Climate Action

9 best picture nominees for the planet

Lights, climate, action!

Hollywood is wrestling with how to address climate change and other environmental issues. Lately, we’ve even seen movies with climate hooks that transcend traditional environmental documentaries. 

These climate messages have also surfaced at award ceremonies, as seen at the 2020 Golden Globes, where Joaquin Phoenix, Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe all had powerful climate-related messages. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had its first-ever plant-based dinner before the awards show.

In the midst of this climate-conscious awards season, our staff recommended several recent environmental films that make for great eco-friendly movie nights.

Michelle (Zendaya) catches a ride from Spider-Man. Photo: JoJo Whilden ©2019 CTMG, Inc. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

In Marvel Studios’s latest movie, high school student Peter Parker (Spider-Man), played by Tom Holland, accompanies his fellow classmates on a field trip to Europe. When the head of crime-fighting agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), recruits Parker to fight a shape-shifting villain who harnesses the Earth’s destructive forces, Parker reluctantly ditches his classmates to accept the task. Far From Home may seem like just another superhero movie, but it’s also an excellent analogy for the youth climate movement: Peter Parker just wants to be a normal high school kid but instead must use his powers — much like youth use their voice and activism — to save the planet.

Brandon Pytel, Communications Manager/Writer

Ki-jung Kim (So-dam Park) and Ki-woo Park (Woo-sik Choi) in Parasite. Courtesy of NEON + CJ Entertainment.jpg

Parasite (2019)

Parasite, the satirical Korean suspense film and from director Bong Joon-ho, has taken the world by storm, winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and the best foreign language film at the Golden Globes. While Parasite centers around class and inequality, the film also portrays the unequal impacts of climate change. In the film, heavy rains flood poor communities while doing little to disturb wealthy families on higher ground. Everyone is so caught up in their own lives — the rich focused on worldly comforts, the poor fighting for survival — that impending disaster creeps to the surface. At film’s end, we wonder if any lessons were learned or if the deadly cycle will continue.

Sebastian Rosemont, Green Cities Campaign Coordinator

The Lion King (2019)

The live action remake of The Lion King — directed by Jon Favreau and starring icons like Beyoncé, Seth Rogan and Donald Glover — follows the same story line as the 1994 animated classic, which some have linked to Hamlet. While I can’t deny this (I’ve never read Hamlet), I argue The Lion King is instead centered around the fragility of ecosystems and how imbalances can lead to overall ruin. Hear me out: Scar and his alarming batch of Hyenas show that when species (like the hyenas) aren’t checked by top-down predators (like the entire lion pride), resources become scarce. It’s the circle of life.

— Katie Wood, Conservation and Biodiversity Manager

Bill Camp (left) as Wilbur Tennant and Mark Ruffalo (right) as Robert Bilott in Dark Waters. Photo: Focus Features

Dark Waters (2019)

Inspired by a shocking true story, Dark Waters follows a corporate lawyer-turned-environmental crusader Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who seeks justice for a small West Virginia town experiencing a growing number of unexplained deaths and rare illnesses. Bilott eventually locates the root of the problem: Chemical corporation DuPont had been dumping a toxic chemical called PFOA directly into the town’s water. Bilott’s story is one of ambition and triumph, offering hope for people fighting for a safe, just world. But the battle is far from over. This story is just the first chapter of a public health nightmare that’s playing out all over the country.

Inma Galvez-Shorts, Digital Media Manager

Moana (2016)

Think Moana is just for kids? Think again. The movie is also an allegory of mankind’s relationship with the Earth. When the mighty demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), steals the heart of the Earth goddess Te Fiti, he sets off a cascade of devastating effects on the island of Motunui — withering coconut groves, dwindling schools of fish, spewing volcanic monsters. To right the wrongs of Maui, the daughter of the chief of Motunui, Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho), must return the heart to Te Fiti. SPOILER ALERT: When she does, the world is suddenly transformed back to a lush and beautiful habitat where humans live in harmony with nature. Our own transformation won’t be quite so immediate, but we can all channel a bit of Moana’s stubborn and resourceful bravery to meet our climate crisis head on. 

— Justine Sullivan, Director of Communications and Digital Media

Game Changers (2019)

I was blown away by Game Changers. Many people have a fascination with athletes, from their diet to their performance: Game Changers shows us that even the most prolific athletes who adopt a plant-based diet have optimal performance and quicker recovery time. The film provides compelling arguments that debunk the notion that we need to eat meat or dairy to get enough protein. Game Changers also correlates the relationship between diet and the environment, addressing the negative impact livestock production has on the planet. This is a must-see film that will debunk myths and make you want to eat more plants.  

— Jillian Semaan, Food and Environment Director

An underwater view of corals. Photo: The Ocean Agency : XL Catlin Seaview Survey : Richard Vevers

Chasing Coral (2017)

Chasing Coral, directed by Jeff Orlowski, takes you on the journey of coral biologists and ecologists who try to understand what is happening to our coral reefs and why. It’s a story about struggle, loss, the complexity of ecosystems and the unyielding perseverance of life on Earth. Following cinematographers as they try to bring corals and coral bleaching to the public, the film gives you the basics of what’s at stake for our coral reefs: why they’re worth saving and why there’s still hope for them yet. Plus, it has a great soundtrack.

— Katie Wood

Ad Astra (2019)

The space thriller Ad Astra, directed by James Gray, portrays a bleak near-future where we’ve colonized the Moon and Mars. Spoiler alert: This world is not much better, and arguably worse, than our own. Amid this landscape, astronaut Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, is sent on a mission to the abyss of the outer solar system to find his missing father. Ad Astra, a visual masterpiece with an epic score, warns us of man’s influence on the environment and what to expect if we simply colonize other planets without examining how we treat our own. Eventually, McBride finds the answers to our most perplexing problems — both personal and environmental — are not found by escaping the Earth, but rather by seeing it.

Brandon Pytel

Charlize Theron in Long Shot. Photo: Lionsgate

Long Shot (2019)

The rom-com Long Shot stars Seth Rogan as hapless investigative journalist Fred Flarsky and Charlize Theron as the sophisticated secretary of state Charlotte Field. Field, a presidential hopeful, aims to spearhead an international environmental initiative on the scale of the Paris Agreement and hires Flarsky as her speech writer. Over the course of the film, Field feels forced to sacrifice core components of the agreement (and her love for Flarsky) to become the first female president, but ultimately finds success by resisting corporate corruption and staying true to herself. A good date-night movie, especially for environmentalists.

Evan Raskin, MobilizeU Campaign Coordinator