Documentary Films About Pandemics

Documentary Films About Pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic have created a wide range of reactions: from fear to fascination, to the general struggle of reshaping our daily lives. One common response is the desire to learn more, through studying previous pandemics. The films on today’s list cover topics of past public health crises, and can be a valuable resource for laymen seeking to educate themselves on the matter.

How to Survive a Plague?

This documentary focuses on the work of activists who battled the AIDS epidemic throughout the 80s and 90s. The crisis began in the gay community in the 1980s, and the public attitude towards LGBT issues of the day made it difficult for the public to take the pandemic seriously. Throughout most of the decade, the only treatment was a high-priced drug which was financially out of reach for most Americans.


Pandemic is a documentary series co-produced by Netflix and the reporting team at Vox. It dives into pandemics of every shape and form, and their impacts on the world at large. The main focus of the series are the doctors and medical professionals on the front lines of these events. The film also takes a closer look at the process of manufacturing and distributing vaccines, ranging from the common flue to the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa.

Fire in the Blood

In today’s world, AIDS victims in America are virtually guaranteed to live a full life, providing they have access to medical care. In Africa, however, AIDS is as deadly as it was in the US in the 1980s. At this point,  out of the 38 million people currently living with aids, approximately 20 million are from Africa.

Fire in the Blood places blame on the western pharmaceutical companies, revealing how companies are working hand-in-hand to favor western governments. The film features testimony from medical professionals, activists, and many others included in the African AIDS crisis.


Spillover studies how pandemics spread from animals to humans, through examples such as Ebola and the Zika virus. The effects of these viruses cause ripple effects throughout society, and the documentary works to showcase that. The narrative moves between everyone involved; from doctors, the affected and the social institutions currently fighting these dangerous pandemics. The documentary was produced by PBS.

Influenza 1918

Influenza 1918 is a part of the American Experience series, delving into the deadly pandemic that followed the end of World War 1. The pandemic killed 50 million people worldwide, 600,000 of which died in the US.  Experts study the complex factors that contributed to the outbreak, most of which stemmed from the war itself. These included poor hygiene, global movement of people and poor nourishment, creating overall poor immunity that laid the groundwork for a public health disaster.


This Discovery Channel documentary studies the role mosquitos play in spreading pandemics, due to their feeding on blood, and their immunity to the illnesses they carry. Mosquito connects the dots throughout the process of viral spread, presenting an interesting exploration of our world and its interconnections.


Which film are you most excited to check out?