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50 Best Documentaries Of All Time That Will Change Your Life

50 Best Documentaries Of All Time That Will Change Your Life

Documentaries are often more powerful than other types of films simply because they show the sides of life that many people would not be able to experience otherwise. Whether this involves a glimpse at the life of an unhealthy adult or traveling with a flock of animals, documentaries have the potential to change your life.

The following documentaries vary in genre and style, but they all have messages that will have an impact on your life.

1. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (2010)

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

    By trying a juicing diet, Joe Cross is able to experience a new perspective on life while making the cross-country journey across America. You can watch on Netflix.

    2. May I Be Frank? (2010)

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      Frank’s choice to cut out all toxins and go completely vegan is inspiring for anyone who wants to have a healthier life, both mentally and physically. You can watch it on Hulu.

      3. Simply Raw (2009)

      simply raw

        This documentary shows the impact a raw diet can have on anyone, especially a group of diabetics who go raw for 30 days. You can watch it on YouTube.

        4. Vegucated (2011)

        vegucated

          Watch three New Yorkers embark on a vegan diet on Netflix.

          5. Food Fight (2004)

          food fight

            Why are there so many packaged foods? And why is junk food cheaper than health foods? Watch on Hulu to see for yourself.

            6. Supersize Me (2004)

            supersize me

              Though this documentary has been called out for exaggerating the effects of McDonald’s food, it is eye-opening to see how a diet consisting solely of fast food can impact your health. Watch it here and make up your own mind on the issue.

              7. Sicko (2007)

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                Michael Moore’s documentary sheds light on the American health care system and points out the issues that many people who just want to be healthy face every day. Watch the film online here.

                8. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

                the thin blue line

                  This documentary literally freed a man from prison. Errol Morris’ dedication to discovering the truth behind the Randall Adams’ case led to the reopening of a murder case. Watch the whole documentary on Netflix.

                  9. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

                  enron

                    Director Albert Gibney takes a look into the corporate greed that defrauded thousands of workers in the Enron scandal. Watch it on Hulu here.

                    10. The Act of Killing (2013)

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                    The-Act-of-Killing-DVD-cover

                      Focusing on the Indonesian Killings of 1965­–1966, this documentary can be difficult to watch. It confronts the terrible fact that the government contains many of the people involved in the genocide many years ago. You can watch it on Netflix.

                      11. The Art of the Steal (2009)

                      the art of the steal

                        This documentary shows the lengths many people will go through to receive private property — in this case, several priceless pieces of art — even if it means breaking apart a man’s clearly-written will. Watch it on Netflix.

                        12. The Imposter (2012)

                        the imposter

                          This documentary, which feels more like a thriller, examines a couple whose 13-year old son was found three years later in Spain. However, their “son” is clearly a man in his twenties — so for what reasons do they believe this man is their son? Watch it on Netflix.

                          13. Man on Wire (2008)

                          man on a wire

                            When Phillipe Petit strung a wire between the two World Trade Center buildings and walked across it without any safety measures, the world was astounded. You can watch the man behind the feat on Netflix.

                            14. Inside 9/11 (2006)

                            inside-9-11

                              Though it is painful to relive, this documentary examines the before, during and after of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. Watch it here.

                              15. A Film Unfinished (2010)

                              A-Film-Unfinished

                                This documentary features an unfinished Nazi-produced film from the 1940s. Lacking both sound and a definitive ending, this film brings an eye-opening view on the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi reign. You can watch it on Hulu.

                                16. In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

                                In the Shadow of the Moon - Documentary

                                  Featuring first-hand testimonies of the only men who set foot on the moon, this documentary serves as a great reminder that there’s a whole universe outside our planet. You can watch it here.

                                  17. Titanic: The Final Word (2012)

                                  titanic

                                    Though James Cameron is known for his blockbuster films, he has gone on more expeditions to the Titanic ruins than anyone else in the world. This documentary examines the sinking and shed new light on the infamous disaster. Watch it online here.

                                    18. Solo (2008)

                                    solo

                                      In 2007, Andrew McAuley began his journey to be the first man to kayak from Tasmania to New Zealand. Recovered footage of his journey examines the man who was willing to risk his life to achieve this record. You can watch it on Youtube.

                                      19. Touching the Void (2003)

                                      touching the void

                                        Based on a book by the same name, this documentary shows the events of two men who get separated while climbing the Andes. Hailed as one of the best British documentaries, it conducts interviews with the two men and features reenactments of the events. This is available on Amazon.

                                        20. Blindsight (2006)

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                                          This inspiring story features a group of Tibetan blind boys who, shunned by their family and community due to cultural stigma, climb the north side of Mount Everest. You can watch it on Hulu.

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                                          21. Gasland (2010)

                                          gasland

                                            This film answers questions many people have regarding fracking, while raising questions about why it’s happening today. You can watch it on Youtube.

                                            22. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

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                                              Antarctica has as much beauty and wonder to it as any other part of the world. This film shows the beauty of this land and the people who study it. You can watch it on Amazon.

                                              23. Marley (2012)

                                              marley

                                                Director Kevin Macdonald’s documentary takes a look into this influential musicians life to examine why he’s still influential even today. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                24. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013)

                                                20 feet from stardom

                                                  Behind almost every singer is a group of backup singers. Watch a new perspective of singers  on Netflix.

                                                  25. Festival Express (2003)

                                                  festival express

                                                    Take a look at one of the biggest musical tours of 1970. A must-see for any music lover, you can watch it here.

                                                    26. Senna (2010)

                                                    senna

                                                      Known as one of the greatest sports documentaries, Senna uses footages from the ‘80s and ‘90s to tell the story of Aryton Senna. His fame as one of the greatest Formula One racers lives on. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                      27. Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery (2012)

                                                      russell brand

                                                        This documentary covers Russell Brand’s journey from addict to sobriety. Including facts about alcohol addiction and the mental and physical struggles he overcomes, his story can inspire anyone with similar addictions. You can watch it here.

                                                        28. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

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                                                          Created by renowned graffiti artist Banksy, the film proves to be an interesting look at Los Angeles street art and the impact is has on the people. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                          29. Charles Manson: The Man Who Killed the Sixties (1994)

                                                          charles manson

                                                            Charles Manson’s belief led to the creation of a cult-like following who would go on to kill seven innocent people. Seeing the impact this man had on people is astounding, especially when you realize what he encouraged. You can watch it online.

                                                            30. The Great American Cowboy (1973)

                                                            great american cowboy

                                                              The winner of the 1973 Academy Award for Best Documentary, with plenty of action and thrills, you won’t look at the rodeo the same way again. You can watch it in four parts on YouTube.

                                                              31. Best Worst Movie (2009)

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                                                              best worst movie

                                                                Troll 2 is one of the worst movies created — but it has one of the largest cult followings. This documentary gets to the heart of the behind-the-scenes and helps explain what makes the bad so appealing. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                32. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)

                                                                jiro

                                                                  Jiro is the world’s best sushi chef. He is so devoted to his work he literally dreams of it and of being even better. With plenty of heart, this documentary examines Jiro’s relationship with his son and the desire to reach perfection. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                  33. Jesus Camp (2006)

                                                                  jesus camp

                                                                    There’s a camp in North Dakota where Christian children are told they can “take back America for Christ.” Hard to watch at times, this film is an eye-opening experience. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                    34. The Queen of Versailles (2012)

                                                                    queen of versailles

                                                                      Originally meant to be a quick look at the obscenely rich, this documentary follows a family as they go from riches to rags with the 2008 housing market crash. Bouncing from funny to heart wrenching, you’ll have to prepare yourself for a rollercoaster of emotions. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                      35. The UP series (1964-Present)

                                                                      The_Up_series_DVD

                                                                        This documentary series follows the lives of fourteen British youths from 7 to 56. With a wide range of demographics, you see how differently the lives play out for the privileged and the poor. You can  watch 7 Up and 56 Up on Netflix.

                                                                        36. March of the Penguins (2005)

                                                                        march of penguins

                                                                          This well-known documentary shows the lengths emperor penguins go through to ensure their children survive the incubation period in the frigid Antarctic. It’s moving and will tug and your heartstrings. You can stream it on Amazon.

                                                                          37. Blackfish (2013)

                                                                          blackfish

                                                                            This film gives insight on the accidents associated with Seaworld’s whales and shows how the attacks are more humankind’s making due to years of mistreatment, rather than natural instinct. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                            38. Winged Migration (Le Peuple Migrateur)  (2003)

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                                                                              With some of the most beautiful shots in documentary history, this follows the migration patterns of birds throughout the seasons. This is a visual masterpiece that will leave you breathless until the final credits. You can watch it here.

                                                                              39. Grizzly Man (2005)

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                                                                                Timothy Treadwell lived with the bears he studied and loved and was eventually killed by them. A look at how obsessive behavior can lead to disaster, the film is powerful and haunting. You can watch it on Hulu here.

                                                                                40. The Cove (2009)

                                                                                the cove

                                                                                  In a small town in Japan, the people’s livelihood comes from hunting the endangered and beautiful dolphins. With beautiful underwater shots and shocking images of the industry’s impact on the ecology, you’ll have a deeper respect for the beauty on the world after watching this. You can watch it on Amazon.

