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To become a better society, I think we all need to take the time to watch life-changing documentaries.
It’s so important for us to glimpse into the lives of people who aren’t like us.
Luckily, this list has the best 17 documentaries you can start with.
What are interesting documentaries to watch?
My love for docus started several years ago when my sister and I were browsing the shelves at the local library.
We were running out of indie films, and we needed something else to take up our summer. Turns out great filmography didn’t require much searching.
I quickly became engrossed in the meaning of true, life-changing documentaries filled with real-life people going through real people struggles.
Documentaries aren’t just used to tell history.
Documentaries can inspire the future.
You’ll find the best, life-changing documentaries on this list.
✨ Speaking of changing your life, have you downloaded your free inner child healing workbook yet? 👇
17 Must-See, Life-Changing Documentaries
1. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2017)
I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary film that draws on the writings of James Baldwin to examine the deep history of racism in America.
You’ll follow the journey of Black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to present-day Black Lives Matter.
With how the media represents Black culture, you’ll also come face-to-face with the lives and assassinations of Baldwin’s friends Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers.
2. COWSPIRACY (2015)
If you’re worried about the state of the environment, you need to watch Cowspiracy
Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes combined.
It is the number one cause for rainforest destruction, as well as the number one cause of species extinction.
This documentary made me so mad.
It made me realize just how much the government hides from us, especially with all the horrible side effects of factory farming.
The government chooses money over our health, our animals, and our planet.
More on animal agriculture:
3. SERVING LIFE (2011)
Serving Life opens the gates to the Louisiana maximum security prison, where we get a first-hand look at the inmates who are serving life sentences take care of their fellow dying inmates in the prison’s hospice.
It’s very inspiring to see these men try their hand at redemption by revealing the humanity that exists inside each and every one of us. No matter how deeply buried.
I first discovered Serving Life right after my grandma passed away from terminal lung cancer.
She was in hospice for only a couple of days before she passed away peacefully in her sleep.
This only made my connection for the film grow deeper.
4. 7 DAYS IN SEPTEMBER (2002)
For lack of a better term, I’m fascinated with September 11th.
I don’t know why, but whenever the time comes, I’ll lay in bed and just watch countless TV specials and documentaries on the subject.
Well, 7 Days in September beats them all.
Most documentaries about September 11th focus on the cold hard facts, the statistics.
This one focuses on the humanity and the joining of everyone through one of the most heartbreaking times in U.S. history.
The days following the attacks, we see how everyone came together and reunited by chanting “U.S.A.”
We get to see the good in everyone. Even those with opposing views.
5. INVISIBLE WAR (2012)
One thing I hold close to my heart is the topic of sexual abuse.
It’s everywhere you look, and it’s almost impossible to not know at least one person who has been abused some point in their life.
Invisible War is an incredibly emotionally charged documentary that shows us the U.S.’s best-kept secret.
We learn about the sexual abuse epidemic within the U.S. military.
Most of all, we discover the profound personal consequences of those affected.
6. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN (2011)
I think we’ve all heard of China’s “One Child Policy.”
Well, Somewhere Between film takes us into the lives of four teenage girls who were adopted into the U.S. because of this.
We gain a sense of self-awareness by seeing them discover who they are by exposing racism, sexism, and exploring their true identity.
More movies on childhood trauma:
7. TENT CITY, U.S.A. (2012)
Have an opinion on the homeless? Well…think again.
Tent City, U.S.A. explores a community in Nashville, Tennessee where 100 homeless people live under a bridge.
Tent City is self-governed and has its own council, and they meet once a week to discuss residents’ issues.
The documentary showcases four Tent City residents as they run for the Homeless Commission Council position.
You’ll see how the one elected resident will have the opportunity to spread the awareness of what it’s truly like to be homeless.
8. PROJECT NIM (2011)
Sometimes we forget that wild animals are just that. Wild.
We can try to tame them, but time and time again, their instincts will take over.
Nim was a chimpanzee used in an experiment in the 1970s to showcase how an ape could learn to communicate like a human if they were raised like one.
Despite all the nurturing, his natural instincts began to show.
Project Nim uncovers the incredible journey and aftermath of a wild animal forced into human society.
9. BLACKFISH (2013)
If you think supporting animals in captivity for entertainment is ethical, Blackfish will change your life.
There’s a reason why animals in captivity often kill.
