Fifteen Top Notch Environmental Films

Author: Danielle Salley

Looking for an eco-film for your movie night? Here are fifteen classics you to add to your list:

The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) (Documentary)
This is a screwball true story about two gonzo political activists who, posing as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world’s most outrageous pranks. From New Orleans to India to New York City, armed with little more than cheap thrift-store suits, the Yes Men squeeze raucous comedy out of all the ways that corporate greed is destroying the planet. Who knew fixing the world could be so much fun?

Lithium Springs (2006)
Starring: Carter Lord, Fred the dachshund
Lithium Springs is a comedy-adventure that tells the story of an off-beat adventurer and his dog Fred, who stumble across an old map pinpointing the Fountain of Youth and a treasure buried in the swamp by Ponce de Leon. In their quest for the treasure, they discover the natural majesty of the area—and something that threatens to ruin it. This is a good, entertaining story that can be enjoyed by everyone, from kids to parents to grandparents.

Call of the Hummingbird (2007) (Documentary)
A Full Frontal Eco-Manifesto
In the gorgeous setting of central Brazil, a rag tag of group of 1000 permaculture experts, Rastafarians, alternative health practitioners, Hare Krishnas, and NGO executives work towards a do-it-yourself action plan to make the world a better place in 13 days. The film takes us on a journey that ranges from the practices of permaculture and consensus facilitation all the way to the meaning of the Mayan calendar, which mysteriously ends in 2012—just a few short years away. In the process we are introduced to new ideas about politics, nature, and even time itself.

Be the Change (2008) (Documentary)
People are tired of being scared, lectured to, guilt-tripped, and drowned in lists of “100 things you can do to save the planet.” They are not going to turn towards living sustainably in the pursuit of being “less bad.” They need to feel an emotional attraction to being “more good.” People can embrace a lighter way of living but have some fun doing it.

Emperor Zehnder (2003)
Set in Antarctica, this epic romance tells the story of Bruno P. Zehnder (Richard Gere), a restless photographer of penguins who struggled with the pressures of expressing his art within the most strenous of circumstances, along with a personal battle to keep Antarctica free and pure.

Go Further (2003) (Documentary)
The film follows actor Woody Harrelson as he takes a small group of friends on a bio-fuelled bus-ride down the Pacific Coast Highway. Their goal? To show the people they encounter that there are viable alternatives to our habitual, environmentally-destructive behaviors. The travellers include a yoga-teacher, a raw food chef, a hemp-activist, a junk-food addict, and a college student who suspends her life to impulsively hop aboard. We see the hostility these pilgrims encounter, and watch as their ideas are challenged from within and without. We meet an entrepreneur who runs a paper company that does not harm trees; an organic farmer who believes Nature is his partner; a man who teaches environmental activists to use humor as a strategic weapon. And throughout, we see Harrelson test his belief that the transformation of our planet begins with the small personal transformations that are within the grasp of each and every one of us, after which… we’ll go further.

Hempsters: Plant the Seed (2008)
The film follows the lively exploits of activists for (and against) the movement for the legalization of the hemp plant in America. It features Woody Harrelson, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and a whole host of farmers, politicians, businessmen, and laypeople as they search for the truth about this mysterious and demonized plant.

Shooting Vegetarians (2005)
Neil has been a vegetarian for one thousand two hundred and sixty three days. He and his girlfriend Daisy like to spend their days skateboarding, drinking organic coffee, and driving around talking about the state of the world. Their idyllic existence is shattered when Neil’s father, Vic, reveals his grand plan for Neil to become a third generation butcher, and work with him in the Father and Son butcher shop. With no job to support himself, and nowhere else to live, Neil is left with little choice but to report to work with his father. Faced with the bloody reality of slabs of dead meat, Neil runs screaming from the shop, and keeps running and running and running, until he ends up in a deserted skateboard park. There he has a visionary encounter with a Chicken Man, who kicks his ass, and shows him how hypocritical his pseudo-political lifestyle has been. With the Chicken Man’s inspirational words ringing in his head, “You know what you are supposed to do”, Neil returns to his life with a mission to change the world.

Sharkwater (2006) (Documentary)
Driven by a lifelong fascination with sharks, filmmaker Rob Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas. Sharkwater takes you into the most shark-rich waters of the world, exposing the corruption and violence of shark exploiters and showing how sharks could easily be wiped out within a few years due to human greed.

The Cove (2009) (Documentary)
In a sleepy lagoon off the coast of Japan, behind a wall of barbed wire and “Keep Out” signs, lies a shocking secret. It is here, under cover of night, that the fishermen of Taiji engage in an unseen hunt for thousands of dolphins. The nature of the work is so horrifying, a few desperate men will stop at nothing to keep it hidden from the world. But when an elite team of activists, filmmakers and free-divers embark on a covert mission to penetrate the cove, they discover that the shocking atrocities they find there are just the tip of the iceberg.

A Chemical Reaction (2009) (Documentary)
Dr. June Irwin, a dermatologist, noticed a connection between her patients’ health conditions and their exposure to chemical pesticides. With relentless persistence she brought her concerns to town meetings to warn her fellow citizens that the chemicals they were putting on their lawns posed severe health and environmental risks. Dr. Irwin’s persuasive arguments and data eventually led the town to enact a by-law that banned the use of all chemical pesticides. The pesticide manufacturers and their lawyers, of course, did not site idly by and just let it happen….

Six Degrees Could Change the World (2007) (Documentary)
Narrated by: Alec Baldwin
NASA climate scientist James Hansen cautions that a global temperature increase of even two degrees Celsius represents a tipping point into a catastrophic climate scenario. This film ups the ante from there, postulating the effects of a six-degree increase—in sync with the higher range of scientists’ warming predictions. Six Degrees explores the likely expansion of bad trends that are already troublesome under today’s minor temperature increases: increasing desertification, forest stress, wild fires, and drought-stricken farmlands; disappearance of glaciers and ice caps; deforestation in the Amazon; increasing frequency of killer hurricanes like Katrina.

Homo Toxicus (2009) (Documentary)
Tons of chemicals are released into the environment everyday. The average citizen is both unaware of this daily exposure and unaware of the long-term health effects these toxic substances can have on living organisms. Carried out with intelligence and humor, Homo Toxicus explores the myriad links between toxic chemicals and increasingly common health problems such as cancer, allergies, hyperactivity, and infertility.

The End of the Line (2009) (Documentary)
Humans have long regarded the world’s oceans as vast and inexhaustible. Now, we have learned otherwise. The End of the Line charts the devastating ecological impact of overfishing by interweaving both local and global stories of sharply declining fish populations, including the imminent extinction of the bluefin tuna, and illuminates how our modern fishing capacities far outstrip the survival abilities of any ocean species. A catastrophic future that awaits us—an ocean without fish by 2048 if we do not adjust our fishing and consumption practices.

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (2008) (Documentary)
Taking Root tells the dramatic story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman whose simple act of planting trees—LOTS of trees—grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy.

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