Best Environmental Movies And Documentaries Ever Made

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on April 25 2017 in Environment

Promotional poster for Food, Inc.
Promotional poster for Food, Inc.

Sometimes, a great film can make you want to get up out of your seat and do something proactive. That is, of course, once the film's over! In the cases below, you will find a trans-genre selection of titles that have appealed to people of all ages through the years to do something for the betterment of our earth's environment.

10. Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is an eye-opening documentary that reveals how the animal agriculture industry is creating a massive adverse impact on the world’s environment and ecosystems. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the filmmakers of Cowspiracy, bring to our attention just how the animal agriculture industry is adding huge volumes of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, resulting in the loss of vast tracts of rainforests, generating “dead zones” in oceans, pushing thousands of species to the brink of extinction and eroding the fertile top soil over large areas of previously forested lands. The filmmakers also show how those who dare to be whistle blowers, are threatened with a loss of freedom and death. The documentary, executive produced by the Academy Awards winning actor and well-known environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio, was released exclusively for the viewers of Netflix on September 15th, 2015.

9. Garbage Dreams

Garbage Dreams, a thought-provoking documentary film directed by Mai Iskander, released in 2009, features a touching life story of three teenage boys growing up in the impoverished “garbage village” on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. These boys, members of the Zaballeen (garbage people) community, like other people of their village, grew up learning to recycle garbage collected by them as their only source of livelihood. However, the effect of globalization, which also invaded their trade, turned their world upside down, threatening the future survival of their community. The story revolves around these three boys and their daily struggles in keeping alive a way of life alive that was being snatched away from them by the massive waves of modernization.

8. Chinatown

In the late 19th Century, the city of Los Angeles in the USA demanded more and more water resources to sustain its rapid rate of growth and development. To meet this demand, in the early 20th Century, an aqueduct was constructed, diverting water from the Owens Valley of Eastern California to Los Angeles. This led to widespread protests by the farmers and ranchers of the Owens Valley who now found it difficult to sustain agriculture and animal farming under the reduced water conditions. This fight for control over water resources, popularly known as the California Water Wars, ultimately witnessed the apparent victory of Los Angeles, leaving the Owens Lake nearly completely dry by 1926. The 1974 film Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski, is a neo-noir mystery film that captures the events of the California Water Wars in its story. The film is regarded as one of most historically and culturally rich films in the United States and is part of the rare and esteemed collection of films in the National Film Registry of the United States.

7. Crude

The 2009 documentary “Crude” explores the mammoth problems faced by the indigenous inhabitants of South America’s Ecuador, where the infiltration of the native lands by multi national corporations threatens the survival of the native habitat and people. The documentary, directed by Joe Berlinger, provides an insight into the oil production industry in the country and its influence on the indigenous population. It investigates a two-year episode of an extended lawsuit of $27 billion thrust against the American multinational Chevron Corporation levied by 30,000 indigenous residents of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. The documentary revolves around the struggles of the common man against powerful multi-nationals and the influence of politics in the entire scenario.

6. No Impact Man

The No Impact Man, an American documentary film released in 2009, follows the inspirational story of an American man, Colin Beavan, and his family in their attempts to live a “zero impact” lifestyle. The documentary is based on the book “No Impact Man”, authored by Beavan himself. In this troubled era of global warming and climate change, the film, directed by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, explores the ways in which the family living in the heart of Manhattan modify their life for the sake of the environment. Beavan and his family giving up electricity, plastics, and other commodities that damage the environment and instead adopt practices like commuting by a bicycle and shopping for organic products. The film thus seeks to show the way to the common man as to what they can do in their own capacity to save the world from climate change and ecosystem degradation.

5. FernGully

The FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a 1992 fantasy film directed by Bill Kroyer, based on a fictional Australian rainforest and its inhabitants, including magical fairies, who united by a common cause of saving their home from the evil loggers, embark on a mission that involves fighting for their cause. Keeping in mind the current spate of destruction of the rainforests of the world, the film inspires children and adults alike about the need to save these wonders of the Earth and rally against all factors that appear to threaten the existence of these natural treasures.

4. Erin Brokovich

The 2000 film Erin Brokovich, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring the Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts as the protagonist of the film, reveals the real life story of a brave woman, Erin Brokovich, an American legal clerk, and her legal battle against the powerful and influential Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The fight is based on an issue on chromium contamination of drinking water by the releases from the chemical plant of the company in a small California town of Hinkley. The film depicts the strong determination of this woman to fight against all odds to bring justice to the common man suffering as a result of this contamination. The leading actor of this film, Julia Roberts, won an Oscar for her role in this film, which was also nominated in the Best Film category in the 73rd Academy Awards.

3. Bambi

Directed by David Hand and produced by Walt Disney, Bambi is a 1942 American animated film that depicts the life of a white-tailed deer named Bambi and his family and friends in the forests threatened by cruel deer hunters. As a child, Bambi lost his mother to the hunters and grew up under the loving care of his father who was also the Prince of the Forest. Bambi soon learnt to live life without his mother, makes friends and falling in love. However, the wicked hunters continued to disturb the peaceful life in Bambi’s forest, forcing Bambi, his friends and family to flee their home and take shelter in better-protected areas of the forest.

2. Princess Mononoke

A 1997 Japanese film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke earned international fame for its excellent story and significant environmental message. This animation film is based on a fantasy world where a young Emashi warrior embarks on a journey to save the forest from the greedy humans. The warrior Ashitaka, a possessor of superpowers and a supporter of the forest gods, tries to stop the humans from disturbing the forest habitat and indiscriminately exploiting its natural resources.

1. Food, Inc.

An academy award nominated, ground-breaking documentary Food, Inc., released in 2008, opened the eyes of the world to the corporate management of the agricultural business in the United States and its negative impacts on people and environment. The documentary, filmed by director Robert Kenner, reveals how the animal agriculture and meat industry is gnawing away the resources of the planet and how unsustainable industrial-scale animal farming and crop growth deals a death blow to the ecosystem. Food, Inc. is thus a “must-watch” for those who wish to learn more about the root cause of the present day environmental problems and act accordingly.

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