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The 18 Best Food Documentaries of All Time

Two chefs assemble a plate in For Grace.
Two chefs assemble a plate in For Grace (2015). For Grace

From luxury Michelin-star restaurants to hot-headed chefs to the disgusting secrets hidden within the food supply chain, this is the definitive list of the 18 best food documentaries of all time (yes, there is one about wine, too). Want to know how the best sushi is rolled? Or how much corn and sugar goes into the food you eat every day? We got you.

Titles on this list may prompt you to start volunteering at a local farm, start shopping at local markets for your produce, re-imagine the way food is made in otherworldly cities (like Tokyo, Seville, and Tuscany), look closer at the food labels you buy, and maybe even go vegan. Between the corporate greed, the health nuts, and the food artisans, these documentaries will teach you something that will either sincerely interest you or terribly frighten you, either way, you’re learning something about all the food going into your body.

Bon appetit!

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Ono in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Jiro Ono in Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011).

Our all-time favorite food documentary follows the life of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi chef considered the best in the world. His small 10-seat restaurant is located within a subway station, serves a set course, and can take months to get reservations. It was the first establishment of its kind to gain a three-star Michelin Guide rating. Both the visuals and the story arch are stunning, mimicking Jiro’s constant pursuit of perfection. Have a sashimi takeout menu close at hand.

Director: David Gelb
Runtime: 81 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9

Watch on Amazon Prime

Super Size Me (2004)

Morgan Spurlock eating a burger in Super Size Me.
Morgan Spurlock eating a burger in Super Size Me (2004).

In summary: You’ll never want to eat McDonald’s again (or you’ll want to immediately go to McDonald’s … it’s a toss-up). This 2004 documentary sealed Morgan Spurlock into the guild of iconic documentarians. The concept was simple: Eat only McDonalds for a month — breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert — and see how your health changes. Spurlock’s social experiment was simultaneously a cultural break-check on the role corporate giants have on American lives and health, particularly the obesity epidemic.

Director: Morgan Spurlock
Runtime: 100 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2

Watch on Amazon Prime

Noma: My Perfect Storm (2015)

A kitchen of chefs creates a meal in Noma: My Perfect Storm.
A kitchen of chefs creates a meal in Noma: My Perfect Storm (2015).

Located in Copenhagen, Noma has been named the best restaurant in the world. The title changed everything, especially for chef René Redzepi, who finds himself stuck between creating tranquil, brilliant meals and the scattered, frustrated anxiety of staying on top. Some of the sublime dishes you’ll see include bread and grilled roses, crispy reindeer moss, and wild blueberry and ants.

Director: Pierre Deschamps
Runtime: 100 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.2

Watch on Amazon Prime

What the Health (2017)

Dr. Milton Mills in What the Health.
Dr. Milton Mills in What the Health (2017).

Attempting to seek out a dietary approach to prevent and reverse chronic disease (OK, we’re down), filmmaker Kip Andersen traces the smoking gun back to animal products. The pro-vegan film prompted us to take a good look at our meat/cheese/dairy consumption and test out healthier swaps. It’s huge when a food documentary physically makes you get up from the couch and seek out a healthier diet. However, many of the claims, such as eggs being as bad as cigarettes, have been called out as bologna. As with all docs, it goes without saying take everything with a grain of salt, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Directors: Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn
Runtime: 97 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.4

Watch on Netflix

Sour Grapes (2016)

Two wine aficionados in a wine cellar in Sour Grapes.
Two wine aficionados in a wine cellar in Sour Grapes (2016).

Not technically a food when finished, but we’re putting it on here, anyway. Sour Grapes is a 100% Rotten Tomatoes-rated documentary about wine. And damn, it’s exciting. Following the legend of the Gen-X Great Gatsby, a young wine savant who conned investors out of millions of dollars in “the world’s greatest wine fraud.”

Directors: Reuben Atlas, Jerry Rothwell
Runtime: 85 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2

Buy/Rent on Amazon

King Corn (2007)

Farmer on a harvester in King Corn.
Farmer on a harvester in King Corn (2007).

