The Top 5 Documentaries to Turn Your Friends Vegan

9 min read

This post was written about 4 years ago, so most likely contains out-dated information.

This post is not my opinion.

It is based on data collected from a large international survey we at Vomad conducted a few months ago.

Our 2019 Global Vegan Survey of almost 13,000 vegans from 97 different countries showed that more people became vegan as a result of watching documentaries than by any other means.

The dynamic duo of logic and emotion is precisely the required combination to form the most persuasive argument a human-being can be exposed to. This is just one reason why feature length documentaries topped the list, because they are designed to achieve this potent mix with surgical precision.

In fact, 2,808 people said the first thing that made them seriously consider being vegan was watching a documentary.

No matter if your friends and family are already thinking about going vegan or are completely new to the subject, sitting down with them to enjoy a well made film like all of those listed below is an excellent way to plant seeds of compassion and inspire them to do the right thing.

Here are the official Most Influential Vegan Documentaries for 2019, in order of popularity as chosen by the 12,814 participants of the 2019 Global Vegan Survey.

1. What the Health (2017)

website | watch online

What the Health is the groundbreaking documentary that exposes for the first time the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick.

Accurately marketed as "The Health Film that Health Organisations Don't Want You To See" it shouldn't be too surprising that this life-changing documentary created the controversy that it did.

"If you care about your health, animal welfare or the planet we live on, you must watch this documentary. If you don't care, you should still watch it."

- Liam Hemsworth, Hollywood actor

Even though we at Vomad love this documentary on all levels, we were honestly surprised to see it top the list of most influential documentaries for 2019. Generally older books, films and video clips appeared more in the 2019 Global Vegan Survey, if for no other reason that they have been around longer and able to influence more people in that time.

But launching of the massive success of their previous vegan-friendly documentary (featured below) and a slew of view-hungry YouTubers lining up to sloppily "debunk" it - but only really ending up promoting it further - film makers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn created more than just one of the most well made, entertaining and thought provoking vegan documentaries ever...

They also created a neat, attractive, easy to digest vessel to transport the most important scientific findings of many dedicated, hard working nutrition scientists and responsible medical practitioners from the past 30 years into the minds of the general population. This important task has, in the less-than-two-years since the film has been released, ended up turning more people vegan than any other film before it or since.

So for anyone you know who is interested in eating the healthiest diet they can or anyone who enjoys having their mind blown open by the truth, you'd be hard pressed to find a better vegan-themed documentary to recommend to them than What the Health.

Also available on Netflix.

2. Cowspiracy (2014)

website | download film

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to talk about it.

From the same film makers that brought us What The Health (featured above), Cowspiracy came closely in second place, being the first influence for 24.6% of survey participants who said the first thing that made them seriously consider being vegan was watching a documentary.

"Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet."

- Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-Winning Director of 'The Cove'

As people are becoming increasingly interested in living environmentally friendly these days, Cowspiracy is the perfect documentary to watch with or recommend to your friends and family who are keeping up with this growing movement.

This gripping film can be the gentle slap in the face they need to realise that their choice of what to eat (or what not to eat) each day has a much bigger impact on their own personal contribution to environmental degradation as anything else they might do.

The good news is that for a film tacking such heavy subject matter, where a lot of scientific reference is needed, Conspiracy does, just like What the Health does above, a perfect job of making this information entertaining, fun and easy for anyone to understand and be inspired by.

Also available on Netflix.

3. Earthlings (2005)

website | watch free online

Earthlings is a 2005 American documentary film about humankind's total dependence on animals for economic purposes. Presented in five chapters (pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research) the film is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, featuring music by Moby, and was written, produced and directed by Shaun Monson.

Dubbed "the vegan maker" due to it's no-nonsense approach to displaying the unbearable reality behind all forms of animal abuse, this classic film was the number one most influential documentary from our older 2016 Vegan Survey.

"If I could make everyone in the world see one film, I'd make them see Earthlings."

