When you leave the movie theater, you always know that you have just watched a great movie because it has made you feel great joy or sadness, excitement, fear or suspense. There’s another kind of emotion that movies can serve to awaken in you – a feeling that leaves us questioning how we can do more for our environment. Environmental movies offer entertainment coupled with a powerful message that must be shared.
What is an Environmental Movie?
Environmental movies are focused on telling a tale that most movies seldom touch upon. The storyline is about the problems that face planet earth. The movies paint pictures of everything that is wrong in the world and how it is possible to make the world a better place to live in for future generations. Really good environmental movies stir the viewer to a passionate response. One that means getting out of the comfort zone we live in to find out how we can do our bit to make the world a better place.
Environmental movies have been around for a long time and the concept is certainly not a new one. It is just that more attention is being focused on these movies as we become more aware of the threats from global warming, dramatic changes in climatic conditions, and the effects of greenhouse gases among others.
With the help of environmental movies, we as world citizens have something to base our efforts on to change the way we live. Bringing change to every aspect of life on earth means a healthier, better lifestyle and a planet that is safer for future generations. Refusal to adapt to change only means leaving the planet in a worse state than the one we live in at present. All of our efforts in the name of technological advancements and progress have only served to endanger the land, animals, birds, plants and more. Change on a global scale is definitely the need of the hour, or else all the toxins we release daily into the ozone combined with human expansion on land will kill off every living thing in time.
Accepting change has never been easy for most people and many skeptics abound who refuse to accept that our progress has caused any harm to the universe at large. Enter environmental movies and documentaries that tell a completely different story. They showcase the many diverse ways in which our efforts at advancement have changed the way the planet looks today. The question therefore that faces us today is how best we can change the direction of our actions to do something good for the planet instead.
There are several good movies that have served to raise critical environmental issues, bringing them to the attention of people and creating awareness of the growing problems and threats in the world.
- Hoot – is about a trio of kids willing to do whatever is needed to save a local population of burrowing owls that are seriously being endangered. Thrown into the mix we have crooked politicians, a bumbling cop and land developers all of whom don’t give a ‘hoot’ about the owls they are endangering with their plans. The strong message that comes through here is how human actions endanger the animals and birds that inhabit the planet. Today, thanks to all our ‘progress’ there are more endangered animals and birds on the list than ever before.
- Erin Brokovich – is based on a true story about a working class mom who rallies against a large chemical corporation to protest the polluting being done by the company. In a town of wronged Californians, she was the only one with enough guts to stand up and fight a giant. Lack of any formal law school training did not deter this young woman from taking a stand against what was perceived as wrong against the town and the environment. The result was one of the largest class action lawsuits in the history of the United States of America. The moral of the story here, is that we have a choice to sit back and do nothing, feeling safe in our own little world, or we can step up to the plate and take a crack at righting a wrong.
- Fire Down Below – features the ready to swing into action Steven Segal. The deeper message here is how this undercover environmental protection agent stops at nothing to fight big businesses that are guilty of dumping toxic waste in the Kentucky Hills region. This act is slowly but surely killing the nature in the region. Segal is one man fighting businesses with unlimited resources at their disposal, but he refuses to back down. We all have a choice, to do something or turn a blind eye; it is a personal decision that can have a wide ranging impact on other people and the environment.
- Wall-E – is a science fiction futuristic film about how the Earth could look in the future and how polluted it could turn out to be. The film focuses on the trials and tribulations of a robot named Wall-E as he tries to clean up the mess that humans have left behind. The film highlights how the planet became so polluted the humans were quite literally forced to leave. While the film strongly showcases various environmental issues, it does so without the highbrow preaching.
- A Civil Action – is about a lawyer who sues a major company in his efforts to help a small town in Massachusetts. When the child of the leading lady in the film is diagnosed with leukemia, a rare disease, she soon discovers the high incidence of the disease in her town. The lawyer discovers evidence that a powerful contaminant is being added to the town’s water supply by a large subsidiary of an even larger chemical company.
- The Day After Tomorrow – This film showcases many different environmental issues. It highlights what could happen if there were to be a major global warming disaster from a series of strange weather events that has transcended into a new ice age. It looks at how the skeptics choose to do nothing, and by doing nothing have allowed this change to happen. It sends a strong message that by not doing anything, nature will in the end triumph.
- The Day the Earth Caught Fire – is a disaster film that is similar to The Day the Earth Stood Still. This film demonstrates how technology can fix the mistakes that humans make, but how it can also cause the problems as well because of how we exploit the technology that we have. This film was released just before the Cuban Missile Crisis began back in the early 1960s. The plot of the story follows a reporter trying to expose a cover up done by the government over two simultaneous nuclear tests which made the Earth spin out of orbit, forcing it to head towards the sun.
