Eco-fiction isn’t limited to just the written word. It can include films and even games. Check back often, as I will update this post when new movies come out. This is just a sample listing, so if you think something should be included, please contact me. Most of these films deal with climate change and other ecological themes.
It looks like Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water will be released on March 11 as Veden vartija. You can read more about the novel here, where Emmi and I chatted about it in 2014. The current featured image is fair use by Wikipedia Finland.
Out on Christmas Eve, on Netflix, was Don’t Look Up, which I liked but which is getting mixed reviews in the media. Also, the European Center for Populism Studies has an article out titled Climate Satire and Anti-science Populism in Don’t Look Up. This lists some other climate and ecologically oriented movies.
Descriptions are briefly excerpted from IDMB, other reviewers, or my own thoughts. Check links for more information.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence: Steven Spielberg. A post-apocalyptic/global warming setting backgrounds this story of “a highly advanced robotic boy longs to become real so that he can regain the love of his human mother.”
Absolute Zero: Robert Lee. A shift in the Earth’s polarity plunges the equatorial regions of the planet into an ice age of -459 degrees Fahrenheit; a temperature so cold that energy and light doesn’t exist.
Annihilation: Alex Garland. A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.
Austral: Erik Skjoldbjaerg. Paul McAuley’s novel is being adapted to an epic series from Circle of Confusion Television Studies and Big Talk Production. According to Variety, it tackles climate change, prejudice and the abuse of power in a boldly compelling vision of the future.
Avengers: Endgame: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to reverse Thanos’ actions and restore balance to the universe.
Bewilderment: The novel is coming out in September 2021, and Black Bear/Plan B has bought film rights, according to Variety. According to Goodreads, “With its soaring descriptions of the natural world, its tantalizing vision of life beyond, and its account of a father and son’s ferocious love, Bewilderment marks Richard Powers’s most intimate and moving novel. At its heart lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?”
Beasts of the Southern Wild: Benh Zeitlin. I really love this film and highly recommend it. According to The Guardian, “Not classic dystopian sci-fi at all, it still has a visionary gleam in its eye, with present-day ecological concerns pressing on and constantly threatening to break through the levees of the imagination.”
Blood Glacier (The Station): Marvin Kren. Originally titled Blutgletscher, this is a sci-fi horror film with climate themes about a glacier melting blood, which affects local wildlife. Check out Hollywood Reporter for an interview with the director.
A Children’s Bible: Variety has posted that “Global production and development company Sister has acquired the exclusive rights to adapt Lydia Millet’s critically acclaimed apocalyptic climate change novel A Children’s Bible into a limited series.”
Chloe and Theo: Ezna Sands. According to Entertainment News: Spotlight Pictures says it has acquired the worldwide sales rights to Arctica Films’ environmentally conscious drama Chloe and Theo, which stars Dakota Johnson and Theo Ikummaq as the title characters–a homeless girl and the Inuit man she befriends. Theo arrives in New York on a quest from his Arctic homeland to find the leaders of the industrialized world and convince them that climate change is real before his world melts away.
The Colony: Jeff Renfroe. Forced underground by the next ice age, a struggling outpost of survivors must fight to preserve humanity against a threat even more savage than nature. Canadian science fiction horror movie.
Crawl: Alexandre Aja. A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.
Dark Waters: Todd Haynes. A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
The Beach House: Jeffrey A. Brown. A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for survival when unexpected guests – and the surrounding environment – exhibit signs of a mysterious infection.
The Broken Earth Trilogy: Even though this is still in adaption, I don’t want to forget to include it here because I am looking forward to it! On Twitter, author NK Jemisin said: Sssssso, folks have been asking me for updates on the Broken Earth tv/film adaptation for a while, and I haven’t been able to say anything… because a lot’s been happening. But at last, I can share.
The Day After Tomorrow: Roland Emmerich. Jack Hall, paleoclimatologist, must make a daring trek across America to reach his son, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age. This sci-fi thriller imagines rapid onset climate change (not based upon current theories of climate change).
The Dead Don’t Die: It’s another zombie movie to some, but for me this was a comedy by some of my favorite actors, an ensemble cast with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Danny Glover, with Tom Waits and many others. What struck me was the deadpan mood, along with an underlying social commentary about climate change, polar fracking, consumerism, racism, and more.
