In recent years, there have been more and more films addressing the climate crisis. From your standard documentaries to films that take a more whimsical approach, various movies have taken a stand to discuss how to help the environment in a way that will get people inspired for change.
If you're looking for an educational excuse to snuggle up on your couch, here are eight of the most thrilling climate change movies and documentaries.
'Don't Look Up'
This 2021 movie takes a comedic look at how we can't just ignore the effects of climate change hoping they go away. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, Don't Look Up follows these two as astronomers who discover a comet that will wipe out life on Earth if something isn't done. The only issue is that no one believes them.
Although the movie focuses on a comet, Don't Look Up is metaphorically about climate change. "I'd often in my career look for a film that had an environmental undertone to it," said DiCaprio in an interview with Netflix. "But much like the inundation of news on climate change, a lot of people don't want to hear it."
'The Day After Tomorrow'
Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall has been studying the weather for years. He's trying to tell anyone who will listen that he believes a new Ice Age is closer than we think but getting people to listen is its own struggle. As the weather gets worse, he makes the trek from D.C. to New York to make sure his son is safe. Unfortunately, he might not make it.
'I Am Greta'
Following the story of climate activist Greta Thunberg, I Am Greta really gets behind the scenes to understand her as a person. From a young age, she's believed that people need to do more in order to fight the climate crisis. Here, we get an up close and personal look at her doing it. In the film, she protests, speaks to government leaders, gives speeches, and more to fight for the planet.
Australian documentarian Damon Gameau wants the best for his daughter Velvet including the best possible world for her to grow up in. Unfortunately, due to the climate crisis, it doesn't look like things are meeting his expectations. But he's not ready to give up. Narrated by him in what is essentially a letter to Velvet, he travels around the world looking for solutions to save the planet.
Christopher Nolan set his film Interstellar (2014) in a dystopian future in which a famine has destroyed much of the Earth and put humanity at risk of extinction. A former NASA pilot named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), his family, and other astronauts band together to find a new planet that is more habitable. Scariness ensues.
Along with McConaughey, Interstellar also stars powerhouse actors including Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, and Bill Irwin.
'Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret'
Cowspiracy takes a look at how animal agriculture is truly affecting the environment. The trailer alone says this is the leading cause of things like "ocean dead zones," deforestation, and more. And although it's clear that something needs to be done to save the world around us, the organizations that claim to be working toward that goal may be making the issue worse.
'On Sacred Ground'
On Sacred Ground, released in January 2023, is a dramatic film about the 2016 construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the massive wave protests against the destructive pipeline. Starring David Arquette, William Mapother, Amy Smart, David Midthunder, Frances Fisher, Che Jim, Kerry Knuppe, and Mariel Hemingway, the film features actual dialogue taken from recordings at Standing Rock Indian Reservation protests in 2016 and 2017.
“As non-Indigenous filmmakers around a very sensitive issue, it took us a lot of navigating and a long journey to finally reach the place that we did, but we knew from the beginning that we wanted to be respectful,” Rebecca Tickell, who co-wrote and co-directed On Sacred Ground along with her husband Josh Tickell, told Green Matters exclusively in 2023. “After consulting with many people, we realized as non-Indigenous filmmakers that the appropriate, respectful perspective that we could take to tell the story would be from the perspective of a war vet with PTSD who goes to cover the Standing Rock protests.”
WALL-E, a classic Pixar film released in 2008, brought the idea of humans destroying the planet to the attention of children — and adults — worldwide.
Taking place in the future, WALL-E depicts a planet Earth that has been destroyed thanks to an evil megacorporation. Instead of living on Earth, humans all live in outer space. But a sweet robot named WALL-E winds up falling in love with a robot named EVE, and the two go on an adventure. It's a must-watch.
This article, originally published on Jan. 3, 2023, has been updated to include more films.