Are you in the mood for a good movie? One full of lies, corruption, conspiracy, sugary sweetness, great personal stories, and even a few motivational messages?
How about 10.5 of them?
Enter the food documentary. That’s right: documentary. Hopefully you didn’t shudder and yawn at the mere mention of the word. I promise it’s not as boring as it sounds.
Luckily for you, you can find plenty of them with the push of a button or click of a mouse thanks to streaming services like Netflix.
I’ve made it easy to pick one that’s right for you with my list of 10.5 Netflix documentaries complete with summaries and reviews that will make you think twice before you take a bite.
Let’s get started:
1. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
1 hour and 37 min
Synopsis: Follow successful Australian businessman Joe Cross as he travels across America while attempting to heal his body from the inside out by completing a 60-day juice fast. Along the way he’s able to inspire many others, including one man who decides to attempt the same feat.
Review: Let’s be honest, listening to an Australian accent makes everything more interesting, and this documentary is no exception. Couple the awesome accent with a fun style of presentation, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the time passes. Cartoon animations teach some of the normally “boring stuff” making it easier to watch and follow for the everyone out there who wants to get healthy and lose weight. While the intense juice diet presented in this film isn’t for everyone, the documentary does a great job of teaching about the power food has to heal our bodies and the responsibility we have to take care of ourselves.
2. Fat Sick & Nearly Dead part 2
1 hour 28 min
Synopsis: Couldn’t get enough of the Australian accent? Joe Cross and his cartoons are back for more. In this follow up, Cross shares the struggles he’s faced in the six years since the film’s debut, and introduces you to the online community he’s created to help him and countless others maintain their health.
Review: Unless you’re a die hard juicer with a weakness for Australians, this one’s not really worth your time. It’s a fun watch and has a lot of great personal stories, but there’s nothing you’ll gain from this documentary that you didn’t learn in the first one.
3. Forks Over Knives
1 hour 36 min
Synopsis: This film explores the claim that most diseases can be controlled or even cured by changing one’s diet rather than by taking a pill. Viewers are urged to switch from an animal-based diet (dairy, eggs, meat) to a plant-based diet (vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes). It shows several individuals who do just that and see remarkable changes in their personal health.
Review: Vegetable lovers unite! This is the film you’ve been waiting for. Everyone else: be prepared for a high school health class flashback. It reminded me of showing up to class just as a substitute teacher pops a video into the VCR and announces that you’ll be quizzed on it the next day. (Yeah, video and VCR seem to be the only appropriate ways to help you envision the old-school style, complete with bad graphics and repetitive interviews). The best things this film has going for it are the personal stories that explore the life altering effects of changing to a plant-based diet. Their stories make the movie’s claims hard to ignore. If, and that’s a big if, you can get past the lackluster presentation, you’re in for a super educational and informative experience that will make you want to find ways to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet.
4. GMO OMG
1 hour 33 min
Synopsis: A father of three young children wonders if the food he’s feeding his family is safe. He goes on a mission to expose the dangers of genetically modified food. Along the way he tries to highlight the corruption inside big companies that produce genetically modified seeds.
Review: High on emotion and low on substance, this film hopes to tug at the emotional heartstrings of the viewer in order to inspire change. By highlighting little children and Haitian earthquake survivors, the film attempts to change your mind from an emotional standpoint, but doesn’t do much to prove its claims. It’s a fun watch, especially with the cute kids, but you may struggle with the lack of validated research and the overly personal tone the narrative takes.
5. Fed Up
1 hour 32 min
Synopsis: Narrated by Katie Couric, this documentary highlights the frightening prevalence of childhood obesity in America. Using the the stories of several overweight children as a backdrop, it examines the role of the food industry in making our children fat and the importance of diet above exercise.
Review: Overall, this is a great watch. It’s interesting and informative, but a little repetitive. The message keeps coming back to the evils of sugar in our diets and the negative outcomes it creates. Putting the focus on childhood obesity was a smart move because watching the video diaries of the children the film follows is enough to break your heart and hopefully inspire change. The film is current, real, and interesting, and has recognizable public figures that make it easy for the viewer to relate to.
6. Food Inc.
1 hour 34 min
Synopsis: This film attempts to take you inside the food industry to see how large corporations are controlling almost everything you put in your mouth. The filmmakers hope to shock you into changing the way you eat.
Review: If you want to feel good about what you eat, don’t watch this movie. It leaves you questioning just about everything you put in your mouth and makes you worry that you’re only a hamburger or piece of corn away from dozens of deadly diseases and disasters. Conspiracy theorists will love seeing the way the film condemns the government’s relationship with food companies and the power those companies have over policy.
