A&E Features

Life-Changing Documentaries

Is bragging about watching a documentary enough these days? Or must you go the extra mile to prove your intellectual pursuit truly affected you? I asked friends, family, acquaintances and my Instagram followers if they ever saw a documentary so powerful it actually drove them to action. Here are the results:

Emily Dow, friend from high school: “Cowspiracy” and “The True Cost”

The first film prompted her to stop eating meat and the second changed her shopping habits around fast fashion. She said, “they informed me on issues I was unaware of previously.”

“Cowspiracy” is available on Netflix. “The True Cost” is available on Amazon Prime. 

Elena Spadini, childhood best friend and certified Italian: “What the Health”

“[It] really opened my eyes to some health benefits, even if I know it’s kind of biased, it still made me want to learn more.” The documentary made her eat more plant based and eventually make the full transition to veganism.

“What the Health” is available on Netflix.

Kristina Cruz, friend’s girlfriend who I have met once: “Food, Inc.”

“It really just exposed me to the injustices and inhumane practices in the meat industry, and ultimately made me disgusted at it — and that’s what turned me off from meat. It was the first documentary of its kind that I had seen, so it was particularly powerful for me!” 

Cruz watched the documentary in 2013 and has been vegetarian ever since. 

“Food, Inc.” is available on Hulu.

Holland Keller, acquaintance and PLNU junior: “Blackfish”

“It was the mistreatment of whales and honestly I wasn’t really a huge fan to begin with, so it was easy to pass up,” she said on her decision to not visit Sea World anymore. 

“Blackfish” is available on Netflix.

Colton Dalzell, date to high school dance in 2013: “Pumping Iron”

“I watched [it] and decided to work out more and now I’m a personal trainer. Arnold Schwarzenagger’s just a huge inspiration!”

“Pumping Iron” is available on Amazon Prime.

Michael Lee, friend and PLNU alumnus: “Minimalism” and “Tidying Up”

“It sparked my move to minimalism after my house burned down. Instead of finding joy in buying stuff, I started finding joy in relationships.”

“Minimalism” and “Tidying Up” are available on Netflix. 

Deb Hauck, old roommate’s mom: “Forks Over Knives,” “Vegucated” and “What the Health”

“I became vegan after watching [the documentaries].” When asked what about these documentaries prompted this decision, she said, “seeing the animals’ suffering as they were being slaughtered. Also, the science behind how animal products are difficult to digest.”

“Forks Over Knives” and “Vegucated” are available on Amazon for rental. “What the Health” is available on Netflix.

Makenna Markley, my mirror image and PLNU junior: “The True Cost”

“After watching [the documentary] I work to not buy things retail unless they’re fair trade!The doc pointed out so many different ways the world is being affected by fast fashion and I was shocked. It felt like something that I could work toward helping right then and there too.”

“The True Cost” is available on Amazon Prime. 

Caleb Holland, acquaintance from high school: “American Gospel”

“[I] went from [non-denominational] to reformed baptist.” 

“American Gospel” is available on Netflix.

It seems documentaries can create actual change in all areas of life, from religion to orca whales. The key to changing your life could be sitting in your Netflix queue. 

Written By: Sarah Cooper