From Songs to Film

So the obvious next step —  in follow-up to the debate about the top ten environmental songs —  is to debate film.  Sean, Cara and I had an e-mail exchange about the topic and decided that environmental films could be divided, roughly,  into three or four categories.  First are the toxic torts/nuclear horror films.  Silkwood, The China Syndrome, Erin Brokovich and A Civil Action come to mind.  Then there are the envirornmental apocalypse films:  Avatar, of course, Wall-E, Happy Feet, Waterworld, Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, Children of Men, The Road and so forth.  Then there are films that celebrate the beauty of a place or resource:  Out of Africa and A River Runs Through It.  And finally, there’s the exploitation-of-a-resource films, the category for the greatest enviornmental movie of all time, Chinatown.  Okay maybe it’s just one of the greates movies of all time, not one of the greatest environmental movies of all time.

I’m intentionally leaving out documentaries for now, though perhaps I shouldn’t (think An Inconvenient Truth, The Cove, March of the Penguins, Planet Earth, and early classic TV series like the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom).

Now the hard part begins.  Rankings?  Do we need a special category for worst environmental films of all time (with Waterworld leading the pack, perhaps?)  And does the film have to at core be about the environment or is it enough that environmental destruction/protection/harm is a theme?

So add to the list, help rank the films or tell me why I’m wrong.

Reader Comments

4 Replies to “From Songs to Film”

  1. No list is complete without Silent Running, a film that seems more prophetic with each passing year.

  2. Best environmental movie ever: Dersu Uzala (1975). A little slow (as is the ecosphere sometimes) but soulful and rich.

  3. Idiocracy – a silly, short comedy that almost got canned by the studios portrays a future of massive trash avalanches and famine caused by irrigating crops with a gatorade like sports drink.

  4. Should The Last Wave be in there? How about The Thin Red Line, a WWII film set on and near Guadalcanal (1998, D: Terence Malick) peppered with lingering shots of native species — birds, reptiles come to mind — both alive and dead, illustrating war’s unequivocal effect on nature. An uneven movie, but worth watching for the acting, cinematography and poetry.

    As for #1, if anyone hasn’t seen Silent Running, see it, then tell me why it shouldn’t be the top envl movie of all time. We’re talking about a crew of astronauts who have been shot off into space to tend self-contained mini-ecosystems because Earth’s natural resources have been destroyed.

    Bruce Dern is the space traveler who chooses the plants over the people. The movie’s story has to be considered an inspiration for Wall-E, and the robots Huey Dewy and Louie are suggestive of another lovable robot of celluloid fame — R2-D2 here’s the wikipedia entry

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About Ann

Ann Carlson is currently on leave from UCLA School of Law. She is the Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and was the founding Faculty Director of the Emmett I…

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