Forks Over Knives Movie Poster Image

Forks Over Knives

Engaging docu promotes a vegan diet in nonjudgmental way.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Through research, discussion, and testimonials, this film shows the positive effects a "whole foods, plant-based" diet can have on individuals and the planet.

Positive role models

Doctors Campbell and Esselstyn are tireless advocates for adopting a "whole foods, plant-based" diet and present their arguments in a positive manner rather than in tones of shame, self-righteousness, or condemnation. Their patients who have successfully adopted this change freely discuss the challenges they've faced and celebrate the positive results of their efforts toward adopting this diet.


Many close-up scenes of heart surgery, in which a chest is shown opened up and cholesterol is being removed from an artery.


An older man who has spent decades on the "whole foods, plant-based" diet discusses how the diet increases the level of sexual arousal and erections. An animated sequence shows a shark swimming around looking for a sexual partner as the narrator discusses how animals are primarily interested in food and sex.

Not applicable

A cottage industry has developed around those involved in this movie. Dr. Esselystn's son, Rip, has written books on switching to the "whole foods, plant-based" diet, including the best seller The Engine 2 Diet. They have since partnered with the grocery store Whole Foods, which sells a variety of Engine 2 food products.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some brief, stock footage of people smoking cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Forks over Knives is a 2011 documentary about a pair of doctors' research into the direct relationship between diet and health and how adopting what is, in essence, a vegan diet (although the word "vegan" is never used) produces profoundly positive benefits for the health of both individuals and the planet as a whole. For the more squeamish of any age, there are many close-up scenes of heart surgery, in which a chest is shown opened up and cholesterol is being removed from an artery. There also is a scene in which an older man discusses how he gets more erections since adopting the "whole foods, plant-based" diet. On the whole, this documentary manages to convey a great deal of complicated information in a simple way, shows the benefits of the diet being espoused without being negative, and manages to refute counterarguments and popularly held beliefs about food without being preachy or self-righteous.

What's the story?

Although FORKS OVER KNIVES is the story of doctors Campbell and Esselstyn (T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.), whose groundbreaking research shows the direct relationship between heart disease, obesity, and diabetes with the overconsumption of animal products, it also shows through example and testimonials the positive benefits of adopting a "plant-based, whole foods" diet. Potentially dry medical research is conveyed in an entertaining and easy-to-understand manner, and popular ideas about the health benefits of dairy and meat products are challenged without the film coming across as preachy and self-righteous.

Is it any good?


Forks over Knives effectively raises questions about what we're eating and how it's affecting the health of individuals and our planet. What separates it from so many other documentaries that encourage the adoption of what amounts to a vegan diet is that the arguments are framed positively instead of employing strident tones of guilt, shame, and self-righteousness. This movie shows the tremendous benefits for individuals who have adopted this diet for even a brief amount of time and discusses the positive impacts the diet can have on the planet as a whole if more people ate this way. This aspect of this documentary makes it something that even the most die-hard carnivore can watch without feeling alienated or harshly judged.

It's a neat trick, how they manage to avoid using the term "vegan" or in any of the Engine 2 books and food products that have emerged since this movie was made. But it seems like more of a testament to their attempts to make this dietary transition something easily attained by anyone, as "everyday people" constitute the bulk of the testimonials.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way information was conveyed in the film. What were some of the ways in which the filmmakers presented information, made their arguments, and responded to counterarguments?

  • How did this film affect you? Did it convince you to change any of your dietary habits?

  • Many movies that discuss a lifestyle change of this magnitude use anger and condemnation to make their arguments. In what ways does this movie take a different approach?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:August 30, 2011
Cast:T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., Neal Barnard
Director:Lee Fulkerson
Studio:Virgil Films and Entertainment
Topics:Science and nature
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:Some thematic elements and incidental smoking.

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