Climate change movies too often fall into one of two camps: futuristic dystopias or mind-numbing (and terrifying) science heavy flicks.
Still, the last few years produced a list of incredible new films. The latest additions to the silver screen diversified a genre that now includes thought-provoking movies based in reality but not without hope.
Rarely is anyone in the mood for a climate change film. But if you are or you’re keen to learn more about the changes happening to our planet right now, consider checking out one (or even more) of these must-watch climate change movies.
Climate Change Movies for All Audiences
Our list includes some of our favorite films that range between:
- Narrative films
- 3-D IMAX films
- Kid-friendly movies
- Short films
No matter what your age or what you know about climate change, you’ll find something that entertains and informs in equal measure.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
To kick of our top climate change movies, it's “Beasts of the Southern Wild” follows a six-year-old Hushpuppy’s fight to survive in a post-Katrina world. The film opens in a rural swamp based on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, where the world’s first climate change refugees live.
Hushpuppy believes her world is in balance despite the breath-taking poverty surrounding her. The pint-sized hero works to save her father, her home, and her community even as ever greater threats of natural disaster loom closer.
Although the film isn’t science heavy and certainly veers away from teaching climate science facts, it does share a reality that could come knocking on all our doorsteps sooner than we think. Moreover, it does so in a beautiful, poignant way that reminds us that the lives of our children are at stake.
“Snowpiercer” is an international sci-fi action film based on a graphic novel of the same name.
Released in 2013, “Snowpiercer” is set in a not-so-distant future when an attempt to stop climate change fails and blows out the last breath of life on planet Earth — all but those who boarded the Snowpiercer train.
Those left on board don’t just have the frozen wasteland that was once their home to contend with. It is one of the best climate change movies to watch. They also find themselves plagued by many poignant problems like social injustice and class warfare and other political questions that impact who survives and who does not.
If you love “Snowpiercer,” then there’s good news. A television series intends to adapt the film for the small screen. Snowpiercer, the TV series, premieres in 2019 on TNT. Netflix announced its intention to distribute the series around the world.
The first documentary to grace the list is ”Chasing Coral”: a magnificent and aesthetically beautiful piece of work.
Netflix tasked a team of divers, scientists, and photojournalists to track the endangered status of coral reefs around the world. Their goal: to capture visual evidence of coral bleaching.
Cameras document the undeniable damage human-driven climate change continues to do to the planet by using the coral loss as a benchmark. The film presents a journey to another world deep below the surface of the ocean, and the combination of the powerful shots and the science create a powerful teaching moment for viewers of all ages.
You can view “Chasing Coral” and more climate change movies on Netflix.
A Beautiful Planet
“A Beautiful Planet” is a Toni Myers production. Myers’ hand in the project means you’ll get a taste of the planet we call home from a whole new vantage point: outer space.
A Beautiful Planet gives viewers a look at everything from above. You’ll see lightning storms from above the loud line, the Super Typhoon Maysak, and all the lakes and seas. It’s worth seeing because we experience climate change from the ground, but the film shows off realities that we need to be aware of but can only see from space.
For example, the atmosphere from the ground looks unending, but look down from the International Space Station, and you’ll see only a thin layer between our earth and the frontier.
The 3D film was made just for IMAX screens, so you’ll need a trip to your nearest IMAX cinema to see climate change movies.
Although “A Beautiful Planet” and “Chasing Coral” are both suitable for kids, particularly middle schoolers, the 2007 film ”Arctic Tale” is our choice for the best kid’s movie related to global warming.
The filmmakers follow a mother walrus and her calf and a polar bear and her two cubs to demonstrate how climate change impacts the Arctic and the animals who live there.
“Arctic Tale” is a family-oriented documentary created by the same team that created another film you know — “March of the Penguins.” Why is it ideal for kids? It shows the life cycles of the animals followed, but it doesn’t dive deep into science.
Its comments on global warming are suitable for kids who take elementary school science classes, and it becomes a springboard for global warming conversations without weighing too heavily on young children’s minds.
Time to Choose
If you want a documentary that provides a definite wake-up call, then sit down with ”Time to Choose.”
The film acknowledges that climate change will be uncontrollable by the time we reach the middle of this century.
We like this film because it’s not a disaster flick. It recognizes the dire circumstances humans and every other occupant of the earth face. However, it also leans heavily on solutions. The director, Charles Ferguson, comes to terms with the scope of climate change by talking to innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, and activists who dedicated their lives to doing the thankless work of saving the planet. Not all climate change movies should be about disasters.
This Changes Everything
“This Changes Everything” is an apt title for Avi Lewis’s adaptation of Naomi Klein’s non-fiction work.
Other films present climate change in the abstract. Directors describe the impact on wild ecosystems and those that inhabit them. But few films delve into the human element of human-created climate change.
Klein spends 211 days shooting across nine countries on five continents. He visits the United States, Canada, India, China, Greece, and more to explore the stories of individuals fighting climate change in their areas.
Watch “This Changes Everything” as a follow up to “Time to Choose.” The two films aren’t related, but they make a perfect match. When “Time to Choose” shows how the best and brightest fight tackle change, “This Changes Everything” demonstrates how the actions of people like you can trigger social movements that control the force of climate change at home.
The premise of “This Is Everything” threatens to depress because climate change isn’t an abstract idea: it’s already here. But the film ultimately inspires and is recommended viewing for people of all ages.
“Anote’s Ark” is a documentary that explores a global issue in a hyperlocal way.
Find yourself transported to Kiribati, a Pacific Island nation of roughly 100,000 people. Its remoteness makes it one of the last to reap the benefits of progress like the internet. It will become one of the first to see climate change transform from an existential dilemma to a mortal one.
The film follows Kiribati’s leadership as they do their best to prevent their island nation from disappearing below the sea.
President Anote Tong’s quest benefits from the telling of individual stories from those who have already migrated to higher ground in New Zealand.
Watch as a tiny island nation takes its place on the global stage to advocate for its people, a way of life, and to remind large countries that actions have consequences.
Want to read more about the evolving story of the people of Kiribati? Check out this interview with Human Rights Watch or read former President Anote Tong’s most recent article in The Guardian, which criticizes Australia’s inaction on climate change.
Brothers of Climbing
“Brothers of Climbing” is a short film created by sporting company REI.
It’s not a climate change film in a traditional sense. Instead, it shows off what we could miss out on if we allow the environment to degrade further.
The film is a short, feel-good film about bringing people together to build a climbing community in a place where none previously existed. At only seven minutes long, the film tackles the benefits of spending time outdoors, challenging stereotypes, and shows the importance of being able to see people who look like you in all spaces.
Viewers leave this seven-minute film feeling good, but the climbing groups that bring communities together could disappear as quickly as they found their feet. Climate change impacts the risk involved in climbing mountains both at home and around the world.
Share Your Favorite Films
Climate change is a tough subject, but the films on our list show that although there are significant challenges ahead, there’s also hope.
More importantly, hope springs from the action of individuals, which quickly galvanizes into community-wide and even societal action. Humans created climate change, and as the brave people profiled in these films show, humans can also curb its effects to protect our children and our environment.
Do you have a favorite climate change film? Share your suggestions in the comments below.