Downsizing: Alexander Payne. “Paramount dropped the trailer for Downsizing Wednesday, introducing us to the cast of characters living in a not-too distant future plagued by the same climate crisis that haunts us today. But in Payne’s world, a group of scientists in Norway have just perfected a procedure to shrink humans into tiny, six-inch versions of themselves, seriously reducing their environmental footprint.” –Vice
Dune: Denis Villeneuve. The original movie in 1984 is being remade in 2021. Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
The Dry: Robert Connolly. Aaron Falk returns to his drought-stricken hometown to attend a tragic funeral. But his return opens a decades-old wound – the unsolved death of a teenage girl. Based on the novel The Dry, part 1 of the Aaron Falk series by Jane Harper.
Erin Brockovitch: Steven Soderbergh. An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
Fever Dream: Claudia Llosa. It will tell the haunting story of broken souls, toxins, looming environmental and spiritual catastrophes, and the ties that bind a parent to a child.
First Reformed: Paul Schrader. A minister of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (children’s): Bill Kroyer. The magical inhabitants of a rainforest fight to save their home, which is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexxus.
Frozen: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. When the newly crowned Queen Elsa accidentally uses her power to turn things into ice to curse her home in infinite winter, her sister Anna teams up with a mountain man, his playful reindeer, and a snowman to change the weather condition. .
Geostorm: Dean Devlin and Danny Cannon. When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.
Hell: Tim Fehlbalm. A 10C temperature rise has made daytime excursions dangerous, and society’s remnants wander around goggled and swaddled like vampires on holiday. The film’s central band of survivors trail distant birds in search of water. –The Guardian
The Humanity Bureau: Rob W. King. A dystopian thriller set in the year 2030 that sees the world in a permanent state of economic recession and facing serious environmental problems as a result of global warming.
Interstellar: Christopher Nolan. After viewing this movie and reading more about it, it doesn’t seem to intentionally address climate change. Sure, the world is obviously bleak and we assume that climate change is one of the reasons for it, but, according to director Christopher Nolan when asked if he thought about climate change, he said: “Not consciously. The honest answer is we live in the same world, my brother and I. We work on the script, we live in the same world as everyone else so we’re sort of affected by the same things, worried about the same things, but we try not to be didactic in the writing, we try not to give any particular message or sense of things.” The movie itself is first and foremost a science fiction classic. The environmental aspects are part of the background but not central. I did, however, write a review of the film here.
Into the Storm: Steven Quale. Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton. See Nature World News for scientific commentary.
Kingsman: Secret Service: Matthew Vaughn. “As a species, we’re getting a little less comfortable with our devices and all this digital connectivity. We’re also becoming paranoid about social media. Another early entry, the James Bond spy send-up “Kingsman,” imagines evil genius Samuel L. Jackson trying to solve climate change by bumping off humankind. But he doesn’t dangle a doomsday device over the planet. He gives out a free smart phone chip that promises unlimited text, data and voice plans to the billions.” –The Artery
Leave No Trace: Debra Granik. A father and his thirteen year-old daughter are living in an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon, when a small mistake derails their lives forever.
Life on Earth: Toby Wosskow and Caroline Juby. A young farm girl tries to stop a feud between her countryman family and the new world owners of their land, as a dangerous heat wave threatens to swallow everything she knows.
Lost City Raiders: Jean de Segonzac. The year is 2048, and global warming has flooded much of Earth’s land areas. A father and his two sons try to salvage treasures from sunken buildings when they are given an important assignment by the New Vatican.
MFKZ (Mutafukaz): Shôjirô Nishimi. As temperatures rise society collapses, especially for the inhabitants of New California, which has been sliced up into dirty urban centers, roach-infested slums, and gang-controlled territories that not even the police will enter. (Inverse)
The Midnight Sky: George Clooney. This film is not about AGW climate change; in fact, the Arctic is colder than ever, even in 2043. It is about seeking a new planet after the world’s ecology, including all species, become extinct (or close to it) after a global event. Radiation is the culprit; shades of On the Beach are prevalent in this film and even get a nod in a film clip. Midnight Sky has some beautiful space scenes, reminiscent of Interstellar, and the discovered planet near Jupiter, with all its pristine life and gorgeous topography, is something dreamy. As with Interstellar, however, I would love just once to see a movie directly face our climate crisis and provide a positive in us fixing our own stuff rather than ignoring it and rushing off to find a new home.
