Anthony Bourdain, our patron saint of geographically-infused TV shows

As all of us are hunkering down, universities and high schools are adopting some online teaching strategies.  Many people are streaming entertainment content to pass the time with family or roommates as our lifeline to the outside world.  While these might not be top on your streaming list of videos, podcasts, or online content, all of these are solid content that teach us plenty about the cultural landscape or about the world around us. This list will continue to be updated as I haven’t watched/listened to everything here as of yet (I’ll be glad to take your suggestions @ProfessorDixon).  I’ll try to organize these by platform accessibility:


  • Street Food (trailer):  Any episodes in season one, which are all focused on Asia
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (trailer): Full film also on Youtube here.
  • Somebody Feed Phil (trailer): Like Anthony Bourdain, Phil travels the world, makes friends, eats their food, and explores local cultural landscapes.
  • Ugly Delicious (trailer): With salty and spicy language, this food show with David Chang is a good portal into cultural diffusion, globalization, agriculture, and more. Season 2 episode 2 “Curry” comes highly recommended.
  • Born in Syria (trailer):
  • American Factory (trailer): In this documentary hopes soar when a Chinese company reopens a shuttered factory in Ohio.  But a culture clash threatens to shatter the American Dream.
  • One Strange Rock (trailer): National Geographic series hosted by Will Smith all about our planet
  • Pandemic (trailer): Hey, I’ve got enough of this in real life, but it you want more of it, here it is.
  • City of God (trailer):  R-rated, graphic gang violence.  Set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, this is a gripping portrayal of live in Brazil’s favelas in the late 20th century.
  • Like Water for Chocolate (trailer): R-rated, in Spanish with subtitles, set in Mexico.



  • Babies (trailer): Babies in different cultures and cultural differences in child development/rearing.
  • Rick Steves’ Europe (trailer): If you’ve ever wanted to travel to Europe, you couldn’t have a better guide than Rick Steves.  Sure he isn’t super flashy, but I’m always jealous of all the places he goes and the cultural landscapes he gets to see in person.
  • One Child Nation (trailer):  (R-rated, super hard to watch, graphic) This is incredibly powerful, incredibly relevant to population issues, and fraught with so many issues.  I would not advise recommending it to high school students without parental approval.
  • Lion (trailer): Boy from India adopted in Australia uses Google Earth to reconnect
  • The Amazing Race (trailer): This isn’t dense with academic content, but seeing many Americans racing/traveling around the world, and occasionally perform some challenges against the backdrop of iconic cultural landscapes still has some value.  Plus, they have a gazillion seasons available.
  • True Cost (trailer): Fashion industry and global exploitation
  • Whale Rider (trailer):
  • Samsara (trailer) (by the makers of Baraka-trailer): A tour of 24 countries, deeply enmeshing the viewer in the human mosaic that is the cultural landscape.

PBS Shows

OTHER MOVIES/TV SHOWS (you can find them if you pay/look)

  • Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown (trailer): A TV show previously on Netflix that is fantastic.  Bourdain travels the world, meets people from everywhere, enjoys their food, and gets to know the local culture.  I especially like the episode on the Philippines (season 7, episode 1).
  • Dogtown and Z Boys (trailer): How did the physical and cultural geography of Southern California shape the ethos of skateboarding in the 1970s?  This is the best documentary you’ll find to answer that question.
  • God Grew Tired of Us (trailer): Full video here on YouTube.
  • Power of One (trailer): Morgan Freeman plays in this historical depiction of Apartheid South Africa.
  • World’s Busiest Cities (trailer): This BBC series includes Moscow, Mexico City, Delhi, and Hong Kong.
  • I Am Eleven (trailer):
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy (trailer): An epic comedy of absurd proportions about the Bushmen of Southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert.
  • Stand and Deliver (trailer): South Central Los Angeles High School and Educational attainment
  • Wadjda (trailer): Girl in Saudi Arabia
  • Englishman who went up a Hill But can Down a Mountain (trailer):
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence (trailer):
  • Living on a Dollar (trailer): Follows 4 friends as they live on $1 a day for 2 months in rural Guatemala
  • West Side Story (trailer): Hey, if you want to go old school, I’m not gonna knock it.
  • Slumdog Millionare (trailer): R-rated, but heartfelt depiction of life in an Indian slum.
  • Hotel Rwanda: (trailer):
  • Food Inc. (trailer):
  • Half the Sky (trailer):
  • City of Joy (trailer): This movie looks at poverty in India, especially in the slums
  • Life & Debt (trailer):
  • Invictus (trailer):
  • It’s A Girl (trailer):
  • A Girl in the River (trailer):
  • Milagro Beanfield War (trailer):
  • Blood Diamond (trailer):

SHORTS (between 5-25 minutes)

  • West Virginia, Still Home: This video perfectly exemplifies some key geographic ideas, sense of place, regional economic decline, migration and resource extraction.  This video would be great to shows students and then get them to analyze the geographic context that creates a place.
  • Vancouver Never Plays Itself: An interesting connection between sense of place and media geographies.
  • EAT, MOVE, LEARN: I absolutely love this three-part video collection.  They are playful clips that lead students to have more questions than answers about different places. The spirit of exploration and experimentation is at the heart of this global traveler’s montage of delightful dishes. Watching this encourages viewers to open their minds to new ideas, cultures and places.
  • Where the Hell is Matt?:  2008 version and the 2012 version.  While they are all just performing a silly dance, the clothes and cultural landscape changes all of over the world and we can see what unites us.
  • Place-Based Videos: This ArcGIS WebApp places over 65 short videos on the map that I’ve shared on my site over the years.  These videos come from all over the world.


SITES WORTH EXPLORING–A student could get lost in these (in a good way)

  • GeoGuessr: GeoGuessr will display 5 locations in GoogleMaps “StreetView” and you have to guess where the images are located.  You can pan and zoom in the StreetView to explore the landscape and find more context clues as to where that location is.  It is a fantastic exploration exercise.
  • Dollar Street: The best comparison and the most relatable thing for students to see in other countries is real people, leading regular lives. Dollar Street brings the economic realities of other places without some of the of the negative stereotypes or romanticizing far-away places.
  • GoogleMaps Smarty Pins: “Google unveiled a fun new game this week that tests players’ geography and trivia skills.  Called ‘Smarty Pins’ the game starts players off with 1,000 miles (or 1,609 kilometers if they’re not based in the United States), and asks them to drop a pin on the city that corresponds with the correct answer to a given question.”
  • Gapminder Data Tools: Gapminder is a tremendous resource that I’ve shared in the past and total fertility rates is an ideal metric to see in this data visualization tool. This is one of the best ways to visualize global statistics. The world is changing–see how.
  • Observatory of Economic Complexity: Understanding global trade and economic data can feel overwhelming, but fortunately there are online tools that help us to visualize complex economic data. The “VISUALIZATIONS” are my favorite things to see on this site.  The Observation of Economic Complexity is MIT’s companion website to the Atlas of Economic Complexity (Harvard’s version of the same data visualization–here is my tutorial on how to use the Atlas of Economic Complexity).