10 Top Documentary Food Films

by Sarah Henry on March 6, 2010 · 185 comments

in food films

Since Food, Inc. is up for an Oscar on Sunday, it seems as good a time as any to compile a list of documentary food films worth watching.

A recent post on favorite feature films that focus on food garnered a lot of comments — and sparked a movie mystery that remains unsolved. For cinematic sleuths, check out the comments by “can’t remember,” and see if you can put your finger on the name of the mystery flick.

Thanks to regular readers Susan Rubin and Margaret Phillips for input for this post.

In alpha order, a list of ten real food films worth viewing while noshing on a modest-sized serving of organic, non-GMO popcorn.

1. Dirt: The Movie (2009)

A funny, thoughtful, and, um grounded look at the fundamental ingredient vital to everything that feeds us.

2. Food Fight (2008)

An amusing account of modern American ag policy and food culture that sprouted a counter-revolution among veggie-obsessed Californians.

3. Food, Inc. (2008)

The rock stars of the ethical eating movement — Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser — weigh in on all that is wrong in America’s industrialized food system. Methinks my son summed up this film best: “Sometimes the scariest films are the ones that are real.”

4. Fresh (2009)

Down with the corporate behemoths of the American food economy who threaten the country’s food security, livelihood of small farmers, and our choices as consumers. This doco features fresh thinking from urban farming activist Will Allen and sustainable farmer Joel Salatin.

5. Killer at Large (2008)

This film tackles the giant-sized topic of America’s obesity epidemic with talking heads and the story of a 12-year-old who undergoes liposuction.

6. King Corn (2007)

Two friends head to the heartland to learn a thing or two about how food is farmed and where food comes from.

7. Super Size Me (2004)

Cult classic with Morgan Spurlock eating his way to bad health on a month’s worth of Maccas. Required viewing for fast food fans.

8. The Garden (2008)

A group of mostly working class, Latino South Central Farmers fought the good fight — and they’re still at it — for the basic human need to grow food, in this Academy Award nominated film.

9. The Future of Food (2004)

Deborah Koons Garcia reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: Do you really know what you’re dishing up for dinner?

10. The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2006)

A flamboyant farmer turns his family’s dying farm into a thriving CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Bonus: He flaunts a feather boa while driving his tractor.

11. Food Stamped (2010?)

Special mention to a work-in-progress: A film-and-food couple reveal how hard it is to eat well on a really tight budget.

Okay, what’s missing — or doesn’t deserve to be in this line up? You know you have an opinion, oh yes you do. Let me know below.

You might also like:

What’s on Your Plate? Food for Thought for All Ages
Food, Inc. May Make You Lose Your Lunch
Food Stamped: A Film For Our Times
A Shout Out for The Garden
Favorite Food Films

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{ 155 comments… read them below or add one }

edwina March 6, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for this comprehensive list of food films. i need to check some of these out.

One that I love is Our Daily Bread. No dialogue, just an interesting look at food industry processes. Fascinating!! Check it out.

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Sarah Henry March 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thanks for the heads up, Edwina. I’ll be sure to check it out.

Find out what others have to say about Our Daily Bread here:
http://icarusfilms.com/new2006/odb.html

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marthaandme March 6, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I haven’t seen any of these. I’m afraid it will make it impossible for me to eat anything but lettuce grown in my own back garden!

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Sarah Henry March 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm

I hear you, marthaandme!

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Kathryn McGowan March 7, 2010 at 5:59 am

Great list. I would add As We Sow by Jan Weber (full disclosure: she’s a friend of mine).

It’s a lovely film about the disappearance of family farms in the Mid-West due to the incursion of big industrial operations. It was awarded “Best Documentary” in the Rural Route film festival. You can find more information about it here: http://www.aswesow.com

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

Belated thanks, Kathryn, for the heads up on an area often overlooked.

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Allison (Eat Clean Live Green) March 7, 2010 at 7:11 am

Food, Inc. was really well done – I want to see Fresh as well!

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

So many films, Allison, especially since I first compiled this list, only so much time, right?

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Kris March 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Oh. King Corn is perfect for people who won’t actually sit and read “Ominvore’s Dilemma” – such as my husband. Have yet to see Food, Inc, but want to! And of course, Super Size Me – ugh.

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for the quick tip on King Corn, Kris.

