Here’s how William Sitwell, Waitrose Food magazine editor-in-chief, responded to a staffer’s request to include more vegan recipes in their publication: “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?” His words went public. He apologized. But many found his sarcasm to be right on. Veganism is scoffed at by many because it is misunderstood. But eating healthier foods has the potential to help us live longer, healthier lives, as supported by the 10 films on our list that could give you pause next time a Whopper is set before you.
Movies That Will Make You Go Vegetarian
1. Supersize Me (2004)
Iconic filmmaker Morgan Spurlock decided to use himself as a guinea pig to see how his body responded to eating nothing but items from the McDonald’s fast food menu for a month. The healthy 32-year-old enlisted three doctors to monitor his health during his 30-day “binge,” and it took only 5 days before he experienced stomach aches and weight gain. As weeks progressed, Spurlock had, “bouts of depression, lethargy, and headaches that could only be relieved by a McDonald’s meal,” leading one doctor to proclaim him addicted. Despite heart palpitations on Day 21, his 30-day regimen of super-sized meals continued as his health deteriorated. At the end of the experiment, Spurlock had gained 25 pounds in 30 days. “All three doctors were surprised at the degree of deterioration in Spurlock’s health,” say reviewers, but the reaction from McDonald’s was more profound. They discontinued offering Super-Size options six weeks after the film’s release.
Duration: 1h 38 min
2. Food Inc (2008)
If you’re looking for insights into how food production has evolved over the past 50 years, this film profiles industries that “place profits before consumer health, worker safety and the environment.” Further, say health experts, “production methods are not only inhumane, but they are also unsustainable from an economic and environmental standpoint.” For anyone squeamish about slaughterhouses where chickens are pushed to maturity so fast, they can’t walk and where cattle are fed unlimited chemicals that wind up in the food we eat, this film may be an intolerable experience, but enough high-profile industry experts contribute their viewpoints to make watching it worth your while. If your major concern is risking your health over questionable methods being used to supply demand, this Robert Kenner documentary is like a roadside accident. You don’t want to look, but you may not be able to help yourself once revelations that include subtle messages about the perks of flexitarian and vegan diets begin to emerge.
Duration: 1h 34 min
3. Forks Over Knives (2011)
A main objective of this well-reviewed documentary is the film’s ability to draw a straight line between obesity and how America’s collective unhealthy lifestyles are costing the nation $120 billion per year in health care costs. Filmmaker Lee Fulkerson focuses also on how cutting back on dairy and relying more on plant-based foods can help people live longer, healthier lives. Filmed more than 10 years ago, Forks Over Knives became so popular, websites offering recipes and cooking lessons for fans have popped up bearing the documentary’s brand (https://www.forksoverknives.com/; https://www.forksoverknives.com/cooking-course/). This film asks the question, “What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.” Noted medical experts add commentary and viewers are exposed to personal journeys of people suffering from “diseases of affluence” who turned their lives around by adopting plant-based diets. Worried about your mortality? Check out this film.
Duration: 1h 36 min
4. Live and Let Live (2013)
This film is unique because it chronicles the beginnings of the contemporary movement toward plant-based eating from its earliest days in London around 1944. With the world still at war, one might assume that animal shortages were the reason this movement was launched, but in fact, a variety of reasons were at the root, including food scandals, climate change, lifestyle diseases, and ethical concerns related to raising and slaughtering animals. At the epicenter of this documentary are six people – among them a butcher, vegan cook, factory farmer and farm sanctuary proprietor — who decided to wrest with the impact becoming non-meat-eaters would have on their lives. Viewers enjoy success stories that came out of these people’s decisions to stop eating meat and you’ll want to hear all of them if you’re sitting on the fence about adopting this lifestyle.
Duration: 1h 20 min
5. Cowspiracy (2014)
For movie goers who like documentaries produced with the help of celebrities, Cowspiracy was executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and was made with the help of crowdfunding efforts. Drawing criticism from both sides of the vegetarian debate, Cowspiracy is a thought-provoking experience. Filmmaker Kip Andersen explains how animal agriculture is “the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.” You’ll be asked to judge whether Anderson was successful in his efforts to “uncover the most destructive industry facing the planet today” and think about why leading environmental organizations are too afraid to address these dire concerns.
