Documentaries hold a power unique to any other type of film.
They have the remarkable capacity to shift our understanding of the vast and complex world in which we live, most of the time presenting us with powerfully relevant information, a previously unknown perspective, and hopefully, a new choice to make a difference.
The following list of documentaries showcases films that may inspire a new outlook on the world we live in. There were so many to choose from that compiling this list proved challenging, however, each one of these films stands as prudent commentaries offering valuable insight into the wonders and workings of the world at large. Enjoy!
1) Hungry For Change
“Hungry For Change exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight loss and food industry don’t want you to know about; deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. Find ut what’s keeping you from having the body and health you deserve and how to escape the diet trap forever.”
2) Fed Up
“Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever.”
“TINY is a documentary about home, and how we find it. The film follows one couple’s attempt to build a “tiny house” from scratch, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into homes smaller than the average parking space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about good design, the nature of home, and the changing American Dream.”
” ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane, in a departure from the type of material he is best known for, pays homage to Carl Sagan’s award-winning and iconic ‘Cosmos’ with this docu-series. Through stories of humankind’s quest for knowledge, viewers travel across the universe. Scientific concepts are presented clearly, with both skepticism and wonder, to impart their full impact. Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts, and Sagan’s original creative collaborator, Ann Druyan, serves as an executive producer.”
5) Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
“100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope. In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well— with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn’t far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health.”
6. Forks Over Knives
“Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.”
“Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.”
8) In Plane Sight
“911: In Plane Site: Director’s Cut is a 2004 documentary which promotes 9/11 conspiracy theories. Photographs and video footage from the September 11 attacks are presented and the documentary claims that the public was not given all of the facts surrounding the terrorist attack.”
“This is the movie that will change your attitude about fuel forever. PUMP is an inspiring, eye-opening documentary that tells the story of America’s addiction to oil, from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the monopoly oil companies enjoy today. The film explains clearly and simply how we can end this monopoly — and finally win choice at the pump.”
10) The Human Experiment
“The Human Experiment lifts the veil on the shocking reality that thousands of untested chemicals are in our everyday products, our homes and inside of us. Simultaneously, the prevalence of many diseases continues to rise. From Oscar® winner Sean Penn and Emmy® winning journalists Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, The Human Experiment tells the personal stories of people who believe their lives have been affected by chemicals and takes viewers to the front lines as activists go head-to-head with the powerful and well-funded chemical industry. These activists bring to light a corrupt system that’s been hidden from consumers… until now.”
11) Life: The BBC Mini-Series
A vast majority of people live their lives exiled from the wonders of nature and the myriad of living creatures that inhabit our incredibly diverse biosphere. Not to worry, however, as this wonder is magnificently captured in the 2009 BBC mini-series, Life.
Shot in crystal clear high-definition and narrated by the world’s most beloved narrator himself, David Attenborough, the series chronicles some of the most unusual, if not downright bizarre, behaviors that living organisms have devised to keep their species alive. The massive project took 4 years to shoot and put together, taking brave camera crews across every continent and habitat imaginable. Get your popcorn ready and prepare for your mind to be blown.
12) The Zeitgeist Trilogy
Commonly pegged as the films that ignited a global awakening, the Zeitgeist Trilogy quickly opened a public discourse into the largest “conspiracies” to brace the modern day world. Narrated by the enigmatic filmmaker and social activist, Peter Joseph, the film audaciously exposes the high-ordered corruption in all aspects of finance, religion, and politics today, inspiring the masses to open their eyes to the the inner workings of the global tyranny ruling our world. The series leaves the viewer with a whetted appetite for more, making this documentary film series a can of worms only for the brave and ready.
13) The Square
By now, we have undoubtedly heard about the horrendous ongoing conflict in Egypt through the mainstream lens, but rarely have we gotten the chance to see an inside perspective from the men, women and children who are actually experiencing the carnage and chaos. The 2013 documentary, The Square, does just this. Audiences get a compelling inside look at the cascading series of revolutions and counter-revolutions that have shaken Egypt since the beginning of 2011, shattering routine bias commonly imposed by the mainstream media. We see the humanness of the Egyptian conflict like never before, a frightening reality that reminds us of the possibilities any country could experience in the face of governmental defiance.
14) I Am
Known for his clever knack for ridiculous humour, filmmaker Tom Shadyac’s resume of films include blockbuster hits like The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Bruce Almighty. But after a 2007 biking accident left him with a series of insistent headaches and a painful sensitivity to light, Tom was forced to spend a 6-month period bed-ridden, in complete darkness.
Once Tom recovered, he found himself with a new perspective and a slew of burning questions about life. This prompted his journey into the realm of documentary film-making, spawning the film I Am. The film asks two central questions: “What’s Wrong With the World?” and “What Can We Do About it?”, picking the brains of a cast of intriguing and insightful public figures. The themes explored in I Am make important food for thought for everyone.
Samsara also made a previous list of life changing films we wrote about, seen here, due to its success in capturing the unfathomable reaches of humanity’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, visionary inspired guided meditation. From the mundane to the extraordinary, prepare for a journey around the world like nothing you’ve seen before.
Coming in at number 5 is a film that changed my life only 20 minutes in. Earthlings is one of those films you cannot walk away from unaffected, exposing a reality so often swept under the rug by most. Some of the largest industries in our world today operate from the exploitation and slaughter of billions of animals annually, and this film exposes these gruesome and oft-ignored facets of society.
The film does well at showing how all living beings on this planet are ‘earthlings,’ and that somewhere along the way we’ve severed our connection to animals to a sadistic degree. If you are ready, watch this film and prepare for a massive wake-up call.
17) Life In A Day
Life In A Day takes the number 3 spot for a few reasons. The first reason is due to it’s incredibly original concept – an arranged series of video clips selected from 80,000 clips submitted to YouTube, the clips showing respective occurrences from around the world on a single day, July 24, 2010. The second reason is due to the sheer magnitude and global perspective it provides the audience with.
The film leaves you with a feeling of connectedness, having seen the diversity and rawness of humanity and the windows into different lives, capturing moments humourous and sad, ordinary and momentous.
Revolution is an urgent call to action over the looming ecological collapse. It presents the idea that all of our actions are interconnected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution, and scarcity of food and water are limiting, even reducing, the Earth’s ability to support humans.
What is particularly important about this film is the director’s passion to get this message across to our youth, the ones who will be left to deal with the mess of previous generation’s decisions. Revolution is a film that should no doubt be mandatory for high school and university students to watch, whence the future policy makers emerge, to hopefully one day make a difference.
19) Planet Earth
What other documentary would you expect to take the top spot on our list other than BBC`s Planet Earth? The series is probably the most breath-taking visualization of our planet ever conceptualized.
Comprised of eleven episodes, each features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth captured in stunning high-definition. Planet Earth comes in at number one for the sole reason that it gives us a truly epic perspective on the world we live in, and reminds us of how freaking awesome and sacred our planet truly is.