- Peter Singer, author Animal Liberation

Unlike the two films above that deal with nutrition and the environment respectively, Earthlings is focused in tight on the core issue of veganism: animal rights. As the many YouTube reactions make clear - there is no pretty way to discuss an ugly thing, and few things in the world today are as ugly as the rampant exploitation of animals with little-to-no concern for their interests.

This makes Earthlings by far the most unapologetically graphic film on this list. To your friends and family who say they "can't handle" graphic content for whatever reason, I would politely remind them they are paying for this stuff to happen every time they buy animal products, and the only reason it's happening is because people continue to create demand for these products.

I would then quote Gary Yourofsky when he superbly said to a classroom full of meat-eaters before he showed them similar footage, "Ask yourself a question... if it's not good enough for my eyes, then why is it good enough for my stomach?"

Even 14 years after it's release, Earthlings is still just as powerful and as relevant as the day it was made, and is still standing steady as the most influential vegan documentary ever made strictly concerned with the ethical argument for the abolition of animal exploitation.

Strong graphic content warning.

4. Forks Over Knives (2011)

website | watch online

Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.

Deriving it's name from the preference of using food over surgery to prevent and treat chronic disease, Forks Over Knives covers the fascinating stories of T. Colin Campbell PhD and Caldwell Esselstyn MD as they paved the way for a clear scientific understanding of the superiority of plant-based nutrition for humans.

The film also follows some inspirational everyday Americans living with chronic conditions as they learn to use a whole-food, plant-based diet to regain control over their health and their lives.

“I saw it, I loved it, and I need all of you to see it too. This could be the Hail Mary of medicine.”

- Dr Oz, TV personality

This is the second film on this list dealing with nutrition, which our 2019 Global Vegan Survey showed to be the second most popular reason people go vegan.

Similar in ideas - but not execution - to What the Health (featured above), Forks Over Knives was released six years earlier and created much less controversy upon it's release. While this gave the film less free marketing, it also created less resistance to its message from the general public which has helped Forks Over Knives become a sort of "vegan nutrition" classic.

While some people you know might immediately dismiss What the Health because they heard on some podcast that it was "debunked" without further elaboration, fortunately Forks Over Knives misses all this nonsense, which allows it to be recommended to people who might otherwise be shut off from the important message of the health defects of animal products.

Also available on Netflix.

5. Veguctated (2011)

website | watch online

Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated is a multi-award-winning guerilla-style documentary that follows three meat-and-cheese-loving New Yorkers from different backgrounds who, for six weeks, adopt a vegan diet and a whole new way of thinking about food.

This entertaining documentary showcases the inspirational and at times comedic evolution of three ordinary people who, lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture and discover they can help change the world, and their own health, one bite at a time.

"A funny, entertaining and informative film - a must see." - Russell Simmons, hip hop mogul

Vegucated does a great job of showing what going vegan really means to real people we can relate to - and the benefits of making the important lifestyle shift. The film's lower production values match perfectly with the films lighter and funnier style than anything else on this list, and it's quite refreshing for a documentary covering such heavy topics.

As you can see in the survey results though, there was a big drop off between the top four films on this list and Vegucated, with it only turning eleven more people vegan than the best of the following five Honourable Mentions found below.

Honourable Mentions

According to the 2019 Global Vegan Survey results, after the above 5 films, the following vegan documentaries were the next most influential, in descending order of influence...

  • Dominion (2018) - uses drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture in Australia.
  • Food Inc (2008) - an unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.
  • Food Choices (2016) - explores the impact that food choice has on people's health, our planet and on the lives of other species sharing our world.
  • Land of Hope and Glory (2017) - a graphic insight into the UK's standard animal farming practices featuring over 100 UK facilities.
  • Lucent (2014) - explores Australia's pig farming industry, highlighting the graphic day-to-day cruelty accepted by the industry as standard practice.

See The Master List of All Vegan Documentaries.

See the full 2019 Global Vegan Survey results for more information on how people became aware of the documentary that turned them vegan, and all the other interesting findings.

2016 - 2023