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Alexandra March 8, 2010 at 6:55 am

I was disappointed by the documentary win. I really felt Food, Inc. was an amazing movie that needed a boost.

Instead, the Academy opted for The Cove, which I watched Saturday night. The Cove limits itself to one outrage in Japan, the killing of dolphins, whose meat is fed to Japanese children, increasing their body burden of mercury.

Food, Inc. describes how all our food here in the USA is being altered, how the subsidized crops corn and soybeans turn up in many packaged foods, how Monsanto is forcing out the small farmer and imposing genetically modified seeds.

I felt sick after watching both documentaries, but think the message of Food, Inc. is more urgent and should be watched by all foodies so they can help spread the word.

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Sarah Henry March 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I know what you mean, Alexandra, about Food, Inc., though I do think food folks continue to spread the word (Food, Inc, was robbed! was one cheeky refrain I saw on Twitter today.)

For people wanting to know more about The Cove, check out this story in today’s Berkeleyside: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2010/03/09/berkeley-group-hopes-oscar-will-stop-dolphin-slaughter/

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kelley October 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm

FoodMatters is a great food documentary :)

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Aubrey December 23, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I just watched Food Matters and it was well done (some loopholes, but overall well done).

I would also add Flow: For the Love of Water and Forks over Knives. Forks over Knives comes out in March 2011 but is previewing currently in select cities.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:25 am

Belated, thanks, Aubrey, for the heads up. Will look for Forks over Knives soon.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thanks for casting your vote, Kelley, for Food Matters.

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alleyb February 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Yes! I just watched Food Matters, the movie was so informative in such a matter of fact way. I told all my friends and family to watch it.

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Almost Slowfood March 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

Nice roundup! I’ve only seen like one of them, but I’d love to see them all.

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

All in good time, Almost Slowfood.

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Steve O April 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

“The World According to Monsanto” is a great documentary. They do a great job of exposing how U.S. politicians and government agencies are selling out, along with most of the world for that matter, to greedy corporations. It’s got GMO, rBGH, frivolous lawsuits, government lobbying, and much more. It opened my mom’s eyes, she had no idea of the danger of GMO’s and the extent to which they are used in the USA.

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Hi Steve O, Sounds fascinating. Thanks for bringing this flick to our attention.

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JenJen June 15, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I love Diet for A New America with John Robbins. Sadly, I was completely ignorant about animal treatment and our relationship to food before I saw this movie. John is definitely an author that should be read by all.

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for sharing, JenJen.

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Lance Kaufman June 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

We Feed the World
What’s On Your Plate?
Good Food
All In This Tea
Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution

I enjoyed all of the above films. I think my favorite was we feed the world.

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Hi Lance, Thanks for adding to the mix. You’ll find a review of What’s on Your Plate? — which I agree is fabulous — on this site. It came out after I compiled this list.

http://lettuceeatkale.com/2010/whats-on-your-plate-food-for-thought-for-all-ages/

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Paul June 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

How about Food Matters? I would put that towards the top of the list. . .

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Sarah Henry June 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Hi Paul, Thanks for chiming in. I’ll add Food Matters to my Netflix queue.

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Lindy July 24, 2010 at 3:17 am

I’ve seen a couple of those documentaries, as well, I’m watching Food Matters right now, and it’s definitely near the top of the list.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

Duly noted, Lindy.

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Farm-i July 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm

great list!!
a couple more:

Fuel – its really about fuel and bio-diesel but delves into some great topics related to food!

Black Gold- the plight of african coffee growers

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

Thanks for these intriguing additions, Farm-i.

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Jason August 4, 2010 at 4:27 am

This is a great list you have here. Another movie you could add is Fast Food Nation. That will make anyone think twice about eating a burger lol.
Food inc. is a classic btw.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

Duly noted, Jason.

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Gabriel September 26, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Here are some others worth mentioning:

Iodine – The Most Misunderstood Nutrient
Dying to Have Known – by Stephen Kroschel
The Beautiful Truth – by Stephen Kroschel
12 Steps to Raw Foods – by Victoria Boutenko
Eating – by Mike Anderson
Healing Cancer from Inside Out – by Mike Anderson
Simply Raw – Reversing Diabetes in 30 days
Raw for Life – The Ultimate Encyclopedia of the Raw Food Lifestyle
Water – 2008
Nutrition and Behavior – A Lecture by Russell Blaylock, M.D. 2006
Genetically Modified Food – Panacea or Poison
The Fluoride Deception (2004) Christopher Bryson
The Hidden Agenda, Water Fluoridation (2005) Dr. Stanley Monteith
Mercury, Autism – Global Vaccine Agenda (2005) Dr. David Ayoub
Sweet Misery – 2004
Sweet Remedy – 2006

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:26 am

Thanks for weighing in with a long list of your pics, Gabriel.

