All-Time Top 10 Environmental Films

All-Time Top 10 Environmental Films

Alisa Opar
Published: 01/15/2010


If you’re looking for movies to add to your Netflix queue, how about adding a few excellent, entertaining films with ecological angles? And no, they aren't all documentaries; there are action flicks, movies based on real-life stories of inspirational people, and even animated films that you and the kids will enjoy. Karl Burkart gave his picks for the Top 10 Environmental Films of all time on MNN recently, and we’ve added a few suggestions of our own.

10. Koyaanisqatsi (1982)
9. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
8. The Day after Tomorrow (2004)
7. Whale Rider (2003) & Winged Migration (2001)
6. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
5. Avatar (2009) 
4. Chinatown (1974) & Soylent Green (1973)
3. China Syndrome (1979)
2. Erin Brockovich (2000)
1. WALL-E (2008)

Audubon editors’ additional choices:

Silkwood (1983)

This gripping film tells the real-life story of Karen Silkwood, played by the fantastic Meryl Streep, who worked at a plutonium processing plant. To keep her from spilling information about worker safety violations to a New York Times reporter, she was intentionally contaminated and perhaps murdered.

The Host (Gwoemul, 2006)

The opening scene of this monster flick is based on a notorious real-life incident: It’s 2000, and a US military mortician orders a Korean subordinate to pour hundreds of bottles of old formaldehyde down the sink. Though the worker protests that the toxic chemical will be dumped in Seoul’s Han River, he eventually complies. (In reality, the action enraged locals and spurred anti-American demonstrations in South Korea). The movie then jumps ahead a couple years to a fisherman bitten by an enormous tadpole-like creature. The mutated water-dwelling animal grows rapidly, and begins terrorizing the people of Seoul.

Waterworld (1995)

“Waterworld was really prescient,” says senior editor Julie Leibach. “The polar ice caps have melted, drowning land and leaving people competing for resources. Oh—and some people have gills. If there’s an up side to global warming, maybe it’s that we can look forward to gills.” (She then went on to describe the plot in more detail for several minutes.) Dennis Hopper plays the bad guy, Kevin Costner plays the gilled hero.

Encounters at the Edge of the World (2007)

Renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog travels to Antarctica where he meets the curious characters who choose to live at a research station on the bottom of the world. From penguin ménage à trios and insanity to electric-guitar playing scientists to a Harvard-educated linguist who works in the greenhouse, Herzog offers a fascinating look at polar scientists and the environment and organisms they study.

Pale Male (2002)

“The best nature documentary ever done,” is how Editor in Chief David Seideman describes this film, which tells the story of Pale Male, a red tailed hawk that lives on the ledge of a Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan. The gripping documentary traces the hawk as he courts, breeds and hunts. You’ll find yourself rooting for Pale Male’s survival, as his avid urban fans do in the film.

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