Last Updated: November 21st
Eating and drinking are essential parts of life, right up there with breathing and sex. We’ll count on you to research the latter two items on your own, but when it comes to food and alcohol we’re here to help.
Below are the 10 best food documentaries on Netflix right now that cover eating, drinking, and the vital place that these activities hold in our culture.
The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution (2018)
Run Time: 75 min | IMDb: 6.4/10
This doc examines how cutthroat the kitchen can be, especially for female chefs who are exposed to higher levels of harassment and criticism than their male counterparts. The film examines seven chefs and their rise through the ranks as they try to build menus and revolutionize the kitchen by being as brazen and unforgiving as their fellow chefs.
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Chef Rick Bayless leads the way in the search for sustainable farming practices and what that really means for the American plate. The film draws on testimonies from farmers, restauranteurs, and policymakers to ask how we can legitimately move away from factory farming and find a better way to make and source our food. The film focuses on positive solutions that you can take right now to assure the food on your plate is better than anything factory produced where profits outweigh quality (and your health).
Betting On Zero (2017)
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
This is a rough watch that shines a light on the business behind a food supplement company. The Herbalife pyramid scheme is put on blast for being a sham with Wall Street tycoons making money off its failure. Then there are the company’s own nefarious practices. The whole thing starts to hit too close to home when the film dives into the lives of Herbalife’s victims who invested all their money to try and sell the product on the consumer market. It becomes clear Herbalife targeted non-English speaking sectors of the community to exploit them for all their money. Amazingly, the supplement shakes and bars are still going strong to this day.
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 6.5/10
This documentary takes the long view of putting meat to fire. It’s an exploration of how humans all around the world share the tradition of barbecue — starting a fire and cooking our food. It’s simple. It’s universal. And it’s delicious. You’ll definitely start planning your next barbecue while watching this movie.
Sour Grapes (2016)
Run Time: 85 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Most of the docs on this list highlight our shared love of food and the sweat, blood, and tears that go into making it. Not so with Sour Grapes. Instead, this doc is true crime paired with fake wine. The film follows the true exploits of a rich Indonesian wine collector who made millions by scamming people with his vast and expensive collection. The guy would fill old bottles of wine with the cheap stuff, then forge labels to make them seem worth more than they were. Watching this fascinating tale of fraud unfold is the real treat here, but you’ll learn a thing or two about wine so you’ll be less likely to be a victim of wine fraud — a real and dangerous thing apparently — when it’s all over.
A Tale of Two Kitchens (2019)
Run Time: 29 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Chef Gabriela Cámara has been hailed as one of the most innovative women in the food and drink industry and this short doc — which comes in at just under 30 minutes — explores her dual heritage and how it manifests itself in her two restaurants, one in San Francisco and one in Mexico City. Besides showcasing how intrinsic Mexcian food is to the American diet, the film highlights the bond amongst Camara’s workers as she creates a community in both restaurants that withstands cultural pressure and political upheaval. If you ever wanted to see a view of the kitchen that wasn’t populated with white men yelling at their line cooks, this is for you.
For Grace (2015)
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Why do we grind ourselves to a pulp with our work, our passions, our desires? For Grace asks these big questions against the backdrop of Chef Curtis Duffy opening a new restaurant from scratch (sorry). Duffy is recovering from his career literally destroying his family. He’s lost his daughters and wife in a bitter divorce. Now, he is just trying to build something that will humanize him again. It’s intense, sad and poignant. The film offers a glimpse into the hectic, frustrating and imperfect life behind the people that try to make perfect food.
Run Time: 73 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
If you’re looking for a food documentary that won’t leave you starving, this is the one for you. Set over several years, the film follows a team of chefs and researchers who travel the world, trying exotic delicacies to determine if we can find new, sustainable food sources. That means you’ll often see these guys foraging for food, farming, and yes, eating insects. It’s a fascinating look at the evolution of nutrition and how other countries meet community-specific needs.
Theater of Life (2016)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
This Canadian documentary has a truly interesting subject. While most food docs focus on chefs building up their restaurants, competing with their contemporaries, or striving for Michelin ratings, this film looks at what happens when talented cooks use their skills in the kitchen to affect change. Italian chef Massimo Bottura, and 60 other famous chefs created a gourmet soup kitchen in 2015, using food waste from Expo 2015 in Milan. The documentary delves into our global problem with food waste, how it affects the environment, and how it can be simply solved if celebrities and people with a stake in the game get involved.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Run Time: 81 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
This documentary is a juggernaut of food and film. It tells a remarkable story of a man’s odyssey to create something truly unique, then maintain it, and then pass it on to his son. As Jiro’s journey winds down, you have to wonder if he ever had an off day. Or maybe he was one of those sprites who had that touch of magic which allowed him to elevate a street food novelty into high culinary art with relative ease. All that is clear is sushi is the mountaintop, and it seems lonely up there.