7 documentaries that will fire you up to save the planet
The planet is burning, but these films will help you find purpose in action.
It’s no secret that we’re in the midst of a serious climate emergency. Scientists are ringing all the alarms. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe, species are going extinct, and our protective institutions are acting slowly at best (and at their worst, creating even bigger road blocks to sustainability, like the Supreme Court did in June 2022). That’s not to say there isn’t progress being made as well, but it can certainly be hard — almost impossible — to maintain both the optimism and the energy needed to do something.
If you’re looking for some direction, the following seven documentaries showcase myriad ways you can find purpose in action. Some of them will make you mad, some of them will make you cry, and some of them will even give you hope. So fill up your reusable drink container and get comfy — then, when these docs are over, get out there and actually take some steps to improve the climate crisis situation.
This Netflix documentary brutally exposes the reality that is industrial fishing, from the literal tons of plastic left in the ocean, to the dicey sociopolitical implications, and the obliteration of ecosystems. Seaspiracy will make you re-think your next seafood splurge.
This documentary examines one simple way we as a society can dramatically heal the planet: soil protection. With star power like Woody Harrelson and Patricia Arquette along for the ride, Kiss The Ground has a hopeful tone that’s as informative as it is inspiring to watch.
This documentary follows world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she discusses her career of documenting the seas — and witnessing their destruction. Mission Blue will make you realize not only how beautiful the ocean is, but also how imperative it is to our existence.
Featuring famed mycologist Paul Stamets, this documentary is as much a joy to watch as it is perspective-shifting. After you watch this film, which delves into the wild world of fungi and their myriad functions on the planet, you’ll never look at a mushroom the same way again.
This documentary isn’t just about how we can better treat our planet, but also how we can better treat one another. Artist Vik Muniz visits the world’s largest landfill outside Rio de Janeiro, where he works with the people who salvage the trash to create recycled art. Through this moving exploration, you’ll learn just as much about the power of the human spirit as you will about environmentalism.
This documentary follows Leonardo DiCaprio’s journey as an ardent climate activist and a United Nations Messenger of Peace. He travels to five continents and the arctic to witness climate change and its devastating effects firsthand. He also meets with scientists and thought leaders, as well as politicians with nefarious intentions when it comes to thwarting positive change. The film is both a reality check and a hopeful examination of how we can turn things around.
This documentary is practically a thriller, as it follows an intrepid environmentalist going to great lengths to try to expose the threats of industrialized agriculture to the environment. With the tag line “the environmental film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see,” this documentary is just as much an exposé as it is an exploration into one of the biggest issues in sustainability.