Migrations: Adam Ackland, Leah Clarke, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Keep your eye out for this one, which is still in production. It’s “an epic story of a woman’s search for redemption in a world facing slow death by climate change.” The story is based on Charlotte McConaghy’s novel by the same name. So far, it is slated to star Claire Foy and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Mission: Galaxy: Nothing on IMDB, but is reportedly airing on August 9, 2021, releasing on-demand. It’s described as a “WALL-E meets Avatar”; it has mixed reviews.
Ojka: Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a fascinating animal named Okja.
Ready Player One: Steven Spielberg. “Set in a future where citizens escape the impact of an energy crisis and climate change using a highly advanced virtual reality system dubbed OASIS, Cline’s Ready Player One reads as a homage to Gibson cyberpunk wrapped in layers of 80s nostalgia with a little The Last Starfighter thrown in for good measure.” –Bit-Tech
Reminiscence. Lisa Joy. “One of the most striking elements of Reminiscence that is glimpsed in the trailer is the setting, a climate change-battered Miami that is gradually succumbing to the rising waters around it. Den of Geek asks Joy how far in the future the movie is set and how important an element climate change is in the film.”
Silent Night: “The timing of Silent Night makes it destined to be viewed as a Covid-19 film, but it’s actually about climate change and the government’s inaction in the crisis. It’s an eerie movie that emphasizes the ways in which children are vulnerable to adults’ decisions, and how the wealthy skirt responsibility and protect their own. –New York Times
Snowpiercer: Joon-ho Bong. Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges. Highly recommended! This is also being made into a TV series.
Soylent Green: Richard Fleischer. In the world ravaged by the greenhouse effect and overpopulation, an NYPD detective investigates the murder of a big company CEO.
Star Trek IV. Leonard Nimoy. To save Earth from an alien probe, Admiral James T. Kirk and his fugitive crew go back in time to San Francisco in 1986 to retrieve the only beings who can communicate with it: humpback whales.
Sweet Tooth. Jim Mickle and Beth Schwartz. I’m enjoying this coming-of-age story in a world where a virus takes hold of the human race, and then children are born with animal features and are hunted for being different. Lots of beautiful, western scenery, surprising relationships, tears, and laughter in this one.
Take Shelter: Jeff Nichols. Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself. When I first saw this movie, I did not consider that it was about climate change, per se, but this Guardian article hinted at it. This movie is very suspenseful and well-acted, with Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigam, and more. There is a feeling of an upcoming apocalyptic event throughout.
Taklub (Trap), Brillante Mendoza: After the Supertyphoon Haiyan, which changed the city of Tacloban in the Philippines into its horrendous state, the lives of Bebeth, Larry and Erwin intertwine. The survivors are left to search for the dead, while keeping their sanity intact, and protecting what little faith there may be left. A series of events continue to test their endurance.
The Tomorrow War: Chris McKay. A family man is drafted to fight in a future war where the fate of humanity relies on his ability to confront the past. Slate states that the movie isn’t really “about” climate change, a major plot point deals with the melting of ice and global warming.
Unearth: John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies. This movie came out in 2020 but in September of 2021 is showing on Hulu. From IMDB reviewer Greg Brilliant: “A fracking horror story, Unearth follows two neighboring farm families whose relationships are strained when one of them chooses to lease their land to an oil and gas company. In the midst of growing tension, the land is drilled, and something long dormant and terrifying, deep beneath the earth’s surface is released. “Unearth” is about the horrifying repercussions sown by shortsighted decisions, and what our children reap from our actions.”
The Unseen: “…the story of a war-torn world blighted by environmental issues where people struggle to survive without basic natural resources, the movie merges a science-fiction premise and real-world concerns.” –Vogue Magazine
Veden vartija: Not yet at IMDB. This movie is based upon Emmi Itäranta’s novel Memory of Water. The film is slated to premiere in 2021. I interviewed Emmi back in 2014 and only hope that the film is half as good as the novel.
