As human beings and gentlemen of society, there’s only so much information our little brains can obtain on their own. So with every good documentary comes a vat of knowledge we might otherwise not be privy to, thus the need to spread the word. Everybody should see the following documentaries, to enrich our lives and learn about food, religion, outdated ideas and improving our future. Don’t worry, since “The Art of Rap” didn’t make the cut, the mind expanding experience can begin right away.
We’ve become so successful as a society to use and discard plastic items that we rarely question what comes inside the container if it looks eco-friendly, especially bottled water. This documentary discusses the harmful chemicals found in the bottles themselves and the startling amount of regular tap water added in by big corporations like Nestle and PepsiCo.
“Tapped” takes a deeper, researched look into the reality of bottled water and how the industry is duping its consumers. By the end, you should be on your way to the store to buy yourself a filter and a reusable container. If that’s not the case, you’re likely a part of the problem that is our world’s oceanic pollution.
ESPN's 30 for 30: The Announcement (2012)
Any sports fan will appreciate a "30 for 30" documentary, especially if it’s about one of the most idolized superstars of NBA history. The film recaps original footage of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s journey from superstardom to the rock bottom of retirement in 1991 after announcing he had contracted the HIV virus.
ESPN Films does an incredible job, per usual, at getting the heartfelt reactions of some of the league’s greatest players and Magic’s closest friends even all these years later, along with an empowering tale of a man rising up against all odds to once again become the idolized hero he once was.
Although it didn't seem possible when the announcement took place in 1991, Magic is still alive and well, as great strides have been made in the fight against AIDS. Now he's running the Dodgers and cracking jokes about Craig Sager’s colorful outfits with the rest of the retirees.
Forks Over Knives (2011)
There is nothing more American than working out before grabbing a drive-thru McDouble on the way home. Our culture can almost be defined by the food that it eats, a steady diet of fast food, red meats and lack of greens.
This documentary takes you through a number of unhealthy scenarios with people who are sick with disease based on poor, processed diets. Based partially on the ideas present by T. Colin Campbell’s “China Study” book, we learn that many of the unhealthy circumstances we find ourselves in can be fixed by altering our diet into a healthy, greener routine.
It might change your life, especially if you watch it after you get home from working out.
It’s good to have people who challenge the norm, especially if that person is funny, smart and happens to be Bill Maher. The comedic television host makes a mockery of organized religion by going around to different types of organized gatherings and questioning what and why they do what they do.
Maher, an intellectual in addition to being a comedian, makes organized religion seem ridiculous; hence the title. From the Vatican to the Scientology centers, Maher holds no prejudice towards any one religion, as he attacks them all with a sense of humor and the zeal of an entire debate team.
Life in a Day (2011)
All the wonder, beauty, ugliness, tragedy, life, rebirth and death of a single day throughout the entire world is hard to grasp, or even come close to being experienced by a single person. “Life in a Day” makes a visceral attempt to change that by taking bits and pieces of the world we know and the world we’ve never met and scrambling it all into one beautiful, chaotic 94-minute masterpiece.
From day-to-evening time lapses, the Aurora Borealis, nature, triumph, funny moments and adventures through love, fear and hope of all types, the film puts everybody in the directing chair to document the celebration of their own lives. Produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin MacDonald, the documentary captures the best of more than 80,000 YouTube submissions of footage from this one particular day in the world, and it is undoubtedly hard to look away or even blink once you begin.
Man on Wire (2008)
Most of us have difficulty walking in a straight line on a Friday night, let alone walking a tight rope. In 1974, French youngster Philippe Petit did just that; only he did it from the top of one tower of the World Trade Center to the other.
Receiving an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, the 2008 film directed by James Marsh takes you through the preparation, planning and execution of this semi-insane – okay, completely insane – act of bravery and composure. The film features footage from the actual event, which is fascinating to see of the World Trade Center, especially now. Petit became part of the project, along with some re-enactments to bring an intense, mind-blowing experience to the screen.
Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007)
Anyone who has qualms with organized religion, money or the media will find this both enthralling and eye opening. The film is broken into three parts: the history and challenge of organized religion from its early conception, the U.S. monetary system and its flaws and the attacks of 9/11 and the ways media censored out certain details of that tragic day.
The film is followed by “Zeitgeist: Addendum,” a further look into some of the ideas presented in the first movie, and the third “Moving Forward,” which offers solutions for how to progress with these ideas in mind. Whether or not you buy into the ideas presented here, it’ll definitely challenge your belief system and raise good questions for conversation.
Side by Side (2012)
To have George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and a horde of other monumentally talented film directors all appear in the same documentary about their thoughts on the past, present and future of the film industry is every nerdy film student’s wettest dream. Well, dream no longer, kid, as your drawers are soaked once again.
Hosted by tour guide Keanu Reeves, the documentary sheds some light on the background behind some of the most amazing moments in film history, with heavy emphasis on the difference between film and digital work. You’ll see how film has quickly been flushed out with some of the recent advancements in film and theater-going, along with some intriguing thoughts on what the future might hold for moviegoers alike. The question remains, can film survive in a digital world? Well, if Instagram can sell for $1 billion, then maybe there’s a shot.
Hosted by actor, activist and weed lover Woody Harrelson, this documentary outlines a lot of the big issues we have in our country and how much worse it will get if there isn’t a shift in how we operate on a daily basis. The film is not the first of its kind, but its charismatic approach to serious problems makes it more digestible, and it’s definitely a documentary everybody should see in their lifetime, if only to challenge our daily practices.
From simple consumer marketing to the wars on terrorism, the film, much like “Zeitgeist,” gives a little background of a present condition that has a dark future, but a future that is malleable if we so choose to make it right.
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The Art of Flight (2011)
For the thrill seeking, death defying, gravity-hating psycho that lives inside of every one of us, “The Art of Flight” is like the home video we wish we had. Since no feat is ever high enough, this snowboarding stunt film is the next wave of ballsy hijinks from Travis Rice and his team of highly skilled buffoons.
Skillfully shot on GoPro cameras and high aerial shots over the course of two years, these snowboarders take more than sponsorship from Red Bull as they practically grow wings and take flight across some of the most amazing arctic scenery. Do not try this at home, kids.