Climate change affects everything from the food you eat and the economy to increased flooding and hurricanes. With so many consequences for how we live our lives, our planet’s crisis has captured the attention of many documentary filmmakers. Hollywood also touched on the subject of environmental issues, with Mark Ruffalo starring in a film that tells the true story of a lawsuit against the chemical company DuPont.
You can still read the United Nations IPCC reports on climate change, but here are the top 10 movies that explore the topic, released (or to be released) in 2019.
Plain and simple: Climate Change: The Facts
The aptly titled documentary, Climate Change: The Facts, takes you through what scientists already know about climate change in today’s world. Featuring interviews with several leading climate scientists around the globe and the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, the film looks at the research and solutions to the crisis. “We still have time to turn everything around, to pull the emergency brake and to take action,” Thunberg says in the trailer. “But that short period of time isn’t going to last for long.”
Solutions exist: Ice on Fire
The documentary Ice on Fire explores a two-pronged approach to addressing climate change: reducing carbon emissions and implementing “drawdown” measures, such as direct air capture, sea farms and urban farms. As the film introduces various solutions to save Earth, the cinematography also captures the “world worth saving” in places like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Costa Rica, including spots in the U.S. like Alaska, Colorado and Connecticut.
A portrait of one city: The Hottest August
The documentary The Hottest August is a window into New York City over the course of one very hot month: August 2017. Less than a year after Donald Trump became the U.S. president, the filmmakers document New York City residents’ “growing anxiety over everything from rising rents to marching white nationalists, and unrelenting news of either wildfires or hurricanes on every coast.”
Showing the power of water: Aquarela
Aquarela captures the beauty and force of water, from Venezuela’s Angel Falls to Miami facing the strength of Hurricane Irma. The documentary manages to tackle the issue of climate change with hardly any conversation. In other words, instead of centering the film on humans, the main character is water.
Lots of powers: Avengers: Endgame
Thanos changed the planet and the universe and it’s up to the many superheroes in this movie to turn things around. Although this fantasy film might not be directly about climate change, it tackles the issue of loss amid major shifts to the planet, similar to how the effects of climate change disrupt our lives.
Climate change as the villain: Crawl
In the thriller Crawl, a Category 5 hurricane hits a Florida town. The movie focuses on a young woman who tries to save her father while fighting off alligators. If you’re looking for a thriller about climate change that involves the main character dueling it out with Florida’s finest gators, this one’s for you.
This documentary is pretty sweet: Honeyland
Honeyland shows a Macedonian beekeeper’s conflict with her neighbors, revealing insights about humans’ delicate balance with nature along the way. A critic at the New York Times hailed the opening of the film, writing that those minutes were “as astonishing — as sublime and strange and full of human and natural beauty — as anything I’ve ever seen in a movie.”
Looking extinction right in the eyes: KIFARU
KIFARU, a documentary, follows two young, Kenyan recruits who join Ol Pejeta Conservancy's rhino caretaker unit. That’s a small group of rangers taking care of Sudan — the last male northern white rhino in the world. If you’re interested in wildlife conservation, don’t miss this film, in which you can see its ups and downs through the vantage point of Sudan’s caretakers who are witnessing extinction firsthand.
Documenting vanishing wetlands: On a Wing and a Prayer
On a Wing and a Prayer captures how Louisiana’s wetlands are disappearing. The short documentary film follows photographer Ben Dapp, who has done hundreds of aerial fights over the coast, documenting the loss of this ecosystem.
Coming out soon: Dark Waters
Directed by Todd Haynes, the drama Dark Waters comes to theaters on November 22 and portrays a corporate defense attorney (played by Mark Ruffalo) who connects unexplained deaths to a large chemical company, the kind of corporation he would typically represent in court. However, he decides to take on a lawsuit against the chemical company when he discovers its record of pollution and harm. The film is based on the New York Times Magazine article from 2016 titled, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.”
Dark Waters is not centered on climate change per se. But, the tactics DuPont used to obscure research about the harm they caused for people and the environment is part of a similar playbook that corporations have used to question climate change and prevent government action that would hurt Big Oil’s bottom line.