Green on the Silver Screen!

Image above: Eco-Erin to the Rescue! taken from NYDailyNews.com

For a while now, Hollywood has been getting greener and greener. While not all of these eco-centric films have been blockbuster mega-hits like Erin Brockovich, they have made an impact on our social consciousness. Documentarians, in particular, have taken on the topic of environmental concern and have flooded the genre with an abundance of green-focused films. My Netflix queue is brimming with them! Here are a few my must-see, green flick favorites.  If I forgot any you think should be included, please comment, and let me know! Pass the organic popcorn…

Super-size Me, Soylent Green, Silkwood and more!

Fictional but Eye-Opening:

Soylent Green – What a way to start the list! This  Hollywood classic starring Charlton Heston explores the dystopian not-so-distant future of 2022, and shockingly mirrors the overpopulation and food shortages we face today. Heston’s character is a detective investigating the death of a food manufacturing company executive and discovers a horrific truth about what’s actually being served up to society.  I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but Soylent Green is not what you’d expect… (1973)

Safe – When I first watched this terrifying flick starring Julianne Moore, I was captivated, confused, and totally dumbstruck. In this slow, quiet, and deeply disturbing tale of an affluent suburban woman who slowly deteriorates, our collective social worries about environmental toxins and chemical paranoia are put to the test. At first you think Moore’s character is insane as she insists that the air is making her sick, until eventually, you want to escape to the Arizona desert cleansing resort with her. (1995)

Adorable but Poignant:

Happy Feet – Oscar-winning, toe-tappingly fun, and piggy-backing on the success of March of the Penguins,  this kid’s film deals with the repercussions of humanity messing with the delicate balance of the food chain. Although couched in cute metaphors and surrounded by upbeat sing-alongs, the message is as cold and crystal-clear as the polar ice melt-water. (2006)

WALL.E – This Pixar offering is not to be missed. It’s adorable and devastating, hopeful and dreadful all at once. WALL.E is the story of a trash-compacting robot who wanders the abandoned Earth cleaning up the literal garbage of consumerism, and along the way, learns how to be more human then those who did the eco-damage. (2008)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest – If you’ve never seen this animated eco-flick featuring the voices of Robin Williams, Christian Slater, Tone Loc (no joke), and Tim Curry, I suggest you stop what you’re doing, rent a copy, and start watching! It’s an epic fairy sprite vs. human destroyer story, set in a magical rainforest in Australia. Pollution and deforestation give rise to an evil, hellish being, set on destroying the lovely inhabitants of FernGully. (1992)

Send in the Nukes:

Silkwood - Exploring the circumstances of the death of Karen Silkwood, a real-life metal worker at a plutonium processing plant, this eerie tale speaks to all the things we don’t know about the nuclear power industry. Silkwood, played by Meryl Streep, had been investigating some wrong-doings at the plant just before her suspicious, allegedly accidental, death on the night she was to meet a New York Times reporter. Streep and Cher were nominated for Oscars for their performances in this based-on-a-true-story film. (1983)

The China Syndrome – Like Silkwood, The China Syndrome centers around the relationship between a reporter and whistle-blower at a nuclear power plant. Although a fictional story, this movie ironically premiered just 2 weeks before the infamous, and very much real, Three Mile Island meltdown in Pennsylvania.   (1979)

You Are What You Eat:

King Corn – This truly engaging, super-watchable documentary follows two college buddies as they seek to achieve their goal of farming an acre of corn in Iowa. Along the way, these budding farmers learn all about the destruction of the family farm, the totally illogical structure of government subsidies, and the shockingly unhealthy prevalence of high fructose corn syrup in the American diet.  (2007)

Two Angry Moms – This film focuses on a particular pet-project of mine – making the school lunch programs at public schools better! Amy Kalafa and Susan Rubin were moms fed up with the horrible, processed food their children were receiving at school, and this film was the result. Not only do they highlight the horrors, but they also suggest solutions for getting good grub into our school systems. (2009)

Food, Inc. – Just how much choice do we really have in the grocery store? Food, Inc. shows us that the answer is not that much. A massive percentage of our nation’s food supply is controlled by just a handful of corporations, who oftentimes put their bottom line before our health – in clear sight of the USDA and FDA.  I guarantee that this movie will scare you and have you signing up for a CSA in no time flat. (2008)

Super Size Me – If you haven’t heard of this movie, or its creator Morgan Spurlock, you’ve probably been living in a McDonald’s-induced coma! Nominated for an Oscar and earning huge box-office ratings, this experiment in fast-food binging piqued the curiosity of a nation. I was so excited about this film when it premiered – I gave up fast food in 1999- and I was eager to finally get some attention for the cause. I was not disappointed. In this highly-effective documentary, Spurlock challenges himself to eat nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days and only take the shockingly low amount of steps the average American walks daily. The results are McDisgusting. (2004)

