Below is a list of films and documentaries that I have viewed and recommend. I’ll add to the list as I read more and add comments as needed. You may be able to find these at your local library, so always check there first, before purchasing.
Saving Sea Turtles: Preventing Extinction
Narrated by Dr. Sylvia Earle
This film focuses on sea turtle stranding on Cape Cod, a seasonal event when cold-stunned turtles wash ashore in near-death condition. The number of turtles in this event increases annually and is likely caused by global warming. Most of these sea turtles are Kemp’s Ridley, which are the most endangered sea turtle. The documentary tells the larger history of the Kemp’s Ridley and how climate change, the BP oil spill, and other human activities are endangering these beautiful and essential creatures. Available on Hoopla and Amazon. See the films’ website for the trailer and more information.
A Plastic Ocean
Starring Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter
This is a beautiful film, at times shocking, but fully informative on the issues of ocean plastic. Craig Leeson is a filmmaker and Tanya Street is a world record freediver. They travel the globe investigating and interviewing people about plastic pollution in the ocean. They expose the shocking impact that plastic is having on human health, marine life, and ecosystems. Please watch this film!
This is an excellent and funny documentary about the perils of plastic. The film is titled based on plastic bags but it delves far beyond into many types of plastic. Please see my full review of this film!
The Story of Plastic
This film is my favorite about plastic so far! “Different from every other plastic documentary you’ve seen, THE STORY OF PLASTIC presents a cohesive timeline of how we got to our current global plastic pollution crisis & how the oil and gas industry has successfully manipulated the narrative around it.”
The Majestic Plastic Bag: A Mocumentary
Narrated by Jeremy Irons
No Impact Man
This documentary shows how one family strives to have zero environmental impact for one year while living, working, and raising a family in New York City. The book is fantastic too!
This is a great children’s movie that adults will enjoy watching too. There are messages of hope and love mixed with warnings about our pollution habits. Read my full review!
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Sir David Attenborough recounts his life, career, and adventures in the wild while filming. This Netflix film captures the evolutionary history of life on Earth, the loss of wild places, and offers a vision for the future. The film is largely based on Attenborough’s book of the same title. Read this New York Times review about the film.
This is a fascinating documentary film about problems and the possibilities surrounding sustainability. It covers topics including agriculture, economics, energy, and education. “It offers constructive solutions to act on a local level to make a difference on a global level.”
The Story of Stuff Project
This short documentary is 10 years old but still as relevant today as it was then. It is informative and engaging and shareable! The Story of Stuff Project continues to release short documentaries about the waste crisis.
Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things
Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark
This three-part documentary series is about the Photo Ark, a project created by Joel Sartore to photo-document the Earth’s creatures before we lose them to extinction. Read my post about Joel Sartore.
Blue Planet I
Narrated by David Attenborough
Blue Planet II
Narrated by David Attenborough
This second series addressed plastic pollution in such an articulate way that it caused a reaction from consumers. Well done, BBC and Sir David Attenborough!
Jane Goodall: The Hope
This film focuses on Dr. Jane Goodall’s transformation from a scientist to an activist and global speaker. She is determined to spread hope especially through young people and indigenous populations, believing that if you show people why they should care, they will. Her message to everyone is that one person does make a difference, even if it’s small, so never be hopeless. We can all bring forth change. This film inspired me so much that it brought me to tears.
This National Geographic film features exclusive, restored footage of Dr. Jane Goodall that was previously thought to have been lost. It is a close and intimate view of her work, the chimpanzee culture, and her relationships.
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same title, this film offers a visual insight into the book’s original research. It features interviews with farmers who work for major producers such as Perdue Poultry, shows footage of slaughterhouses, and the ethics of animal factory farming. I recommend reading the book first and then viewing the film.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind
Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Based on a true story, a 13-year-old boy named William Kamkwamba built a wind turbine to save his Malawian village from famine. This is a beautiful, inspirational, and moving film.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: American Experience
This PBS documentary was released in 1993, so while it is a bit dated it offers interviews with people who knew Carson. The film also shows original footage of DDT and other pesticide treatments being sprayed over farmlands, neighborhoods, forests, and even children. Original footage and photographs of Carson are featured as well. I read the book first, but I enjoyed this film because it provided a set of visuals to enrich my understanding of her, her writing, and the people and companies who rallied for and against her.
