I have put together a list of the best vegan documentaries that will have even the most committed carnivore a little shook. Take the plunge into a plant-based perspective as this line-up delves into everything from animal cruelty to the effect that consumption of animal products has on our health and the environment.
Whatever your stance, it is worth educating yourself on all perspectives and seeing things from a new angle or three… I have in the past written about “Why I stopped eating animals and embraced more kindness.” – Sharing my own journey and I’ve also written two guides to a plant-based lifestyle in South Africa.
My goal has always been to not only raise awareness on going plant-based / vegan, and consuming fewer animals, but to also make things easier for everyone else that is only starting this journey now. Eight years ago when I started my journey, I could only wish for as many resources that are available today.
Take a look at some spectacular documentaries and films below. Most can be found on streaming services such as Netflix / Amazon.
Forks Over Knives
A film that contributed to the plant-based revolution is Forks Over Knives from 2011. Forks Over Knives has since become a huge movement encouraging people to eat a healthy and lifesaving whole food diet. Two prominent doctors in the film, Dr T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic put the idea of food as medicine to the test in this encouraging documentary. They compare the Western diet to the diet in other countries with lower rates of cancer and heart disease and conclude that many chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes can usually be prevented or reversed by eating a whole-food plant-based diet.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
This environmental documentary takes on the cruel meat industry while following filmmaker Kip Anderson as he exposes animal agriculture for what it really is. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret investigates controlling environmental organizations and searches for the truth from leaders in this movement and uncovers a common theme – there is a refusal to discuss animal agriculture. This film provides many solid facts and arguments and shows that animal agriculture is the leading cause of water consumption, deforestation and pollution, and is responsible for producing more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry.
The Game Changers
Executive produced by James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Game Changers tells the story of elite athletes and a Special Forces trainer travelling the world to uncover optimal diet for human performance. Experts around the world agree that the ideal way to excel in sports is to follow a plant-based diet. This is the ideal documentary to watch with friends or family that are athletes and want to improve their performance and strength on a plant-based diet. This informative film will wake up those that still believe eating meat is good for them.
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale held in captivity at SeaWorld until his horrific and unnatural death in 2017. Tilikum forever holds a special place in my heart as I protested his captivity for decades. It was through Tilikum’s confinement that I taught my son about love and compassion – and how not to treat others. Tilikum was the largest orca whale in captivity and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite tells his heart-wrenching story and creates a dialogue about what it means to keep such intelligent creatures in confinement. In this groundbreaking documentary, viewers are provided with an in-depth look at how marine creatures are treated at aquariums. Blackfish was instrumental in the backlash against SeaWorld and other aqua jails that still continue to exploit various species.
What The Health
Make a big hearty salad and sit down to watch What The Health with your quarantine buddy. This ground-breaking follow up film from the creators of Cowspiracy takes you on a journey through the corruption of government and big businesses that costs people trillions of healthcare dollars. The charismatic interviews will have you laughing out loud and on the serious side, their investigative journalism sheds a light on what needs to change when it comes to our health.
This action-adventure movie by talented Korean director Bong Joon Ho has won numerous awards and will lead to some lively Zoom discussions after your screening. Okja tells the story of a young girl who risks everything for her best friend, a fascinating creature named Okja. It’s a great heartwarming film that will help convince meat-eaters to go vegan. In fact, Bong Joon Ho became vegan when researching this film after visiting his first slaughterhouse. The film involves the death of imaginary animals yet parallels the real-life animals confined and killed in slaughterhouses.
Super Size Me
Super Size Me is an intriguing movie by Morgan Spurlock that examines the influence of the fast-food industry by eating solely McDonald’s food for one month. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot actually. It’s a unique way to learn about how harmful fast food is, especially when Spurlock must supersize his meal if asked. He treks across the United States eating Big Macs and interviewing people about the fast-food industry. It’s a great film to spark conversations with non-vegans about healthy eating and eventually moving to a plant-based diet.
Earthlings started so many people on their vegan journey since its release in 2005. Due to many graphic images and violence against animals, it is not recommended for young viewers. That being said, it’s the perfect film to suggest to friends that still consume or use animal products daily. The documentary examines the brutal disrespect for animals in all walks of life. Earthlings are written, produced and directed by Shaun Monson and narrated by Academy Award winner and outspoken vegan activist, Joaquin Phoenix. Both Monson and Phoenix are actively involved in LA Animal Save, a chapter of the Save Movement. They have attended many pig vigils where they bear witness and give water to thirsty pigs on the way to slaughter.
Food Matters examines our current state of health and attempts to uncover the trillion dollars worldwide “Sickness Industry”. The documentary features interviews with leading medical experts that discuss natural approaches to preventing and reversing cancer, obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions. The film challenges the food industry and examines what is making us sick. There is no better time to eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet than while in quarantine when you have no choice but to prepare most of your meals at home.
The Animal People
From executive producer Joaquin Phoenix, The Animal People tells the story of six animal rights activists from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) that were targeted by the FBI for speaking out against exploitation and abuse at the animal-testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences. It provides an inside look at what happens when activism disrupts the institutions of power and advocates are labelled as terrorists by big businesses in the United States.
