As we navigate through the complexities of the 21st century, cinema continues to play a crucial role in raising awareness about environmental issues. In 2023, a number of films have stood out for their insightful exploration of these challenges.
Recent years have seen an influx of climate change-related movies, ranging from shocking documentaries to inspiring stories of resilience and change.
These films provide vivid and often heart-wrenching illustrations of this problem’s harsh realities and potential consequences. Additionally, they expose the innovative solutions and initiatives that present hope for a sustainable future.
Here are the top 6 environmental films of the year:
The Human Element (2019)
“The Human Element” is a 2019 documentary film directed by Matthew Testa. The film explores the impact of climate change on different communities and individuals across the United States. It emphasizes the connection between humans and nature and how human activities have contributed to the changing climate.
“The Human Element” is showcasing the stories of individuals directly affected by climate change. These individuals include firefighters who are fighting wildfires, coal miners who are managing job losses due to the coal industry’s decline, and families who are dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes and floods. The film also delves into exploring the unfair impact of climate change on marginalized communities and the implications of environmental degradation on social justice.
Before the Flood (2016)
“Before the Flood” is a documentary film released in 2016, directed by Fisher Stevens and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. The film follows DiCaprio as he travels around the world to witness the devastating effects of climate change and to explore potential solutions.
The movie begins with DiCaprio recounting his childhood fascination with nature and his concern for the environment. He then embarks on a journey to various countries, including Greenland, India, China, and the United States, to meet with scientists, activists, and political leaders.
Throughout his travels, DiCaprio witnesses firsthand the consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels, deforestation, and extreme weather events. He interviews experts who explain the science behind climate change and its impact on ecosystems, wildlife, and human communities.
Eyes of the Orangutan (2021)
“Eyes of the Orangutan” is a powerful documentary released in 2021. Directed by Will Foster-Grundy and Chris Scarffe, the film provides a captivating exploration of one of the most troubling facets of modern wildlife tourism.
The film follows internationally acclaimed environmental photojournalist Aaron Gekoski as he uncovers the abuse of primates in the tourism industry. Shocking revelations from poachers reveal how orangutans, stolen from their natural habitats and smuggled across international borders, end up at these attractions. The process often involves killing the orangutans’ mothers.
Don’t Look Up (2021)
Adam McKay wrote, co-produced, and directed the 2021 American apocalyptic political satire black comedy film “Don’t Look Up.” The film tells the story of two astronomers, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), who discover a comet that is on a direct collision course with Earth. They attempt to warn humanity about the impending disaster, which is an allegory for climate change.
Despite their efforts, the U.S. government, political figures, celebrities, and the media meet them with indifference and disbelief. The film satirizes the public’s obsession with the 24-hour news cycle and social media, and their indifference to the climate crisis.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed “Princess Mononoke,” a 1997 Japanese animated film, and Studio Ghibli produced it. The film, set in Japan’s late Muromachi period (approximately 1336 to 1573 AD), includes fantasy elements.
The story follows a young Emishi prince named Ashitaka. He becomes involved in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources. Ashitaka is stricken by a deadly curse while protecting his village from a rampaging boar-god/demon. To save his life, he must journey to the forests of the west.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008) is a remake of the 1951 classic science fiction film. The story begins in 1928, when a mountaineer in the Karakoram mountains of India encounters a glowing sphere and loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he finds the sphere gone, and a scar on his hand where someone has taken a sample of his DNA.
Fast forward to the present day, an alien spacecraft arrives in New York City. The U.S. government assembles a group of scientists, including Dr. Helen Benson, to develop a survival plan. Heavily armed U.S. military forces quickly surround the spacecraft that lands gently in Central Park.
My Octopus Teacher (2020)
“My Octopus Teacher,” a captivating documentary released by Netflix, chronicles the extraordinary friendship between filmmaker and diver Craig Foster and a wild common octopus.
Set in the underwater kelp forest of False Bay near Cape Town, South Africa, Foster embarks on a unique journey as he observes the daily life of the octopus, including her ingenious defense mechanisms against pyjama sharks and her eventual death post-mating.
The film not only captures this remarkable interspecies bond but also delves into its profound impact on Foster’s personal life, inspiring a newfound interest in marine life in his son.
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