For many vegans, it was a hard-hitting, heart-wrenching documentary that first inspired the switch to a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle. Whether your passion lies in personal and public health, animal welfare, or the state of the planet, veganism is a way for many to align their values with their everyday behaviors.
These 21 must-watch documentaries will open your mind and your heart to the downfalls of animal agriculture and the many benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
21 Must-Watch Vegan Documentaries That Will Inspire You to Change The World
Now that it’s well into the 21st century, mainstream society has accepted that taking care of the planet is a good idea. There has never been a better time to draw attention to the link between animal agriculture and ecological crises such as climate change, ocean dead zones, and water shortages.
“Cowspiracy” manages to do exactly that while simultaneously calling out several environmental organizations for ignoring – or even obscuring – the truth about animal agriculture’s impact on the planet.
You can watch it on Netflix or buy the “Cowspiracy” book online.
2. ‘What the Health’
Following the success of “Cowspiracy,” filmmakers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn took it upon themselves to show that veganism is good for our bodies as well as the planet. “What the Health” explores the many benefits of a vegan diet and exposes the reluctance of health and nutrition organizations to point out the negative health effects of consuming animal products.
You can watch it on Netflix or rent or buy it from Amazon.
Because “Earthlings” is packed with graphic footage of violence against animals, many vegans refuse to watch it. At the same time, most will still consider it to be essential viewing for anyone who might use or consume animal products.
For curious meat-eaters who seek the truth about the industries they support, or vegans who wish to understand the full extent of humanity’s brutality toward non-human animals, “Earthlings” is required viewing. In this sense, it may be the number one must-watch vegan documentary.
You can purchase “Earthlings” online.
4. ‘Forks Over Knives’
Before “What the Health” began veganizing the world, “Forks Over Knives” was promoting the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. Among various experts in vegan nutrition, “Forks Over Knives” features T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study,” the comprehensive scientific resource on the health benefits of the vegan diet.
You can watch this film on Netflix or buy or rent it from Amazon. You could also check out the “Forks Over Knives” cookbook – which contains more than 300 plant-based recipes – that is also available online.
5. ‘Maximum Tolerated Dose’
Do you ever wonder what kind of suffering laboratory animals endure – and why? Directed by Karol Orzechowski, “Maximum Tolerated Dose” includes “hauntingly honest” testimonies from scientists and lab technicians, as well as footage from undercover investigations, to examine the dark reality of animal experimentation. The film aims to spark thought and discussion about animal testing, with “simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of animals who have seen both sides of the cage.”
You can watch buy this documentary online.
6. ‘Live and Let Live’
Most vegan documentaries examine one or more different reasons to adopt a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle. “Live and Let Live” takes a slightly different approach, instead examining the people who are going vegan, including former butchers and factory farmers. If you are looking for vegan documentaries with a markedly human story, this is the film for you. “Live and Let Live” features prominent figures in veganism and animal rights including Melanie Joy and Peter Singer.
You can watch “Live and Let Live” on Netflix or Amazon.
7. ‘Called to Rescue’
“Every animal we’ve met during our travel has a name and a story,” says the “Called to Rescue” website. Anyone looking for happy vegan documentaries should become familiar with this film that explores the tireless work of sanctuary volunteers and staff, the dedication needed for rescue and rehabilitation, and the stories of the animals themselves, living out peaceful lives in sanctuaries.
8. ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’
In “The Ghosts in Our Machine,” award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall tells the inspiring and heartbreaking story of photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, who dedicated her life to documenting the sad lives of exploited animals. The film begs the question, “Are non-human animals property to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings deserving of rights?”
You can buy or rent this film online.
9. ‘Eating Animals’
Vegan superstar Natalie Portman produced and narrated this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name. “Eating Animals” explores the evolution of animal agriculture into the industrial process it has become today, looking at the environmental, economical, and public health issues tied to factory farming.
10. ‘The Game Changers’
Though it has yet to be released, James Cameron and Louis Psihoyos’ “The Game Changers” has generated so much hype that practically every vegan is already committed to watching it. Featuring names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scott Jurek, Derrick Morgan, and Morgan Mitchell, “The Game Changers” aims to inspire by showing the power of a vegan diet in elite athletes.
