Health and wellness are top of mind for many people today. And Hollywood has taken notice. We’ve gathered our favorite feature films and documentaries about health, fitness, nutrition, disease and other related topics to help inspire you to live better.

Are you looking to get into meditation or yoga? Or do you want to be inspired by someone’s physical transformation from obese to super fit? Did you know that music can be a treatment for Alzheimer’s patients? Whether you are interested in cancer research or want to dive into the ’90s with a Susan Sarandon movie, we’ve got you covered!

1. Best about psychological health: “Happy”

“Happy” (2011) by Roko Belic is a documentary film that explores the concept of happiness through interviews with people from all types of backgrounds and all over the world. They ask what happiness is and if people can be happier. Hear the perspectives of people from Kolkata to Denmark, from rickshaw drivers to office workers.

Happy - A Documentary Trailer from Wadi Rum Films on Vimeo.

Available on Tubi.

2. Best about fitness and transformation: “From Fat to Finish Line” 

In this documentary from 2015, follow the journeys of twelve people who were obese as they train to run a 200-mile relay race. Be inspired by their trials and tribulations to overcome mental and physical challenges along the way. Oh, and also be in awe of their amazing success in turning their health around.

Available on Tubi.

3. Best about nutrition: “In Defense of Food”

Michael Pollan is the author of several influential food-related books, including “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food.” Pollan’s seven-word manifesto goes, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The documentary talks about the Western diet, including the mounds of processed food and sugar we’re faced with in the supermarket, and how to eat better.

In Defense of Food - Trailer from Kikim Media on Vimeo.

Available on PBS.

4. Best about parenting: “Lorenzo’s Oil”

Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte play distraught and frustrated parents in this 1992 movie about a child who suddenly has neurological problems like loss of hearing and behavior issues. Based on a true story, the parents set out on a journey to understand what is happening to their young son. Sarandon and Nolte’s characters develop a combination of oils that when eaten by their child helps to ease his symptoms.

Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime and Google Play.

5. Best about yoga and meditation: “Awake: The Life of Yogananda”

Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian yogi who came to the West in the 1920s and gained a following that included celebrities like George Harrison and Steve Jobs. He wrote about ancient teachings on meditation and his book “Autobiography of a Yogi” is touted as one of the best spiritual books of the 20th century. This 2014 documentary follows his life and talks with people who have been influenced by his teachings, including Russell Simmons.

Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes.

6. Best about the brain: “Alive Inside”

Music is powerful, evoking emotions and making people dance in all kinds of fun ways since the first human dropped a beat. “Alive Inside” from 2014 shows us that music is powerful enough to reach people who may be considered unreachable: patients with Alzheimer’s. In this documentary, watch the incredible effect music has on people and hear about the role of music in forming and recalling memories.

Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes.

7. Best about life and death: “Defining Hope”

Death is generally difficult to talk about, but this documentary brings to light some of the human aspects of the dying process. Meet nurses and patients of all ages who think about life and death on a daily basis in last year’s “Defining Hope.”

Available on YouTube, Amazon Prime and Google Play.

8. Best about health care: “Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare”

It’s no secret that health care in the United States is expensive. This documentary is from 2012, but many of the realities are still true today. The filmmakers Susan Froemke and Matthew Heineman talk with people who are trying to navigate the health care system and experts who explain what’s so wrong with it.

Available on Tubi.

9. Best about cancer: “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

In his book “The Emperor of All Maladies,” Siddhartha Mukherjee introduces the reader to cancer. The book is a biography of the most confounding illness in modern history, one humans have struggled to understand, control and cure. In this PBS documentary special, Mukherjee and others explore cancer research and follow the stories of cancer patients.

Available on Amazon Prime and Apple iTunes.

10. Best for overall impact: “Forks Over Knives”

Food has an undeniably large role in our health. What we choose to put into our bodies has consequences that can stay with us for much longer than the time it takes for us to process our dinner. Based on research outlined in the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, “Forks Over Knives” explores the landmark studies outlining the benefits of eating mostly vegetables and the harms of a meat-heavy diet.

Available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu and iTunes.

Honorable mentions

Most uplifting about life priorities: “Booksmart”

This teen comedy about two female high school students is a nice wake-up call for anyone who feels stuck in the rat race of achievement. Amy and Molly are straight-A students who had forgone partying so they could study and get into good colleges. When they find out that fellow students who did party also got into good schools, they decide on the last day of their senior year to let loose and have a good time. Cue funny antics and mishaps and, by the end of the movie, you can’t help but feel warmed by their friendship and journey.

Available on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu.

Most eye-opening about fast food: “Supersize Me”

“Supersize Me” (2004) follows filmmaker Morgan Spurlock as he eats only McDonald’s for 30 days straight. Spurlock gained about 24 pounds after eating three meals a day at the fast food chain for a month. It then took him more than a year to lose that weight and regain his health.

Available on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu.

Most realistic about mental health: “BoJack Horseman”

This one isn’t a film, but the 2014 animated series “BoJack Horseman” is about BoJack Horseman, a horse who lives in Hollywood. The series focuses on Horseman as he prepares an autobiography about his time as a TV star, and brings the viewer through depression, trauma, addiction and other difficult experiences.

Available on Netflix.

Published on Nov 11, 2019