Coming Soon: The Best 2024 Movies & TV Shows to Leverage for Social Justice
by Istou Diallo, Brian Erickson, J. Rachel Reyes, and Tia Smith, The Opportunity Agenda
Time and again, we see fandoms rallying around their favorite franchises, films, and shows to bring awareness to social justice issues. By lifting up narratives, analyzing messaging, and sparking thoughtful conversations, fans and other audiences are shifting perspectives.
As a recent example, Barbie fans are calling out the patriarchy for the Academy’s snubbing of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie while “Ken” (Ryan Gosling) gets recognized. On the flip side, others are critiquing white feminism for taking over conversations, ignoring that Celine Song and Greta Lee were also snubbed for the critically-acclaimed Past Lives and failing to celebrate the number of people of color nominated including Barbie’s America Ferrera and Killer of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone, who makes history as the first Native American woman to be nominated in the Best Actress category.
Our #PowerofPop work digs into how the stories we watch shape our sense of how the world works. And with our rigorous research into media representations of Black and brown men, immigrants, and income, we can absolutely affirm that television and film can change hearts and minds.
To that end, we’ve put together a list of our predictions for the “buzziest” movies and shows sure to dominate the public imagination and online discourse. Leverage these picks to amplify your campaigns and shift narratives. Happy watching!
(in theaters January 26, 2024)
Directed by Ava DuVernay, this film tells the true-life story of journalist Isabel Wilkerson as she writes and researches her book, “Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents,” which describes racism and other “isms” as part of a hidden caste system that shapes American today and throughout history. In addition to themes around racial and economic justice, the film highlights caregiving and mental health as audiences watch Wilkerson struggle to cope with her husband’s death and an ailing mother and friend.
(Peacock, streaming February 16, 2024)
In addition to depicting the horrific impacts of nuclear war and the United States’ military industrial complex, the film’s release surfaced conversations about environmental and health inequities experienced by Native people in New Mexico, who received no warning or compensation for adverse health impacts from testing.
(In theaters March 1, 2024)
This sequel follows Paul Atreides as he joins the Fremen, an Indigenous tribe living in the deep deserts of the planet Arrakis. With Timothée Chalamet as the lead, conversations will likely address the White Savior trope and whether director Denis Villeneuve successfully dismantles that narrative and portrays the rising up of oppressed peoples.
(In theaters April 26, 2024)
As the United States becomes more engulfed by debates around authentic American identity and who gets to be American, this film showcases the role of media, following a team of fictional journalists as the United States is once again plunged into civil war. Terrifyingly (but also unsurprisingly) set in the not-so-distant future, the film will likely touch on the same political divisions and societal tensions that we experience today – giving us a grim look at what the future could hold if we don’t preserve and protect democracy now.
(HBO Max, season 4 releases January 14)
The fourth installment of the series follows two detectives as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of a group of scientists researching climate change and the possible connection to the murder of a local Indigenous woman. With this season set in a desolate area of Alaska and a Native American lead actor, the show is expected to center Indigenous issues including the United States’s historic role in missing and murdered Native women, perpetuation of economic disparities, and the intersections with substance abuse, gender-based violence, and mental health in Indigenous communities. For the first time, the series also stars two women as the lead detectives, which as showrunner Issa López warned, is already drawing attempts to “review bomb” the series from “bros and hardcore fanboys.”
(ABC, season 3 releases February 7)
Acclaimed for its honest, nuanced storytelling, the third season is expected to further address challenges teachers and students face in a chronically underfunded public school with a majority Black and brown student population. Themes touched on in past seasons have included caregiving, food security, privatization of education, and more.
(Netflix, premieres February 22)
This live action depiction of the beloved animated series follows avatar Aang, who can bend the four elements (water, earth, air, and fire), as he seeks to prevent the Fire Nation from taking over the world. Like the original story, the show is expected to highlight themes around climate change, colonization, and Indigenous rights. With the first live action attempt universally panned for a whitewashed cast, many fans are excited to see this second iteration stay true to the animated series by presenting a blend of Indigenous and Asian-inspired cultures and showcasing actors of Asian descent.
(HBO Max, premieres March 3, 2024)
The six-episode limited series follows the fall of a modern European authoritarian regime. The show is expected to depict the evils of dictatorships and will likely touch on democracy by comparison. With a focus on the end of the Chancellor’s rule, the series will also likely follow political machinations and public mobilization to bring down the regime.
(Amazon Prime, premieres April 12, 2024)
Set in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, the video game-based series follows survivors living in underground bunkers after nuclear devastation. The story assumes “an alternate history where advancements in nuclear technology after WWII led to the emergence of a retrofuturistic society and a subsequent resource war.” Like Last of Us and other post-apocalyptic depictions, Fallout is expected to highlight exacerbated inequities and center community within socio-political tensions and environmental justice.
(Netflix; Season 3 part 1 releases May 16, 2024; Season 3 part 2 releases June 13, 2024)
Beyond the glitz and glam of romantic endeavors and fabulous parties, this show gives us insight into the lengths people will go for financial success. Season 3 breaks tradition and follows Penelope (aka “Lady Whistledown”), the less affluent family friend of the Bridgertons. Instead of relying on marriage to secure financial stability, Penelope must navigate patriarchal structures to pursue a nontraditional path towards independence.
(Disney+, 2024 date TBD)
This much anticipated addition to Star Wars canon appears to center dark side users at the heart of the show in the first onscreen depiction of the High Republic Era. While the story will undoubtedly portray the age-old struggle between the light and dark sides of the Force, it is likely going to delve into the reasons (such as economic disparities, family separation, environmental degradation, etc.) that motivate characters to choose certain paths. In addition, the show adds to the growing list of Star Wars movies and shows featuring diverse leads and ensembles with Amanda Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Jodie Turner-Smith, Manny Jacinto, and others making up the star-studded cast.
(Netflix, 2024 dates TBD)
Confirmed for release sometime in 2024, the second installment of the popular Korean show is expected to follow Seong Gi-hun’s quest to expose and end the cruel competition that pits people in debilitating debt for the entertainment of the wealthy. Like season one, the sequel will likely highlight class disparities and economic inequities.