- Avatar – Raises some environmental issues by showing how greedy we can be as humans. It shows that we only want things for ourselves and try to take things away from the people who cannot defend themselves. In this case this was displayed by the destruction of the planet on Pandora, which belonged to the local tribes.
- 2012: The Movie – even though the movie does not directly discuss environmental issues, it does show how the Earth can change drastically. It also highlights how, over time earth can be affected by the people living on the planet and what our actions are doing to the planet. This movie has many similarities to another movie, “The Happening” since the main characters are the planet and the people. The people and the planet are both the victims in this film. The people are seen as the victim because the planet is seeking its revenge on the people who are living on it. The planet is the victim too, because of how people have treated the planet, and the only way for it to survive is to seek its revenge on us. The film does focus on how we as human beings like to be in control and take over everything possible. As a race we try to do anything that we can to take care of ourselves and in the meantime we forget about the planet.
documentaries that relay the importance of how human life is disturbing the natural elements on Earth.
- Koyaanisqatsi – is a documentary film to shows life out of balance. The title is based on the Hopi language word which means, “crazy life,” and “life out of balance.” There are no dialogues in this powerful film, only music. The movie depicts various aspects of the relationship between man, nature and technology.
- Manufactured Landscapes – is a documentary from 2006 and shows the photography work of Edward Burtynskyr. The documentary highlights his images of landscapes that are man-made. It showcases factories, industrial waste and machines. Although beautiful it shows the serious side of the repercussions of their creation.
- Addicted To Plastic – is a documentary that discusses the use of plastic and the possible solutions to plastic pollution. This film took roughly 3 years to make and was filmed in over 12 countries. The film demonstrates how the popularity of plastic has increased over the last 100 years. It interviews scientists on what their ideas of solutions are to recycling, biodegradability and toxicity. It gives the viewers an idea of where we are heading in the future with our extravagant use of plastic. Simple acts like how we choose to carry our groceries or bottled drinks can make so much difference to the environment.
- An Inconvenient Truth – is the documentary movie that brought positive attention to Ex Vice President of America Al Gore. It paints the picture of how global warming is affecting our planet. It was displayed in the form of a simple computer presentation and narrated by Al Gore. It makes us understand that if we do something and act quickly, we can actually save the world, and save the problems that are causing the climate to change. This movie started the conversation about global warming and how the world around us is changing. It informs us that if we don’t do anything about it, global warming could turn into a real problem for future generations. By showing in detail the changes that have already affected the planet detrimentally, this film is a real eye opener into how nature is constantly changing around us thanks in large part to our actions.
- Garbage Dreams – is an award winning documentary based on 3 teenage boys who are in the trash trade. They grow up in one of the world’s largest garbage villages where the recycling of trash is done on a mega scale. Cairo is Egypt’s capital city and home to some 60,000 garbage people who recycle the trash of Cairo’s 18 million residents. What is amazing is that something like 85% of the trash is recycled! Not one of our green initiatives in practice today comes close to this scale of recycling. When privatization suddenly threatens their livelihood the boys are forced to make some really hard choices.
children’s Environmental movies
- FernGully – was released in 1992. Viewed as a children’s film that showcases environmental causes, the film follows the activities of a group of magical inhabitants who strive to protect their natural habitat, the rain-forest. They are determined to stop the efforts of humans who want to pursue their logging efforts, cutting down trees for various uses.
- Jetsons: The Movie – this film is still relevant today. It also has many similarities to Avatar as well, because of the destruction of another planet. It follows a futuristic family who moves to an Asteroid. While they are living there, a factory starts to drill into the community of the aliens and ruins their lives and homes. The main running environmental theme in this movie is the destruction to a natural habitat.
- The Last Mimzy – is a science fiction children’s movie. This movie follows a rabbit that has psychic powers. It comes from the future to try to help the humans with damaged DNA, caused by ecological issues in the past. The running theme of environmental issues is genetic pollution.
- The Simpson’s Movie – although this movie isn’t exactly dedicated to environmental issues in the world, it does raise certain questions about environmental problems and the government’s response to them. Pollution has plagued Springfield and the government has responded by trying to get the city covered up by a dome. This was done to try to force the problem to go away, but it doesn’t solve the real issue.
- Happy Feet – is a movie that raises some questions about the environmental problems that are being faced in Antarctica. The main message is about how our actions affect the species that are living in the Antarctica waters. Commercial overfishing is causing the ice caps to melt, This is in turn is leading to the disappearance of fish in the area, Soon animals that inhabit Antarctica will also start to disappear because animals like the polar bears feed on fish.
