I'll be the first to admit it. I've been spending more time behind a screen with this whole COVID-19 Pandemic happening. While I do have other hobbies beyond watching movies and YouTube, I have found some fantastic documentaries to fill my time with informative and thought-provoking content.
Documentaries are one of my favorite types of movies to spend time watching, and this list covers a few of my all-time favorites. I'm sure I will be adding to this list over time, but if you're not sure what to watch these days, here are a few options to get you started.
My Top Documentary Recommendations
Just Eat It
Topic: Food Waste | Where to Watch: Free on YouTube
After watching my fair share of "waste" type documentaries, this is one of my favorites. It follows the story of one couple as they discover food waste in their community. They set out on a six-month journey of buying no groceries: they only will eat food discarded by grocery stores and food distributors.
If you are largely unaware of the food waste issues in Western cultures, this is a great launching point. It is relatable, informative, and an eye-opening look at how broken our food system has become.
Earthlings & Dominion
From the same creators, Earthlings and Dominion are unshrouded looks behind the curtain that is often put over the voiceless animals hidden behind the justification of agriculture, entertainment, clothing, and science. While I recommend them both, Dominion is a somewhat updated version of Earthlings, but primarily takes place in Australia.
They both have an essential story to tell, and they do not spare the viewer the shocking reality that these animals live. If you consider yourself an animal lover or are against animal cruelty in any regard, these are films that may challenge the narrative we were raised to believe. They shed light on our system that allows us to decide which species of animals deserve our kindness, love, and respect, and which animals are used, abused, and "justifiably" exploited for human gain.
The Animal People
Topic: Animal Activism / Domestic Terrorism | Where to Watch: Netflix
For as long as I can remember, countless activists and activist groups have been targeted by the government and media to be portrayed as "extremists" or even "terrorists." Even if you aren't a staunch animal rights activist, this is a view into America's "free speech" that we all should take the time to learn from and understood.
Topic: Environmentalism + Animal Agriculture | Where to Watch: Netflix
I've mentioned this movie on my blog before, but it seemed necessary to add it to this list. For all of the environmentalists out there that wonder why I first become vegan for the environment... this movie is why. One thing about documentaries is that they can sometimes manipulate the truth for their message to be heard, and there are many skeptics out there that write this movie off outright.
With that in mind, my advice to you is to watch it, consider the evidence, and do your own research on the topic. This movie is now almost five years old. There is new, and even more shocking, evidence to support the claims that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change and environmental destruction globally.
What the Health & Game Changers
Topic: Plant-Based Diets + Health | Where to Watch: Netflix
For viewers interested in their health, these are two excellent documentaries to add to your list. What the Health comes from the creators of Cowspiracy, and it tackles some topics outside of health alone. Game Changers is more targeted to athletes, but anyone can learn from it. However, they both give an in-depth understanding of how media and industry have convinced us that we NEED to eat animal products to be healthy.
Even if you have no intention of ever being vegan, these two documentaries can shed some light on the types of foods you should be seeking, and reasons why cutting down on animal products may be the healthiest option.
Forks Over Knives
Topic: Plant-Based Diets | Where to Watch: Netflix
Forks Over Knives is an older documentary focusing on the health benefits of plant-based diets. I thought about grouping this with the two listed above, but this one has a somewhat broader focus. Although this documentary we released in 2011, there is so much to be learned from the content here.
Topic: Habitat Loss / Destruction | Where to Watch: Netflix
If you're looking for something to give you a broader worldview, Virunga is a good place to start. This is a heartbreaking and heroic story of Virunga National Park and the fight to save it. Sometimes it is hard to get away from the news of what is happening in our towns, states, and country, but with globalization as a backdrop to our economy, it is crucial to take a look beyond our borders.
The Ivory Game
Topic: Poaching + Wildlife Trade | Where to Watch: Netflix
If you thought I was done talking about animal rights, think again! The Ivory Game is a look into Elephant poaching and the fight against it. Ivory trafficking is extremely dangerous, and elephants are being hunted into extinction. When acts like poaching seem so far removed for us, they are easy to overlook. This film gives us a chance to see the trade of wildlife and wild animal body parts firsthand.
Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective
Topic: Permaculture Design | Where to Watch: Inhabit Film Website
If you're tired of the doom and gloom perspective, Inhabit may be a relief. Permaculture design is an amazing way to view problems and come up with viable, eco-conscious solutions. What I appreciate about this movie is that they not only highlight issues in our current agricultural system, but they show real-life examples of how we can do things differently.
Even if you have never heard of permaculture before, this movie will be inspiring, understandable, and give you ideas of how to apply permaculture design to your life and community.
Topic: Edward Abbey + Environmental Activism | Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
If you've never heard of Edward Abbey, this movie may at least inspire you to read one of his most famous books: The Monkey Wrench Gang. While this movie can be seen as somewhat of a tribute to his life's work, it goes deeper into the world of environmental activism and how Abbey shaped the way we fight for the wilderness.
Topic: Damming the USA | Where to Watch: DamNation Website
Presented by Patagonia, DamNation offers the history of Dam construction throughout the United States and the current issues surrounding hydropower. It will likely bring forth a perspective about Dams you'd never considered, and it could change your view on them altogether.
Much of the movie follows scientists and activists as they remove Dams in various parts of the Country for the sake of the river and environmental health of specific areas. Edward Abbey is featured in this documentary as well.
Topic: America’s Prison System | Where to Watch: Netflix
To take a step away from environmentalism and animal rights for a moment, I'm going to recommend the documentary 13th. The primary focus of this movie is to shed light on the bias of our criminal justice system. 13th will be a shocking discovery for some, and I find it entirely necessary to watch this movie, especially due to recent events.
Topic: America’s War on Terror | Where to Watch: Rent on Amazon Prime Video
For most of my life, America has been fighting the "War on Terror." I honestly have not paid close enough attention to the development of the war, but I can say that I don't agree with war as a means of solving conflict. Dirty Wars follows one journalist's investigation into the dirty secrets the government works so hard to conceal. This movie is a few years old, but I still think that the point of view is relevant as it sheds light on how America frames its war crimes.
What documentaries would you add to the list?