WARNING: The graphic footage taken of animals on farms and in slaughterhouses isn’t for the faint of heart. Proceed with caution.
7. Super Size Me
1 hour 40 min
Synopsis: Watch as Morgan Spurlock takes on the daunting task of eating nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days. He quickly develops a laundry list of health and weight problems.
Review: Watching this documentary will likely cure you of McDonald’s cravings for the rest of your life. The strict rules Spurlock follows during the experiment along with the thorough medical testing he undergoes before and during his experiment are impressive, and make the results easy to follow and hard to question. However, the appearance and support of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle “inspiring” a teenage girl leave you with a feeling that can easily be described as icky–or worse. If you can get past Fogle’s appearance in the film, you’re in for a very entertaining and informative look at how fast food is slowly killing you. This documentary really does have the power to inspire change.
1 hour 16 min
Synopsis: Follow the crusade of NYC vegan Marisa Miller Wolfson as she works to convert three human test subjects to a vegan lifestyle. The three agree to live a vegan lifestyle for six weeks as they are educated and exposed to the harsh realities of the mistreatment of animals farmed for food and other products.
Review: An animal lover’s dream and a meat lover’s nightmare, Vegucated is a great watch for someone considering a vegan lifestyle, but has little appeal to the masses. The film quality isn’t great due to a lot of home video shoots conducted by amateurs. I have to admit that my favorite part of the film was watching the facial expressions and reactions of the youngest of the three test subjects (Tesla, 22) as she tried new foods for the first time. She totally cracked me up. Overall, it’s a story of people who love animals that’s heavy on sentiment and light on authority.
WARNING: If you’re an animal lover, it might be best to steer clear of this film due to the graphic footage of slaughterhouses and farms. If you’re a meat lover it might be best to steer clear too–but that’s mostly because they’re going to try to make you feel guilty and tell you to give up your favorite source of protein.
9. Food Matters
1 hour 20 min
Synopsis: Take a journey into the world of alternative medicine with this documentary that attempts to prove how a healthy diet (mainly raw and plant based) and vitamin supplementation have the power to influence your health more than modern medicine ever will.
Review: A more accurate title for this documentary would be Vitamins Matter, because food seems to take a back seat to the giant push the film’s experts give to the power of vitamins and supplements. (Can someone say infomercial?) Their claims that vitamins can cure all kinds of diseases, from depression to cancer, will make you curious. Unfortunately, the lack of consistent and credible research will make you question their believability. The experts in this film do a great job of attacking modern medicine, and they definitely make you want to take more vitamins and explore alternatives to traditional medicine.
10. Hungry for Change
1 hour 29 min
Synopsis: Produced by the same filmmakers who made Food Matters, this isn’t quite a sequel, but it shares many of the same views and opinions as its predecessor. Its ultimate goal is to expose strategies designed by the diet and food industries to keep us heavy and unhealthy.
Review: This film talks in more depth about the food that’s briefly mentioned in Food Matters. The experts seem credible, but attempts to weave a dramatic storyline into the film fall flat. You end up with a weird character who keeps popping up while you wonder why she’s even there. (Especially since she doesn’t appear to be at all unhealthy or overweight.) I did like the fact that many of the film’s experts have struggled with weight in the past, and they willingly share their stories and practice what they preach. This makes it much easier for the viewer to take them seriously. I would recommend this documentary over Food Matters because it’s a little more down to earth and relatable. You’ll definitely walk away feeling like you learned something, even if that something came from a bunch of new-age hippies!
10.5 Chew on This: Ted Talks
Synopsis: Celebrity chef turned food educator Jamie Oliver shares his belief that food has the power to change our lives. He backs up his beliefs by highlighting personal stories as well as accurate data and statistics.
Review: If you only watch one documentary from this list, pick this one. First of all, it’s not technically a documentary, so you won’t have to worry about anyone calling you a nerd. Second, it’s short–you could watch this during your lunch break. Finally, it touches on almost every topic from all the previous documentaries: fast food, childhood obesity, lifestyle diseases, personal stories, big bad sugar, personal responsibility, corporate responsibility, and much more. There’s so much information packed into these 21 minutes that you’re sure to get something out of it. And did I mention the accent?
Now sit back, relax, maybe skip the popcorn, and let me know what you’re watching. Did you watch one of these documentaries? All of them? Did something change the way you look at food? What diet inspiration did you find? Did you walk away with a newfound commitment and motivation? I want to know what you think.
As for me, I think all of these documentaries have the potential to motivate you and inspire change, and when you’re trying to lose weight, that’s just what you need: Inspiration. Motivation. Change.