WATCH & LEARN | 9 Of My Favorite Plant-Based Documentaries
Updated: Jun 24
A growing library of vegan and plant-based documentaries is available online, through streaming channels and even - if you still haven’t quite caught up to the present day - on DVD.
Many of us will already know why we have chosen to move towards a plant-based lifestyle, we will each have our personal reasons and, for the greater part, we will be pretty knowledgeable on those reasons. I have been predominantly plant-based for over 10 years, yet barely a day goes by without me learning something new. Documentaries and the investigative journalism behind them offer an easy, accessible, and entertaining, if sometimes heartbreaking, way to discover new information, reaffirm your decisions and expand your knowledge exponentially.
For Health, For Animals, For Planet, here are nine of my favorites - impactful, fact-filled, and profoundly inspirational:
These four documentaries focus on the health aspect of the plant-based ideology. They explore the sources of what we eat, our dependence on pharmaceuticals, and the health risks that come with a diet laden with animal products:
Forks Over Knives:
Without a doubt, this is my personal favorite. This movie is single-handedly responsible for my decision to become plant-based.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, take a deep dive into many of the chronic health issues we face in today’s society, from heart disease to obesity and type-2 diabetes. What they discover independently is that these very real issues, responsible for a vast number of hospitalizations and deaths every year, are intrinsically linked to our diet. More than that, they can be reduced, prevented and - in many cases - even reversed by adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet.
BEST FOR: Improving your health through diet
What The Health:
Pulling back the curtain on the health industry, investigative filmmaker Kip Anderson uncovers the hidden network of connection between the health and pharmaceutical companies and the agricultural industries. Financial investments, corporate collaborations, and government interests combine to create a web of deceit, collusion, and corruption designed to keep us sick and blind to the organizations profiting from our poor diets and even worse health.
What the Health shines a light on the covert activities in motion that maintain a multi-trillion dollar conspiracy against the public.
BEST FOR: Uncovering the corporate conspiracy as it relates to your health
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead:
The film’s Australian Creator Joe Cross was faced, powerfully and abruptly, with his own mortality. Over 100lbs overweight, challenged by resultant health issues and autoimmune disease, Joe had run out of options, and medical advice. No conventional methods seemed to provide answers or solutions, and his condition continued to diminish.
Defying the opinions of medical professionals, Joe took matters into his own hands, vowing to consume nothing but fresh juice and vegetables for the next 60 days. In doing so, Joe met people with similar health issues, dependent on medication, and doctors and nutritionists fighting convention to show that natural, plant-based whole foods can often provide the perfect, even the only, solution to many of today’s health issues.
BEST FOR: Convincing people will health issues that plants could be the answer
The Game Changers:
If you have friends or family who are stuck on the assumed health and nutrition issues of a plant-based diet, The Game Changers is a game-changer! Elite Special Forces trainer and Ultimate Fighter winner James Wilks question our perception of the ‘perfect diet’ for athletic performance. Talking to a host of professional athletes including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, Chris Paul, and champion strongman Patrik Baboumian, what Wilks proves is that a plant-based diet offers more explosive energy, better injury recovery, greater personal sustainability and more than enough protein even for world champions.
When shown that these elite professionals can be at the top of their game without consuming animal products, even the most devoted of meat-eaters will be convinced that a plant-based diet can be just as beneficial, if not more so, than one relying upon meat.
BEST FOR: Opening the minds of meat-eaters
Removing the environmental impact of an animal-based diet is one of the most profound actions we can take for a brighter future.
Animal agriculture is the single most destructive industry on the planet, beyond even the fossil fuel industry. These documentaries explore not only the damage animal agriculture does, but also the huge benefit in ending it and the responsibility to all life on this planet that we all bare.
While I highly recommend Dominion for its unflinching honesty, I would also caution that this is not a movie for everyone. The trailer alone is enough to break your heart. Harrowing, graphic and fearless, it epitomizes the words of Paul McCartney: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
Dominion covers many aspects of animal agriculture, but its primary focus is on factory farming, the violence behind the slaughterhouse walls, and the growing impact it is having on our environment and the climate.
For many, this haunting documentary will be more than enough to convince them to never touch meat again, but for those unwilling to relinquish their animal products, it will provide inspiration to be far more conscious about their choices and to avoid mass-produced, factory-farmed products at all costs.
BEST FOR: Inspiring conscious consumerism in everyone
Another documentary by Kip Anderson, Cowspiracy is almost exclusively concerned about the greater impacts of animal agriculture.
Our planet is on the verge of the single greatest mass-extinction of all time, and the meat and dairy industries are one of the leading contributors to that devastation. They create over half of all global greenhouse gas emissions each year, consuming over 80 percent of all fresh water in the US. With these and many more hard-hitting facts, Kip Anderson tries to hold the multi-trillion dollar corporations responsible. But with so much wealth comes even more power, a power which has corrupted many aspects of the US and global economy, and even the governmental branches and organizations established to protect the environment it is destroying.
BEST FOR: Taking the red pill and seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes
Food, Inc. takes an holistic approach to the dilemmas of the modern diet. Not focused solely on meat and dairy, it also highlights mono-crop agriculture and grain production (the majority of which is used for livestock feed).
Deforestation and pollution are key issues, but Food, Inc. also takes into consideration our health and that of the planet. I believe that we should all eat, and consume, far more consciously, in every aspect of our lives. Food, Inc. addresses that need to hold the government and the industries accountable, and the ongoing efforts they take to keep us in the dark.
BEST FOR: Seeing the bigger picture
It isn’t the only reason, but compassion can often be a driving force behind our decision to give up meat. Films that center around the humanitarian aspect of a plant-based diet can, by their very nature, be confronting, but all are fundamentally focussed upon the principle that every life matters.
Live & Let Live:
Live & Let Live combines all aspects of a plant-based ideology - the health, the environment, and the compassion - but it does so gently and in a non-graphic way. An ideal documentary for younger audiences, it discusses with former livestock farmers, butchers, restauranteurs, nutritionists, and athletes their impetus for change, as well as reflecting upon the impacts of a meat-based diet upon our health, the planet, and all life.
Incredibly illuminating, Live & Let Live also makes veganism incredibly accessible to viewers of all ages and mindsets.
BEST FOR: The widest audience
As with Dominion, Earthlings comes with a strong word of caution. It is a no-holds-barred reflection of the attrocities of animal agriculture unseen or ignored by the general public.
Narrated by award-winning a-list actor Joaquin Phoenix, there is no denying that Earthlings is the cold, hard truth of animal agriculture. Highlighting environmental damage, pollution, deforestation and emissions, as well as the inhumane brutality that occurs far beyond the eyes of the consumer, Earthlings is an incredibly powerful documentary that uncovers the dirty truth.
While I recommend Earthlings for its unflinching honesty, I would also caution that this is not a movie for everyone. Harrowing, graphic and fearless, it epitomizes the words of Paul McCartney: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
BEST FOR: Those prepared to witness the brutal truth
I hope this collection of documentaries helps to answer many of your questions about plant-based diets and gives you all the information you need to answer the questions of others. Did I miss any? The list of inspiring films is always growing. Comment below with your favorite movies, as well as your thoughts or any questions you may have on the ones included here.
Thanks for watching!
Bryan is a 'self-taught' plant-based activist, discovering the benefits of eliminating animal products from his diet over 10 years ago. Since that time, he has advocated not only for a social shift in dietary and environmental awareness but also to reverse the construct that meat consumption is somehow tied to manliness and machismo.
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