In what this movie calls “America’s best-kept secret,” corn is discovered to be in absolutely everything, namely in the United States. King Corn is a unique and daunting look into America’s food industry, focusing on the amount of corn produced versus where it all actually goes and how it affects our health. As two friends go on a journey to investigate the food industry, based on just a bit of land full of corn, they discover the harrowing truth about this country’s base for food production. Pumped into canned foods, frozen foods, fast foods, soda, and even salad dressings, this film also states that “Lots of corn means the raw material for an overweight society,” commenting on the dire need for change in the industry.

Director: Aaron Woolf
Runtime: 88 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.0

Buy/Rent on Amazon

That Sugar Film (2014)

Brenton Thwaites in That Sugar Film.
Brenton Thwaites in That Sugar Film (2014).

Deep down we know sugar is bad for us, but Australian documentarian Damon Gameau is reminding us just how wicked the sweet stuff is (we promise you will be disturbed). Using himself as a test rat, Gameau adopts a low-fat, high-sugar diet equivalent to 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. The result: He feels like crap. Expert interviews delve into the molecular level of sugar calories and how they work (or more correctly, how they don’t work), and uncover the insane amount of sugar hiding in everyday foods, which are added to reach the “bliss point” that makes food more desirable.

Director: Damon Gameau
Runtime: 90 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5

Watch on Amazon Prime

Fed Up (2014)

A girl on a bus in Fed Up.
A girl on a bus in Fed Up (2014).

If you weren’t already convinced every ailment the human species has can be traced back to food, well buckle up. Fed Up is hard-hitting, fact-focused, and packs a “holy $#&!” moment every couple of minutes. American journalist Katie Couric investigates why childhood obesity has become an epidemic. We’ll give you two hints: The “fat-free” movement and the libel of food labels.

Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Runtime: 92 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.7

Watch on Amazon

Symphony of the Soil (2012)

A vine of grapes in Symphony of the Soil.
A vine of grapes in Symphony of the Soil (2012).

When we think of food documentaries, we think of, well, food. And chefs and restaurants and grocery stores. But hardly ever the soil. Symphony of the Soil explores the relationship between soil, plants, and animals, highlighting the virtues of organic farming and experts who have made their lives around getting dirty growing soil to grow plants. If you don’t normally like foreign or subtitled films, this slow-moving, molecular-detailed doc might not be your pace.

Director: Deborah Koons Garcia
Runtime: 104 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.4

Rent on Vimeo

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

A forest burns in Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.
A forest burns in Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014).

Addressing the corporate presence in the way we eat and live, Cowspiracy is a shocking look inside the industry that told us for generations how we should (or how they want) us to eat. From breaking down the food pyramid to insights into the meat and dairy industry, this documentary experience is sure to make you question what effect the food you eat has on the health of your body and Earth itself. Focused on the American food industry, a man goes in search of truth, whether willingly provided or pried from their reluctant mouths, he gets some jarring answers to the posed inquiries. After watching this one, you may just want to go vegan. 

Directors: Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn
Runtime: 90 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.2

Watch on Netflix

Vegucated (2011)

Caged pigs in Vegucated.
Caged pigs in Vegucated (2011).

Three meat-and-cheese-loving New Yorkers are thrust into a vegan diet. That means faux meat, zero eggs, and adios butter. During their six-week “vegucation” trial, the three get a lesson in Factory Farming 101, exposing the largely inhumane treatment of animals. We’re not saying you should be a vegan, but we are saying know what happened to your meat for it to reach your plate because that’s what it means to be a real man. A little rough around the edges, this doc will get you #woke.

Director: Marisa Miller Wolfson
Runtime: 76 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2

Watch on Amazon

SOMM (2012)

Dlynn Proctor in Somm.
Dlynn Proctor in Somm (2012).

Do you know every single wine on the planet? These guys do. Four wine stewards study for the Master Sommelier Exam to earn the highest level of recognition for a Sommelier: The Master Sommelier diploma. However, the test is one of the world’s most difficult exams, not to mention it’s presided over by a notoriously selective Court of Master Sommeliers. For a taste, Somm shows how the exam covers all aspects of the world and industry of wine, beer, spirits/cocktails, and hospitality from a business, service, and philosophy. Did we mention the typical pass rate is 3% to 8%? So yeah, there are some breakdowns.

