23 Films That Changed My Life
In 2011 a personal revolution started in my mind. Many people who’ve under gone serious personal transformation speak of a moment of clarity or a drastic event that woke them up, I have personally gone through a serious transformation from Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference however I had no moment of clarity and no specific event that woke me up. Rather my shift came from an accrual of knowledge that is available to us. Some of that came from moving to San Diego in January of 2011 and surrounding myself with open-minded people. Some of it came naturally by finding better things to do with my time then drink alcohol and smoke weed. But I give the most credit to the information I gained through films, books, and Internet articles.
The films and TV series listed in this article are some that affected me the most and that I recommend to anyone who wishes to live a conscious life void of lies and fallacies and abundant with truth. Many of them shook me to the core and taught me that so much of what I believed wasn’t true. During this period of information I had many late nights thinking, “What the heck am I going to do. My foundation has been crumbled underneath me. My life is not what I thought it was. The United States is not what I thought it was. The world as I know it is not the world as it truly is.”
I could have felt overwhelmed and un-empowered with all that I learned but instead I was excited. I wasn’t about to be a hypocrite so I had to change myself and put what I learned into action. To facilitate my change I made a list of all the things I wanted to change in my life and put it up on the wall in my kitchen. Little by little I transformed my life completely to align my beliefs with my actions. I really do have these films to thank for who I am today and for any of the goodness that I have given to humanity and the environment.
Zeitgeist completely rocked my world and left me thinking “what the heck do I do now?” It woke me up from my sleepy state in which I thought everything was alright. I was actually shocked to the point of questioning how to go on with my life. After a few restless nights, calm returned to my body but I was a changed man forever.
Note: There seems to be legitimate evidence that not everything in Zeitgeist is factual. With that being the case I recommend taking what they say with a grain of salt. I do however believe that overall the message is pretty spot on. It has largely gotten me to where I am today and I think I’m in a pretty balanced and centered place.
The title exactly, “What the heck do I know”? I realized that everything in my life is just a matter of perspective. This documentary taught me that the human brain has been wired to perceive and react in a certain way from our own previous experiences. It completely made me question what reality really is. What the Bleep Do We Know is deep stuff, and very mysterious. I’m still not ready to go as far down the rabbit hole as the film makers but the few inches I went in was mind altering.
“The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but be in the mystery.”
This documentary shook me up and completely changed the way I look at food. I learned that most of our food is controlled by a few corporations that only care about money and have billions of dollars to control law. These corporations do what it takes to stay in power, increase their power, and kill the competition. This documentary inspired me to change the way I eat and after this I began eating much more local, organic, whole foods.
“We are all animals of this planet. We are all creatures. And non-human animals experience sensations just like we do. They too are strong, intelligent, industrious, mobile, and evolutional. They too are capable of growth and adaptation. Like us first and foremost they are earthlings. And like us they are surviving. Like us they also seek their own comfort rather than discomfort. And like us, express degrees of emotion. In short like us they are alive.”
Earthlings taught me just how inhumane the human race is to animals. I started to realize that animals are not inferior. Rather they are just different and in many ways I believe they are superior to us in ways that most of us cannot comprehend. This film helped me to overcome my ignorance as to how my life was harming animals. It largely inspired me to eat a vegetarian diet and later an almost completely plant-based diet.
“A change is inevitable. Either we make it ourselves or we will be forced to make it by nature itself. The time has come for each of us to reconsider our eating habits, our traditions, our styles and fashions, and above all, our thinking.”
The Story of Stuff is an eight part web series that helped me to understand how much destruction I was causing as a consumer. Some mind-blowing statistics that I learned are:
-The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population but uses 30% of the resources. Only 4% of our original forests remain. 40% of our water is now undrinkable.
-Over 75% of the worlds fisheries are overfished. The USA and other industrialized nations go into developing nations and take their natural resources to create our stuff, displacing people from their land.
-We create 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals per year in the USA, not including the factories we’ve sent overseas.
I also learned about planned and perceived obsolescence which makes us consume more, externalizing costs that allow us to have cheap crap, and that national happiness has gone down since the era of mass consumption began.
One of the very impactful videos in the series was The Story of Cosmetics, which largely inspired me to adopt a natural personal hygiene.
For a long time my life revolved around making a lot of money and for the most part I always came first with that money. I did give a small amount to charity but in 2011 I was introduced to 1% for the Planet and was inspired to start using my business for good. I watched this film dozens of times and each time was inspired to use my business as an outlet to affect positive change. I went above and beyond 1% in my first year and donated around 5-10% of my total business revenue to environmental non-profits. Now I’ve vowed to donate 90% of my income to non-profits.
Watch the short film here
Planet Earth simply inspired me to go out and see the world. It, along with other nature series on National Geographic and Discovery, opened my eyes to the beauty of the world and inspired me to be a part of it. The more of the world that I see the more of a desire I have to protect it. Planet Earth is just simply stunning and has inspired many people to protect the nature that we love.