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Dan October 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

Food Matters is a great film, very informative.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1528734/

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

You’re joining a growing chorus, Dan, of folks who put Food Matters at the top of their list.

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Frank November 6, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Awesome list. One that you left off that I thought was fantastic was Fat Head. It promoted itself as a counter-point to supersize me, but its really a fantastic movie about the modern state of our food, and the obesity epidemic.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:26 am

Good addition, Frank, thanks.

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jon lindberg November 8, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Chow Down is a food documentary that focuses on the food pyramid. It shows how the FDA was pressured to upend its original draft of the food pyramid (with grains on the bottom next to meat and dairy) by huge agribusiness thugs and lobbyists.

And it points out that diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity are not different problems. They are all related to the same problem – incorrect diet with a disproportionate amount of calories from meat and diary, versus nuts, fruits, and vegetables. It says heart bypass surgeries and stints are just band aids, and are often unnecessary if there is not an imminent risk of heart attack/stroke. Changing your diet can eliminate diabetes and heart disease. No need for surgery. Doctors push surgeries because it gets them paid…

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

Fascinating, Jon. Thanks for the heads up.

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Thomasina November 10, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Earthlings doesn’t focus solely on food but it’s about animals and the treatment of animals in general. It also lightly touches on the subject of pollution and the role factory farms play in that.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

And I’m sure it has an audience, Thomasina.

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Martha Saperstein November 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm

There’s that one called Fudge 44 about the secret recipe for Fudge invented by the Japanese schoolboys

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jac2-XMGd1w

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

Okay, this is something I have to see…

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Krystal November 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm

It’s definitely time to add Forks Over Knives! (www.forksoverknives.com)

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

Thanks for the reminder, Krystal, and the link.

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Candice December 10, 2010 at 8:30 am

what about Formula Fed America? I am really looking forward to seeing it!!

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:28 am

when is it going to be released, candice?

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sharon December 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

fathead: the movie

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Got it!

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Crystal - Prenatal Coach December 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Thanks for the list! I’ve seen 6 of the 11 so I have some research to do into the others! Fresh and The Future of Food are two of my absolute favourites. I also really enjoyed “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” I’m not an advocate for a 100% raw food diet but it was amazing to see the effect that dietary changes alone had on these participants lives! Some raw food is certainly beneficial for everyone to include in their diet :)
Crystal – Prenatal Coach´s last [type] ..My Guilt-Free Holiday Treat- Raw Chocolate Brownies

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

Simply Raw has been mentioned several time, Crystal. So I need to check it out.

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Michelle December 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Fathead the movie by Tom Naughton, it’s a bit of a takedown on Supersize Me, which I had never watched until after I had watched this documentary, as I had thought anyone eating 5000 calories a day of anything is going to put on weight and suffer some serious health risks and it’s all very well to blame fast food for weight problems, but they don’t shovel the food down our throats. This movie started me on my real food lifestyle.

http://www.fathead-movie.com/

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Thanks for the link, Michelle, and for sharing how the film affected you.

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Abe December 29, 2010 at 7:12 pm

I’d second “The World According to Monsanto” and “Fat Head”, especially since you have “Supersize Me” on the list. “Fat Head” brings to light several problems with Morgan Spurlock’s methods in “Supersize Me”. I’ve seen over half the movies on this list, and the one that scared me the most was “The Future of Food”.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

Duly noted, Abe.

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Leigh Anne December 30, 2010 at 8:38 am

Yes, Definitely Fat Head needs to be on the list!!

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

Thanks, Leigh Anne, for adding your voice to the chorus cheering on Fat Head.

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Head Coach January 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I just wrote my own review of the Simply Raw documentary after reading your blog on my own site. Thanks for the recommendation and for helping keep the fight for the truth alive!
Head Coach´s last [type] ..Simply Raw – Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days Documentary

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:35 am

Thanks for weighing in, Head Coach.

