Top Ranked Films for Earth Day
The first Earth Day teach-in was held in 1970, an urgent call to action to stop polluting our air and water and heed the dangers of our unbridled lifestyle. Inspired by Wisconsin’s former governor and senator Gaylord Nelson and the musical Hair, Earth Day began as a teach-in in Philadelphia. Walter Cronkite called the crowd “young, white, and anti-Nixon”; 42 years later, Earth Day is now a mainstream opportunity to reflect on the ways individuals and our society can improve our stewardship of the environment, food supply, and animals.
Film plays a key role in raising awareness about our environment, animals, and food supply – here are some indie and international options you may not have seen. There are three sections: 1) The Environment, 2) Living in Harmony with Animals, and 3) Earth Day films for kids and the family. Let us know what films have raised your consciousness and changed your habits.
WASTE LAND (2010) – winner of the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for World Cinema, this documentary visits the world’s largest garbage dump in Brazil, where Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz collaborates with “catadores,” or garbage pickers. Rotten Tomatoes audiences overwhelming like this film (92%)
GASLAND (2010) -- see why this documentary was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature last year as you learn about fracking, the recovery of gas from rock beds by way of high-pressure water. Rotten Tomatoes gave this a score of 97%.
FORCE OF NATURE (2011) – an engaging look at environmental sanity by Dr. David Suzuki, one of Canada’s leading scientists with a popular, long-running science show on TV.
Rotten Tomatoes audiences give it a score of 87% Netflix does not have this!
WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? (2006) -- this popular film (RT score of 88%) documents General Motors’ decision to scrap its electric car, the EV1, and the outcry of devoted EV1 owners, whose cars were taken from them by GM and destroyed. This film was so successful at raising awareness about electrical vehicles that GM, Nissan, and Tesla invited the film crew behind the scenes to make REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR (2011), a hopeful look at our electric future.
Living in Harmony with Animals
IMAX: BORN TO BE WILD (2011) – now you can watch IMAX’s heart-grabbing and beautiful documentary of endangered species in the rainforests of Borneo and the dedicated people who rescue and raise orphaned orangutans and elephants. This is an uplifting and hopeful film, perfect for any animal lover. Rotten Tomatoes gives this a 98% score.
GRIZZLY MAN (2005) -- we love this documentary about a self-styled authority on Alaskan grizzlies who made films of his work over the years; world-renowned director Werner Herzog uses this footage to tell of the man who was killed by the grizzlies he loved. It’s not for kids, but it’s a terrific film. Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS (2005) – this is the documentary that launched the penguin and environmental craze made popular in the animated films HAPPY FEET (2006), which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film, and HAPPY FEET TWO. Truly a fabulous family film – this is one you might want to buy instead of rent. Rotten Tomatoes gives this a score of 94%, narrated by Morgan Freeman.
THE COVE (2008) – another Audience Award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival, this documentary takes a hard look at dolphin hunting in Japan. With footage secretly filmed, this stunning look underseas has inspired audiences to action. Rotten Tomatoes score 95%
Also: WHALEDREAMERS (2006) – This Australian documentary shows an Aboriginal tribe that sings and prays to whales. Produced by Julien Lennon.
BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH (1971) – this is the documentary that inspired JAWS; however, this look at sharks in their natural habitats is fascinating, not scary.
Films where kids have a special relationship to animals:
FOX AND THE CHILD (2007) comes from the same director who made MARCH OF THE PENGUINES, about a 10-year-old girl who tames a wild fox who leads her on many adventures.
WHALE RIDER (2002) is such a moving film not only about whales but New Zealand’s aboriginal heritage and a young girl’s place in her patriarchal tribe. We love this Oscar-winning film; if you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it.
EYE OF THE DOLPHIN (2006) is popular among our viewers, about a tween girl living with her estranged father in the Bahamas when she learns she has a gift for communicating with dolphins.
FREE WILLY (1993) is the original in the series of films about children who rescue orca whales. A boy bounced around in the foster system gets a home in an ocean park, where he befriends another orphan, the killer whale named Willy, and eventually saves his life. The theme song won Michael Jackson an MTV Award.
FREE WILLY: ESCAPE FROM PIRATE’S COVE (2010) another upbeat family tale about an Australian girl spending a lonely summer in South Africa with her grandfather. She tames an orphaned baby whale and protects him from exploitation.
Have a great Earth Day!