It’s hard to even fathom this for now me but I used to eat a fair amount of fast food. In high school I worked at Hardee’s and ate a ton of hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes. For about a decade I was pretty into McDonald’s ice cream cones, even trying them in every country I went to. But learning about the havoc that these fast food companies wreak on both humanity and the environment has forced me to completely boycott them. Even if they were only making a few pennies off my ice-cream cone I realized that I just couldn’t support them any longer.
“We are going to talk about the production model of GM Soybeans promoted by Monsanto. It’s a true multinational company. It’s everywhere in the world. It’s objective is to control all of the worlds food production through farmer-less farming. The result is that Monsanto is depriving us of our food sovereignty, of our ability to feed ourselves without depending on anyone else. That is why we say that we must fight for our independence, for our land. We must fight for our communities, our families, and our country.”
This is a quote from the film that struck me the most. After watching The World According to Monsanto I decided that I would no longer support any company that uses GMO’s in any of their products.
“Let thy food by thy medicine and thy medicine by thy food.”
More and more through out my transformation I started to lose trust in the pharmaceutical industry. Far too much money is involved and there are too many ulterior motives to trust these multi billion dollar corporations. We are being sold crap that we don’t need and rather than making us more healthy it is often detrimental to our greater. Good health is quite simple and most problems can be avoided by taking care of our bodies. When in doubt, use nutrition, not prescriptions.
If the companies actually made us healthier than we wouldn’t have to buy their product any more. What’s their business incentive in making us healthier?
I deeply respect Christopher McCandless and this movie inspired me to simplify my life and be a true soul. I learned a lot from this character and can deeply relate to his desire for truth. I also recommend reading the book which is a much more accurate portrayal of his life.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” -Henry David Thoreau
This is my all time favorite movie. I know Forest is not a person in real life but he’s still one of my favorite men on earth. He makes me want to be a good person and take on the world with a positive attitude.
This is by far the most inspirational documentary that I’ve ever watched. Every time that I watch it I have trouble sleeping as my mind races with ideas for adventures and travels. It also introduced me more to Patagonia, which has inspired me to use business for good, be an ethical consumer, and support grass root organizations fighting for the preservation of natural environment.
I watched this way back when I was in college and it inspired me to explore other cultures and stoked my desire to travel through Latin America. I think that traveling is one of the best investments you can make with your money. Experiencing other cultures has helped me to be more understanding and accepting of others, which I believe are two very important characteristics to possess.
After watching Blackfish I will never step foot in Sea World again. More importantly though I learned how intelligent whales and dolphins are and realized how absurd it is for us to cage them for our entertainment. I think that it’s only a matter of time before the human race catches up with this way of thinking. Every decade we look back at something not that long ago and wonder what the heck we were thinking. I’m certain that the captivity of intelligent creatures will be one of those things.
Both of these films showed the world to me in a way that I had never seen it before. The food sequence in Samsara was utterly shocking. To sit down in front of these films is almost to step foot in the shoes of dozens of different walks of life. Of course true experience is always the best but from the comfort of your living room there are few better ways to see the earth
This is definitely a film the food industry does not want us to see. At the time of watching I had already changed the way I ate but had I not this film would have. I watched this recently, after transforming into a healthier life, but it still impacted me greatly and I wish every American would see this. Childhood obesity is something that really hits me in the heart and this shows how childhood obesity has gone from nearly non-existent to the norm in just a few decades. The government is largely at fault and it’s time they start serving Americans as they are intended to do.
There is no “away”. Once plastic is created it is on this earth for as long as most of our small minds can truly fathom. We’ve got to stop with the one time use plastic crap!
Gandhi has been one of the absolute greatest inspirations to me and this movie deeply impacted me. I am following in the footsteps of Gandhi and hope to refer to his work as long as I live. This film is an amazing way to introduce yourself to one of the worlds
most influential men.
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth”
When the credits came on I sat in my seat and cried for about 20 minutes. It wasn’t just a few tears either; it was more like I had split up with the love of my life. This movie shows a portrayal of what I think could happen to Planet Earth if we continue down the destructive path we are on today. And even though this is a Hollywood movie there is a largely accepted scientific theory almost the entire movie is based on. This movie rocked me.
I may have saved the best for last. I recommend looking beyond what is around you, beyond the borders of your country, and beyond the planet we call home. It’s once you start to take in the reality of the seemingly infinite Cosmo’s that you realize Humans are not the center of the universe. My importance in the grand scheme of life has grown smaller and smaller over the years. I can’t say it any better than Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson though so I recommend watching this series.
Recently Added Films
My jaw was consistently dropped through out this film. If you are looking to understand climate change or you doubt climate change than this is a must watch!
It turns out animal agriculture is the greatest destructor of life on earth. A must watch for anyone who wonders about how eating meat affects the earth (or has never thought about it).
Get informed on medical marijuana in the USA and its affects on the entire world. I strongly believe that legalizing marijuana would have drastically benefical affects world wide and this documentary really hits home on these thoughts.
Quite possibly the most inspired I’ve ever felt at the end of a documentary. Drink your greens my friends!
Malala is one of the most inspirational people that I have come across in the last few years. This documentary really inspired me to stand up for what is right. Her story of standing up for women’s rights is truly incredible and rightly so is being followed by many women around the world.
