Updated: May 30, 2022
To maintain any lifestyle, there is an underlying motivational force that must push you. Change can be challenging, and transitioning from an omnivorous to a vegan diet is no exception. Inspiration may fade and feel-good memories may become bittersweet moments of the past. These documentaries will continue to revive any staleness you might feel toward a vegan movement. Though documentaries are not a replacement for scientific research, if you’re looking for a way to inspire yourself and your friends, dip into this list of incredible films that address hard-to-reach, hard-to-understand, and often hard-to-watch conflicts about the current system of eating in the US and around the world.
1. For Friends Who Care About Animals - Earthlings
Directed by: Shaun Monson, 2005
Earthlings, narrated by the incredible Joaquin Phoenix, takes a hard look at humanity’s use of animals in their food, clothing, entertainment and experiments. Although difficult to watch (viewer discretion definitely advised), Earthlings is an extremely moving film. Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, says about the documentary “If I could make everyone in the world see one film, I’d make them see Earthlings.” Using hidden cameras, this film captures never-before-seen footage about the economic dependence humans have on animals. You will find yourself covering your face like you’re watching Saw II. It still stands, 15 years later, as one of the most comprehensive films on this subject, and you will have no choice but to never forget it.
Find it here.
2. For Friends Who Care About The Healthcare System - What the Health
Directed by: Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen, 2017
In the first five minutes of this document, Kip Anderson and his team have you on the edge of your seat. Diabetes is responsible for 1 in 3 medicare dollars and 1 in 10 healthcare dollars in the United States. Heart disease kills the equivalent of four jumbo jets crashing every hour, every day, every year. The World Health Organization considers processed meat to be a carcinogen, and our healthcare system is in the business of treating sick people, not on keeping people from being sick. Ok, slow down. You have my attention.
This 2017 documentary critiques the health impact of the meat and dairy industry in the US. Big dairy and egg have large and manipulative influences in the funding of bias research that is revealed as one of many cover-ups exposed. The film can get a little vegan-preachy. At times, the information is forced and exaggerated to cling to an agenda. However, the underlying truth can’t be denied. If everyone in the US went vegan, it would have a profound effect on society.
Find it here or on Netflix.
3. For Friends Who Care About the Environment - Food Exposed with Nelufar Hedayat
If you want something you can binge, Award-winning journalist Nelufar Hedayat takes us on an 8-series journey as she examines the food we eat and the impact it has on our world. She travels everywhere, investigating the global food chain and the origins of many dishes that end up on our plate. Waste, dairy, water, GMOs, pork, superfoods and palm oil are some of the topics covered in each episode of this enlightening series. Fish are disappearing as a species, palm oil is in 50% of packaged foods in supermarkets, 40% of our food is just wasted. With a very famous cast of environmental warriors like Nicole Richie, James Cromwell, Jordana Brewster, Moby, Dominic Monaghan, Amy Smart and Jeremy Irons, each episode is approximately 50 minutes of in-depth study in a specific subject that will leave you uncomfortable, intimidated and anxious for effective change.
Find it here.
4. For Friends Who Are Athletes - The Game Changers
Directed By: Oscar Winner Louie Psihoyos, 2018
The Gamechangers follows the journey of James Wilks, an MMA fighter and special forces trainer, as he warily transitions from meat-pusher to powerful vegan advocate. James spoke in an interview about his inspiration for creating the film, “I felt I was being lied to” about meat and athleticism. A theme of endurance arises as the narrative continues. The audience sees the stamina and consistency a vegan diet can provide for an array of top-level athletes, from ultrarunner Scott Jurek to strongman Patrik Baboumian, both of whom conquer incredible feats on exclusively plant-based diets during the film. Big myths are busted like “Soy will give you boobs!” (It’s the opposite. Phytoestrogens attach to the receptors that estrogen would normally cling to and prevent those hormones from taking hold) and “Carbs will make you fat!” (Whole grain carbs are actually associated with decreased body fat and more muscle).
The cast does an excellent job of inspiring women and especially male athletes to shake free of their preconceived notions. There’s even a whole segment dedicated to erections, which drives home the point that meat isn’t, in fact, manly at all. Unsurprisingly, the film has caught a lot of flack. Of course, there are flaws in this documentary, but I would suggest listening to the dialogue between Chris Cressler (a staunch advocate of eating meat) and James Wilkes on the Joe Rogan podcast before you google all the things that are wrong with the Game Changers. This movie is a first of its kind, bringing elite athleticism and veganism front and center in the growing plant-based community.
Find it on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vimeo or any streaming service.
5. For Friends Who Don’t Watch Documentaries - Okja
Directed By: Oscar Winner Bong Joon-ho, 2017
This incredible, satirical, dark comedy follows a little girl who grows up with a constant companion. Okja, a Superpig designed to be slaughtered, is a huge, slobbery, remarkable creature who is smarter than most humans and deeply in love with her little friend. In this all too familiar storyline, the audience knows exactly where Okja is going to end up. An evil corporation with no heart and a lot of money is after this genetically-modified masterpiece (enter Tilda Swinton with braces and a Jake Gyllenhaal you’re just dying to slap).
Parasite director Joon-ho does not shy away from the uncomfortable. He makes the film larger than life, with big characters, big colors and very big problems. Rolling Stone called it “A movie that's part kiddie treat and part horror show”. If you’re a 90s kid you might feel serious Babe vibes as the audience falls in love with, and routes for the underpig right from the start. Most people don’t want to watch where their food comes from, and an influential film like Okja shoves it in your face to such an extent that the film becomes a comedy. This is an easy movie to watch with friends, and it will leave everyone with a seed of concern as they confront the personality behind the meat on their plate.
Find it on Netflix.
If you have any amazing films or documentaries to add to this list, we’d love for you to share in the comments below!
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