The documentary is set to be released on January 19.
With hidden cameras and aerial drones, “Dominion” exposes the dark reality of animal agriculture in Australia. A host of celebrity names like Joaquin Phoenix, Kat Von D, Sadie Sink, and Sia are featured in the film which is directed by Chris Delforce. “Dominion” sold out across the country at its various premiers.
You can watch “Dominion” for free on its website.
Before working on “Dominion,” Delforce released “Lucent,” which exposes the horrors of standard practice in Australian pig farms. Again with hand-held and hidden camera footage, “Lucent” aims to bring what’s done in the dark to light.
You can watch this film for free online.
13. ‘The Cove’
This Academy Award-winning film made quite the splash when it took on the Japanese dolphin hunting industry, a story told through Ric O’Barry, a dolphin trainer-turned-activist. “The Cove” aims to expose the brutal practice of capturing and killing dolphins, a well-kept secret by many local fishermen in Taiji, Japan.
You can watch the documentary online.
14. ‘Vegan: Everyday Stories’
Feature-length documentary “Vegan: Everyday Stories” follows the lives of “four remarkably different people who share a common thread – they’re all vegan.” Ultra runner Yassine Diboun, animal sanctuary owner Renee King-Sonnen, food truck owner Jerri Hastey, and 8-year-old activist Genesis Butler are all featured, explaining how they each made the move to a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle.
This 2011 film explores the challenges associated with ditching animal products in favor of plant-based foods. It follows the lives of three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to try a vegan diet for six weeks. Describing itself as “part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy,” “Vegucated” shows the evolution of three people learning that they can “change the world one bite at a time.”
You can rent or buy this documentary online.
16. ‘Before The Flood’
In this documentary, actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio is seen meeting with activists, scientists, and world leaders to discuss what climate change is doing to our planet and various ways we could remedy this. Whilst not an inherently vegan documentary, “Before The Flood” does acknowledge the hard-to-ignore link between animal agriculture and environmental devastation, causing one to think twice about what’s on their dinner plate tonight.
You can watch this film on Netflix or rent or buy it on Amazon.
17. ‘A Prayer for Compassion’
This feature-length documentary looks at the spirituality involved in living a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle. Featuring people from dozens of faiths, “A Prayer for Compassion” aims to “awaken the inner vegan” in those who are religious or spiritual, inviting them to welcome non-human animals into their “circle of respect and caring and love.”
For more information about this film, see here.
18. ’73 Cows’
Short documentary film “73 Cows” tells the story of Jay Wilde, the “first farmer in the UK to trade beef farming for sustainable organic vegan farming.” The documentary follows Wilde and his wife Katja as they transition away from meat farming after Wilde becomes “friends” with the animals he was raising for slaughter.
You can watch “73 Cows” online.
19. ‘H.O.P.E. What You Eat Matters’
This inspiring documentary looks at the impacts of a typical Western diet on human health, the planet, and animals. It features environmentalist and primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as social psychologist Melanie Joy, biochemist T. Colin Campbell, scholar Vandana Shiva, and author Caldwell B. Esselstyn.
The film’s message is clear: what you eat matters, and by changing these habits “we can change the world!”
You can watch this documentary on Amazon.
20. ‘Eating You Alive’
“Eating You Alive” explores the link between American dietary habits – like eating meat, dairy, and eggs – and the rise of chronic disease. The vegan health documentary stars actor Samuel L. Jackson, PCRM founder Dr. Neal Barnard, and James and Suzy Amis Cameron, among others. It has earned a lot of praise in the U.S, including from “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik, who explained that the film doesn’t use “scare tactics or weird anecdotes.” She added, “It focuses on the medical impact of the way Americans are told it’s healthy to eat… If you watch one documentary about health, this should be it.”
You can watch this film on Amazon.
2013’s “Blackfish” tells the gripping story of SeaWorld’s captive whales and the trainers who participated in their suffering. The film has had a lasting impact on the marine park, leading to a steady decline in ticket sales and boycotts. It was even responsible for the ending of “Finding Dory,” that switched its final plot to be more positive for marine animals, allowing the animated characters to escape their lives of captivity.
You can watch “Blackfish” on Netflix or Amazon.
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