Food documentaries have exploded over the last several years—and for good reason. After all, who doesn't love a good meal and a movie? Through powerful storytelling, these flicks can shed light on what you eat, how you eat, and how food is produced.
Here are eight must-watch food documentaries to add to your viewing list. Whether you're interested in learning more about the U.S. food system, you're curious about food policies and politics, or just want to know more about the food you eat, food films are a great way to spend movie night.
Food, Inc. (2008)
Food, Inc. pulls the curtain back on the U.S. food system to show where American food comes from and how it gets onto shelves. By examining the major changes in food production and policy over the last 50-plus years, the film highlights the shift from family farms and agriculture to big business for major corporations. This Academy Award-nominated film looks at how these changes have influenced health and nutrition, and how they've made an impact on the environment, farmers, and workers.
Super Size Me (2004)
What happens when you only eat fast food for one month? That's the experiment Morgan Spurlock takes on in his 2004 documentary Super Size Me, an early pioneer in the world of the modern food documentary. For 30 days, Spurlock eats only what's found on a McDonald's menu (and must supersize his portion when asked). The result? A journey into the health effects of a drive-through diet and the influence of the fast-food industry on the obesity epidemic and the nation's health.
Forks Over Knives (2011)
Is it possible to prevent or even reverse the course of diseases (like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease) by moving from an animal-based and largely processed food diet to a diet based on whole food? That's the question this documentary examines. While the term "food as medicine" is heard throughout the health and wellness field these days, the film Forks Over Knives is one of the key food documentaries that examines the relationship between health and the Western diet.
Fed Up (2014)
Like Forks Over Knives, Fed Up also makes you think twice about the food you eat. Narrated by Katie Couric, the film looks at the role processed food and sugar plays in the rise of obesity, particularly among children, and other health issues. The film looks at the intersection of government policies and big business to see how they've led to confusing nutritional advice and increasing rates of disease and obesity.
Unlike other food documentaries, Fresh takes a different approach to shedding light on the modern food system. The film celebrates leaders of the good food movement who are working at the grassroots level to change and reinvent the food system. Stars of this film, which was directed by Ana Joanes, include former professional basketball player turned urban farmer, Will Allen; sustainable farmer, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms; and founder of the Ozark Mountain Pork Coopertive and family farmer, Russ Kremer. This documentary is a call to arms that even regular people can create change.
Soul Food Junkies (2013)
Prompted by his father's health crisis, filmmaker Byron Hurt dives deep into the history of soul food cuisine and its connection to black cultural identity. Soul Food Junkies examines the health consequences of this culinary tradition, both positive and negative, and its influence on the disproportionate rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes among communities of color.
King Corn (2007)
King Corn follows the journey of two college friends, Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis, as they move from Boston to Iowa to grow and farm an acre of corn, one of the most heavily subsidized crops in the U.S. Along the way, they experience how government subsidies influence the choices farmers make in regard to what to grow (and not grow). They also take a look at modern farming technologies, and where all the corn ends up in the food system—from animal feed to ethanol to processed foods.
Michael Pollan's name is synonymous with the food movement, thanks to his books The Omnivores Dilemma and Food Rules. Named after his book that has the same name, this is a four-part series on Netflix that encourages you to change the way you think about food. Each one-hour segment corresponds to an element—fire, water, air, and earth—and aims to reconnect you to your food and cooking traditions.
Many food films cover controversial topics, but they leave you with a lot of food for thought on certain issues. If you're interested in learning more about the food system as well as food policy and politics, check out these eight documentaries.