For many vegans, it was a hard-hitting, heart-wrenching short film, documentary, or movie 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 37 must-watch documentaries will open your mind and your heart to the downfalls of animal agriculture and the many benefits of a vegan lifestyle.
The 37 Vegan Documentaries You Have to Watch
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 health 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 meat factory workers. 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.
You can watch this film for free on the “Called to Rescue” website or rent or buy it on Amazon.
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 actor 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.
You can buy the “Eating Animals” film and book online.
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, Dotsie Bausch, Derrick Morgan, and Morgan Mitchell, “The Game Changers” aims to inspire by showing the power of a vegan diet in elite athletes and challenge “the world’s most dangerous myth: that meat is necessary for protein.”
Official theatrical release dates have not yet been announced. Keep an eye on the “Game Changers” website for more information.
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 into the 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 eight-year-old activist Genesis Butler are all featured, explaining how they each made the move to a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle.
You can watch this film on its website or on Amazon.
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.
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.
22. ‘Running for Good’
“Running for Good” tells the story of vegan ultramarathon runner Fiona Oakes. At the age of six, Oakes decided on her own volition to go vegan. She is the founder of an animal sanctuary which currently cares for 500 rescued animals. She has four world records in extreme marathon running and an elite road running career, which she has managed with a disability that health professionals said would cause her to never walk again. The only reason she runs is to raise awareness for the animals.
This documentary is the result of asking someone who knows nothing about humankind’s harmful treatment of animals to make a film about the very topic. It includes no graphic footage, instead highlighting the benefits of veganism in an uplifting way.
You can watch “Empathy” online.
24. ‘The Invisible Vegan’
This 90-minute independent film, co-directed by activists Jasmine and Kenny Leyva, studies the history of unhealthy eating habits within the African-American community and the growing vegan movement. NBA champion John Salley, Cedric the Entertainer, and 11-year-old activist Genesis Butler make appearances in “The Invisible Vegan.”
You can watch this film online.
25. ‘The End of Meat’
“The End of Meat” imagines a world where nobody eats animals. “Instead of focusing on the negative consequences of consuming meat, I wanted to show the hugely beneficial possibilities of a post-meat world and what that might look like for humans, animals, and the planet,” said filmmaker Marc Pierschel in a statement.
You can watch this film via Amazon.
26. ‘Free Solo’
In 2018, plant-based rock climber and environmentalist Alex Honnold became the first person to scale the nearly 3,000-foot granite wall El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without using ropes or safety gear. National Geographic named it “the greatest feat of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport.”
“Free Solo” documents the climb. This year, the film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
“Free Solo” can be purchased from Amazon.
27. ‘The Last Pig’
Following the life of a pig farmer contemplating the ethics of sending his pigs to slaughter, this multiple-award-winning documentary highlights topics of equality, compassion, and the sanctity of life. Vegan celebrity Moby said the film was “[s]tartling, honest, and deeply beautiful.”
“The Last Pig” will be available for purchase later this year via its website.
28. ‘Diet Fiction’
This film sees award-winning director of “Food Choices” Michal Siewierski exposing the truth behind diet culture. Siewierski picks apart the manipulation of multi-billion dollar diet industry as well as the “devastating” effects that obesity has on people’s lives, according to the film’s website. “Diet Fiction” offers “new disruptive ideas” about how plant-based foods can address the obesity epidemic that’s dominating the world.
You can watch “Diet Fiction” online.
29. ‘The Big Fat Lie’
Vegan documentary “The Big Fat Lie” aims to help people realize the connection between food and disease. Combining humor with hard-hitting facts, the film calls on the New Zealand government to update its health policies to better educate the public about heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, and teach people how to prevent disease with healthy, plant-based eating.
You can watch “The Big Fat Lie” online.
30. ‘Slice of Life’
“Slice of Life” explores the growing momentum of the vegan movement. It includes interviews with chefs, physicians, researchers, restaurateurs, the founders of Beyond Meat, JUST, and Impossible Foods, as well as Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute, and spokespeople from animal welfare organizations.
The film is now in post-production. The release date is yet to be announced.
31. ‘Racing Extinction’
Oscar-winner Louie Psihoyos (“The Cove”) along with a team of activists and artists have created the documentary film “Racing Extinction,” which delves into issues of biodiversity loss and species extinction. With never-before-seen images, the film showcases what scientists are calling the sixth major extinction in Earth’s history, that is being driven by humanity itself.
You can buy or rent this film from Amazon.
32. ‘Food, Inc.’
“Food, Inc.” unravels the way major corporations control every aspect of the food chain in the United States, including the farms where food is grown to the supermarket it’s purchased in. These companies prioritize profit over public health, the livelihood of farmers, the safety of workers, and the state of the planet, the film explains on its website. “Food, Inc.” will have you thinking twice about the food on your plate.
You can buy or rent “Food, Inc.” on Amazon.
33. ‘The Animals Film’
Packed with never-before-seen footage, this 1981 film illuminates the cruelty inflicted on animals in laboratories, on farms, in the military, in the pet food industry, in the fur trade, and in the hunting trade.
You can purchase “The Animals Film” on its website.
34. ‘Meet Your Meat’
This short film (it’s less than 12 minutes long), narrated by actor and activist Alec Baldwin, unveils the truth behind “humanity’s cruelest invention – the factory farm.” It includes difficult but important-to-watch footage, and its bonus features videos with vegan actors and activists Pamela Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix.
35. ‘A Fall From Freedom’
“A Fall From Freedom” looks into the history of keeping whales and dolphins captive for human entertainment. It questions the morality of doing so, looking at premature animal deaths, trainer injuries, educational misrepresentation, illegal and secret practices, and government incompetence.
You can watch it online.
36. ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’
The 2010 documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” follows the story of Australian Joe Cross as he embarks on a journey to regain his health. Under the care of vegan doctor and author of the 2013 book “Eat to Live,” Joel Fuhrman, Cross goes on a juice fast and adopts a plant-based diet. He reportedly lost 100 pounds and was able to safely stop taking his medication. A sequel, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead 2,” was released in 2014.
You can watch it for free online.
37. ‘Meathooked and End of Water’
This 2016 episode of the HBO series “VICE” dives into the various ways the meat industry is damaging people, the planet, and animals. The short episode touches upon processed meat’s carcinogenic nature, the rapid slaughter of animals in factory farming, and how the industry is depleting natural resources like forests and fresh water supplies.
You can watch for free it online.