movies, TV, music and advertising, just how far will they go to reach the hearts — and wallets — of American youth? They will do anything to tap into the 150 BILLION dollars of spending power that 12 to 19 year-olds possess. They are the “Merchants of Cool”, and they will use every technique in the book just to sell to you. This Frontline special is an exploration into the marketing machine that controls nearly 90% of what we read in print, see on TV and movies, and listen to on the radio. The Merchants of Cool (2001) is slightly dated at this point, and it contains many examples that were relevant during its release but less so now. Still, it is important that teens understand that not all images they encounter are benign, but rather a calculated effort to dip into their wallets.

The Diamond Empire

Documentary Frontline 1994. Second only to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the holiday when diamonds are most often given as the ultimate token of love. Central to the diamond’s role as a romantic symbol is the belief that diamonds are one of the rarest, most precious gifts for a loved one. But it’s only a myth–diamonds are found in plentiful supply. Frontline examines how the great myth about the scarcity of diamonds and their inflated value was created and maintained over the decades by the diamond cartel. This report chronicles how one family, the Oppenheimers of South Africa, gained control of the supply, marketing, and pricing of the world’s diamonds.

The Tobacco Conspiracy

Documentary 2006 93 min.Tabac, La Conspiration. A history of the tobacco industry’s lies and scams. From the US in 1953 to Africa today, the controversy between individual responsibility and corporate greed is portrayed in a lucid, undaunted manner. From scientific frauds to working with organized crime, tobacco companies show their hidden agenda more clearly than ever in this theatrically released documentary. More than three years of investigating all over the world has allowed Nadia Collot to decipher the attitudes of an industry that, in spite of many prevention campaigns still expands its power at the cost of public health.

Link to watch The Tobacco Conspiracy online free

Tobacco Wars

Documentary Series three one-hour episodes. Tobacco Wars is a comprehensive history of the cigarette, providing an in-depth, balanced, and often shocking look at the tobacco industry. The series’ three one-hour episodes are organized chronologically, from the advent of the cigarette through its ascension to one of the most profitable consumer products the world has ever seen. Via first person accounts and insider documentation, Tobacco Wars vividly portrays what the companies really knew about the link between smoking and disease, explains how mankind became seduced by such a dangerous product, provides a status report on Big Tobacco today, and looks towards the future of this most controversial of industries.

Link to watch Tobacco Wars Episode 1 online free

Link to watch Tobacco Wars Episode 2 online free

Link to watch Tobacco Wars Episode 3 online free

Thank You for Smoking

Satire 2005 R 91 minutes. On a mission to make the country forget the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco spin doctor Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) promotes his product in the movies and hushes those who bad-mouth cigarettes, all the while trying to remain a role model to his young son. Maria Bello, Katie Holmes, Robert Duvall and William H. Macy co-star in Jason Reitman’s razor-sharp satire, which won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.

Commanding Heights:
The Battle for the World Economy

Documentary 2002 NR 360 minutes. Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, this three-part PBS documentary series is the story of how the new global economy was born. It traces the rise of free markets during the last century, as well as the process of globalization. There are three segments – 1. “The Battle of Ideas” (primarily between Capitalism and Communism);  2. “The Agony of Reform” (after the end of Communism)  3. “The New Rules of the Game” (of Globalization). See Full Review

The Wall
A World Divided

Documentary 2010 NR 55 minutes. With insights from political leaders like George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Condoleezza Rice, explore the origins and demise of the notorious Berlin Wall, the structure’s affect on ordinary German lives and the peaceful end to the Cold War. Full of detailed information, this historical PBS documentary explains the stark differences between East and West Germany and their process of reunification.

After the Wall
A World United

Documentary 2011 NR 55 minutes. After serving as a geographic and ideological divide for 40 years, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, bringing the reunification of Germany and an end to the Cold War. This documentary revisits the events surrounding the wall’s historic collapse. Interviews with major players such as George Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl offer insight into political maneuverings while firsthand accounts from Germans provide personal perspectives.

Secrets of Selfridges

Documentary 2013 TV-PG 54m. Selfridges was the brain child of an American, Mr. Harry Gordon Selfridge. He brought about a revolution in the way that Londoners shopped, in 1909 introducing a new retail model which made shopping less of a practical pursuit and more of an adventure. This is an interesting documentary about how “shopping” really became what it is today, the favorite pastime of everyone, moneyed or not. Who would have guessed it would be a man to suggest having the perfume counter in the front of the store to attract women shoppers? In the end, Selfridge was arrested for vagrancy in front of the store he created.


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Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know