Sure, you can say Jaws changed the way I looked at water until I realized there are no sharks in lakes. Or that Poltergeist forever changed the way I look at ventriloquist dolls. But I don’t think that’s what the question was asking. For me, fact-filled documentaries on things I don’t know much about are the only movies that can really change the way I look at anything.
More importantly, that’s not the question I’m going to answer.
The truth is, a documentary doesn’t necessarily need to be even well made to contain sh– that melts your brain. But the ones I chose are both enthralling and pretty eye opening, at least for me. One I kind of wish I could go back and not watch. But where it did changed the way I looked at the subject matter, it did not change my behavior towards it. Just bothered me. Another earned the respect for someone I hadn’t before. The other introduced me to a new enemy.
1. This Movie is Not Yet Rated (2006)
Director: Kirby Dick
F–k the MPAA. For real. This expose into the American ratings board showed me how backwards things have gotten. Jack Valenti may be gone, but that doesn’t fix the system. Great watch and some surprising information. You won’t look at the ratings system the same anymore.
2. Food Inc. (2008)
Director: Robert Kenner
This is the one I wish I go back and not watch. It didn’t make me not want to go eat fast food (it’s so delicious and terrible for you). It just made me feel guilty for being part of the problem. I’m going to go drown my sorrows in a Five Guys burger. Enjoy your organic tofu.
3. Restrepo (2010)
Director: Sebastian Junger (also wrote The Perfect Storm) & Tim Hetherington (the photojournalist who was recently KIA in Libya)
I already had the utmost respect for our troops and what they go through. This movie only solidified that. But this also showed how completely out of their minds and dedicated some of the foreign press truly are. This movie was culled together from footage shot while Junger & Hetherington were embedded with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan. They shot extensive footage in order to go back and revisit events as they happened, preserving an objective perspective while writing the book War. When they went back and looked through the footage, what they found was truly amazing. Brutal and powerful, Restrepo puts my privileged civilian life in perspective.
Honorable Mention: Dear Zachary, The Human Experience, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Fog of War, Lake of Fire