As a parent, you can never know too much about raising your child — especially when it comes to making sure they are safe. Documentaries are great eye-openers chock full of information to help us make inform decisions about society and the people we love. But the following real-life cases are so jarring and emotional draining, you may wanna steer clear or at least have a support group near by. Take a look at our list of chilling, heart-breaking documentaries that parents should see ONLY IF they have their therapist on speed-dial.
Surviving R-Kelly documentaries (2019)
Considering mega-R&B star R-Kelly has a long history of legal troubles and accusations for sexual misconduct, it’s no wonder his victims decided to come forward to produce the deeply troubling documentaries, Surviving Kelly. R-Kelly has had a questionable past with underaged girls since the 90’s (when he illegally married 14-year-old singer Aaliyah). This three-part documentaries which aired in January 2019, revealed a string of sexual abuse against young women of color (ages 14 and up).
Surviving R-Kelly focuses on Kelly’s 2008 child pornography case, sexual cult allegations, and various accounts from women (including his wife, Andrea Kelly) admitting to being sexual abused by the singer. Some of Kelly’s victims reveal Kelly refusing to let them go to the bathroom or eat without his permission, as well as the girls being forced to engage in sexual activities with other women and without protection. It’s an emotional and depressing doco that will have parents enraged, disgusted, and wanting to lock their daughters in their rooms.
Leaving Neverland (2019)
Even though pop legend Michael Jackson died in 2009, it’s still no surprise that there is yet another documentary alleging his sexual abuse of young boys. The documentary Living with Michael Jackson by journalist Martin Bashir was released in 2003, and alleged that Michael Jackson invited disadvantaged children to his ranch to sleep in his bedroom with him.
Subsequentially, Jackson dealt with these accusations and more but was found not guilty in a 2005 trial. However, Leaving Neverland has caused people to reconsider his innocence. Due to public outcry, radio stations have even stopped playing Jackson’s music. It focuses on specific intimate accounts of Jackson’s relationships with two boys Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and the effects of the abuse of their families. Their alleged recollections of the abuse are so gripping and heart-wretching you may not be able to watch the whole documentary.
In fact, when it was introduced to the public at the 2019 Sundance Festival, some people admitted to being ”sick to their stomach” and having to leave. It can be incredibly hard to consider that the person you admire is also the predator you didn’t know.
The True Cost (2015)
This documentary reveals the truth about the clothes we buy. It talks about the frivolousness of shopping, and delves into the lives of people who make the clothes and what it may cost them to do so. Viewers get first-hand accounts of how these people struggle to provide for their families and just make ends-meat. They may even die to bring us materials used to make our clothes and accessories. If the guilt doesn’t eat you alive, this is definitely a documentary worth seeing. Gives you real-world perspective and gratitude.
A Plastic Ocean (2016)
If you recycle and wish others would too, A Plastic Ocean will probably drive you crazy. In it, journalist Craig Leeson, uncovers the fragile state of the blue whales in our polluted oceans. He exposes the dangers whales and underwater creatures face thanks to the human pollution and its plastic overuse. But understand, this adventure documentary is no Free Willy”¦ certain parts can be too sad to watch i.e. dying whales and sea life. Animal lovers, be prepared to cry or at least tear up. This documentary is definitely not one for the little kids.
Ariel Castro documentary (2015)
On May 6, 2013, a former school bus driver, Ariel Castro, kidnaps and enslaves three local girls in a Cleveland community. Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight (who had been diagnosed with a learning disability) were abducted and kept undiscovered for 11 years. They were locked in Castro’s house and chained to walls and poles; and sexually abused — sometimes 5 times a day. But after a decade, one of the girls, Amanda Berry, found the right moment to escape.
The documentary follows the story of the three girls’ escape and delves into the horrors they experienced. At the trial, the parents conveyed their confusion as they tried to tackle the idea of thinking a neighbor was a friend when he was actually a kidnapper and predator. Castro was sentenced to 1000 years in prison, but killed himself shortly after being sentenced.
The Brit Who Tried to Kill Trump (2018)
We hear about radicalism and violence almost everyday, but we can never imagine hearing that one of those radicals/lone wolves is our child. The Brit Who tried to kill Trump is a crime documentary about a British 20-year- old man with Aspergers, Michael Sanford, who came to the U.S. to assassinate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally. Michael believed Trump would be a bad influence on the world, and wanted to kill him before he became President.
The documentary covers his life before he went after Trump as well as his family’s experiences during his imprisonment. His family couldn’t understand why Michael became violent since he had never shown such tendencies in his childhood. His mother does admit that Michael was diagnosed with Aspergers, depression and erratic mood swings, but says that his overall personality was non-aggressive. So they believed Michael had been radicalized. The documentary brings up the issue of leniency for violent children and adults with mental health issues and ask parents to consider the unsettling notion of what they would do if their child tried to kill someone.