Planet Fights Back Movie
- The Happening – The victim is the plant life on earth. The plant life takes revenge on people by releasing a toxin into the air that kills them instantly. The plants see humans as a threat, and responds to their harmful actions in its own negative way, by releasing a deadly toxin. Unlike many other films, it has used a different approach in creating the drama effect through the use of contradiction. This is achieved by making both humans and the plants the bad guys at different times, while also making both humans and plants victims as well. Although this movie makes you feel sorry for both the environment and the humans, it does depict a great picture of real life. In simple terms, man’s actions can cause the planet and people to suffer.
More Environmental Movies that Are Worth Your Attention
- 9 – Released in 2009, 9 tells the story of a ragdoll living in the post-apocalyptic world as he tries to save mankind. Living in a world that has been destroyed by a war of man versus machine, the ragdoll number 9 soon meets up with other ragdolls. Together they try to save mankind as they realize that they are the only remaining hope in the war between man and machine threatens to destroy the last shred of humanity. One of the main themes of this movie is humankind’s blindness in respect to the world around them and their focus instead on pursuing technology.
- The 11th Hour– A documentary starring Leonardo DiCaprio that takes a close look at the footprint that the human race has left on the planet. Focusing on the environmental problems that humans have caused like deforestation, pollution and over mining, the film seeks to explain these problems with poor leadership, ignorance, corporate greed and more. Unlike many environmental issue films and documentaries however, The 11th Hour spends a segment at the end of the film offering solutions from researchers to help to resolve the environmental issues mentioned.
- A Chemical Reaction – Follows dermatologist, Dr. June Irwin as she makes a connection between health conditions of her patients and the chemical pesticides that her patients are exposed to. Irwin seeks to educate her local townsmen about the chemicals that they are spreading on their lawns and how these chemicals are not only effecting the environment but how they are also affecting the overall health of locals. Irwin’s research data as well as her town meeting arguments led the town to enact a by-law banning the use of chemical pesticides.
- Arctic Tale – Made in 2007, Arctic Tale is a documentary supported by the National Geographic Society that follows the life of a number of Arctic creatures. Covering the life cycle of a polar bear and her cubs and a walrus and her calf, this movie shares a message of global warming. Each of the creatures followed in the film faces their own unique challenges that came to be as a result of global warming. As the film’s narrator, Queen Latifah, mentions throughout the film, temperatures are increasing and if they continue to do so by 2040 the ice in the Arctic will be no more.
- Being Caribou – Focuses on a herd of caribou in the North American northwest. Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison follow the herd on foot for five months in an attempt to show the inadvisability of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge currently serves as a calving ground for the caribou herd and drilling for oil in the area would have a huge impact on the natural herd migration. Being Caribou won more than a dozen awards in various film festivals.
- Children of Men – Classified as a drama, sci-fi and adventure movie and was released in 2006. Set in 2027, this movie follows the journey to save a miraculously pregnant mother in a time when human beings are no longer able to reproduce. In an effort to save humankind the mother and her unborn child are being transported to a sanctuary at sea where scientists can perhaps find a way to reverse the damage that has been done to the human race. There are a number of themes that persist through this film but one of the most obvious is the violence and treatment of others in our own race as though they were animals. By destroying our own race, we are brought a step closer to understanding just how far our destruction of the planet has come.
- The China Syndrome – A drama and thriller, The China Syndrome was released in 1979 and was released shortly before the Three Mile Island tragedy. The film tells a story of a reporter working on a story about alternative energy sources who witnesses a nuclear power plant accident. When officials realize that there was a witness to the event, they do everything they can to keep her quiet. In an eerie story The China Syndrome told of the potential of nuclear disaster, what made it eerie is the events that shortly followed the release of the film.
- The Cove – Takes place in a lagoon off the coast of Japan where Taiji fishermen hunt for dolphins. The lagoon is surrounded by barbed wire with signs to deter tourists and other visitors in an attempt to hide the atrocious hunting of thousands of dolphins. This film follows free divers, filmmakers and activists as they seek to reveal the true goings on in the lagoon.
- Homo Toxicus – Focuses on the chemicals that we as humans, release in to the environment every day. Using humor as well as factual evidence, this film takes a look at the various common health concerns in the human race and the link between them and toxic chemical exposure. Homo Toxicus seeks to educate the public about the effects of long term and daily exposure to a variety of toxic chemicals.
- The Hunter – A thriller and drama movie starring Willem Dafoe that focuses on a mercenary who is sent by a biotech company to Tasmania to seek out the last surviving Tasmanian tiger. Despite a hostile initial reception, the mercenary becomes close to the family whom he is staying with but despite that the biotech company that hired him insists that he continue the search for the Tasmanian tiger to retrieve its DNA no matter what the costs. The hunter, Martin, is faced with the decision of retrieving the last known creature of the species for researchers, a decision that he ultimately makes with surprising and somewhat shocking results.