Farming at Risk:

The Garden - A moving, frustrating tale of a community rebuilt from the rubble of the LA riots thanks to an urban garden, this film depicts the various ways in which the powers-that-be seek to suffocate any breath of self-reliance in the inner city. (2008)

The Real Dirt on Framer John – Farmer John Peterson had it all, lost it all, then turned it all into the largest organic CSA in the U.S. in this unique documentary. Admittedly, it’s a bit slow-moving, but John is sweet and watchable, and totally entertaining in his attitude towards life, farming, and the American dream. (2005)

Water, Water, Everywhere:

Chinatown – A cult, film-noir classic, Chinatown takes conservationism to the highest apex of chic. Directed by Roman Polanski and starring Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson, this who-done-it won Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for 10 additional Oscars! The plot intertwines danger, murder, adultery, and incest with municipal corruption, real estate hoarding, and the control of LA’s precious water supply.  (1974)

Flow: For the Love of Water - Just like Food, Inc. documents the dangers of corporate control of our food supply, Flow assures us that the the big businesses that maintain our water supply are just as uncaring and harmful to our health. The statistics put forth in this documentary are horrifying – 500,000-7 million people get sick from water each year, and Flow explores why and how. If nothing else, this movie will have you looking at your tap a little differently. (2008)

In the Air, up in the Trees, and under the Sea:

Sharkwater - This stunningly filmed, hi-def, underwater documentary explores the cruel world of shark poaching. Corruption, greed, death threats, chases on the high seas, shark fin soup – this movie’s got it all. (2007)

Winged Migration – Showcasing the fantastic, grueling, and elegant migration journeys of several species of birds, this truly amazing documentary spans four years and seven continents. Using in-flight cameras and aerial footage,  you’ll feel like you’re flying along with the geese. (2001)

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian FosseyThe true-life story of environmentalist and naturalist Dian Fossey,  Gorillas in the Mist is the story of a women devoted to the study of primates and her work in the mountains of Rwanda. Sigourney Weaver plays Fossey in an Oscar-nominated performance, who forsakes romance and safety for the good of the peaceful, loving gorillas. A true, full-out tear-jerker. (1988)

For the Sci-Fi Fans:

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – The moral of this trekkie tale is that you never know how  all of our pollution and poaching today will impact us in the future. For example, a super-powerful race of aliens from an unknown galaxy could come to earth years from now, hoping to say “hi” to some humpback whales, but if they’ve already been poached out of extinction, how can they tell the aliens to go home? Kirk and Spock figured it out, but I’m not so sure we could. (1986)

Silent Running – From the same director of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Andromeda Strain, Silent Running is an  environmentally-conscious sci-fi flick that tells the story of a futuristic eco-protector. In this vision of the future, all of the plant life has died on Earth, save some specimens that float, preserved, around Saturn in bio-dome space stations that are slated for termination. The fate of every little flower rests in the hands of one rebel ecologist. (1972)

Quirky and Worth It:

Blue Vinyl – Lighthearted and interesting, this documentary follows one woman’s quest to outfit her parent’s house with an attractive, eco-safe covering. Her quest takes her to various US towns (and all the way to Venice, Italy) effected by the vinyl industry, and the harm that polyvinyl chloride presents. (2002)

Traffic-Stopping:

Who Killed the Electric Car -  Get ready to be seriously angry. This film, detailing the creation, limited distribution, and eventual destruction of the electric car, will have you gearing to write your Senator and protest oil companies. If you weren’t too sure about those government automotive bailouts,  this film will help you make up your mind. (2006)

It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here:

An Inconvenient Truth – This highly-acclaimed cautionary tale by Al Gore shed new light on and breathed new life into the topic of global warming. Passionate, informative, controversial, and captivating, this film became a hot-button political issue and a water-cooler favorite.  An Inconvenient Truth is to be admired. (2006)

The 11th Hour – Things are bad. The environment is suffering. And, Leonardo DiCaprio wrote this movie to tell us about it! In the style of An Inconvenient Truth, but lacking the hopeful sentiment, DiCaprio’s documentary is an assessment of the plight of our world in very grim terms. Not a picker-upper, but well worth the watch.

Did I miss your favorite eco-film? Leave a comment!

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2 Responses to Green on the Silver Screen!

  1. aire 09/25/2009 at 10:24 am #

    Great post Molly!!! I have so many new movies to add to my list of must see!

  2. Kaley 09/25/2009 at 12:01 pm #

    I love Who Killed the Electric Car! I never imagined in my wildest moments that I’d enjoy a documentary about cars, but I really did. It was interesting.

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