By Dustin Clendenen.
Earth Day is Friday, April 22, and this year, its message is more important than ever. Global world leaders meet regularly to discuss climate change, and nearly everyone recognizes the role humans play in its progression. While the cause owes its ubiquity to a number of forces, the impact the media has had on this growing awareness cannot be denied.
Movies have been one of the most powerful mediums for advancing social causes and promoting awareness of various issues since the dawn of cinema, and the impact that humans have on the environment is no exception. PrettyFamous has assembled a list of the most popular films about the environment, covering topics from animal rights to urbanization. To do this, we considered all the movies since 1979 that incorporated environmental themes and earned more than $1.5 million gross at the box office. We then ranked them by Smart Rating from worst to best. The Smart Rating considers all the critical scores from Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, Gracenote and inflation-adjusted U.S. box office gross.
Check out this list of the top 30 environment-themed films, and get ready to be inspired to do your part not just on Earth Day, but every day of the year.
Smart Rating: 12.42
This ’90s-era comedy starring Pauly Shore explores what happens when a couple of knuckleheads get locked inside an experimental bio-dome with a group of environmental scientists for one year.
#29. Furry Vengeance
Smart Rating: 12.52
Starring Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields and Ken Jeong, “Furry Vengeance” pits a group of unsuspecting commercial real estate developers against a mischievous army of woodland creatures — all to save a forest threatened by a mega-mall.
#28. On Deadly Ground
Smart Rating: 17.05
This Steven Seagal martial arts film has the “Master of Aikido” taking on a ruthless oil corporation. Michael Caine and Billy Bob Thornton also star.
#27. Fire Down Below
Smart Rating: 17.88
In another environment-themed Steven Seagal action flick, Segal plays an agent from the Environmental Protection Agency who is forced to bring out the big guns in a battle to prevent a corrupt conglomerate from dumping toxic waste in the hills of Kentucky.
#26. Chain Reaction
Smart Rating: 18.38
Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman play two researchers studying alternative, eco-friendly energy sources. After making a major breakthrough in their work, they are framed for murder and treason, and must go on a thrilling journey to clear their names.
#25. The Day the Earth Stood Still
Smart Rating: 19.39
In this reboot of the 1951 classic, Keanu Reeves plays Klaatu, a mysterious alien visitor who has come to Earth to stop humanity from destroying their planet.
Smart Rating: 20.6
This old-school creature feature centers around a mutant bear-monster that’s been transformed by the waste products of an evil logging company.
Smart Rating: 34.85
After moving to Florida with his family, high-school student Roy Eberhardt (played by Logan Lerman) finds himself drawn into an epic fight to protect a population of endangered owls.
Smart Rating: 43.46
Anthony Hopkins plays an anthropologist who’s eschewed society to live in the jungle. After he’s imprisoned for the murder of two poachers, a psychologist (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) tries to get through to him, but the anthropologist might be saner than expected.
#21. Mighty Joe Young
Smart Rating: 53.47
Starring Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron, “Mighty Joe Young” explores the complex relationship between humans and gorilla, and what can happen when a 15-foot gorilla is taken from his natural habitat.
Smart Rating: 54.78
One of the most expensive films of the ’90s, “Waterworld” imagines a dystopian future in which the polar ice caps have melted, flooding the world and making land a nonexistent commodity.
#19. The Day After Tomorrow
Smart Rating: 56.95
One of Roland Emmerich’s many big-budget disaster films, “The Day After Tomorrow” dramatizes the effects of climate change with tornadoes in New York City and freezing cold temperatures.
#18. Battle for Terra
Smart Rating: 57.7
This beautiful animated feature focuses on a peaceful alien planet called Terra as it faces imperialist colonization by humans after Earth is destroyed.
#17. Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax
Smart Rating: 69.42
Based on the legendary children’s book, “The Lorax” brings Dr. Seuss’ environmental wisdom to life in this animated film featuring Zac Efron and Taylor Swift.
#16. A Civil Action
Smart Rating: 79.89
After several children die of a mysterious illness, their families realize they were poisoned by the toxic waste dumped in their community by corrupt conglomerates. John Travolta plays the attorney leading their civil lawsuit, becoming so enmeshed in the conflict that he could go bankrupt himself.
#15. FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Smart Rating: 81.44
In this epic animated feature, a community of fairies and other magical beings band together to fight against the destruction of logging and pollution, embodied by an evil entity named Hexxus.
#14. Big Miracle
Smart Rating: 81.65
“Big Miracle” follows a small-town reporter and a Greenpeace activist in Alaska trying to save a family of grey whales being threatened by the rapid formation of ice in the Arctic circle.
#13. The Rescuers Down Under
Smart Rating: 82.46
The animated adventure film follows a team of rescuers (comprised of talking animals, of course) as they race to save a boy and a rare golden eagle from a poacher.
#12. Gorillas in the Mist
Smart Rating: 85.45
Sigourney Weaver plays Dian Fossey in this beautiful biopic about the famed zoologist who dedicated her life to protecting the vanishing mountain gorillas of Africa.
#11. The Emerald Forest
Smart Rating: 86.74
After his son is abducted by an aboriginal tribe on the edge of the rainforest, engineer Bill Markham embarks on a quest to find him, but ultimately discovers much more.
#10. Erin Brockovich
Smart Rating: 87.27
In “Erin Brockovich,” a movie based on a true story, Julia Roberts plays a vivacious legal assistant who leads the legendary civil suit against a California power company that poisoned a small town’s water supply. Roberts ultimately won an Oscar for her performance.
#9. Who Killed the Electric Car?
Smart Rating: 88.12
Electric cars were actually invented well before the era of lithium-ion batteries, and this deeply researched documentary investigates the forces that have kept the technology off the market for so many decades.
#8. