8 vegan movies and documentaries you must watch
As a vegan, chances are you still have friends and family members who consume and use animal products. It can be frustrating and isolating, especially if you want to talk to your friends and loved ones about becoming vegan. Watching documentaries and movies that are vegan-themed can be a casual and informative way to get your friends and family thinking about issues like animal suffering, climate change, and the harms of animal agriculture. The next time you’re getting together with friends or loved ones, try suggesting one of the movies below as a group activity. And you can always offer some delicious vegan snacks to sweeten the deal.
1. “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”
“Cowspiracy” (2014) is a documentary created by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. It follows Anderson as an aspiring environmentalist on his quest to determine the true causes of climate change. During the course of the film, as he seeks out experts and leaders in the environmental movement, Anderson uncovers the devastating impact of animal agriculture. The documentary exposes the role of animal agriculture in environmental destruction, and also questions why environmental organizations refuse to engage with this issue.
2. “Food, Inc.”
“Food, Inc.” (2008) is a documentary that examines the business of global food production. The documentary describes how, since fast food was commercialized in the 1950s, significant changes in food production and distribution have resulted in just a few multinational companies controlling most of the production and supply in the global food system. The film exposes how the health and safety of workers, animals, and consumers are often overlooked by companies turning quick profits from cheap foods.
This documentary, released in 2005, takes a revealing look at how people use animals in a variety of industries. It covers the pet trade, puppy mills, animal experimentation, and industrial animal farming. Much of the film is based on undercover video footage of these industries that reveals how poorly animals are treated. The film reportedly took several years to make because of the difficulty of obtaining the undercover footage. It is narrated by actor Joaquin Phoenix and has won several awards for documentary filmmaking.
“Unity” (2015) is a sequel to the film “Earthlings” that examines humanity’s possible propensity for violence and attempts to create a roadmap for humans to become more all-around conscious. The film examines humanity’s abhorrent treatment of both other animals and fellow humans, and looks at the origins of the concept of universal human rights. It calls for people to develop more compassion for animals and each other and further our social evolution as a species.
5. “The Animal People”
This film, released in 2019, follows the paths of six young American activists whose advocacy for animals resulted in the US government placing them under surveillance and targeting them as terrorists. The film explores how the government's response to this group’s activism laid the groundwork for future suppression of movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. The film raises important questions about the ramifications of government actions against free speech and activism and challenges powerful and influential institutions.
“Vegucated” (2011) takes a humorous look at what happens when three New Yorkers try eating vegan for six weeks. As the three progress along their vegan journey, they discover where their meat, eggs, and cheese really come from and begin to question the practices of animal agriculture.
7. “Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home”
This documentary was released in 2009 and follows the emotional journey of four farmers who came to realize the cruelty of animal agriculture. These farmers describe the process of becoming hardened to the suffering of sentient farmed animals in order to “do their jobs,” and the movie documents their ultimate decisions to reject animal agriculture and choose more compassionate ways of life. Four rescued animals are also profiled in the film.
“Dominion” (2018) explores how humans exploit and abuse animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and biomedical experiments. Using drone footage and other undercover video, the film focuses mainly on the abuses of animal agriculture and questions the morality of the industry. The film was co-produced by the same filmmaker who made Earthlings.
9. “Live and Let Live”
“Live and Let Live” (2013) is a documentary that explores the various reasons people become vegan. It profiles six individuals — including a butcher, a vegan chef, a factory farmer, and a farm sanctuary owner — who share the reasons behind their transition to veganism. The film also examines the history of veganism and humans’ relationship with animals through the eyes of its subjects and various experts in the fields of nutrition, philosophy, law, and sociology.
10. “Fast Food Nation”
“Fast Food Nation” is a 2006 comedy-drama starring Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis, and others. Kinnear plays the marketing director of a fast food chain who is forced to visit one of their meat suppliers when feces are discovered in their best-selling burger. During his visit, Kinnear’s character discovers the horrifying truth about how cows become hamburgers and learns about how the animal agriculture industry exploits both animals and people.
11. “The Game Changers”
This 2018 documentary explores the connection between nutrition and athletic performance. It follows James Wilks, a US Special Forces trainer and UFC martial arts champion, as he seeks to understand how nutrition leads to ultimate physical performance. Wilks interviews world-renowned scientists and elite athletes, learning how a plant-based diet can maximize athletic performance and optimize health. The film was produced by James Cameron, Arnold Swarzenegger, and Jackie Chan, among other household names.
12. “Forks Over Knives”
“Forks Over Knives” is a 2011 documentary that examines the connection between the consumption of animal products and chronic disease. The film argues that switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet can prevent and reverse chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It includes interviews from two nutrition experts, Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University and Caldwell Esselstyn, a former surgeon at Cleveland Clinic. In addition to exploring the research conducted by Campbell and Esselstyn on the effects a plant-based diet has on chronic disease, the film also follows patients with chronic diseases as they apply the concept of food as medicine to treating and reversing their conditions.
