Films about Refugees


On Friday, President Trump signed a new executive order that would indefinitely ban all Syrian refugees from resettlement in the U.S. and reduce by more than half the number of refugees from anywhere that can seek safety here.  The majority of the 65 million people fleeing war and persecution in this world are women and children and this ban places children who are fleeing for their lives at risk.  The public outcry over the weekend was loud and clear, with protests at airports and cities around the country.

We’ve put together a list of both fiction and documentary films that can tell you more about refugees throughout history and across the world (in order of release date).

Salam Neighbor (2015)

Salam Neighbor is an award-winning film and campaign to connect the world to refugees. In an effort to better understand refugee life, filmmakers Chris and Zach spent one month living alongside displaced families in the Za’atari refugee camp. As the first filmmakers ever allowed by the United Nations to be given a tent and registered inside a refugee camp, they were able to get a never before seen look into the world’s most pressing crisis. Their experience uncovered overwhelming trauma but also the untapped potential our uprooted neighbors posses.

Official Website | Rent/Own Online | Subscription

Who Is Dayani Cristal? (2012)

Who-Is-Dayani-CristalDeep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, Arizona border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered t-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal”. Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die?  And who—or what—is Dayani Cristal? Following a team of dedicated staff from the Pima County Morgue in Arizona, director Marc Silver seeks to answer these questions and give this anonymous man an identity. As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America. In an effort to understand what it must have felt like to make this final journey, he embeds himself among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. He experiences first-hand the dangers they face and learns of their motivations, hopes and fears. As we travel north, these voices from the other side of the border wall give us a rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate.

Rent/Own Online | Subscription | Blu-Ray/DVD

District 9 (2009)

district9logoThirty years ago, aliens arrive on Earth — not to conquer or give aid, but — to find refuge from their dying planet. Separated from humans in a South African area called District 9, the aliens are managed by Multi-National United, which is unconcerned with the aliens’ welfare but will do anything to master their advanced technology. When a company field agent (Sharlto Copley) contracts a mysterious virus that begins to alter his DNA, there is only one place he can hide: District 9.

Rent/Own Online | Blu-Ray/DVD

Sin Nombre (2009)

hero_EB20090401REVIEWS904019992ARSayra (Paulina Gaitan), a Honduran teen, hungers for a better life. Her chance for one comes when she is reunited with her long-estranged father, who intends to emigrate to Mexico and then enter the United States. Sayra’s life collides with a pair of Mexican gangmembers (Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer) who have boarded the same American-bound train. Directed by Cary Jôji Fukunaga.

Rent/Own Online | Blu-Ray/DVD

War Dance (2007)

Shine Global’s first film, the Oscar®-nominated War Dance, is set in war-ravaged Northern Uganda, and will touch your heart with a real-life story about a group of children whose love of music brings joy, excitement, and hope back into their poverty-stricken lives. Nancy, Domenic, and Rose, three children who have suffered horrific brutalities and are living in an internally-displaced persons camp, momentarily forget their struggles as they participate in music, song, and dance at their school. Invited to compete in a prestigious music festival in their nation’s capitol, their historic journey is a stirring tale about the power of the human spirit to triumph against tremendous odds.

Official Website | DVD on Amazon | DVD on Netflix

 Children of Men (2006)

In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant refugee woman to a sanctuary at sea. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and also starrting Julianne Moore and Chiewtel Ejiofor.

Rent/Own Online | SubscriptionBlu-Ray/DVD

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu, manages the Hôtel des Mille Collines and lives a happy life with his Tutsi wife (Sophie Okonedo) and their three children. But when Hutu military forces initiate a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tutsi minority, Paul is compelled to allow refugees to take shelter in his hotel. As the U.N. pulls out, Paul must struggle alone to protect the Tutsi refugees in the face of the escalating violence later known as the Rwandan genocide. Over 1 million people were brutally murdered in three months, but this man saved lives one at a time.

Rent/Own Online | Subscription | Blu-Ray/DVD

The Long Way Home (1997)

This Academy Award winning documentary depicts the struggles of European Jews after the end of WWII. Using interviews with Holocaust survivors, newsreel footage, and readings of letters, journals, and news reports, and narration by Morgan Freeman, the film tells the story of those freed from concentration camps in 1945. Suffering disease, malnutrition, and shock, many survivors are faced with also not having a home to return to. Some lived in Displaced Persons camp while others were part of the movement to establish Israel in Palestine.

El Norte (1983)

When a group of Mayan Indians decides to organize a labor union to improve conditions in their village, their community is violently destroyed by the Guatemalan army. Teenage siblings, Rosa (Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez) and Enrique (David Villalpando) manage to escape the massacre and decide to start a new life in El Norte — the USA. The two trek through Mexico, meeting a variety of characters and facing trials and tribulations on their journey toward lives as illegal immigrants in Los Angeles.

Free Online | Blu-Ray/DVD

And a few more:

Fire at Sea (2016)

The Journey to Europe (2016) – watch the documentary series on The New Yorker.

Which Way Home (2009)

God Grew Tired of Us (2006)

De Nadie (2005)

Lost Boys of Sudan (2003)

Ship of Fools (1965)

Casablanca (1942)