We can’t create change for animals in a vacuum — we need to educate ourselves, raise awareness in others, and embrace the small steps people take in learning more about different issues. For many, the seeds of change are first planted by a great documentary that informs and compels them to act.
We’ve compiled this list of documentaries to give you an array of different animal-related topics to choose from, or you can watch them all! These films will give you a new perspective on different animals, and we believe all of them are compelling in their own way.
If you find one particularly moving, consider hosting a screening party in your home, or at a local community space. This is a great way to introduce people to a new topic in a non-threatening environment. Provide some light refreshments and after the movie, some discussion of the topic is sure to follow. Get active, Green Monsters!
1. Off the Chain
The gist: Director Bobby J. Brown spent three years infiltrating the underground subculture of pit-bull fighting. “Off the Chain” is the result of this research that explores the evolution of the American Pit Bull Terrier in American culture, leading up to how we abuse these animals through dog fighting today.
How it makes you think: You’ll hear directly from the mouths of the dog-fighters themselves, which is something not many other documentaries offer. It also provides evidence that highlights how this abusive system has become so ingrained in people’s lives and minds that it has become a culture.
Availability: Watch the full documentary on YouTube.
2. Animal Odd Couples
The gist: This 50-minute documentary takes a look at unlikely pairings in the animal kingdom, while zookeepers and animal behaviorists discuss these and other examples of cross-species kinship.
How it makes you think: Unlike the typical nature documentary, where wilderness is cruel and wild animals are at the mercy of their instincts, “Animal Odd Couples” presents a side of nature we don’t often see – the emotional lives of animals.
Availability: Watch the full documentary on PBS or on Netflix.
3. The Cove
The gist: Follow an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers as they embark on a covert mission to penetrate a remote and hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, shining a light on a dark and deadly secret.
How it makes you think: “The Cove” exposes something so terrible, we wonder how it has gone on for so long. Recent news from the town of Taiji,the main town featured in the film, is to build an amusement park to further their exploitation of dolphins. Watch this documentary to gain an understanding of how dolphins have become exploited for their “trusting” demeanor in swim with dolphin parks and marketed as food to unsuspecting consumers.
Availability: Buy the full version online from Amazon or Netflix.
The gist: The story of captive whale Tilikum, who has killed two people at SeaWorld, one of them being trainer, Dawn Brancheau.
How it makes you think: It forces viewers to confront the reality of what it means to take a complex wild animal forcibly from their home, then abuse them over countless years expecting a flawless performance to amuse humans in the name of “entertainment.”
Availability: In some geographic locations, you can view the full version online or buy the full version on Amazon or on iTunes.
5. Born to Be Wild