Documentaries and their impacts on reality

Fiction filmmaking captures the imagination, takes you to places never before seen or imagined, and it’s an escape that has kept audiences captivated for ages. A sometimes under-looked and less mainstream genre offers a different escape, an adventure into the truth and usually its consequences. Nonfiction film making has been used to tell stories more in-depth than any news outlet has the capacity to. Here is a list of documentaries that have unveiled a darker truth to the reality we all know and in doing so set forth in a journey that goes on long after the films wrapped.

The Keepers (2017)

Following the success of Making a Murder, this Netflix original series directed by Ryan White tells the decades long mystery of the death of Sister Cathy, a Catholic School teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. In trying to solve this crime, two of her former students find an ocean of malicious secrets, ones that are both literally and figuratively buried by the Catholic Church. In this series, they collect information and conduct interviews with new suspects that bring to light more evidence even the cops did not supposedly know. Because of this influx of new material, police conducted lab tests with the DNA of the suspect who appeared to have the most motivation.  This series provides a harsh look at corruption (both political and religious) and how it affects victims and communities for years to come.


Supersize Me (2014)

The film Supersize Me documents the experiment of Morgan Spurlock, who vowed to eat McDonalds three times a day for a month to show the dangers of fast food addiction and overindulgence. His plans were cut short after doctors advised him to reconsider due to his declining health from the attempt.  Although he did not succeed in his original goal, this film was still instrumental in raising awareness and forcing fast food companies to reevaluate their menus and choices. While they will deny it had any connection, a day before the premiere of the documentary McDonalds introduced healthier menu options and the discontinuation of the supersize option.




Kony 2012 (2012)

Aimed at raising awareness for the “Stop Kony” movement, this short documentary film produced by the Invisible Children organization, tells the story of war criminal Joseph Kony and his use of children soldiers for his guerrilla warfare. The movement called for the arrest of Kony by the end of 2012. On its debut, the film gained so much attention that it shut down the website. Soon a mission calling for the deployment of 5,000 soldiers in known areas of Kony’s influence was planned by Uganda and supported by the U.S. In 2013, the U.S. offered a $5 million for the capture of Joseph Kony. Despite asking for his arrest nearly six years ago, his whereabouts are still unknown.


Blackfish (2013)

The story of Tilikum premiered at Sundance in January 2013 and was well received by both audiences and critics. Tilikum, a killer whale who was held captive at SeaWorld, was responsible for the deaths of several trainers over his years there. This film showed just how harsh and unnatural these types of habitats are for animals when compared to their previous ocean homes. After its release, reactions from the public were noticeable and within a year SeaWorld’s stock plummeted by 60%. In 2016, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill banning orca shows and breeding in the state of California. After negative backlash and controversy, SeaWorld is now remarketing its brand and choosing to focus on the various rollercoasters and thrill rides they can provide guests.



The Thin Blue Line (1988)

The documentary set out to prove the innocence of Randall Dale Adam, a man convicted of murdering a cop in 1976. In his original trial he was sentenced to death by a jury of his peers. Years later and three days before his execution, the supreme court stepped in with evidence of jury tampering and the governor changed his sentence from death to just life. The documentary was released in 1988 and after much public outcry the case was retried a year later. This led to David Ray Harris, a witness from the original trial recanting his testimony; he was later executed by the state for a separate murder offense.  Adam, on the other hand, was exonerated and released after spending 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.



Hugo, Kristin. “Orca Shows and Breeding Banned in California” 14 Sept. 2015,

Siviter, Neil. “Whatever Happened to Kony.” Nato Association of Canada, 19 July 2016,

Sood, Suemedha. “Weighing the Impact of ‘Super Size Me’.” Alternet, 29 June 2004, 5.00am,‘super_size_me’

Martin, Douglas. Randall Adams, 61, Dies; Freed With Help of Film. The New York Times, 25 June 2011,


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