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battistino piras January 25, 2011 at 3:51 am

thanks for the list. I need to know more and more about food production and waste.my blog is about the experiment I am on, living without buying food for 4 months.it is a personal protest about the waste of food.

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

Thanks for sharing, battistino piras. I look forward to reading about your edible experiment. Intriguing idea.

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Marcela January 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Processed People is another good one

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

Thanks for the addition, Marcela, new to me.

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TK all day February 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Harvest of Shame!
The Edward Murrow 1960 classic that opened America’s eyes to the country’s unjust migrant labor situation. I’d argue it paved the way for other documentaries that have us reconsider where our food comes from.

Check it out at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJTVF_dya7E

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Sarah Henry February 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

Yes, TK all day. A classic addition.

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Tara Brunner February 14, 2011 at 6:23 am

Supersize Me was definitley more amusing than the last one I saw. It was an HBO doc called “Death on a Factory Farm”. I had to hide my eyes through most of it. I think anyone considering become a vegetarian would be sold after watching this.

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Sarah Henry February 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I don’t doubt it, Tara. Just the phrase “factory farmed meat” makes me shudder.

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Moses February 16, 2011 at 9:50 am

Another good one is called “Fed Up!” It was released in 2002 and seems to have influenced many other documentaries (notably The Future of Food) which have recycled some of the same information, such as the revolving door between corporations and regulatory department heads (even down to the visual). I think Food Matters is good but greatly overrated and distractingly biased.

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Moses February 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

Sorry, I forgot to mention that another interesting thing about Fed Up! is they actually present a biotech point of view, something missing from every other documentary I’ve seen.

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Sarah Henry February 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I’ll go check this one out, Moses. Thanks for the tip.

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CAfarmer February 21, 2011 at 5:21 pm

A very cool, new documentary film was screened at the EcoFarm Conference in January: In Search of Good Food. Focused on California farming, food security, and related environmental issues. An obviously low-budget documentary style and a mostly upbeat look at some serious issues.
http://www.insearchofgoodfood.blogspot.com/

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Sarah Henry February 22, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Hey CAfarmer,

Yep, saw this film-in-progress at the Ecofarm Conference too. I think your point about it being an obviously low-budget, mostly upbeat look at serious issues is spot on. And while I think it’s a valid addition to the genre, it wouldn’t make my top ten list in its current form.

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CAfarmer February 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

Agreed Sarah. I just wanted to put it out there because it’s had very few public screenings so far. Not necessarily a top ten, but definitely worth watching. (Wish I’d seen you at EcoFarm.)

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Sarah Henry February 23, 2011 at 9:19 am

And, CAfarmer, not trying to single this particular flick out, just realizing the comment section on this post is really becoming a resource for folks interested in watching doco films on food or spreading the word about ones they’ve seen and liked, not necessarily a discussion place for the “best” of the genre.

No worries, as you say while this one (and likely others on this thread) aren’t necessarily top ten material, many are nonetheless worth watching.

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Nicole March 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Hey,
Didn’t have time to read all the comments, so someone might have already said this, but “We Feed The World” is also an amazing and illuminating food documentary.
For anyone who wants to know what impact their food choices have on other people in the world and the world itself.

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Sarah Henry August 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm

New to me Nicole, thanks for the heads up.

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Trish April 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Food Matters is also an excellent movie as well.

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Paul June 14, 2011 at 8:47 am

Good list, though the documentary “Food Matters” should definitely be in the top ten.

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Sarah Henry August 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Thanks Trish and Paul for weighing in with the same pick.

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Ghwardron June 19, 2011 at 1:55 am

Thanks for the list! I think I’ve watched about half of them already and ****, what a way to open my eyes! Food Inc was the one that made the strongest impression on me. I will never look at processed foods (ok, bad processed foods, not freshly baked bread, which in truth, is also processed) in the same way again.

And as many others have pointed out: Food Matters is a must-see documentary that makes you question what you eat on a whole new level!

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Sarah Henry August 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Hi Ghwardron, Yes, Food Inc. does indeed leave a lasting impression.

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Mark Sebert June 21, 2011 at 10:53 pm

This is a great list of documentaries to start with another good movie is McLibel. It shows the story of two activist who were sued by Mcdonalds but did not back done on what they were saying. Also another plug for Foodmatters, great movie and definitely deserves to be in top ten.