Wall-e: Andrew Stanton. In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.
Waterworld: Kevin Reynolds. In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.
Weathering with You: Makoto Shinkai. “The new anime film, from the creators of Your Name, puts the power to stop climate change into individuals’ hands. That’s where the real make-believe lies.” – Wired Magazine
Women at War: Halla becomes a determined environmental activist, but this threatens a long-held hope of hers.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror: Kier-La Janisse. This film explores the folk horror from its original trilogy of films and on through the present day, with a focus on cultural and environmental surroundings.
Young Ones: Jake Paltrow. Set in the near future when water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet, one that dictates everything from the macro of political policy to the detailed micro of interpersonal family and romantic relationships. The land has withered into something wretched. The dust has settled on a lonely, barren planet. The hardened survivors of the loss of Earth’s precious resources scrape and struggle.
There are so many documentaries that I could not list them all. Below are a few, but also check out Films for the Earth‘s top 100 inspirational films about sustainability. Also see the list at Wikipedia.
2040: Damon Gameau. Practical solutions to environmental concerns are addressed with the hope that the filmmaker’s daughter, 21 years old in the year 2040, will face a hopeful future.
Aluna: Alan Ereira. The leaders of of an ancient hidden civilization in South America want to show mankind how to avoid destroying the planet. They travel with an aging British film-maker and four hundred kilometres of gold thread to trace invisible connections in nature.
Anote’s Ark: Matthieu Rytz. A look at the devastating effects that climate change has on the people living on Kiribati, a low-lying atoll in the Pacific.
An Inconvenient Truth: Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim follows Al Gore on the lecture circuit, as the former presidential candidate campaigns to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming and calls for immediate action to curb its destructive effects on the environment.
Before the Flood: Fisher Stevens. A look at how climate change affects our environment and what society can do to prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the planet.
Chasing Coral: Jeff Orlowski. Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
Chasing Ice: Jeff Orlowski. Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
Climate Refugees: Michael P. Nash. Filmmaker Michael Nash investigates mass migration caused by our changing climate.
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret: Kip Andersen. Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.
Honeyland: Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov. The last female bee-hunter in Europe must save the bees and return the natural balance in Honeyland, when a family of nomadic beekeepers invade her land and threaten her livelihood.
I am Greta: Documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg on her international crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the world’s environmental problems.
How to Let Go of the World: and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. Documentarian Josh Fox (“Gasland”) travels the globe to meet with global climate change “warriors” who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming.
Kifaru: David Hambridge. A feature documentary that journeys beyond the global headlines that have accumulated around ‘Sudan,’ the last male northern white rhino in existence, and explores the painful emptiness of extinction through the eyes of Sudan’s three primary caregivers.
Ice on Fire: Leila Conners. Can we reverse climate change? Ice on Fire explores the many ways we reduce carbon inputs to the atmosphere and, more important, how to “draw” carbon down, bringing CO2 out of the atmosphere and thus paving the way for global temperatures to go down.
Planet City: Lian Young. Not yet on IMDB, this film by Liam Young imagines a solution to climate change. “Planet City is not a dystopia or just an urban fantasy, it provokes questions that how the entire population of the earth could live in a hyper-dense and mountainous-like city with zero-waste and avoid of environmental harm, which is a typical closed-circuit system and an example of circular living.” –World Architecture
Racing Extinction: Louie Psihoyos. A documentary that follows undercover activists trying to stave off a man-made mass extinction.
The Age of Consequences: Jared P. Scott. The ‘Hurt Locker’ meets ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, The Age of Consequences is the Emmy® nominated investigation on how climate change impacts increased resource scarcity, migration and conflict through the lens of US national security and global stability.
The Hottest August: Brett Story. Ordinary people in New York are asked to talk about their lives and their hopes for the future in a time marked by political division and climate change.
This Changes Everything: Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein. A look at seven communities around the world with the proposition that we can seize the crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.
Note: Images used in this article and the featured image thumbnail are fair-use and for educational purposes only. Same for very brief descriptions from IMDB.