SuperSize Me (2004)
Supersize Me, the foodie documentary that rocked parents and children years ago when it first came out, is a must-see! It continues to be referenced when discussing the best ways to getting kids to eat healthy. The director, Morgan Spurlock, conducted a social experiment (on himself) where he ate McDonald’s for 30 days trying out everything on the fast food giant’s menu. Spurlock films his journey as he gains 24 pounds in less than a month, gets high blood pressure and cholesterol, and balloons a few milkshakes and a Big Mac away from a heart attack.
Food documentaries are great for letting parents know exactly what they’re feeding their kids, and allowing them to make smart decisions about their kids’ diet. But if you want your kids to hate you for ruining McDonald’s for them, make them watch this one with you.
The Dying Rooms (1995)
A truly disturbing, gut-wrenching documentary by Brian Woods and Kate Blewett, The Dying Rooms shows orphanage rooms in China in 1995. Chinese children were abandoned, imprisoned, and left in volitale condtions to die. The television documentary features three people who go undercover to investigate the impact China’s One Child Law an extreme population-control method enforced to limit the number of children Chinese parents were allowed to have. Most of the children in these rooms were girls or children who were handicapped. The Dying Rooms follows the lives of some of these children and the conditions they endured. If you don’t have a strong stomach, you might want to skip this one. It’s insane to know the atrocities done to these children are real… The One Child Policy was lifted in 2016, but China alleges that these rooms never existed”¦
America’s Hardest Prisons Bad Girls (2014)
Hate looking at crime documentaries.. well, this documentary makes you imagine the worst possible scenario for your daughter. If she makes a lot of bad choices or gets involved with the wrong people, jail or juvenile detention is a possibility. Hamtramck Wayne County Jail in Detroit houses women who’ve been involved with robbery, drugs, and history of violence. It’s a rough sentence in this facility with strict rules for 64 inmates. New inmates have to learn to defend themselves fast if they are to survive. Don’t try to use this documentary as a scared-straight video to encourage your child to get back on the right track. There’s too much swearing, violence, and depiction of drug use and prostitution.
The Menendez Brothers’ documentary (2017)
There are a few documentaries on the Menendez Brothers’ trial, but this crime documentary examines the sensationalized trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez as well as the brothers’ motivation for killing their parents: entertainment exec Jose Menendez and his wife/former supermodel Kitty. The documentary also looks at the brothers’ testimonies during the trial, their lawyer’s defense, and the key witnesses that affected their sentencing for the double murder. It’s very interesting to see how the brothers’ managed to initially convince the jurors and the public that they were victims of parental sexual abuse, only to later be convicted for premeditated murder.
Making a Murderer (2015)
Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer follows the 2005 investigation of a former district attorney, Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Steven Avery and his nephew, then 16-year-old Brendan Dassey, for the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. Steven Avery was a man who had been falsely convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. After he was exonerated and released thanks to DNA evidence, he was then accused and tried for the murder of Teresa who was last scene photographing cars in his scrapyard.
The public could not believe Avery was sentenced to more time in prison despite evidence that cast doubt on his conviction. Brendan Dassey was a minor who family and friends described as a shy introverted kid who lived with his family. Brendan was also diagnosed with learning disabilities and had an abnormally low IQ. When he admitted to being involved in Teresa’s murder, he was pressured by police. People wondered if he was given a fair trial considering his disability and lack of understanding.
Making a Murderer highlights the confession of Brendan Dassey who appears to be heavily coerced in the taped police interview, and shows how people with mental illness are often treated in the justice system. It also reviews the disturbing details of Teresa’s death. To this day, both men are still in prison and have acquired quite the fanbase of believers who think they’re both innocent especially Brenden Dassey.
Abducted in Plain Sight (2019)
Another astonishing Netflix documentary (Netflix has been super-busy recently) is Abducted in Plain Sight. This documentary tells the twisted, real-life story of a young girl, Jan Broberg (now 56) was abducted by a family friend, Robert Berchtold, who sexually abused her for years. What makes this story even more horrific is that her parents, Mary Ann and Bob Broberg, gave their permission for their daughter to be taken and abused. They also were sexually involved with Berchtold as well. So the predator managed to brain-wash the whole family! Surprisingly, Jan was able to forgive her parents and she even stars in the documentary. But it begs to question… As a parent, how can someone BE OK with their child being hurt… let alone give their permission? Just sick.
The Kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart – Documentary (2017)
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. This documentary talks about the abduction of Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night while her family slept. This was an affluent Mormon family were well-known in the Salt Lake Federal Heights community. Elizabeth’s sister, Mary Catherine, was a witness to the abduction but was so little she could do nothing to stop it. She was the one who later gave the police information to find her sister. She told them that she remembered hearing the kidnapper’s voice before, so they knew it was someone the family meet or known before.
During Elizabeth’s kidnapping, the Smart family was also investigated including her own father and uncles. They were polygraphed and interrogated, but with no conclusive evidence. In the meantime, Elizabeth was shackled, raped, and brain-washed to believe she was not herself anymore. It wasn’t until a year later, her family and the authorities were able to track down Elizabeth and her kidnappers: Brian David Mitchell (a former homeless man who had previously visited the Smart home in order to do some repairs for the family), and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
Food Inc. (2016)
Food Inc. should be mandatory viewing for everyone because it addresses the food we eat and what goes into that food before it gets to our tables. While it’s not pretty looking at pigs gets slaughtered or chickens killed, it’s important to know, so we can make good decisions about the foods in our diet.
Everyone knows the industrial food industry has shortcuts to producing massive amounts of food for the public, and their methods to cut corners in food production are infecting our food and killing Americans. In Food Inc., some parents confess to the heart-breaking decisions of having to choose food from the $1 menu to feed their kids because they can’t afford healthy options. Another mom reveals how her 5-year old son died from eating hamburger meat they didn’t know was contaminated with E. coli. She asks the food industry the one question we should all be asking: What happened to keeping our food safe?
It’s almost impossible not to cry when looking at documentaries like this one. But we should want to know the ugly truth — we’re unknowingly eating and feeding our children unhealthy and contaminated food.
The Mask You Live In (2015)
We’re in the era of the MeToo Movement which elevates women’s voices and promotes equality and support of women and girls who’ve experienced sexual abuse. So The Mask You Live In attempts to provide the same awareness and support for boys as well. It is a documentary that everyone should watch and even take notes! From the ongoing school shootings and mass killings America endures weekly, our children are suffering and America could use a serious intervention.
Parents need to understand the pressures that our boys face. They are encouraged to represent society’s of masculinity, and we need to raise our children to ignore those stigmas sometimes in order to focus more on self-care, mental health, and individuality. This powerful doc reminds parents to be easier on our boys… They are just as vulnerable as girls when it comes to mental health, and they need our guidance, not out judgement.
With outbreaks of measles affecting various U.S. cities, parents may purposely avoid vaccine documentaries. But knowledge is power when considering the safety of our kids, so this is definitely a must-see documentary. In Vaxxed, a whistleblower doctor, Mr. William Thompson, admits that the CDC wasn’t completely forthcoming about its findings regarding a link between autism and and the MMR vaccine. Various well-known doctors confess their own shock and feelings of guilt as they learned a vaccine they recommended had hurt some of their patients.
This documentary should be grouped with other anti-vaccination documentaries. It accounts for real children affected with adverse effects of the MMR vaccine and the stress and turmoil experienced by those patients and their families. Vaxxed discusses both sides of the issue: pro-vax and anit-vax and provides concrete evidence to support both sides. It gives parents the information they need to know the risks involved whichever way they decide. This doc may make you doubt what you know or even change how much you trust your doctor and the government officials who make vital decisions about the health of your child.
A Dangerous Son (2018)
A Dangerous Son is one of the most tear-jerking, hard-to-watch documentaries you’ve ever seen. It offers hope as three families continuously struggle to find help for their children with serious mental disturbances and violent tendencies. The boys: Ethan, Vontae, and William come from different ethnic backgrounds and economic situations, but their outcomes are the same being denied help or having to wait months to years for residential placement in a suitable psychiatric facility that can help these children with their extremely aggressive behaviors.
Directed by Liz Garbus, A Dangerous Son, was inspired by Liza Long’s struggle with her son and the letter she wrote just days after Adam Lanza orchestrated the Newtown massacre that killed 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT. Long’s letter, ”I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” was considered very controversial not only because of it’s subject content, but also because Lanza’s mom was Adam’s first victim and there was speculation that her parenting was the culprit that triggered Adam’s killings.
Adam Lanza had been diagnosed with severe emotional disturbances as well as autism, but he was not undergoing treatment at the time of the shooting. Also, Lanza’s mom, was a single mom who struggled to find the proper treatment for her son. So all of these circumstances were at play when Lanza killed those 26 children and teachers that day. Though this documentary doesn’t point fingers, it does seek to open our eyes and hearts to the kids and parents that desperately need help.