This 2017 movie, directed by Bong Joon Ho, takes a scathing look at the ethics of meat consumption. The plot centers on Okja, a giant genetically modified pig who was raised by a young girl, Mija, for the first ten years of her life. At the ten-year mark, Okja is taken from her home by a multinational corporation that plans to exploit her in the meat industry. Mija goes on a rescue mission to save Okja, in which she meets up with several different groups, including the animal rights group ALF. Through the lens of the touching relationship between Okja and Mija, this film provides a powerful criticism of meat consumption.
14. “What the Health”
“What the Health” is the 2017 follow-up to “Cowspiracy,” produced and directed by the same filmmakers. It discusses the connection between food and health, and argues that a plant-based diet is crucial for optimal health. Filmmaker Kip Andersen also exposes the ties between animal agriculture, meat consumption, and the health and pharmaceutical industries. The film postulates that serious health consequences may result from consuming animal products, but the health and pharmaceutical industries look the other way and refuse to engage with these issues.
15. “The End of Medicine”
“The End of Medicine” is a 2022 documentary, executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, and produced and directed by Alex Lockwood and Keegan Kuhn. This film follows pig veterinarian and whistleblower Dr. Alice Brough, who exposed dangerous practices within the pig industry. Through interviews with Brough and other experts, the film reveals how humanity’s use of animals, particularly in farming, is creating optimal conditions for the emergence of new and dangerous pandemics.
This 2021 documentary examines how widespread fish consumption and the fishing industry have harmful effects on ocean ecosystems and marine life. Seaspiracy describes the devastating effects of plastic pollution, ghost nets, and overfishing on the ocean environment, and rejects the idea of sustainable fishing, instead calling for an end to fish consumption. The movie also criticizes sustainable and dolphin-safe food labels for failing to address the destruction of the environment and marine life perpetuated by the fishing industry. “Seaspiracy” was made by the same production team that created “Cowspiracy.”
17. “The Invisible Vegan”
“The Invisible Vegan”(2019) is an independently produced documentary by Jasmine Levya that questions the racist and socio-cultural aspects behind unhealthy diets within Black communities in the US. The film centers on Levya’s experience growing up with an unhealthy diet and her later commitment to veganism. It further contextualizes her experiences through interviews with prominent vegan activists, including Cedric the Entertainer, Dr. Tracye McQuirter, John Salley, and Stic of Dead Prez. The film also brings up the point that many of the foods readily available to Black and Brown communities are making them sick, and many of these communities have historically eaten plant-based diets.
“Plantwise” (2021) is a documentary film that follows six people as they transform their lives with a plan-based diet. This film is relatively short, at only 48 minutes, and was produced in association with Advent Health, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and Ardmore Institute of Health. Among the subjects profiled is a nurse who developed diabetes while pregnant. When her diabetes failed to resolve after the birth of her child, she turned to a whole-food, plant-based diet to get her condition under control. Each of the six subjects profiled has a similarly inspiring story.
19. “The Post-Traumatic Slave Diet”
This 2016 film examines the far-reaching effects of colonialism and slavery on the diets and health of Black communities in North America, Europe, the Caribbean, and South America. The documentary shows how Black communities have higher rates of chronic illness and death and argues that dietary racism plays a role. It further points out that the lack of access to proper nutrition instituted during enslavement has resulted in health disparities in the US that have never been addressed. The film advocates moving away from colonized, Eurocentric notions of diet and health and reclaiming African diets.
Milked is a 2021 documentary written and directed by Amy Taylor. It follows Māori activist Chris Huriwai, who investigates the dairy industry in New Zealand and exposes the environmental damage caused by the industry. This film targets Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest and most powerful dairy company and reveals how dairy practices cause suffering in cows, pollute the environment, and endanger human health. “Milked” also exposes the fertilizer companies that produce synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. It shows how the fertilizer industry enables the dairy industry by promoting monocropping to produce feed for cows, and how emissions from fertilizers significantly drive climate change. The film concludes by describing plant-based alternatives that are healthier for the environment and human health and don’t involve cows suffering.
The next time you get together with friends or family, any one of these movies could offer an engaging and thought-provoking activity. When you watch and share vegan films, you can support vegan artists and filmmakers as well as raise awareness about the harms of animal agriculture. Films like these can provide an opening for a discussion about how we treat animals or the benefits of a plant-based diet. Even if you’re already vegan, watching movies and documentaries can teach you about veganism and activism in other communities, and you can learn more about the many benefits of adopting a vegan diet.