Environmental TV shows, films & documentaries to add to your watchlist
Environmental TV shows, films and documentaries have the powerful potential of educating audiences on the complex threats of climate change and how to actively participate in environmental protection efforts.
Nowadays, there’s a whole breadth of TV series and films that are based around the environment. From looking at climate issues to showing the diversity of life on the planet, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
1) Long Way Up
The famous actor Ewan McGregor and his best friend, Charley Boorman, reunite for “Long Way Up” after more than a decade since their last motorbike adventure around the world.
Covering 13,000 miles over 100 days through 13 countries, starting from the city of Ushuaia at the tip of South America, Ewan and Charley journey through the glorious and underexposed landscapes of South and Central America, using cutting-edge technology on the backs of their prototype electric Harley-Davidsons in order to contribute to the sustainability of the planet.
2) Don’t Look Up
From director Adam McKay and writer David Sirota, Don’t Look Up is the latest Netflix hit that is taking the world by storm.
While it shows scientists attempting to warn people about an oncoming meteor to avoid planetary destruction – while the world reacts indifferently – the whole film is a metaphor for how we’re currently reacting to the climate crisis.
3) A Plastic Ocean
A Plastic Ocean follows a team of international scientists and researchers as they explore the fragile state of our oceans and the extent of our problem with plastic pollution. Some of its findings on how plastic is infiltrating ecosystems are truly shocking – for example, the team finds a seabird that died with 234 pieces of plastic inside of it.
This documentary does contain some disturbing images but will undeniably change the way you think about plastic.
4) David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
It would be impossible to discuss environmental films and documentaries without mentioning Sir David Attenborough. In the last two decades, Attenborough has written, directed, produced, narrated, or presented over 80 different projects about the natural world, and a must-watch is definitely David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.
Produced by WWF and award-winning wildlife film-makers Silverback Films, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet is a first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. As he says: “If we act now, we can yet put it right”.
5) Brave Blue World
Narrated by Liam Neeson and featuring Matt Damon and Jaden Smith, this documentary paints an optimistic and encouraging picture of how humanity is adopting new technologies and innovations to re-think how we manage water.
Alongside portraying the dreadful picture of the scarcity of water in the world, Brave Blue World also provides hope for the new technologies being employed to preserve and recycle water, solving this problem in the near future.
6) Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
Could you be happier if you had less? This is the question Minimalism looks to answer as it examines our way of life and our obsession with always striving for more.
This sustainable living documentary by Matt D’Avella interviews a range of people who have embraced a minimalist lifestyle and examines their reasons for doing so. It’s an inspiring and entertaining watch that’ll challenge you to think more deeply about the things you own and what’s important to you in life.
7) Eating Our Way to Extinction
Eating Our Way to Extinction, narrated by actor Kate Winslet, documents how agriculture — particularly animal agriculture — is causing the climate crisis and how the climate emergency disproportionately impacts those who contribute to it the least.
This powerful documentary tells the story of our planet through shocking testimonials, poignant accounts from indigenous people most affected by our ever-changing planet, globally renowned figures and leading scientists. The team behind the documentary aims to “inspire millions of people to embrace a plant-based diet,” which is a much lower-impact diet than one that includes animal products.
8) Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World
This BBC series follows climate activist Greta Thunberg around the world for a year. Over the course of the three episodes, Greta explores science as she travels to extraordinary locations across the globe, from the melting glaciers of Canada to the coal mines of Europe.
On her journey, she witnesses first-hand the consequences of climate change, meets climate scientists and confronts the complexity of what is required to make change happen.
9) My Octopus Teacher
This original film is one of the most touching accounts of interspecies friendships. It focuses on the friendship of a man, Craig Foster, and his cephalopod friend whom he meets underwater in a kelp forest near his home in Cape Town, South Africa. Craig was able to document the octopus’ daily life – how it played, hunted food, and defended itself against sharks until it eventually died after mating.
Interacting with this sea creature has led the protagonist to join the Sea Change Project so that he can do his part in protecting our seas and marine life. Ultimately, this cinematic film shows us that engaging with the natural world is powerfully moving.
10) Jane Goodall: The Hope
Continuing her story, Jane Goodall: The Hope celebrates the vast legacy of Goodall’s four decades of advocacy work for chimpanzees but also explore her life beyond it.
We learn how her advocacy, activism, and non-profit work dedicated to inspiring the younger generations has remained strong due to her persistent optimism and awe of nature.