The power of the documentarian film has been growing steadily over the last decade, with a great opportunity now not only to be made more easily, but also to find a wider, more engaged audience. There are those that inspire and those that amuse; but then there are those enlightening pieces of filmmaking that hit you dead on and force you to question the world in which you live.
At their best, they will alter instantly the way you live with such irrefutable, unshakable points that appeal to you to rethink what you think you know. It all sounds a bit dramatic, but that is how it often works. It usually surprises the viewer, and rarely comes from a point of hostility, instead welcoming an audience to a new perspective, asking for change.
I guess some people understand more than others, or maybe they just pay more attention to details. But, at the end of the day, these 10 documentaries will make you instantly change your life. I hope!
10. An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary is the standard-bearer championing the need to address climate change. The high-profile, scientific and accessible film, step-by-step identifies the way in which humans have contributed to a changing climate that endangers the planet. Look to your own life for practical and effective ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
9. Divide in Concord
A lovely and surprising piece of filmmaking, Divide in Concord triumphs the human spirit and the best of our political system. With heart and humor and gravity too, this film follows 84-year-old crusader Jean Hill, as she campaigns tirelessly to ban bottled water in her town. Her arguments are undeniable, and after watching this film, you too will be done with bottled water.
8. The Cove
Similarly to Sharkwater, The Cove takes to the ocean, shinning a much needed light on the horrors of dolphin and porpoise slaughter in off the coast of Japan. Louis Psihoyos’ Academy-Award winning feature documentary is a most heart-wrenching and haunting watch. This was a case where awareness has helped produce change and inspired everyone who’s watched to take part, take action, in any way possible.
7. Terms and Conditions May Apply
This unnerving doc from 2013 looks to illuminate that which we sort of take for granted and sort of don’t care about. At some point over the last decade, everyone became really comfortable with inputting information on various online social and professional sites, and now our information is everywhere. There is no one watching this documentary that doesn’t go online right away to start altering and even deleting information they’ve posted, wondering where it all has ended up, and for what purpose.
6. The Ghosts in Our Machine
Director Liz Marshall follows photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, as she documents the plight of caged, abused animals around the world. McArthur catalogs these creatures, understanding the power of photographs, despite being face to face with such horrific conditions. There is no one with a heart that can watch this and not alter that which they consume, purchase, and support with it comes to animals.
5. Forks Over Knives
Forks is a carefully-crafted, meticulously-argued doc that looks to welcome everyone to a world of whole foods and plant-based meals. It does this by not looking at the world around us, but by making the viewer look inward. Forks is a film that successfully argues the nutritional value and healthy benefits that come from such a diet, suggesting that whatever is in your kitchen is just the thing that might kill you.
This documentary takes a deeper look at pollution around the world, as Jeremy Irons takes it upon himself to travel to many different countries and explore the world’s most beautiful geographical locations, ultimately ruined and spoiled by the result of waste. Not only does it open up Jeremy Irons’ eyes, but it opens all of its viewers’ eyes, by understanding the size of the garbage location sites and the amount of waste that is deposited on a daily basis, along with the process of what becomes trash and how it is disposed.
3. Fed Up
Another powerful film that will make you question your diet, Fed Up is an efficient, high-profile explanation and evisceration of the powers of the sugar industry. With notable names such as Bill Clinton and Michael Pollen, Fed Up appeals to a widespread audience by effectively detailing the systemic problems with food culture in the United States, while simultaneously telling a human story of children struggling with weight loss.
This revealing doc by Gabriela Cowperthwaite has demonstrated its sheer power in just a couple years since it was released. Chronicling a legacy of neglect and misinformation by SeaWorld with regards to the orcas it holds captive, Blackfish is utterly compelling throughout, reducing both the audience and many of the interviewees to tears.
This unflinching look at the horrors that plague animals kept for the needs of humans attacks the viewer, forcing them to question not only their diet, but a society that allows such actions be committed. It’s about the farm industry, about entertainment, about testing, about clothing; all the ways in which we use and abuse animals. I guess that agent in Matrix was right: we do follow the pattern of a virus.