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Sarah Henry August 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

McLibel is new to me Mark and sounds intriguing. Will check it out.

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Angie Foreman July 8, 2011 at 8:05 am

My husband and I just watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead….great film about a guy who was about 100 lbs. overweight and on medicine for an auto-immune disorder. He decides to start juicing (veggie and fruits) for 60 days – nothing but juice. He lost his weight and got off all meds and has tremendous energy. It actually inspired us to go out and buy a juicer immediately. So far, we’re loving our delicious juices and are looking forward to seeing and feeling the benefits of our “reboot”!

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Mike V September 6, 2011 at 11:15 am

Hmmm – I was actually bored by this movie –

1. who is gonna juice the rest of their life –
2. How truly healthy was this guy in the end –

After watching and LIVING “FATHEAD” for 1.5 – Ive run three marathons, 2 tris and and training for an upcoming ironman –

oh – and through the nutrition laid out in FATHEAD – I lost 50 pounds -

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Ghwardron September 6, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Hello Mike!

It was a month ago or so that I saw “Fat, Sick and nearly dead” and I recall that the juice diet should only be used for a limited time, anything ranging from one week to a month or two, but that it was not supposed to replace your regular meals.

Also, I congratulate you on your successes and weight loss. Great job!

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BeeHam July 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I was going to mention Fat Sick and Nearly Dead! Amazing movie!! I have shown it to so many people and it has inspired such change in my friends in a very short amount of time. It illustrates just how perfect food is for us in it’s natural state. An uplifting story to say the least.

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leslie July 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Amazing film by Joe Cross! Fat, sick and nearly Dead opened my eyes!

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Sarah Henry August 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Funny how these comments come in clumps: three votes in a row for Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. What say others who have seen this film?

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Frank August 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

After reading the list I saw Food Inc. and The real dirt on farmer John. Loved both of them.

And it seems a lot of the movies in the list and the suggestions in the comments focus on the US. Does anyone here know any more general food documentaries?

I’m from the Netherlands, hence the question ;)

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Dani August 20, 2011 at 6:25 am

I looooved Fat Sick and Nearly Dead … It shows us the real important of raw foods and staying away from MOST popular foods in the American diet — sugars, fried, oil, red meats … Very eye opening as the effects of our “normal” diets filled with cooked, “dead” foods … and the mindblowing effects of a raw diet … or even getting more greens on a daily basis. Amazing, motivating video. I now juice!

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Emily September 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Hi,
A must-see is ‘Food Matters’

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Leanza September 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

Thanks for the website and the blog – learned about a lot of films on a subject near and dear to my heart as a foodie, a cook and a mom (especially a mom).
I just watched INGREDIENTS, which I found very uplifting, informative and certainly interesting. It’s about the importance of local growers and how we (and restaurants and markets) can support them to change the way we live and eat. Narrated by Bebe Neuworth and features many farmers and chefs.
Loved it!

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Sarah Henry September 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

Hi Leanza, Thanks for adding yet another new-to-me film to the list. I’ll look for it. Sounds really intriguing.

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sanspm September 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm

There are a lot of really solid movies on this list! My favorite is definitely Our Daily Bread.

My professional and education background is on food issues, and I would strongly urge those who will watch Food Matters to be extremely skeptical of the “science” presented and to do a little independent research on their claims before taking it as the truth. I would encourage those who have already watched it to re-watch with the same level of healthy skepticism. Food Matters is to food as the movie Zeitgeist is to history – engaging, powerful and sometimes convincing, but ultimately mostly just fluffy entertainment painted as scientific truth.

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Liss September 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

An old one, but I’ve always loved “My Father’s Garden”… remarks on the dangers of chemicals/pesticides in conventional farming methods.

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Jennifer Margulis September 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm

I’ve only seen two on this list and can’t wait to see the rest! Have you also done a post on favorite food movies of the fictional sort?

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Jennylou Raya October 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Hi there… i went through everything and have watched 12 of the films mentioned here. They have all made an impact in how we eat today. The last one I saw was Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead and with that movie, husband and I bought a juicer. It has helped tremendously. Now we are reading and working out. I will check out the few movies that were mentioned and have not watched. Cheers to all of you watching and making the lifestyle and food choices best for you.

Sincerely,

Jennylou Raya
Jennylou Raya´s last [type] ..What to do with juicing remains?

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