Documentary films, to some, are merely the stuff of staid classroom lectures and preachy after-school specials. In recent years however, many documentary filmmakers have brought passion to the screen in such a way that their cause could not be ignored. Striving to bring audiences an entertaining cinematic experience while calling attention to serious issues such as factory farming, honeybee colony collapse disorder, fossil fuels and the plight of captive whales — things most people don’t think about in their day-to-day life — a compelling documentary can awaken the viewer and compel them to make a difference in the world. These five films are perfect examples of change-inspiring documentary filmmaking at its finest:

Garbage Dreams (2009)

Three Arabic teens known as Zaballeen, or “garbage people” are the focus of this eye-opening documentary. The Zaballeen literally live on garbage, recycling 80 percent of the trash they collect for the purposes of their own survival. The film entertains while emphasizing the importance of better waste management and recycling practices. Most people don’t think about better garbage management, but after watching this film you can’t help but make it a priority.

Vegucated (2010)

What makes Vegucated unique is its reality-show type format and hearty level of comedy, despite the fact it’s centered on a hard-hitting subject. In this film, three New Yorkers give up their meat-eating ways and adopt a vegan diet. The film entertains viewers while educating them about the atrocities of livestock farming practices and the numerous benefits of going vegan. Watching real people tackle a drastic, yet positive lifestyle change like veganism can inspire viewers to do the same.

Fuel (2008)

This Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary sheds light on the world’s addiction to non-renewable fossil fuels and the problems associated with this dependence. Appearances by celebrities like Julia Roberts and Sheryl Crow lend star power to the film, which provides viewers with solutions to the oil crisis that include riding bicycles, conserving resources and driving fuel-efficient vehicles such as those that run on electricity or natural gas.

Freakonomics (2010)

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, this documentary features notable filmmakers Morgan Spurlock, Eugene Jarecki, and Alex Gibney. Together, they present a wildly entertaining look at the underlying human tendencies driving our economy and the compulsions of our fellow man. The film’s purpose? To improve business strategy and interpersonal communication through understanding.

War on Health (2012)

Health is a topic that affects us all, making this film a must-watch. War on Health illuminates problems at the FDA — such as the organization’s suspect relationships with pharmaceutical companies and their attacks on the organic supplement industry. In addition, this film teaches the importance of preventative medicine and the importance of acting as an advocate for one’s own health.

This list is but a small selection of films made to call audiences to action. Far from dry and boring, the latest documentary films strive to appeal to viewers from all walks of life by incorporating a blend of education and entertainment, or “edutainment.” Documentary filmmakers know how to push our emotional and logical buttons at the same time — pushing us to think more intelligently about the issues of which we are most passionate.

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