Not all entertainment has to be brainless. Although most people associate “environmental” films with boring documentaries, there are actually several movies that focus on issues facing the future of our planet and the continuation of our species that will thrill and delight audiences of any age. Here are a few you might want to check out.
10 Movies That Shed Light on Environmental Issues
- An Inconvenient Truth (2006). This is one documentary that has the potential to be boring (it’s basically a power point presentation), if only it weren’t for the horrifying possibilities it presents. While some of the numbers were later disputed, it doesn’t necessarily change the fact that we’re headed for disaster if we don’t clean up our act.
- The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Two years before the inconvenient truth about global warming was revealed, this disaster flick took us to a not-so-distant future where tornadoes decimate downtown Los Angeles and New York is buried under snow and ice. It’s action-packed fun with environmental disaster as the backdrop.
- Wall-E (2008). A good one for the kids, Wall-E showcases life on Earth after all the people have left (having created so much garbage that the planet became uninhabitable and devoid of plant life). Like most Pixar films, this one is full of heart, but the message is alarmingly clear. We can either take responsibility now or suffer the consequences later.
- Erin Brokovich (2000). Hollywood left their mark on this rags-to-riches tale for sure, but it’s still nice to know that one small voice can make a difference. In this case, one woman went out of her way to nail a company that had knowingly poisoned the water supply of a small town, leading to disease and even death amongst residents.
- The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream (2004). This is one documentary that anyone who depends on oil should see. The truth is, our economy, our transportation system, and our very way of life will change in the near future as oil resources dry up. What will we do then? This film explores the potential impact.
- Gorillas in the Mist(1988). Zoologist Dian Fossey spent much of her life studying the gorillas of Rwanda. Sigourney Weaver provides a powerhouse portrayal of this woman who fought for both their habitat and their lives (losing her own in the process).
- Soylent Green (1973). No one can forget Charlton Heston’s prophetic line: “It’s people! Soylent Green is made out of people!” It’s certainly been spoofed enough times. But there’s nothing like the original to remind you what could happen if we continue along our current trajectory, with our population expanding and farmable land shrinking.
- Happy Feet(2006). A cute romp that follows lovable cartoon penguin Mumble on his journey to find acceptance. But viewers can’t fail to get the message about the incursion of humans and the effect they’re having on the penguin habitat.
- The China Syndrome (1979). Incredibly, this movie about an accident at a nuclear power plant (leading to the reveal of a cover-up of safety hazards) came out shortly before the real-world meltdown at Three Mile Island. Coincidence or kismet? Perhaps it was just timely.
- Avatar (2009). This spectacle of 3D movie-making provided three hours of CGI that captured the imagination of the public (to the tune of billions of consumer dollars). Nonetheless, it has a fairly blatant message: it’s wrong to destroy cultures we don’t understand in order to exploit their natural resources. Done and done.