Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won’t Fail You

Mihir Patkar 14-02-2017

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 Where Are All Of The Video Games Featuring Female Protagonists? Want to know where you can find strong female leads in video games? Start with these remarkable examples. Read More unnecessarily. And in the real world, tweeting like female Tweeting While Female: Harassment, and How Twitter Can Fix It Twitter's abuse problem is real. Here are some examples, along with expert opinion on how Twitter can solve this. Read More or going on a dating site Here's What Dating Sites Are Like If You're A Woman As an experiment I set up accounts on three of the more popular free dating websites, then spoke to some women about their experiences. Here’s what happened. Read More can be a harassing experience.

Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won't Fail You ethics in movies bechdel test


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.

Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won't Fail You ethics in movies humane hollywood

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 You vs. Animals: Compare Strength, Speed, Size, and More We're not the fastest. We're not the strongest. We're not the biggest. But how inferior are we really? Take these fun online personality tests and find out. Read More . 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 8 Free Thought-Provoking Documentaries To Watch On YouTube [Stuff to Watch] You've no doubt watched a movie or two on YouTube by now. Whether it was uploaded by the original studio or a miscreant sharing someone else's hard work; the streaming video behemoth is full of... Read More , 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.

Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won't Fail You ethics in movies kids in mind

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 8 Great Movie Review Sites For Parents With Kids In Mind Fancy an evening watching movies as a family? Let's explore a few of the best movie review sites for kids so that you can choose the best go-to site for your family's needs. Read More .

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, 5 Ways to Search Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and More at Once If you're still having a hard time deciding which of the online movie streaming services is right for you, one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to making this decision is... Read More 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.

Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won't Fail You ethics in movies justwatch countries

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 15 New Netflix Originals You'll Be Watching in 2017 Netflix is now producing its own original content. And some of the new Netflix Originals set to debut in 2017 definitely look like they'll be worth watching. Read More or any other service.

Ethics in Films: 5 Sites for Movie Recommendations That Won't Fail You ethics in movies justwatch

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.

Download — JustWatch for Android (Free) | for iOS (Free)

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

Related topics: Cool Web Apps, Movie Recommendations, Movie Review.

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  1. decafjava
    February 14, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Overall a worthy effort. Still I have issues with the fact that copyright blocks content based by country - there has to be an alternative that can be fair to consumers and content creators.

    Also, while I applaud the goal of the Bechedel test I don't think you can say a film is "unethical" if it fails to pass the test for justifiable reasons. One example is the 1993 fim Gettysburg which has one line spoken by a woman in the entire 4+ long hour film. Also there is one POC (an escaped slave) who doesn't even speak! Of course this is an exception, there are more and more historical films that focus on those who have been ignored in history.