- Over the Hedge – Released in 2006, Over the Hedge is an animated film that follows a family of forest creatures as they attempt to collect food enough to last through winter. As they collect food from suburban households the lead character, a raccoon named RJ realizes that he’s not as much of a loner as he once thought he was. While one of the biggest lessons in this movie is that no man is an island, it also touches on just how wasteful human beings are and the excess to which we live.
- The Road – An adventure thriller, The Road was released in 2009 and tells the tale of a man and his son as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The camera catches the sights of a world after the end strikes, a land covered in ash and ruled by greedy and cannibalistic tribes who live by lawlessness. As the two try to make their way through a world gone mad they experience loss and see just what the world becomes when greed and devastation takes over.
- Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War – Focuses on the impact of war on the landscape from the very production of weapons to the restoration that follows the act of war. Looking at the drain of war on natural resources, the destruction of biodiversity and the pollution of air, land and water, this film undertakes the task of educating the general public of the lesser known costs and consequences of war.
- Sharkwater – A documentary by Rob Stewart that attempts to debunk the false impression that the general public has of sharks as a result of media portrayals of the creatures. Stewart focuses on the importance of sharks to the overall marine ecosystem while also exposing the violence of shark exploiters. Exposing such human greed, Stewart hopes to draw attention to the fact that the entire ocean’s shark population could be decimated in just a few years if changes are not made.
- Soylent Green – Released in 1973, Soylent Green is a drama sci-fi movie that follows the story of a planet Earth that has become severely overcrowded. This futuristic Earth struggles with hunger until the government begins producing a new food called soylent green. When the lead character, a New York policeman discovers just what soylent green is made from he finds himself running for his life. This movie is yet another that focuses on just how wasteful we have become as a people and the tragedy that could befall us if we do not change.
- Syriana – A 2005 drama thriller, Syriana tells a story of the oil industry and just how twisted things have become. When an heir to the Emirate offers an oil contract to China the CIA must deal with the US being cut out of the mix. Suspecting bribery the CIA digs deeper and the oil company must come up with a scapegoat. The CIA, in an attempt to get back in control organizes to have the emir-apparent assassinated, but the attempt fails and leaves the CIA looking for their own scapegoat. As the plot thickens it becomes apparent that in the game of oil not even human life is a top priority.
- Texas Gold – Follows a fourth generation fisherwoman and her five children as she discovers that her Texas home has been named one of the most toxic places in America. The mother of five decides that she must confront the petro-chemical industry that has been poisoning the locals of Calhoun County as well as decimating its once incredible fishing industry. For fifteen years, Wilson takes a stand that earns her the title of “unreasonable woman.”
- Toxic Trespass – Filmmaker Barri Cohen takes a good look in to the various chemicals that surround us each day. Cohen begins her research with her own 10 year old daughter who has signs of benzene and DDT in her blood and soon takes her research to two Canadian locations known for clusters of deadly diseases. After compiling evidence for her cause, Cohen seeks answers from federal officials and is soon met with a number of roadblocks.
- There Will Be Blood – A drama that was released in 2007 and focuses on oil among other things. In 20th century California greed takes over as prospectors clash over financial gain. Filled with manipulation and exploitation, There Will be Blood takes a look at how we can rape our land and take advantage of not only natural resources but also of each other for the sake of getting rich.
- Wal-Mart – The High Cost of Low Price – • Takes a look at the cost of the availability of low priced goods from megastore Wal-Mart. Stepping behind the scenes with Wal-Mart workers and their families as well as looking in to the lives of business owners and the communities around these stores, this film seeks to show you exactly what the effect of your low priced shopping habits are on families and workers of these big name discount stores.
- Whale Mission: Keepers of Memory – Takes a look at the world’s most endangered large whale species – the northern right whale. This species was almost completely extinct in the 19th and 20th centuries and even today there are less than 350 individuals left. This film takes a look at the researchers of the Sedna IV as they search whaling grounds in the North Atlantic Ocean in an attempt to discover if there really is a larger population of right whales out there than we are aware of.
- Whale Rider – A drama that was released in 2002 and follows the story of a young girl who is the only living child in a New Zealand tribe’s line of chiefs. The tribe believed that they were descended from a man named Paikea who escaped drowning by riding on the back of a whale to shore. As a female child “Pai” should not be able to inherit the role of leader and her grandfather makes this fact perfectly clear to her. This film tells of Pai’s story as she fights against her grandfather’s traditional beliefs to become the next great chief of her people. During the story of Pai’s struggle a group of whales becomes beached upon the shore and it is up to Pai’s people to help them find their way back in to the ocean. While not as traditional in its environmental awareness message this film features scenes of whale beaching, something which is happening all too often around the world in this day and age