Movies celebrate the hero, the do-gooder, the righteous. Yet the film itself might not tick all the right boxes. It could be the film’s harsh portrayal of women or the behind-the-scenes use of exploited labor and harm to animals.
The MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America) applies ratings for children’s safety. But that’s not always reliable either. And there’s also the matter of the actual message the movie sends.
Finally, it comes down to you, the viewer. If a film did everything right, don’t you have the responsibility of watching it legally and not pirating the movie?
These five sites try to focus on such ethics in movies, all in their own way. As you’ll see, it doesn’t take much to make an informed choice.
1. Bechdel Test (Web): Does the Movie Treat Women Fairly?
It’s not easy being a woman. In the world of popular culture, we know that games can sexualize women unnecessarily. And in the real world, tweeting like female or going on a dating site can be a harassing experience.
To know if a movie is objectifying its women, American cartoonist Alison Bechdel came up with a test. There are three simple rules for a movie to pass the Bechdel Test:
- It must have at least two named women in it.
- The two women have to talk to each other.
- Their conversation should be about something besides a man.
Feminist sites and experts have claimed that passing the Bechdel Test is a good example of a movie that doesn’t have a gratuitous portrayal of women. So if you care about that, then the Bechdel Test website has a list of which movies pass and fail the test.
2. Humane Hollywood (Web): Were Animals Harmed in Making the Movie?
You’ve probably seen that sign at the start of some movies that declares, “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” The American Humane Association (AHA) invented that certification. And it has a site that lists how all movies did.
There are stringent protocols that filmmakers need to follow to earn a certificate. Humane Hollywood’s movie review database tells you which films could follow those, and which didn’t. These are only serious films, of course, not cute, ferocious, or amazing animal videos. The site also notes when a movie hasn’t contacted the AHA.
While not every film will strive for AHA’s approval, this is a good way to see how serious they are about treating animals right. Incidents like A Dog’s Purpose get highlighted rarely, so Hollywood Humane is a better resource to know for sure.
3. Films for Action (Web): Database of Free Online Films About Causes
Some films are about entertainment. Others want to challenge you, send a message, and bring about change. We’ve recommended some thought-provoking documentaries on YouTube, but Films for Action is a much more comprehensive database.
The website has over 3,000 films that can be streamed for free online. The library is helpfully divided by country, language, newest, top rated, and most viewed. Finally, there are 40 different categories to sort by, including climate change, environment, human rights, media literacy, terrorism, war and peace, and politics.
Watch these powerful films, expand your mind, and bring about some change in this world.
4. Kids in Mind (Web): Is It Safe to Watch for Kids?
The MPAA has some restrictions that certain parents might not agree with. For example, a movie can drop one F-bomb and still get a PG-13 rating. Kids In Mind is an independent site that dispenses with MPAA ratings and thoroughly describes a film’s objectionable parts.
The site targets three parts in films: sex and nudity, violent and gore, and profanity. It also records substance abuse, the larger message of the movie, and scenes where children might ask awkward questions. Kids in Mind is far more thorough than the MPAA or any of the other kids’ movie review sites for parents.
The best part about this site is how it describes each objectionable scene in detail, thus letting a guardian make up their mind clearly.
5. JustWatch (Web, Android, iOS): Where to Legally Watch a Movie in Your Country
Over the years, we’ve profiled several sites to search Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and others all at once. The only problem is that the movies change based on country.
What’s available on Netflix U.S. might not be available on Netflix U.K. A country might not have Hulu at all, but instead have other streaming options, like HotStar in India. And just like that, these all-in-one search engines become useless. But not JustWatch, which covers local services in a wide range of countries, as you can see.
Select the services you want, and search for any movie or TV show. JustWatch will tell you how to watch it legally in your nation. You can add items to a personal “watchlist”, filter your searching or browsing by services, use IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes parameters, and find new releases on Netflix or any other service.
JustWatch is easily the best of all such apps we have tried, and a must-have for anyone who likes to watch movies and TV shows ethically and legally.
Are Ethics in Movies Important to You?
Ethics are a deeply personal question, so there’s no one set rule here. How much do ethics or doing the right thing play a part in your approach to a movie?
Is the message important? Do the behind-the-scenes people and their behavior matter? Is ethics only a personal thing about doing any wrong? Do you have any moral obligations about what sort of films you should watch?
Image Credits: Fer Gregory/Shutterstock