From the co-creator who brought you the groundbreaking documentary Cowspiracy comes Seaspiracy, a follow up that illuminates alarming — and not widely known — truths about the widespread environmental destruction to our oceans caused by human behaviour. Filmmaker Ali Tabrizi initially set out to celebrate his beloved ocean, but instead found himself examining the harm that humans inflict upon the vulnerable seas. From plastics and fishing gear polluting the waters to the irreparable damage of bottom trawling and by-catch, to illegal fishing and devastating hunting practices, humanity is wreaking havoc on marine life and, by extension, the entire planet. What Tabrizi ultimately uncovered not only challenges notions of sustainable fishing but will shock anyone who cares about the wonders of ocean life, as well as the future of the planet and our place on it.
Before the flood
In the documentary film “Before the Flood”, UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio travels to five continents and the Arctic to uncover the reality of climate change. Following scientists on their expeditions, Mr. DiCaprio gains first-hand insight into the devastating effects of climate change. He further meets with world leaders who fight against political inaction, such as former US president Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Additionally, the film chronicles intergovernmental processes, which culminated in the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in April 2016, a historic event in which Mr. DiCaprio participated as a keynote speaker.
Dominion is an Australian documentary film released in 2018 by animal rights activist, Chris Delforce. The film is centred on a negative stance about animal agricultural practices intended to influence public perceptions about animal agriculture by presenting a stream of graphic footage secretly filmed using hidden cameras and aerial drones. The film focuses on six topics: farmed animals, wild animals, companion animals, entertainment animals, fur animals, and animal experimentation.
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, and even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli — the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”), Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) along with forward-thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farms’ Gary Hirschberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising — and often shocking truths — about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.
In the documentary “Milked” a young activist goes deep into dairyland where he takes on the giants of New Zealand’s most powerful industry and reveals how the sacred cash-cow industry has been milked dry. His journey exposes not only the sustainability crisis and the dangerous denial of impending agricultural disruption but also what New Zealand and other countries can do to change their fate.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
An overweight man suffering from an autoimmune disease endeavour to drink only fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days in a bid to reclaim his health. He travels across America and engages everyday Americans in discussions about food and health and documents his journey in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.
H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters
a Life-changing documentary uncovering and revealing the effects of our typical Western diet on our health, the environment and animals. It seeks to find solutions to the issues faced by Western society, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, by exploring dietary habits. With meat consumption having risen significantly over the past 50 years, author and filmmaker Nina Messinger travels through to several countries to better understand the consequences of a meat-based diet. She meets with experts in nutrition, medicine, science, and agriculture, as well as farmers and people who have recovered from severe illnesses through diet change.
The Invisible Vegan
The Invisible Vegan is a 90-minute independent documentary that explores the problem of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, foregrounding the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based vegan diets and lifestyle choices. The documentary begins with the personal story of Jasmine Leyva, a 30-year-old black actress and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, Leyva has committed herself to veganism, both in lifestyle and research.
More Than Honey
More Than Honey is a documentary where Beekeepers, scientists and others discuss the world’s declining bee population and what it may mean for modern society.
“Set in 2067, Carnage looks back at a time when human beings ate other animals. For the young people of this time, the idea that their grandparents could have been complicit in a bloodbath of unnecessary suffering is wholly unimaginable. The film aims to break the taboo around Britain’s animal eating past, whilst showing compassion for a generation, now seeking therapy to cope with the horror of their unthinkable actions. Carnage combines archive with original drama and is narrated by Simon Amstell, who gives a unique comedic peek into a future where animals live equally amongst humans.”
The Last Pig
In the rolling hills of Upstate New York, a farmer is in crisis: after years of raising pigs, he can no longer bear the ultimate act of betrayal. This award-winning film chronicles his final year on the farm, capturing in intimate detail the farmer’s personal upheaval as he questions his beliefs and the value of life. The Last Pig is an immersive snapshot, a tale of choice, grit, and the changing landscape of animal agriculture.
The farmer’s inner reflections share his struggle to align life with values, and through the story’s simple intimacy, the farmer’s moral quandary quietly becomes our own.
Land of Hope and Glory
Vegan activist Earthling Ed’s hard-hitting documentary provides an insight into British farms. Before Land of Hope and Glory dropped, the vast majority of undercover footage focused on American and Australian farms.
This enabled British farmers to ‘debunk’ claims of unethical practices in the UK, insisting it was only in other countries. For decades they have pedalled an idealistic image of farming involving happy animals roaming free across the landscape. However, Land of Hope and Glory changed the face of British vegan activism by demonstrating that horrific practices occur in farms across the UK.
After watching the vegan documentary, many realised that the idealism we have been fed is nothing more than a lie. All the farms featured in the documentary supplied animal products labelled free-range, organic, high-welfare, Red Tractor approved, and RSPCA-approved. They were not isolated cases, and, as Ed introduces the documentary, it is “the reality of UK farming”.
Eating Our Way to Extinction
The powerful documentary executive produced by Kate Winslet sends a simple but impactful message by uncovering hard truths and addressing, on the big screen, the most pressing issue of our generation – ecological collapse. It aims to show viewers that they all have the power to make an impact, three times a day – at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our food choices have always been important, but now more than ever. According to the film, “We have 10 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change. But the solution to this and other existential threats is right under our nose.”
Stay Curious! Stay Blessed!
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