Profit, Pollution And Deception: BP and The Oil Spill
This documentary addresses the deception of the BP Oil spill from the failure of the Deepwater Horizon. The company spent countless dollars and efforts trying to make it look like they addressed the spill appropriately. Unfortunately, they didn’t take the right actions and the scandal still scars the Gulf of Mexico.
After The Spill
Produced 6 years after the spill, this film looks at BP’s response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the effects on the Gulf of Mexico. BP and other petroleum companies consistently violate environmental laws and regulations and the federal government does not enforce those laws. BP’s ‘clean-up efforts’ were more for public relations than actual environmental care, as they still refuse to assist coastal areas destroyed by the spill. They also refuse to assist with healthcare needs after exposing people to toxic materials that caused illnesses. The Gulf of Mexico is still suffering from BP’s oil spill, the petroleum industry’s activities, and coastal erosion. It will be years before we know the full ramifications of BP’s irresponsibility.
This is the true story of Tilikum, the famous orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld and died in captivity. More than that, it is an overview of orcas’ natural behaviors, intelligence, and emotions. The film explores how these whales are captured, trained, and exploited. Many former trainers were interviewed for the film, although SeaWorld declined requests for interviews. SeaWorld has not taken responsibility for its treatment of these beautiful animals but ended its orca breeding program, and then ended its orca theatrical program in recent years. They do still offer an orca encounter and allege that they provide the animals with the best care available. This film left an impression on me that I just can’t shake.
Long Gone Wild
This was an excellent documentary that would be a great film to pair with Blackfish. Here’s the summary from IMDB: “Despite key concessions by SeaWorld, its orcas are still performing every day, and in Eastern Russia the magnificent killer whale is hunted for sale into the exploding marine theme park industry in China. Witness an in-depth look at the case against captivity, The Whale Sanctuary Project, and covert missions on the high seas and in search of nine orcas held captive at a secret Chinese location.” I highly recommend this film!
A Fall From Freedom
This Discovery Channel comprehensive documentary film is about the history of dolphins, orcas, belugas, seals, and other marine mammals living in captivity. It explained how these animals were captured, bred, and treated by the various aquariums and theme parks across the world. It was well-researched and featured interviews with the world’s top dolphin, whale, and marine mammal experts. While parts of the film appear dated, the information is still relevant and important. I found this film enlightening, educational, and heartbreaking at times.
Keiko: The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy
This is a happier story than Blackfish, as Keiko was the only captive orca ever to have been set free. The Free Willy movie series started a movement to free Keiko. However, Keiko had to have human involvement while free for the remainder of his life, as he had become reliant on humans for social interactions. It’s a moving, true story about a beautiful movie star and worth watching!
This documentary is about Luna, the orca who permanently lost contact with his family at a young age, near the coast of British Columbia. He tried to make friendships with humans in the absence of other killer whales and became famous but controversial. Humans struggled to determine whether or not human contact was good for Luna. It seems that many understood the beauty and power of two very different species forming friendships. This film is heart-warming and inspiring.
This Academy Award-winning film heightened public awareness of the global problems surrounding dolphin captivity. From the Oceanic Preservation Society: “A team of activists, filmmakers, and freedivers embark on a covert mission to expose a deadly secret hidden in a remote cove in Taiji, Japan. By utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, they uncover a horrible annual tradition of unparalleled cruelty. A provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure, and arresting imagery make this an unforgettable and courageous story that inspires outrage and action.” I appreciate this film and think it offers valuable insight, but it was difficult to watch at times due to the graphic nature of the content. The team of people was amazing and they risked their lives at times to capture the footage and expose the mass murders of dolphins.
A Plastic Whale
This film begins with a dying whale in a bay in Norway, and scientists wanted to salvage the skeleton for the local museum. But they found over 30 plastic bags in its stomach and intestines and that story became global news. The plastic bags and plastic film caused the whale to slowly starve to death. This film seeks to discover how the whale swallowed so much plastic. This is indicative of how much plastic is in our oceans. The film features interviews with local Norwegians, scientists, former whalers, and government officials and shows the extraordinary public response. This film ends with a feeling of hope, but overall I was struck by the amount of plastic found on just one small country’s shores and its effects on our beautiful wildlife.