Nature documentaries, pioneer profiles, thrilling dramas and so much more: these ten movies are perfect for anyone interested in the planet and its future.
What goes into making a great film about the environment? We think: the same ingredients that go into making a great film about anything: character, drama, emotional impact and truth. At Imagine 5, we love a film that makes us fall in love with the natural world all over again, shines a light on an area we don’t know much about, or introduces us to an inspirational figure who might just be our new hero. Recent years have shown just how far sustainable storytelling has come, with compelling films about an octopus friend, rewilding projects and even food waste not just making it to our list, but also hitting mainstream lists of most-streamed films.
Whatever kind of film you like, and whether you’re looking for action and adventure, a gentle nature documentary or a pacy drama, these ten films are set to transform the way you think about the world.
1. Wild Life
The story of a pair of conservationists, Kris and Doug Tompkins, and their fight to preserve one of the last truly wild places on earth by buying and creating their own national park. A crazy, passionate, heart-rending tale of bravery that will make you long to do the same.
2. The Velvet Queen
Wildlife photographer Vincent Munier has oceans of patience as he sits in the driving wind, waiting for a snow leopard to appear in the remote reaches of Tibet. His partner, writer Sylvain Tesson, maybe not so. Soundtracked by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave, it’s as much a film about snow leopards as it is about their relationship, and the nature of waiting patiently for magic to arrive.
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Described as a ‘psychological thriller’, this is the story of a captive orca, Tilikum, an angry and astonishingly intelligent whale responsible for three deaths at SeaWorld. It’s a must-see documentary that will make you think twice about taking a visit to an aquarium.
4. Don’t Look Up
A planet-destroying comet is on a collision course with earth. But does anyone care? This thinly-disguised premise – no prizes for guessing what the comet represents – makes for a gripping and darkly funny high-stakes drama starring Leonardo di Caprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. It all feels very real…
Among the many things we learned about Jane Goodall in this beautiful biopic were that she was a secretary, untrained in scientific work, when she set out to observe chimpanzees in Tanzania. Her research work changed the world – just as this passionate, absorbing documentary may well change yours.
7. My Octopus Teacher
A much-watched film during the COVID-19 lockdowns, My Octopus Teacher follows the story of a South African filmmaker who befriends an octopus, discovering plenty about himself and his own connection with the natural world in the process. The film won the 2021 Oscar for the Best Documentary.
8. Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story
Would you, could you, exist on just eating food that has been thrown away? And should we even be throwing it away at all? After finding out just how much food is thrown away each year in North America, filmmakers Jen and Grant pledge to survive on ‘food waste’. This challenging – and entertaining – documentary will make you look twice at expiry dates.
9. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
Narrated by Alicia Vikander, this hard-hitting documentary follows international scientists The Anthropocene Group as they examine the impact that human life has had, and continues to have, on the natural world, and establish the definition of a new geological epoch.
10. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Based on a true story and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also directed the film, this drama follows the story of Malawian 13-year-old William Kamkwamba, who finds a way to save his village from famine after a terrible drought, by building a wind turbine.
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