Documentaries serve an important role in our society. Many pressing issues go under the radar when we should be discussing them openly. One of the most obvious issues where we have seen this is to do with the environment. Although there is a constant dialogue in society about the dangers of climate change, it’s rare that the true scale of the issues breaks through to the mainstream. This is where environmental documentaries play a vital role. They help bring the sometimes shocking truth into mainstream conversations and also inspire people to commit to changes in their own lives. We’ve compiled a list of the most powerful documentaries that changed how we see our planet!
Food, Inc. (2008)
Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner examines how mammoth corporations have taken over all aspects of the food chain in the United States, from the farms where our food is grown to the chain restaurants and supermarkets where it’s sold. Narrated by author and activist Eric Schlosser, the film features interviews with average Americans about their dietary habits, commentary from food experts like Michael Pollan and unsettling footage shot inside large-scale animal processing plants.
Dirt! The Movie (2009)
The film explores the relationship between humans and soil, including its necessity for human life and impacts by society. Dirt! The Movie was an official selection for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and won several awards, including the best documentary award at the 2009 Visions/Voices Environmental Film Festival and the “Best film for our future” award at the 2009 Mendocino Film Festival
General Orders No. 9 (2012)
One of the lesser known yet no less stunning environmental documentaries on this list, General Orders No. 9 is an absolute beauty to behold.
Eschewing all of the standard documentary conventions and running like a visual meditation, this unique film sequence chronicles the American South’s demise as the wilderness is slowly paved over. Having taken 11 years to make, cinematography doesn’t get much more elegant than this.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Probably one of the most well known on the list and one of the most powerful documentaries that changed how we see our planet! Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Mr. Gore’s personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change. A longtime advocate for the environment, Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way. “Al Gore strips his presentations of politics, laying out the facts for the audience to draw their own conclusions in a charming, funny and engaging style, and by the end has everyone on the edge of their seats, gripped by his haunting message,” said Guggenheim. An Inconvenient Truth is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry to protect the one earth we all share. “It is now clear that we face a deepening global climate crisis that requires us to act boldly, quickly, and wisely,” said Gore.
Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus-beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who-unlike any orca in the wild-has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong? Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.
Before The Flood (2016)
Before the Flood is a 2016 documentary about climate change directed by Fisher Stevens.The film shows Leonardo DiCaprio (producer) visiting various regions of the globe exploring the impact of man-made global warming. As a narrator, DiCaprio comments on these encounters as well as archive footages.
There are countless documentaries that changed how we see our planet, what other films should be included in this list? Join the discussion on our Facebook page!