5 Great Documentaries: And The Oscar Goes To…

With the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony coming up this weekend, I’m looking forward to seeing which movies do well–especially those nominated for best documentary. Documentaries are especially favored, because they combine several things I love: art, activism, and story telling.

A great documentary often captivates a mainstream audience, stimulates awareness and interest, and inspires viewers to take action. Whether the subject is food, dolphins, the American president, Burma or immigration, a good documentary often forever changes the way I look at something.

Here are five nominated to win an Oscar this year:

Editor’s Note: Click to the last page to see this year’s winner, announced Sunday evening, March 7, 2010.

Food, Inc.
It’s something we do every day, most likely three or more times a day: eat food. For something that essential in our lives, we should know pretty much about it, right? Well, unfortunately that usually isn’t the case. Many details about where our food comes from are obscured by various special interests connected to the giant food industry. Thankfully, Food Inc. unveils the (often dirty) processes behind the food we eat and breaks down the disconnect between farm and food. The film will likely change the way you look at your next meal, but don’t let that stop you from seeing it. Food Inc. empowers viewers to make better food decisions that benefit our health, the environment, farmers, factory workers, and future generations.

The Cove
As Sustainable Dave will tell you, if you haven’t already, “go see The Cove!” Playing out like an espionage thriller, The Cove reveals the covert operation of the Japanese dolphin slaughter that takes place annually in Taiji. This film does more than keep you on the edge of your seat; it promotes an effective message that seems to have been heard. Many dolphins’ lives have been spared due to the increasing pressure from activists. Thanks to the passionate filmmakers who spread awareness through this documentary and to viewers who took action including those who signed this Care2 petition! Great job everyone!

Burma VJ
In this inspiring documentary, a group of video journalists in Burma go undercover to film how their country exists under an oppressive military regime. Comprised mostly of secret footage, Burma VJ highlights the evils of censorship and the imperative for freedom of speech. The filmmakers bravely attempt to bring awareness to a country that they feel has largely been forgotten by the global community.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Daniel Ellsberg, who was named “the most dangerous man of America” by President Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, is a former Pentagon insider who smuggled a top-secret study. The study showed evidence of how five presidents consistently lied to the American people about the Vietnam war and its costly affect on millions of lives. This pivotal event led to Watergate, Nixon’s downfall, and the end of the Vietnam War. This “dangerous man” changed the political landscape in America and inspired many people to reassess the government’s ability to go unquestioned.

Which Way Home
In Which Way Home, child migrants from Central America leave their families behind and make their way across the perilous U.S.-Mexico border. Children who make this dangerous trek generally do so for various reasons: to find a family that will love and adopt them, to work and send back money to their suffering families, or to reunite with their families that are already in the U.S. In Which Way Home, the children and their incredible stories bring a face to the issue of immigration.

Which documentary deserves to bring home the Oscar? If you haven’t already, be sure to check them all out. And while you’re at it, rent some of the goodies on Sustainable Dave’s list of top 10 documentaries! Happy Oscar watching!

The Cove won the Oscar! Congratulations!

Thanks to the passionate filmmakers who spread awareness through this documentary and to viewers who took action, including those who signed the Care2 petition!


LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for sharing.

Linda J.
Linda J.6 years ago


Jane L.6 years ago


Melissa C.
Melissa C.6 years ago

I've heard of some of these films, not all, but they all sound very interesting. Can't wait to see some of them!

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog6 years ago

Firstly, congrats to The Cove! Secondly, thanks for this article - this is a good list, most of these movies will go on my must-watch list :)

Betty Ing
Past Member 6 years ago

Congrats to "The Cove" for winning best picture! Thank you Ric O'Barry for everything you are doing to help the dolphins in Japan! I had the privilege of meeting Ric back in the late 80's when he was a guest speaker at a conference I was attending. A truly remarkable man who has dedicated himself to helping these intelligent creatures. Hopefully winning the Oscar will help to raise awareness of this issue worldwide and lead to the end of this brutal hunt in Japan.

Catherine C.
Catherine C.6 years ago

I could not finish watching Food Inc. I am not a vegetarian. I certainly was sickened. But- saying this- I am glad I rented it and watched what I could. I have not seen the Cove, look forward to it!

Thank you- as always.