1. The Corporation
This documentary takes a look at the omnipresent but surreptitious corporations as a living, breathing entity. What it goes on to discover is a monstrous parasite that has dug its roots into all facets of society.
"The Corporation" is tracked from conception to monopolization through hundreds of years of legal and ethical fraud. The dishonest practices of businesses are highlighted and expounded, while the government and consumers are revealed as the active bystanders who have enabled this corrupt system to become the most powerful institution in the world.
This film makes it clear that the logical outcome of Capitalism could be nothing else but a system that puts wealth above morality, and we, who constantly feed this parasite, shouldn't be surprised.
2. Bowling for Columbine
This documentary intersects a number of important American issues and finds America, its spirit, and identity, responsible.
Race relations, gun control, foreign policy, and media manipulation are at the forefront of this film by Michael Moore, who yanks the comforting layers off his country to expose a trembling infant, disarmed and terrified but gnashing at an enemy that he cannot name. It is a relentless investigation, only made possible by Moore's sardonic in-your-face reporting.
3. Food Inc.
The veil on the food industry has been lifted in recent decades, and documentaries such as this one have made significant contributions.
It's quite easy to turn a blind eye to unwanted truths when the ideas stay fixed in abstraction. However, Food Inc. hits you right between the eyes with everyday society's most repressed truth: the health and ethical violations of standard food production. The documentary confirms all the deep-seated fears about what happens to your food in the process of raising, butchering, harvesting, and cooking. They're revelations that are not fit for the squeamish.
While those who have strong constitutions might have no issue accepting most of Food Inc.'s revelations, the deliberate contamination of meat for cost-effectiveness is a hard one to swallow.
4. Finding Home
Human trafficking is a widespread issue that affects first-world empires as well as impoverished countries. Unfortunately, those without direct experience may perceive the real-life sale of humans as so foreign a concept as being unreal. This documentary plants the viewer right in the middle of the conflict.
The three women that feature in this film have had direct experiences. Born into sex trafficking in Cambodia, their past ordeals are disclosed and their new identity as human beings instead of commerce is the documentary's focal point, and a transition that all the women work hard to accomplish.
Along with the three main subjects, the director documents an entire orphanage of former sex slaves who are all trying to adjust to a world of normalcy while dragging behind them the chains of their past.
This is a brave look at some of the most courageous women on an exploitative planet.
5. Hearts and Minds
The Vietnam War is a continuous deluge of speculation, fact, hearsay, and conspiracy, and this makes for a tantalizing story of all the gears that worked together to create such a disappointing outcome. Hearts and Minds is this story.
Released in 1974, just after the U.S. left Vietnam, the documentary presents interviews with people on all sides of the war effort, and created a vital framework of understanding for the shell-shocked citizens of the involved countries who had no answers or resolution. This war lasted two decades for some, and Hearts and Minds does a valiant job of summarizing the events and letting the viewers make up their own minds.
Reception of this documentary was divided, with some believing it to be anti-war propaganda, while others saw it as a balanced investigation of an overwhelmingly complex subject. Either way, after watching it, your opinions will not be tempered.
6. Lake of Fire
While this film takes a startlingly balanced look at a contentious issue, few people will be content with their position once they have finished watching it.
Lake of fire is all about abortion. Produced by Tony Kaye and filmed in gritty, black-and-white style, it tells the stories of people on all sides of this contentious debate, from the pro-life murderers of abortion doctors, to the "murderers" of infants, with each believing the other to be evil.
Following the people and events of seminal historical moments, such as the abortion clinic bombings and the Roe v. Wade ruling, Lake of Fire pairs science and reason with the stark reality of aborted fetuses, the sight of which turned Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff who helped legalize abortion, into a staunch anti-abortionist.
Though the arguments may affirm the pro-choice side, the brutal truth of the procedure is guaranteed to make even the most strident abortion advocate think again.
7. The Bridge
An idea is just that: an idea. Not-yet real, ideas exist in metaphysics as comforting thoughts with no blood, body, or consequences. However, give an idea a body, and reality is shattered with the force of a natural disaster.
The Bridge is an idea with a body - 23 of them to be precise. It documents 23 of the 24 suicides on San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge in 2004, providing footage of all attempters as they plummet to their deaths from 245 feet.
Suicide is an idea breached by all, but watching ordinary people approach the railing, jump over, think about the decision they're about to make, and then jump, attaches a harness to such ideas. There's safety in speculation, but real safety in empathy.
This is supported by one of the few Golden Gate suicide survivors, who says that after jumping he "instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
This is basically an extremely effective compilation of animal cruelty.
The purpose of this documentary is to show the unnecessary cruelty levied on animals for the use of food and cloth items we can get elsewhere or by using other methods. It's a 90-minute guilt trip, filled with acts of animal cruelty that one wants to believe are not real.
The life-changing power of this movie is not mere speculation. Many people have become vegan after watching it. Just a quick Google search will show that this is true.