Michael Moore brings his perspective on 9/11 and it’s a pretty eye opening one. This documentary really opened my eyes to some of the things going on in American politics.
I recommend this documentary to anyone who wears clothes. It is likely to change the way you think of them.
Bot of these documentaries are an emotional and educational look into life that many in Western countries can hardly fathom. Living on One Dollar takes us to rural Guatemala where Chris and a few friends aim to live on just $1/day to give us a glimpse of what life is like there for the many people around the world who live on just $1/day. In Salam Neighbor they live in a Syrian refuge camp for a month to show us what life is like there and bring attention to the issue.
I watched Selma as I was traveling through Alabama learning about the Civil Rights Movement and it was extremely powerful. I recommend it to anyone who wants to begin their journey in understanding the movement and the issues such as racism that are still plaguing the USA and the world.
This movie is based on the true story of Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986. I watched it as I was in Selma, Alabama, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement and absolutely recommend it to anyone who is aiming to gain more knowledge of the issue of racism and how we can work together to abolish it.
In Racing Extinction, a team of artists and activists exposes the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet. Two worlds drive extinction across the globe, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species. The international wildlife trade creates bogus markets at the expense of creatures that have survived on this planet for millions of years. And the other surrounds us, hiding in plain sight — a world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Using covert tactics and state-of-the-art technology, the Racing Extinction team exposes these two worlds in an inspiring affirmation to preserve life as we know it.
Before the Flood is an excellent documentary for anyone looking to understand Climate Change and the issues surround it. The documentary follows Leonardo DiCaprio around the world and covers many of the things that we as individuals can do to be a part of the solution to Climate Change.
Gasland is one of the best resources on the internet for understanding hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a very destructive method of extracting natural gas and oil. Anyone wanting to understand where their energy comes from and the impact it has on people and the planet should watch this.
You’ve probably heard about child sex abuse in the Catholic churches but you might not know the details, the extent or the story of the journalists that uncovered the worldwide cover up by the Catholic church. Spotlight brings you deep into this story and follow The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team in their investigative journalism to expose this story in Boston and ultimately worldwide.
“REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM is the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky, widely regarded as the most important intellectual alive, on the defining characteristic of our time – the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few. Through interviews filmed over four years, Chomsky unpacks the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented inequality – tracing a half-century of policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority – while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation. Profoundly personal and thought provoking, Chomsky provides penetrating insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time – the death of the middle class, and swan song of functioning democracy. A potent reminder that power ultimately rests in the hands of the governed, REQUIEM is required viewing for all who maintain hope in a shared stake in the future.”
“The documentary, 13th explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.”
“When Donald Trump said, “This election is rigged”—he should know.
His buddies rigged it. Rolling Stone investigative reporter Greg Palast busted Jeb Bush for stealing the 2000 election by purging Black voters from Florida’s electoral rolls. Now Palast is back to take a deep dive into the Republicans’ dark operation, Crosscheck, the secret purge list that helped steal the 2016 Election. Crosscheck is controlled by a Trump henchman, Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State who claims his computer program has identified 7.2 million people in 29 states who may have voted twice in the same election–a felony crime. The catch? Most of these “suspects” are minorities—in other words, mainly Democratic voters. Yet the lists and the evidence remain “confidential”.”
“The documentary argues that Wal-Mart underpays its workers, paying them an average of $17,000 per year (in 2005 dollars). According to the interviews, these wages are too low for employees to afford Wal-Mart’s health insurance, so management counsels workers to apply for government programs such as Medicaid instead. Greenwald also claims that Wal-Mart hires undocumented workers for their cleanup crews, paying them well below minimum wage. Other criticisms of the retail mega-chain include Wal-Mart’s anti-union practices, its negative effect on mom and pop stores and small communities, insufficient environmental protection policies, and its poor record on worker’s rights in the United States and internationally. Scenes filmed abroad document factory workers in Bangladesh and China creating Wal-Mart goods for as little as 18 cents an hour.”
“How might your life be better with less? Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life-families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker-all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.”
“Filmmaker Michael Moore visits various countries to examine how Europeans view work, education, health care, sex, equality, and other issues. From cafeteria food to sex ed, Moore looks at the benefits of schooling in France, Finland and Slovenia. In Italy, he marvels at how workers enjoy reasonable hours and generous vacation time. In Portugal, Moore notes the effects of the decriminalization of drugs. Through his travels, we discover just how different America is from the rest of the world.”
“It’s all an illusion…run by a bunch of idiots. In 2008, Wall Street guru Michael Burry realizes that a number of subprime home loans are in danger of defaulting. Burry bets against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors’ money into credit default swaps. His actions attract the attention of banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), hedge-fund specialist Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and other greedy opportunists. Together, these men make a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America.”
“Beneath the waves, coral reefs are dying on a massive scale. These scientists and filmmakers are fighting to stop it.”
This documentary “explores our evolving understanding of gender identity, speaking with transgender and intersex individuals about their experiences.” I recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to be more understanding and accepting of different gender identities and especially those who are just beginning their journey.
“The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.”
Films for action– This website has a plethora of films to facilitate in your path to becoming a world changing human being.
There are also quite a few good films on these lists by Huffington Post: