Tons of documentaries are streaming online, educating and enraging us from the comfort of our homes. When we watch films that point out injustices or present cool new perspectives, we’re momentarily moved to change our lifestyles. But sadly, we don’t really have what it takes to follow through.
Though we wanted to ditch processed food after watching Food Inc., we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the snacks we’ve come to love. A doc about Wal-Mart’s business practices will made us promise never to set foot in the store again, but when we needed items cheap and fast, we found ourselves being greeted by smiley faces. And after watching Holy Rollers, we discovered that a group of devout Christians had more motivation than we did to learn card counting and pay bills with blackjack winnings.
Check out the documentaries in our list, all of which are streaming on Netflix. Do you have the resolve to make lasting lifestyle changes based on these films?
Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)
What’s it about: How the world’s infamous underground artists practice street art.
What you’ll want to do: Become a guerilla artist.
If you’ve never heard of Banksy or Shepard Fairey, Exit Through The Gift Shop will provide peeks into how they, along with other street artists, create gritty works in the world’s cities. Industrial structures serve as the artists’ canvases, as they channel through tunnels and scale huge buildings to showcase their talent. They don’t need permission to practice their craft, meaning they frequently elude police as they work.
After watching the flick, you’ll be moved to break out your sketchbook while dreaming of upping your street cred. But once you realize your illustration skills are rusty and that you don’t have the upper body strength to climb a building, your fantasies will evaporate.
Food Inc. (2008)
What’s it about: Centralized food production and widespread abuses in the agriculture industry.
What you’ll want to do: Only eat locally-sourced food.
You knew processed food was a problem, but you didn’t know it was this big a problem. After discovering how large-scale food manufacturing leads to bacterial outbreaks, you’ll vow to only buy food from your local farmer’s market.
But then you’ll see that being a localvore takes serious dedication. You rarely have time to cook, unless you count heating up ramen noodles as cooking. After a while, all that perishable food will go to waste and you’ll be back to scarfing down Hot Pockets. At least you made it through one week of only eating kale.
Holy Rollers (2010)
What’s it about: A Christian blackjack team who counts cards at casinos.
What you’ll want to do: Quit your job and live off casino winnings
Why are a bunch of devout Christians gambling? Isn’t that a moral conflict? Before watching Holy Rollers, you’re taken aback by its premise, but you soon get hooked into how easy counting cards seems. Sure, the team members eventually went separate ways, but you wouldn’t mind leaving the everyday grind to pay your bills with casino winnings.
Even if gambling isn’t wrong to you, card counting is harder than it looks. You’re not a hardcore statistician and when you pick up your first book on the subject, you see how daunting it can be. Besides, slot machines are way easier than blackjack.
What’s it about: A behind-the-scenes look at SeaWorld and how animals react violently to captivity.
What you’ll want to do: Become an animal rights activist.
You were amazed by stunts you saw at SeaWorld as a kid. But after watching Blackfish, you’ll be horrified at how marine animals are affected by captivity. According to the film, unnatural confinement leads to behavioral instability and possibly violence among animals. Shouldn’t you care more about the rights of creatures big and small?
Your heart is in the right place, but you can’t totally see yourself becoming a card-carrying PETA member. You’re not ready to completely swear off fur and eating meat, so you have live with not living up to your new ideal. But you still won’t visit SeaWorld anytime soon.
Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013)
What’s it about: A couple who learns to live debt-free by consolidating their possessions.
What you’ll want to do: Give up living in a consumer-driven society.
Wouldn’t you love to stop paying rent, move out to the woods, and build your own cabin? After watching Tiny: A Story About Living Small, you’ll realize how keeping up with the Joneses has left you broke. It would be great if you didn’t have to worry about material things and you could live as free as the film’s subjects.
You soon remember you’re not really equipped for nature. You’ve already killed a few houseplants in your time, so who knows what would happen if you ventured into the wild. Plus, it’s not wrong to want a new pair of boots or a new jacket every now and then. You might cut back on the consumer goods, but you’re not ditching domesticity anytime soon.
The Business Of Being Born (2008)
What’s it about: Hospitals profiteering from childbirth.
What you’ll want to do: Get a midwife and have a home birth.
If you’re a woman thinking about having kids, you’ll be shocked by the ways hospitals treat childbirth. Instead of allowing you to bask in the glow of a beautiful moment, The Business Of Being Born tells you you’ll be forced out to make room for the next pregnant woman. You might even be talked into getting a C-section and end up paying more money. You’re not having any of that. You’re going to hire a midwife and bring your kid into the world naturally.
As you start your research on birthing pools and doulas, you wonder if you’ve jumped the gun. Do you really want to give birth without the option of an epidural? Midwifery isn’t going to work for you and you’d just feel better in a hospital.
The Secret (2006)
What’s it about: Tuning into the metaphysical power of mindful intention.
What you’ll want to do: Make a vision board.
Can deeper spirituality really make all of your dreams come true? The Secret is really heavy on new-age themes, but it seems cool that visualization and mindful intention can get lead you toward everything you crave. Plus, The Secret’s teachings were approved by Oprah. How could you go wrong? You’re going to get started on your vision board right now!
Even though you’ve got cardboard and have cut out magazine photos of hot stars you want to bed, you haven’t seen any progress after a few days. Soon, you’re no longer moved to engage in some sort of spiritual ritual. Oprah may have time to do mindful meditation, but it quickly falls from your to-do list. Besides, you already have all the important things in life. Why ask for more?
Wal-Mart: The High Cost for Low Price (2005)
What’s it about: Wal-Mart’s corporate greed and allegedly corrupt management practices.
What you’ll want to do: Quit shopping at Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart’s not your favorite store, but when you quickly need a cheap snack or some toiletries, you find what you need. But did you know how badly Wal-Mart allegedly treats its employees? After watching this documentary about the retailer, you vow not to give another dollar to Wal-Mart.
However, those cheap prices keep you coming back and you realize you’re not ready to let Wal-Mart go. You might cut back shopping there, but sadly, you don’t find better deals anywhere else.
Miss Representation (2011)
What’s it about: How women are portrayed through the media.
What you’ll want to do: Become a feminist.
Unrealistic images of women are pervasive in the media. Before watching Miss Representation, you didn’t realize how deeply such images were adversely affecting society. Not only are women hypersexualized, they’re also ridiculed when they have power. You’re not going to take it anymore and you decide to stand up for women’s rights.
After a few days, you’ll still care about women’s collective humanity. But you don’t want to have nuanced discussions about femininity and you’re totally over the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t become president in 2008. You’ll limit your reality show intake, but you probably won’t be joining any feminism protests.
What’s it about: The harmful effects from natural gas drilling.
What you’ll want to do: Become an environmentalist.
Before watching Gasland, you’d never heard of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. You certainly didn’t know how drilling for natural gas polluted drinking water and sickened hundreds in communities across the country. You’re not about to let big businesses destroy nature. It’s time for you to become an environmentalist.
Going green is a bit harder than you thought. Your carbon footprint is bigger than you’d like, but you can’t seem to give up any of your gadgets. You may not drive everywhere, but it’s convenient to just hop in your car when needed. Maybe you’re just not meant to save the Earth.
[Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures/New Video Group]