These days the world might feel upside down. Wars, persecutions, political instability, extreme poverty and climate change are all triggers of some of the biggest waves of people migration. More often than not, refugee crises stem from these movements. If you are looking to understand this situation a bit better and you like watching movies, you are in the right place, as refugee movies can be a good way to empathise with their situation and to better understand their reality.

When we use the term refugee, we refer to people who have been forced to flee their homes due to critical events that prevent them to stay in their countries as those mentioned at the start. These journeys are often filled with fear, danger, and uncertainty. Many refugees, however, managed to develop resilience and some even found some hope and joy in the process. 

In this article, we wish to recommend 6 inspiring refugee movies, their stories, their challenges and their successes.

Human Flow (2017)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Ai Weiwei

Platform: Amazon Studios

Human Flow is a 2017 documentary that explores the global refugee crisis. Filmed over one year, it follows the stories of refugees across 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria but also Italy, Mexico, Turkey and Kenya. This visceral testimony will immerse you in the realities of refugee camps, ocean crossing and militarised borders. It will grant you a first row seat to witnessing disillusion and confusion, but also the endurance, the resilience and the hopes of humans whose rights are crumbling. “Human Flow comes at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever.

To know more, stream the movie or take action, you can visit the site

Simple As Water (2021)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Megan Mylan

Platform: HBO Max

The film revolves around the stories of 5 Syrians: Yasmin, Samra, Omar, Diaa and Safwan, Yasmin’s husband. This Oscar shortlist documentary wants to shine a light on the deep bonds families keep even in the direst of situations and nurture that hope that one day, they will be reunited.

Manus (2019)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Angus McDonald

Platform: Vimeo

With this 13-minute long film, we journey all the way to Australia, whose Federal Government held hundreds of refugees captive on Manus Island. This black and white recount will give you the opportunity to hear stories of asylum seekers directly from the very same men who fled their homes looking for a chance to peacefully start over. Also, Manus got qualified for selection at the 2020 Academy Awards in the Documentary Short category. 

To stream the movie, you can visit Vimeo here

LESVOS, GREECE SEPTEMBER 24, 2015: Refugees arriving in Greece by boat from Turkey. Shutterstock

Midnight Traveller (2019)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Hassan Fazili

Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Hassan Fazili is a filmmaker, currently based in the States, but of Afghan origins. This film tells his story, after the Talibans put a bounty on his head. Hassan had no other choice but to flee his country along with his wife and daughters. Also, the director and protagonist of the movie recorded the whole journey on three mobile phones, documenting the strenuous experience of crossing borders illegally and shining a light on the hardships and uncertainties faced every day by millions of refugees.

To stream the movie, click here.

For Sama (2019)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts

Platform: Channel 4

Another self-shot testimony, For Sama can only be described as a love letter from a mother to her daughter. This intimate documentary, made by Waad Al-Kateab herself, details her life in Aleppo, falling in love, getting pregnant and giving birth to Sama. All of it, surrounded by the tragic backdrop of a war, of the uncertainty of her future, of the choice between leaving her home or staying. Besides, the movie was awarded the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

To stream the movie, click here
To know more, check out

23 September 2015, Sanliurfa, Turkey. Daily life in Akcakale and Harran Refugee Camps. Shutterstock

Arrival (2016)

Trailer: Click here

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Platform: Netflix 

The Arrival is a 2016 movie, based on the graphic novel by Shaun Tan. The movie follows the story of Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the military to help communicate with aliens who have landed on earth. While the film would not fall explicitly into the ‘refugee movies’ category, it addresses themes of otherness, communication, and acceptance that are relevant to the refugee experience. The movie also showcases the importance of empathy and curiosity in bridging cultural divides.

To stream the movie, click here

Movies, language learning and integration

Watching refugee movies can be a powerful medium for raising awareness about the various challenges they face. So, thanks to these stories, everyone can now closely experience the journeys of those who flee persecutions, wars and other extreme and unsafe circumstances. Hopefully, these recounts will help you to evoke empathy and compassion, and maybe inspire you to take action too. By participating in SPEAK‘s buddy program, you can actively contribute to mitigating some of the refugees’ challenges.

SPEAK’s goal is to provide a safe and inclusive space for language learning and intercultural exchange. Through this model, you can become a language buddy and offer your support to those wishing to improve their language skills. By sharing your own language and culture, you can also help migrants learn and integrate into their new society more effectively.

Author: Valentina Rampazzo

Valentina is a polyglot, with a passion for writing and sharing knowledge through stories. She is based in Berlin, where she works as a Content Manager. She loves plant-based cooking, her black cat and warm places. She currently speaks 5 languages and collaborates with SPEAK as a guest writer.

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