We have compiled a list of 13 Best Animal Documentaries that will make you rethink everything you know about the planet and its inhabitants. This list encompasses animal welfare, wildlife and environmental conservation and our relationship with planet earth.
13 Best Animal Documentaries
In 2013, the controversial documentary film, Blackfish, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, sending shockwaves throughout the world. The film, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, provides a shockingly raw insight into killer whale entertainment, particularly at SeaWorld, and traces the controversy, events and circumstances surrounding the death of SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau by the largest orca in captivity, Tilikum, in February 2010. The film is not only an indictment of SeaWorld, but a denunciation of the institution’s animal ethics, animal husbandry and its safety practices.Blackfish stunned the world by revealing the true cruelty that lay behind the smiles and cheers that erupted within SeaWorld’s glorious stadium. Behind the great showrooms of the Shamu spectacle lies a dark and hidden underworld, one which has been graphically depicted for the first time by Blackfish. The film captures behind the scenes footage, and reveals the heartbreaking capture of wild orcas; the physical, social and psychological stresses that the animals endure, the separation of calves from their mothers, and the aggression that occurs between trainer and orcas. See our blog on Blackfish Effect here.
2. THE COVE
After a career spent capturing and training dolphins for the TV show, Flipper, Ric O’ Barry, realising the inherent cruelty of holding dolphins in captivity, founded The Dolphin Project in order to educate people about the cruelty of dolphin captivity. The Cove, an Academy Award-winning documentary follows Ric and his team as they fight against fishermen, police and the Japanese government to uncover the secret annual “dolphin drive hunt” in which more than 2000 dolphins are slaughtered in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan.
Not for the faint-hearted. Known as the film that will turn you vegan, Earthlings showcases the horrific treatment of animals at the hands of humans. Narrated by Joaquín Phoenix, the film is extremely graphic, focusing on animals exploited for meat, clothing, entertainment and experiments.
4. I AM AN ANIMAL: THE STORY OF INGRID NEWKIRK
I am an Animal is a HBO documentary following the life and passion of PETA’s cofounder and president, Ingrid E. Newkirk. The film examines the experiences and ideals that lead Newkirk to start PETA, and how it came to be the largest animal rights organisation on the planet. It also highlights the death threats and sometimes gruesome nature of her career.
5. FOOD INC
Shining a harrowing light on America’s corporate food industry, Food Inc focuses on human welfare, cruelty to animals, and the economic and environmental impact that the corporate food industry has on our lives.
A groundbreaking environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker, Kip Anderson as he investigates the destructive animal agriculture industry.
The leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, habitat loss, species extinction, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ailment. Yet it remains almost entirely unchallenged.
As Andersen daringly approaches leaders in the environmental movement, and increasingly uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture, he faces death threats and extreme risks
“As eye-opening as Blackfish and as inspiring as An Inconvenient Truth, this shocking yet humorous documentary reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet, and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population”.
Speciesism: The Movie investigates the use of animals for food in the United States, particularly in factory farms. The documentary takes viewers on a sometimes funny, sometimes frightening adventure, exploring the hidden cruelty of factories. Speciesism examines the argument that no justification can exist for considering humans as more important than other species, and brings viewers face-to-face with the leaders of the developing speciesist movement.
8. BURNING SEASON
Burning Season traces the ambition of young Australian entrepreneur, Dorjee Sun, who believes there’s money to be made from protecting rainforests in Indonesia, saving the orangutan from extinction and making a real impact on climate change. Sun, armed with a laptop and a backpack, sets out across the globe to find investors in his carbon trading scheme idea. The film also reveals the devastating impact that Palm oil plantations have on rainforests and native species in Borneo.
Winner of Best Documentary Short in the recent Durango Independent Film Festival, and directed by Moez Moez, “Green”documents the horrifying last hours of a female orangutan’s life. Certainly not for the faint hearted, this documentary juxtaposes the beauty and diversity of virgin rainforest with the devastation of environmental destruction and its many victims The documentary tracks each of the threats that orangutans face, including the timber industry, the pulp and paper market, the palm oil industry and the illegal pet trade.
10. OFF THE CHAIN
Off the Chain is an unprecedented look into the underground world of dog fighting. Tracing the history of the American Pit Bull Terrier, the film explores the evolution of the breed and how it transformed from being viewed as a noble and trustworthy family pet to public enemy number one.the film will transport viewers to the back alleys and dark corners of the inner city and expose the truth behind the breed’s new status in pop culture; an urban symbol for violence, aggression and gang-life. The first of it’s kind, this film is directed by Bobby J. Brown, who spent three years infiltrating the underground subculture of pit-bull fighting, and gained the trust of well established dog men, who allowed him to film behind the scenes of their dangerous business.
11. BORN TO BE WILD
Morgan Freeman narrates this multi-award winning documentary about two dedicated animal preservationists; Daphne Sheldrick, who has created an elephant sanctuary in Kenya, and Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, who has set up an orphanage for orangutans in Borneo. In both cases, many young animals have been abandoned after their parents were killed, by either poachers or similar human incursions into their natural habitats. Viewers get to see the animals nurtured with love and care before they are introduced back into the wild. The film is an inspiring story of love, dedication and the remarkable bond between humans and animals.
Read our blog here.
12. VANISHING OF THE BEES
Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet sparking widespread confusion.
Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables.
Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and planet earth.
13. MAXIMUM TOLERATED DOSE
Maximum Tolerated Dose is a first feature-length documentary film charting the lives of both humans and non-humans who have experienced animal testing first-hand. The film reveals honest testimony of scientists and lab technicians whose ethics haunted them, persuading them to choose a different path. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, this film captures the lives of animals who have seen both sides of he cage, reigniting the debate about animal testing by bringing these rarely-heard perspectives to the fore.
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