Documentary Films About the Environment and Ecology

These Documentaries Can Spark You To Become An Environmental Activist

Documentary films about ecology and environmental issues will inform you of ways in which you can help to preserve -- and, in some cases, restore -- Mother Earth's environment so it can sustain future generations of our species. Let these films inspire your resolutions to become an environmental activist -- by altering your personal behavior or setting out to change public policy, or both.

Earth Days (2009)

Tree hugger
Getty Images/pawel.gaul

Earth Day is the annual event staged to raise environmental awareness and boost efforts to establish policies and practices to sustain human life on Earth. Earth Days chronicles the environmental movement's advances during the 1960s and 70s when the US nearly set up an eco-friendly, sustainable energy program. Then what happened?

Disneynature: Wings of Life (2013)

With extraordinary clarity and definition, puts us right inside the flower with the bee, making us keenly aware of the miraculous work these creatures, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators do for nature -- and, of course, for us.

Chasing Ice (2012)

Jeff Orlowski's documentary follows National Geographic photographer James Balog and his team, as they prove the extent of glacial retreat due to global warming.

Who Killed The Electric Car? (2006)

Who Killed the Electric Car? chronicles GM's conspiracy to prevent the proliferation of automobiles that ran quietly, efficiently and pollution-free on electricity.

Revenge of the Electric Car (2009)

Filmmaker Chris Paine became an expert on and advocate for non-polluting electric vehicles when he made his 2006 documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car? In that film, he showed how GM built prototype EV-1 electric cars, distributed it them drivers who absolutely adored them, and then recalled and destroyed them. In this sequel, he shows how electric cars are being reintroduced.

The 11th Hour (2007)

Leonardo Di Caprio Leads Audiences Through Natural Disasters in The 11th Hour. Warner Independent Features

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio produced and anchors this impressive documentary in which expert commentators like Stephen Hawking, James Woolsey, and others explain how hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are the result of negative climate and environmental changes that are spiraling out of control. 

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

An Inconvenient Truth on DVD. Paramount Classics

An Inconvenient Truth presents a convincingly rational approach to explaining the dangers of global warming. With the help of animator Matt Groening (of The Simpsons fame) and state-of-the-art flat screen monitors, the film lays out Al Gore's well-documented concerns that we are in the throes of a climate crisis that threatens life on Earth as we know it.

Arctic Tale (2007)

Arctic Ice on DVD. Fox Searchlight

Arctic Tale, an animal-centric documentary, uses unadulterated authentic footage to capture close up impressions of a walrus pup and polar bear cub. With these lovable tykes leading the way, the film swims directly and deeply into disturbing environmental issues like global warming and pollution and, most especially, the shrinking arctic ice.

The Cove (2009)

Filmmaker Louis Psihoyos follows animal rights activist Richard O'Barry in this shocker of a documentary that effectively exposes the annual secret slaughter of thousands of dolphins by a greedy community of Japanese fishermen, supported by a complicit Japanese government and international whaling commission.

Crude (2009)

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger exposes the Texaco/Chevron toxic waste contamination of thousands of square miles of the Ecuadorian Amazon and rain forest and chronicles the efforts of local tribes and international conservation and human rights organizations to get remediation.

Disarm. (2005)

The past placement of landmines in battle zones around the globe has made Earth a treacherous place for entire populations of people who can neither till the soil nor walk across a field for fear of stepping on and triggering an explosive device that will surely maim if not kill them. It's a real problem that indicates one way in which we disrespect and undervalue our environment and one that actually alters the way in which we relate to Mother Earth.

Empty Oceans, Empty Nets: The Race to Save Marine Fisheries

A project of Habitat Media, this film reveals environmental dangers that arise from current commercial fishing practices that threaten the ocean's healthy environments worldwide by depleting populations of fish. Unless the harvest is managed in the present, future nets will come up empty. Peter Coyote narrates.

Water Wars: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide (2009)

According to a World Bank study, demand for water will exceed supply by 40 percent within twenty years. By presenting an overview of flooding, drought, and other water-related disasters in Bangladesh, India and New Orleans, director Jim Burrough's Water Wars: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide is a look into the future of fresh water access and control, which many believe will be the cause for World War III.

FLOW - For Love Of Water (2008)

Irena Salinas' documentary is about the global crisis we face as Earth's fresh water supply constantly diminishes. The film presents top experts and advocates to show us that every aspect of human life is affected by pollution, wastefulness, privatization and corporate greed as it relates to a natural resource that's more valuable than oil. The film shows in no uncertain terms that if we continue to abuse our water supply, Earth will become uninhabitable and humankind will become extinct. The investigation points fingers at water companies such as Nestle, Vivendi, Thames, Suez, Coca Cola and Pepsi.

Food, Inc. (2009)

'Food, Inc.' investigates the industrial production and distribution of food in the United States by large multinational corporations such as Monsanto and Tyson, to the detriment of small independent farmers and to the overall quality of nutrition.

The Garden (2008)

The Garden is about the South Central Farmers, a group of dirt-poor Los Angelenos who took a track of urban ruin and turned it into an Eden -- only to see the flora they so lovingly planted and tended be bulldozed by a selfish land owner. This film is about their dignity, determination and their fight to preserve their garden -- and what they've done to recover from its loss.

Manda Bala (2007)

Manda Bala is a documentary film about the violent class struggle in Brazil, and how cottage industries have sprung up around the frequent kidnappings that occur as the rich steal from the poor and the poor take revenge.

King Corn (2007)

Eco-activists Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis plant and harvest an acre of corn, then trace their crop as it's processed into food products that nurture the increasingly obese and unhealthy -- and always hungry -- American population. The underlying theme is that extreme agro-engineering has a negative effect on the environment and its inhabitants.

Trouble The Water (2008)

Trouble The Water on DVD. Zeitgeist Films

In Trouble The Water, filmmakers Tia Lessen and Carl Deal follow a New Orleans Ninth Ward couple, Kimberly and Scott Roberts, who've survived Hurricane Katrina with some remarkable footage of the devastating hurricane and its aftermath. We see what happens to people and society when Mother Nature takes her toll on an area that humans claim to have tamed. 

Up The Yangtze (2008)

Yu Shui's home is flooded by rising waters behind the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. Yuan Chang

Up The Yangtze takes you cruising on China's mightiest river to meet people whose lives are altered by the construction of Three Gorges Dam, built to harness hydro power. Effect on lives of countless citizens relocated from flooded river banks has been devastating. The dam's construction has played ecological havoc along the historic waterway's entire length. It's ironic that tourism Up the Yangtze swells as waters rise to forever engulf the famously scenic Three Gorges landscape. This film, which won several prestigious Cinema Eye Awards, raises questions about short term economic gains versus long-term ecological losses.