10 Films That Will Change the Way You See Animals

Documentaries have the power to tell a story and get a different kind of reaction from an audience than words alone. For animal advocates who work on these films, showing us the actual individual lives of animals and how we’re impacting them is a powerful way to reach a broad audience and effect change for those we call our companions and those who are used and killed for food, clothing, entertainment or research.

From exploring farming practices and environmental issues to animals in entertainment, a few documentaries have had a wide reach and touched many of us, while others are just getting started.


In 2012, nearly 50,000 egg-laying hens were abandoned and left for dead at a farm in Stanislaus County in California and suffered for what officials estimated had been two weeks without food or water. While thousands upon thousands died a heartbreaking death unnoticed, many were saved in what is believed to be the largest farm animal rescue in U.S. history.

Turlock chronicles the efforts of rescuers from Animal Place who fought to save as many hens as they could, even in the face of opposition from local authorities. More importantly, through the perspective of both rescuers and adopters it forces us to reconsider how we see chickens, who have become one of the biggest victims of industrialized agriculture, by looking at the way things are done and the way they could be.

The Ghosts in Our Machine

The Ghosts in Our Machine is a film directed by Liz Marshall that follows Jo-Anne McArthur, whose activism comes in the form of photography as she visits places including fur farms and slaughterhouses, along with rescues, to document the lives of animals who are the “ghosts” we so easily overlook, but use in our every day lives.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Animal advocates and environmentalists have been warning about the many problems that animal agriculture is causing, but filmmakers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn dig further into the truth about just how bad meat is for the world, from habitat loss, harm to wildlife, climate change and the atrocious violence inflicted on the animals who are used by the industry.

Visit cowspiracy.com for more information and screening dates.

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home

Peaceable Kingdom explores the lives of several people who grew up on traditional farms, but questioned what they were doing and had a change of heart. Directed by Jenny Stein and producer James LaVeck, the film challenges our conceptions about farmers and begs us to ask ourselves how we can say we love animals, while choosing to do things we know cause them harm.

Lion Ark

Following an undercover investigation by Animal Defenders International animal circuses were banned in Bolivia, but they still continued illegally. Described as more of an action adventure than a documentary, Lion Ark offers a behind the scenes account of the rescue of 25 lions saved from illegal traveling circuses in Bolivia who eventually make their way to safety at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo.

Paw Project

Sometimes animal cruelty is blatantly obvious, other times it’s perfectly legal. California veterinarian Jennifer Conrad is on a mission to stop one of those legal cruelties: declawing. After working on big cats who had suffered from this mutilating surgery, she turned her attention to house cats and the footage she had turned into the Paw Project, a documentary that follows her years-long battle to rehabilitate cats and protect other animals from this potentially debilitating procedure.

Maximum Tolerated Dose

Maximum Tolerated Dose follows the lives of both humans and animals who have been involved in animal testing and offers perspectives of those who worked in the industry and suffered from ethical dilemmas that forced them to leave. The title comes from an experiment that involves finding the highest dose of a chemical that can be used on an animal before causing their death.

Visit Maximum Tolerated Dose to download the full version.


Last year Predator Defense created a short expose to raise public awareness about the secret war on wildlife that’s being carried out by Wildlife Services, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The film features former employees who bravely come forward to blow the whistle about the atrocities being carried out on America’s wildlife, in addition to featuring a Congressman who is speaking out in the hope of reforming this wasteful agency.

Even in the face of mounting criticism and scrutiny, new data released this June showed the agency killed a staggering 2 million animals in the past fiscal year alone.


Inspired by the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, Blackfish chronicles the life of SeaWorld’s infamous orca Tilikum and has made waves for captive cetaceans since it was released last year by raising public awareness about their plight. The film also raises serious questions about the effects of keeping these intelligent, social, apex predators in captivity and forces us to reconsider the ethics of confining them in tanks and forcing them to perform for entertainment.

The Cove

The Oscar Award winning documentary The Cove exposed something that horrified the world – the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins in the town of Taiji, Japan, and how their mercury-laden meat is being sold to the public. Since it was released, it has brought international attention to the fight to save these dolphins and has put the spotlight on how the brutal slaughter is tied into the captivity industry.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


BJ J2 years ago

There is no reason to harm other living beings. . . . EVER!

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Christopher P.
Christopher P2 years ago

Non-human animals have emotions and feel pain, too. Clearly, exploiting living beings is unjust. That's all you need to know.

Angela P.
Angie P2 years ago

Seen a few of these documentaries are they are excellent.

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths3 years ago

Thank you for the info - but I just can't watch films that show the horrors of how we increasingly abuse and torture animals. I sign as many petitions as I can everyday and will leave my estate spread between various organisations that fight the horror, oncluding some of the more militant animal liberation ones.

Peter Aldus
Past Member 3 years ago


Marianne R.
Marianne R3 years ago


Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Even Satan himself would be repelled by the human evil scum that infect the earth. Sometimes I wonder if a meteorite is needed to cleanse the earth of humans.. One that would allow the earth to recover from the human nightmare after a few million years.

Kandi B.
Kandi B.3 years ago

It would be nice if these movies were more readily available, it would make much more of an impact and be seen by more if there was a way to watch them without having to jump through hoops or drive to a different state for a screening... I did see The Paw Project on Netflix but searched for all of the other ones and none of them are there...

Sabrina Roberts
Sabrina Roberts3 years ago

You should add "Sharkwater" to the list.