Please note that permission to show copyrighted material to students or the general public varies wildly from college to college. If your group does show copyrighted material, please check your college's guidelines beforehand. American law and regulations on this matter can be found here.
Showing a film as an event or at an event for your group can be a great way to take a break from the usual meeting structure.
Few movies are public domain, as most rights have been purchased by various companies. Check out the bottom of the page for some films that may be of interest to your group that are public domain. You can also access public domain movies on YouTube as well here.
IMDB is a great resource if you'd like more information on a specific movie or show.
If you have questions or suggestions to add to the list, let us know at email@example.com.
David Fitzgerald, the co-founder and director of the world’s first atheist film festival, has put together some good secular-friendly cinema suggestions to share as well as helpful advice on how to run a successful movie night – or even put on a film festival event of your own over at this page!
Check out each page for more details on requesting them!
- Hug an Atheist
- Jesus Camp
- A Jihad for Love
- The God Who Wasn't There
- Root of All Evil?
- Letting Go of God
- 8: The Mormon Proposition
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
- Planet Earth
- The Atheism Tapes
- Food, Inc.
- Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
- Flock of Dodos
- Food, Inc
- The Nature of Existence
- Monkey Trial
- Deliver Us From Evil
- Hell House
- Letting Go of God
- Selling God
- No Dinosaurs in Heaven
- V for Vendetta
- Monty Python's Life of Brian
- The Ledge
- Creation (2009)
- Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
- The Invention of Lying
- The Golden Compass
- Inherit the Wind
- Blade Runner
- The Man From Earth
- Letting Go of God
- Monty Python's Life of Brian
- Cats made of Rabbits
- Ian Harris: Critical & Thinking
- Battlestar Galactica
- Planet Earth
- Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
- Cosmos: A Personal Voyage
- Root of All Evil
- South Park
- Family Guy
- Penn and Teller: Bullshit!
Public Domain Options
Public domain videos are available to anyone to screen and view in any way that they would like. Public domain means that there are no current rights-holders that maintain a copyright on the material.
- Attack of the Giant Leeches.
A 1959 sci-fi monster movie that fulfills fears during the cold-war.
- The Last Man on Earth.
The 1964 film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, starring Vincent Price. A Sci-fi movie about the last human on earth who has to live with vampires.
- White Zombie.
A 1932 film that is considered as the first feature length zombie film. This focuses on a woman who wants to turn into a zombie.
A 1934 film about an assistant who kills the doctor he works for and impersonates him, which ends up driving him insane.
- Kept Husbands
A 1931 film that focuses on why gender roles are important in the family.
- Life with Father.
A 1947 comedy film about a father who wants to be the master of his house, but his family does not respect him as he is not baptized.
- Meet John Doe
A 1941 film about a grassroots political movement and how it is corrupted by special interests.
- The Courageous Dr. Christian.
A 1940 film about the harsh living conditions of homeless people in a city, and the lengths that this doctor would go to help them.
A 1932 film about the interaction between a godless prostitute and a Christian missionary. This film was controversial as it portrayed the missionary as being morally corrupt.
- The Amazing Mr. X (also known as the Spiritualist)
A Film Noir that tells the story of a phony spiritualist who uses his skills to manipulate others.
- The Big Trees.
A 1952 film where a greedy timber baron looks to exploit a forest, but Quaker colonists protest his actions.
A 1949 film about conservationism during the big oil boom in the 1920s, as well as greed and corruption.
- Hemp for Victory
A 1942 war film made to encourage farmers to grow hemp for the war effort, made by the US government.
- Why We Fight
The World War II film series made to inform the soldiers why they were participating in the war, and later shown to the public.
- Glen or Glenda
The 1953 cult-classic by Ed Wood that focuses on Glenn/Glenda who is biologically a male but likes to dress in women’s clothing. The film also touches on transgender, intersex, and sex change issues.
- Reefer Madness
The cult classic 1936 film about the “dangers” of marijuana.
- The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
The original cult classic comedy horror film directed by Roger Corman about a florist’s assistant who cultivates a plant that eats humans.
- Night of the Living Dead
The classic 1968 zombie movie that was groundbreaking for having the main protagonist be a person of color.
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
The 1964 cult classic movie about Santa on Mars.
Viewing and screening rights with Youtube videos can often be a bit murky and not well-defined. We encourage you to check with your campus policies in regard to showing material on Youtube that is not specifically in the public domain. You can find the Youtube terms of service here. Generally, if you are confident that the video content was uploaded by the creator and rights holder, it is usually allowed to show the video in a small public setting without charging to view it or promoting it to the general public.
The Great Debate series from the Origins Project at Arizona State University
- Origins of Violence: Transcending Our Origins, Violence, Humanity and the Future Part 1, Part 2
Steven Pinker, Richard Wrangham, Erica Chenoweth, Adrian Raine, John Mueller, Sarah Matthew.
Total length: 1 hour
- Origins of the Future: Medicine and Synthetic Biology to Machine Intelligence Part 1, Part 2
Richard Dawkins, Craig Venter, Kim Stanley Robinson, Esther Dyson, Eric Horvitz, George Poste, Randolph Nesse
Total length: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?
Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Lawrence Krauss, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer, and Roger Bingham.
Total length: 2 hours
- Are We Beyond the Tipping Point for Survivable Climate Change? How Will Our Nation Thrive in the Coming Food and National Security Threats Tied to Climate Change? Part 1, Part 2
Jim Hansen, Susan Solomon, Wallace Broecker, John Ashton, Sander Van Der Leeuw.
Total length 2 hours 30 minutes
- Parallel Realities: The Nature of the Universe, Possibilities of a Multiverse, and Recent Discoveries in Physics Part 1, Part 2
Frank WIlczek, David Gross, Brian Schmidt, Wendy Freedman, Maria Spiropulu, Lawrence Krauss
Total length: 2 hours 40 minutes
- The Storytelling of Science and the Science of Storytelling Part 1, Part 2
Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Brian Greene, Ira Flatow, Neal Stephenson, Tracy Day, Lawrence Krauss
Total length: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Xenophobia: Why Do We Fear Others?
Frans de Waal, Jeffrey Sachs, Steven Neuberg, Rebecca Saxe, Freeman Dyson, Charles Blow.
Total length: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Deception: Why is deception an essential part of the human condition? What evolutionary purpose does it fulfill? Part 1, Part 2
Robert Trivers, Carol Tavris, Stephen Macknik, Susana Martinez-Conde, Jamy Ian Swiss, Joshua Jay, Lawrence Krauss.
Total Length: 2 hours 30 minutes
- The Catholic Church is a Force for Good in the World
Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Ann Widdecombe: For
Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Frye: Against
Length: 2 Hours
- Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today’s Modern, Scientific Era?
Ken Ham: For
Bill Nye: Against
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Has Science Buried God?
John Lennox: Science points to intelligent design
Richard Dawkins: Counter to John Lennox
Length: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Has Science Refuted Religion?
Sean Carroll and Michael Shermer: For
Dinesh D’Souza and Ian Hutchinson: Against
Total length: 2 hours
- Faith and Reason: Friend or Foes?
Timothy O’Connor: Christian perspective
Wesley Cray: Atheist perspective
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- What is the Meaning of Life?
Satyan Devadoss: Theist perspective
Kevin Scharp: Atheist perspective
Total length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Other Youtube Videos of Interest
Most movies’ rights are owned by a distributor, and to show these movies for large audiences you need to have permission to do this legally. Even Netflix is illegal to show it to large audiences, through this clause in the user agreement, “…the Software is only for your own personal, non-commercial use and not for use in the operation of a business or service bureau, for profit or for the benefit or any other person or entity.” If you are looking to show a movie at your meeting, you are likely breaking the law if you do not receive permission. While some publishers may not care, especially if the event is small, others may choose to prosecute if they learn about it. The school will get in trouble, and so will your organization. So, how do you show movies without violating the law?
There are two big distributors and licensors that partner with major studios for distribution of their content to public events. These are Swank and Criterion. Through these companies, you can get the rights to show a movie to the public. Criterion stated that their price is determined based on a few criteria:
- Movie title
- Screening date
- Anticipated attendance
- Admission rate (if applicable)
- Format (DVD, Blu-Ray, etc)
Criterion states that their rate is determined by these factors, but that they also scale the price to the situation. A student organization will be less expensive than the university showing it. They specifically represent 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, as well as their subsidiaries. Swank’s procedure is similar, although they represent different companies. Swank represents Disney, Sony, MGM, NBC, and more. These libraries are available on their website.
You can also choose to contact the distributor directly. You can find who the distributor is by going to IMDB and go to “company credits” and select “see more”. Under distribution you will be able to find the appropriate company that is in charge of retail distribution. You can ask for permission to show a film for free.
For Youtube Videos
- Copyright law is one of the more complex areas of the law, as we as a society are trying to put up fence posts around expressions of ideas (and then create lot of exceptions to those fence posts).
- For showing YouTube videos during your meeting as a humorous icebreaker, one of the key questions is whether you are engaging in a “public performance.”
- The definition of public performance is “to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered.”
- So, if you have a close-knit group and your meetings aren’t open to the public, you can show YouTube videos without concern.
- If you have a larger group (alas, there is no firm number in the law), or your meetings are open to the public, we recommend the following guidelines:
- Only use YouTube videos that you are confident were uploaded by the copyright holder (generally the person who created the video). If it looks like a sketchy bootleg of someone else’s work, avoid it.
- Only use YouTube videos that you stream live, or download via the YouTube interface. Most copyright holders only license the video for streaming on YouTube, not for download and later play. Yes, there are tools out there for downloading YouTube videos that are stream-only, but we encourage you to stream if downloading is disabled.
- Don’t use videos solely as humorous icebreakers. The more that you use your meeting topic or discussion to critique a video, or build on points raised by the video, or otherwise engage with the video beyond “well gee, that was entertaining, now let’s talk about something else”, the more rights you have under copyright law.
- We always encourage you to check campus policy when in doubt. That will be the best way to figure out if you can or cannot show a specific video to your student group.