Animals are forced to do unnatural tricks and are kept in very small enclosures their entire lives when it’s natural for them to move miles a day.
They aren’t anywhere close to being free.
People don’t support SeaWorld, but will go ahead and support zoos and aquariums.
Maybe this documentary will help you think again.
10. FED UP (2014)
Fed Up exposes the hidden truths behind the long-lived campaign in America to combat obesity.
Everything we thought we knew about diet and exercise was concocted by the U.S. government to mislead and confuse the people of the U.S.
The anti-obesity clause is about spending money on false hope and empty promises.
This vital information just might change the food we put on our plates forever.
And you’ll learn why it’s really not necessary to consume 100 calorie snack packs and diet Coke after all.
11. THE TRUE COST (2015)
You will most likely never look at your clothes the same way again after you watch The True Cost.
In this eye-opening documentary, we see exactly who pays for the price of our clothing: the employees and the environment.
Just because that skirt is $5.00, it doesn’t mean that it’s all that valuable.
The True Cost covers many countries around the world, and we see the lives of those who work in sweatshops day in and day out for only cents a day.
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Fast fashion is a horrible industry where the workers are treated like a commodity.
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12. ONE DAY ON EARTH (2013)
On October 10, 2010, filmmakers all over the world recorded the human experience during a global day of media creation for One Day on Earth.
This enticing film showcases the diversities, conflicts, heartaches, and celebrations that can occur in just one day.
Most importantly, it shows us that even though we are oceans apart, our cultural differences don’t make us all that different after all.
13. 65_REDROSES (2009)
65_RedRoses is one film that I return to time and time again.
It follows the life of Eva Markvoort, a young woman with a fatal genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis.
She needs a double lung transplant in order to stay alive.
And since those with CF are unable to be around other CF patients, we see how Eva interacts with two other CF patients through the internet.
65_RedRoses captures the heartbreaking realities these girls face by teaching us to live every day as a new blessing.
14. LIVING ON ONE DOLLAR (2013)
For an inside look at the lives of so many in impoverished countries, Living on One Dollar showcases the true nature of poverty.
With nothing but a video camera and one dollar a day, four friends live for 56 days in rural Guatemala.
You’ll see them battle hunger, parasites, and extreme financial stress.
15. FORKS OVER KNIVES (2011)
Forks Over Knives is said to be the documentary that could save your life.
It puts the idea of food being used as medicine to the test.
Through extensive studies, it has been proven that adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet can prevent and even reverse degenerative diseases.
We’re talking about things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and even several forms of cancer.
This life-changing documentary made my boyfriend go vegan. It’s actually the first documentary about veganism we watched together.
It wasn’t even 30 minutes into the movie when he said, “I think I’m going to go vegan.” Talk about music to my ears!
16. BULLY (2011)
Bully follows five kids and their families over the course of a school year.
You’ll get an intimate — and often shocking — look into the classrooms, cafeterias, principal’s office, and homes of the people featured.
Plus, you’ll learn the stories of two families who lost children to suicide, as well as a mother awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter who’s been incarcerated after bringing a gun with her on the school bus.
More movies on bullying:
17. MURDERBALL (2005)
In Murderball, you’ll become engrossed in the lifestyle of quadriplegics who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs.
Watch these men overcome unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Be prepared to both laugh and cry as you become deeply attached to their hopes, dreams, and goals.
These life-changing documentaries can truly change your life by shifting your entire perspective on social topics.
I always set out to watch documentaries that inspire me to open my eyes and grow as a person.
What life-changing documentaries have you seen that changed your viewpoint on something? Tell me in the comments below!
More Life-Changing Documentaries and Movies:
- 8 Vegan Documentaries That Will Change Your View on Animal Agriculture
- 23 Heartbreaking Movies About Childhood Trauma (That are Therapeutic)
- 27 Best Movies About Domestic Violence (That Are Cathartic)
- 27 Movies About Childhood Friends (Filled with Nostalgia)
- 28 Best Movies About Bullying (for Teens, Kids, and Adults!)
- 28 Coming-of-Age TV Shows (Bursting with 90s and 2000s Nostalgia)
- 13 TED Talks on Childhood Trauma (to Heal Your Inner Child)
- 32 Sobering Movies About Addiction (Drugs and Alcohol)
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Documentaries That are Life-Changing
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