                                                                                  41. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2005)

                                                                                  wild parrots

                                                                                    Many years ago, a flock of parrots gathered in a section of San Francisco. Though no one knows where they came from, a street musician soon formed a bond with the birds. This documentary is a charming and intelligent story of humanity and nature. You can watch it on Youtube.

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                                                                                    42. The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)

                                                                                    hellstrom

                                                                                      A mix of documentary, science fiction and horror, The Hellstrom Chronicle presents a struggle between humans and insects. Though you may be more wary of insects after watching this, it shows that small things can have great power when combined. You can watch it in parts on Youtube.

                                                                                      43. The Invisible War (2012)

                                                                                      invisible war

                                                                                        Tackling the subject of rape is hard enough, but this documentary goes to great lengths to expose the attacks female American soldiers face within their own ranks. This will force you to question a government that would cover up these crimes and a military that would allow them to happen. You can watch it here.

                                                                                        44. Brooklyn Castle (2012)

                                                                                        brooklyn castle

                                                                                          Brooklyn Castle reveals the impact extracurricular activities have on children in schools, particularly inner-city schools. Following a group of children who just want to play chess, it reveals how important it is for kids to have options at school. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                                          45. Bully (2011)

                                                                                          bully

                                                                                            Focusing on two students whose bullying eventually led to their suicides, the documentary follows five children who were bullied. It shows how hard it is for children to defend themselves and why it’s important to step in when bullying occurs. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                                            46. Fambul Tok (2011)

                                                                                            fambul tok

                                                                                              Though the fighting is over, the effects of the civil war in Sierra Leone are still present. Translating into family talk, Fambul Tok shows how the perpetrators of vicious crimes still walk among their victims without the fear of imprisonment or punishment. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                                              47. How to Survive a Plague (2012)

                                                                                              how to survive a plague

                                                                                                When the AIDS epidemic first swept the nation, two groups — ACT UP and Treatment Action Group (TAG) — were formed to help find treatment and a cure for the disease. This documentary takes film from over 700 hours of archived video to follows these organizations as they helped transform the disease from a death sentence to something survivable. You can watch it on Netflix.

                                                                                                48. Murderball (2005)

                                                                                                murderball

                                                                                                  Following paraplegic rugby players, this documentary shatters any beliefs you may have about the handicapped and their supposed limitations. You can watch it on YouTube.

                                                                                                  49. The Island President (2012)

                                                                                                  the island president

                                                                                                    The Island President follows Maldives’ president during his first year as he works to save his country from the ever-rising ocean. You can watch it here.

                                                                                                    50. Bigger, Stronger, Faster (2008)

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                                                                                                      Analyzing America’s obsession with winning, director Chris Bell looks into the bodybuiding culture and its use of steroids for success. It looks into the dangerous side effects that come with being successful. You can watch on YouTube.

                                                                                                      Featured photo credit: theactofkilling.com via theactofkilling.com

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                                                                                                      Last Updated on July 8, 2020

                                                                                                      18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                                                                                                      18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

                                                                                                      The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

                                                                                                      1. Understand Yourself Better

                                                                                                      Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

                                                                                                      Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

                                                                                                      2. Keep Track of Small Changes

                                                                                                      I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

                                                                                                      Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

                                                                                                      3. Become Aware of What Matters

                                                                                                      As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

                                                                                                      You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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                                                                                                      4. Boost Creativity

                                                                                                      The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

                                                                                                      When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

                                                                                                      You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

                                                                                                      5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

                                                                                                      A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

                                                                                                      Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

                                                                                                      6. Process Life Experiences

                                                                                                      When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

                                                                                                      Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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                                                                                                      7. Stress Relief

                                                                                                      In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

                                                                                                      Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

                                                                                                      8. Provide Direction

                                                                                                      Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

                                                                                                      One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

                                                                                                      9. Solve Problems

                                                                                                      Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

                                                                                                      Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

                                                                                                      When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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                                                                                                      10. Find Relief From Fighting

                                                                                                      Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

                                                                                                      Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

                                                                                                      11. Find Meaning in Life

                                                                                                      Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

                                                                                                      12. Allow Yourself to Focus

                                                                                                      Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

                                                                                                      13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

                                                                                                      When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

                                                                                                      14. Let the Past Go

                                                                                                      I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

                                                                                                      15. Allow Freedom

                                                                                                      Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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                                                                                                      16. Enhance Your Career

                                                                                                      Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

                                                                                                      Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

                                                                                                      17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

                                                                                                      All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

                                                                                                      18. Catalog Your Life for Others

                                                                                                      No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

                                                                                                      We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

                                                                                                      Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

                                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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