Duration: 1h 30 min
6. Okja (2017)
At first blush, this a heartwarming film about a 10-year-old South Korean girl named Mija whose job – looking after a “super pig” she names Okja on the family farm – results in a friendship only pet lovers can understand. When the farm is sold to a multi-national corporation, Okja becomes the conglomerate’s property and is used to promote super pigs in the U.S. Reviewer Matt Zoller Seitz calls the tale “heartwarming,” crediting digital effects and puppetry for unique special effects, but while it’s an entertaining film, it does a very clever job of driving home powerful messages related to “corporate responsibility, the ethics of meat consumption, the acceptable threshold of animal cruelty, and other matters that you might not expect to see find in a film so simply told and lavishly produced,” Seitz says. Sensitive children may not be able to handle the emotional side of this film so it will be up to you to decide whether it’s appropriate for you.
Duration: 2 h
7. What the Health (2017)
If you loved Cowspiracy and the convincing arguments filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn made, this second Leonardo DiCaprio-endorsed film should be on your list of documentaries worth watching. This film isn’t about the environmental impact of agricultural farming as viewed through the Cowspiracy lens. It’s an investigative study that “attempts to uncover the hidden dangers in the average American meat-eater’s diet and shines a light on the shadowy operations in the food industry.” Time magazine editors found this film to be overblown and hysterical, but agreed that aspects of the American food system need changing, especially those associated with antibiotics fed to animals and conflicts of interest between nutrition groups and food companies. Your takeaway: “It’s important for Americans to know that many health organizations receive funding from companies and trade groups that are not in line with health,” so watch this documentary critically to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Duration: 1h 37 min
8. The Game Changers (2018)
This documentary extols the virtues of vegan eating and while taking a hard line on organizations that find nothing but evil associated with meat consumption, especially as it relates to chicken and fish. Critically reviewed by experts writing for the Healthline website, they note that “Some of the assertions in The Game Changers ring true. Vegan diets appear to have heart health and anti-cancer benefits compared with omnivorous diets,” but critics emphasize the importance of proper planning and food selection to ensure adequate protein and nutrients on a plant-based diet. Called a “celebration of switching to plant-based foods, with contributions from the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and strongman Patrik Baboumian,” the most interesting character is former MMA fighter and army trainer James Wilks whose career-threatening injury led him to vegan eating. “The science has been challenged by some, and dismissed as vegan propaganda by others, but if you’re after motivation to start a plant-based diet – this one’s for you.”
Duration: 1h 26 min
9. 73 Cows (2018)
Can one 15-minute documentary impact viewers? It can, say entities handing out awards for excellence in film making. This is a brief powerful overview about why Jay Wilde, the U.K.’s first farmer, and his wife Katja decided to trade cattle raising for sustainable organic farming. After commuting the death sentences of their herd of 73 bovines, they make an ethical commitment to change. This film was shown to European Parliament members who took up motions that inspired changes in agricultural laws. “Everything that had bothered me about the process of beef farming in the past, all that burden of responsibility, was lifted,” concluded Wilde at the end of this short. “It was just such a relief to know that the animals I’d been looking after have a happy, cow-y, life.” See if you agree.
Duration: 15 min
10. Meat Me Halfway (2021)
Are you ready for a documentary that lacks dogma and offers a centrist perspective? This film purports that one needn’t eliminate all traces of meat and dairy to stay healthy, thus it advocates on behalf of diet rationality. A bit like Spurlock’s Super Size Me experiment, producer Brian Kateman, leader of the Reducetarian movement, decides to eat less meat, while avoiding extremes. “We want to move away from that all-or-nothing thinking and allow people the flexibility to simply move in a more positive direction, even if it’s not as ideal as some people might want it to be.” You may be inspired enough by his logic to modify your diet, too.
Duration: 1h 20 min