Nov 10, 2023

10 Best Climate Stories in Film and TV

With climate issues on the rise, film and TV producers turn to depicting themes of climate change, industrialisation and human greed in their content.

Contemporary movies and TV shows often reflect the general interests of the public. From action-packed films like John Wick 4 to easily digestible comedy sitcoms such as The Office, Friends, or Community, the modern film industry caters to different tastes and preferences. With rising issues of climate change and general environmental problems, it is no surprise that producers such as James Cameron and Isao Takahata create more and more content that addresses these issues.

The film industry of the 21st century is seeing a trend of rising interest in climate stories. From Okja to Snowpiercer, fans of these movies and TV shows can witness the rising popularity of attending to issues such as rising temperatures, extinction of flora and fauna, and the impact of industrialization.

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Okja was released in 2017 and directed by Bong Joon-Ho. Okja surrounds a farmer girl called Mija and her genetically modified super pig in an alternative world where pigs such as Okja are bred to produce large amounts of meat. Throughout the movie, viewers are confronted with themes of animal rights, industrialization, and the egocentric nature of capitalism.

Okja shows what reality might be, and partly already is, in today's consumer society. Although not directly concerned with climate issues, the world shown in Okja visualizes the sad reality and possibilities linked to consumerism, which can also be seen in the disregard for the environment and subsequent allusion to climate change. Okja hides these issues behind a simple story of an innocent girl trying to protect her pet pig from the world's evil.

Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind exemplifies that dealing with climate issues is not only a contemporary effort. Originally released in 1984, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind plays in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world that threatens human survival. As a result of a past apocalyptic war between humans, the world's environment has become toxic, and Princess Nausicaä tries to ensure the simultaneous safety of humans and all living creatures on Earth.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind cleverly combines themes of human violence against the environment with the implication that nature and ecosystems can recover even from the hardest challenges. This movie advocates against the harm of the environment and the climate, but also functions as a message of hope for audiences at home.

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First presented in May 2020, Snowpiercer is a dystopian thriller series that deals with the eventuality of a world turned into a frozen wasteland through the negligence of human actions towards planet Earth. With rising temperatures, many fear that Earth will face one heatwave after another. Snowpiercer proposes an alternative reality in which the destruction of the environment leads to an inhabitable cold planet surface.

Snowpiercer does, of course, cater to general audiences by connecting climate issues to a compelling storyline. Yet, the series asks and answers questions that become more and more relevant in today's world. Snowpiercer confronts modern society with these rising problems of consumerism and neglect of the environment.

The Avatar movie series started in 2009 with Avatar and continues to expand with the recent sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, and subsequent movies planned to be released over the course of the next years. The movies follow former marine Jake Sully, who assumed the body of the indigenous Na'vi upon his arrival on the planet Pandora. Avatar shows humans trying to take over Pandora to exploit the planet's resources.

Avatar can be seen as a comment towards the present exploitation of Earth's resources by big corporations or even through governmental efforts. The Avatar film series attacks climate problems by presenting fans with a fictional world that occasionally resembles the world we live in today. Avatar shows what can happen when human greed takes over and threatens the environment's and local species' survival.

Death to 2021 is a mockumentary that comments on the issues of the year 2021 through the use of satire. Producer Annabel Jones manages to depict the many dramatic events of 2021, placing them in a comedic setting, simultaneously making audiences laugh and reflect on the tragedies of 2021.

From COVID-19 over climate change to devastating forest fires, Death to 2021 encapsulates the essence of the issues modern society has to face. When looking at this mockumentary, it becomes clear that the producers did a fantastic job of intertwining actual climate problems with the absurdity of human ignorance.

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The Day After Tomorrow was released in 2004 and surrounds climatologist Jack Hall. Like many climate and environmental activists today, officials disregard Jack Hall's concerns for the environment until tragedy strikes in the form of a superstorm. In 2023, people will become more aware of problems such as global warming and climate issues. Yet, The Day After Tomorrow perfectly mirrors that people generally only react after disaster hits.

Director Roland Emmerich's realization of The Day After Tomorrow is an adequate futuristic representation of what the world could look like if people disrespect climate experts and the planet in general. While a scenario like The Day After Tomorrow might be over-exaggerated, it remains important to note the problems visualized in the movie.

Looking at Wall-E from a modern perspective actually brings out crucial elements that people might miss when first watching the movie as a child. All Pixar movies focus on a central message that teaches children and adults about a specific theme. In the case of Wall-E, Director Andrew Stanton focuses on protecting the environment, human health, and dependence on technology.

Watching the waste-collecting robot care so much about a small plant makes audiences wonder about their concern for planet Earth and the climate. The people in Wall-E manage to live on a massive luxurious starliner spaceship that circles Earth, while the actual reality of losing Earth to garbage might just be a bit more bleak.

Interstellar is another movie that deals with the consequences of ecocide. After Earth is close to extinction following famine due to human neglect, astronaut Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, embarks on a journey searching for habitable planets.

Interstellar combines the devastating consequences of neglecting one's environment and climate with the human curiosity to explore other worlds. Director Christopher Nolan created this cinematic masterpiece and invokes amazement and awareness of planet Earth's fleeting nature, making viewers reflect on their own eco-friendly practices.

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Planet Earth has to be one of the best documentaries on the importance of sustaining the environment and becoming aware of the many issues concerning endangered species. Season 1 of Planet Earth was released in 2006 and features narrator David Attenborough, whose calm voice informs audiences around the world about the many challenges planet Earth has to face, especially over the course of the past few years.

With Season 2 of Planet Earth being released in 2023, fans of the series are sure to be made aware of the many different species that Earth has to offer. Where Season 2 tries to focus more on spreading awareness of the animal kingdom, Season 1 of Planet Earth coherently explains the consequences of rising temperatures and climate change, hopefully motivating people around the globe to change their consumer habits.

The Lorax is an animated film directed by Chris Renaud and based on a children's book called The Lorax, written by Dr.Seuss and published in 1971. The Lorax surrounds a boy, Ted, who wants to gain favor with a girl he likes. As both live in a place devoid of nature, Ted sets out to find her a Truffula tree.

Veiled behind an innocent children's story, The Lorax explores human responsibility towards the environment and how corporate greed can affect nature. Many consider The Lorax as an adequate reflection of the events unfolding in 2023, with deforestation and climate problems becoming increasingly apparent. The Lorax can, therefore, be enjoyed by both children and adults and serve as a warning to what might happen if people do not change their attitude towards the conservation of the environment and planet Earth.

As an aspiring writer, Tom Wampach pursues combining his geeky passions with the ability to create captivating articles for like-minded people. Tom is a huge Star Wars and Marvel nerd. Paired with his up-to-date knowledge on the newest TV shows and series, becoming a writer at Comic Book Resources (CBR) became the next logical step. Aside from his huge collection of Lego builds and Anime figurines, he spends his time playing Hogwarts Legacy, the occasional round of Overwatch, or travels around the world to discover new cultures and tasty meals.

Although English is not his first language, the far-reaching usability of it has always fascinated him. As an English student at the University of Luxembourg, analyzing long-forgotten poems quickly becomes dull, though. Having the opportunity to express his creative writing on hot topics like his favorite TV show, The Clone Wars, is an excellent opportunity to fulfill his writer's needs and simultaneously be part of a massive community.