Director: Jason Wise
Runtime: 94 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1

Watch on Hulu

42 Grams (2017)

Jacob Bickelhaupt in 42 Grams.
Jacob Bickelhaupt in 42 Grams (2017).

Top-tier chef Jake Bickelhaupt opens a restaurant below his apartment with his wife. They call it 42 Grams as a play on how much the soul is said to weigh (21 grams times two people). While we ordinarily wouldn’t recommend this movie on account of the restaurant mysteriously closing due to domestic abuse, 42 grams remains one of the most real and terrifying accounts of how abusive and obsessive chefs can become, losing themselves to the ego of “greatness.”

Director: Jack C. Newell
Runtime: 82 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.0

Buy/Rent on Amazon

Food Fight (2008)

A farmer in Food Fight.
A farmer in Food Fight (2008).

Focusing on corporate food company mergers, the United States Farm Bill, and profit over product quality, Food Fight quickly becomes a quirky, optimistic look at how people and their personal choices are slowly evolving the industry. Posed as a food revolution, this documentary contains multitudinous quotes from regular people, urging the audience to shop, eat, and dine local as a middle finger to the man. This film reintroduces culinary excellence in the form of quality farmed foods and the love of local chefs, reminding us of the delicious potential that our foods already carry without all those harmful additives we’ve become so accustomed to.

Director: Christopher Taylor
Runtime: 83 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1

Buy/Rent on Amazon

Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table (2016)

Ella Brennan in Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table.
Ella Brennan in Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table (2016).

Forget Julia Child. Southern icon Ella Brennan was the true queen of food and a household name in the industry that you’ve probably never heard of. She was a celebrity restaurateur before there were celebrity chefs. Now, big names like Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Jeremiah Tower, and Tory McPhail give us a glimpse of this vibrant, smart, food-loving matriarch of Creole fare.

Director: Leslie Iwerks
Runtime: 96 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.6

Buy/Rent on Apple TV

Food, Inc. (2008)

Eggs and chicks on a conveyor belt in Food, Inc.
Eggs and chicks on a conveyor belt in Food, Inc. (2008).

This doc peels the lid off the obscene power modern-day food companies hold, which operate under the decree of faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper, and how the supermarket is a land field of heavily processed, corn-based, food-like items. Also, the government and food industries are largely corrupt, and healthy food is intentionally harder to buy, and … just spare us the struggle and watch it. One of the best (and most eye-opening documentaries) every American should watch.

Director: Robert Kenner
Runtime: 94 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.8

Watch on Amazon Prime

For Grace (2015)

Curtis Duffy in For Grace.
Curtis Duffy in For Grace (2015).

This 2015 documentary follows chef Curtis Duffy as he turns his Chicago restaurant, Grace, into the most sought-after dining experience in the country. You’ll be asking why it never fell onto your plate earlier. Watch as the Michelin-starred Duffy builds Grace literally from the ground up, designing his own kitchen, toys, and menu. Even more surprising is a look at the intense tragedies that defined Duffy’s youth and how they make him the last person you’d expect to be as successful and kind as the chef of Grace. This one is pretty damn inspiring and uplifting.

Directors: Mark Helenowski, Kevin Pang
Runtime: 92 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.3

Buy/Rent on Amazon

A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt (2011)

 Paul Liebrandt in A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt.
Paul Liebrandt in A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt (2011).

At only 24 years old, Paul Liebrandt became the youngest chef in history to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times for his hyper-modern dishes such as espuma of calf brains and foie gras. A Matter of Taste shows how Liebrandt did what no one thought possible to do with food (while also seeing a certain wildness that landed him either on the most-hated or most-loved list for critics). The 2011 documentary follows Liebrandt through fame, the creation process, unemployment, and gives a provoking look at the cutthroat world of haute cuisine in New York City.

Director:
Runtime:  minutes
IMDb Rating:

Watch on Amazon

Too hungry now? Why not watch something a little less food-focused by checking out the best documentaries streaming on Netflix.

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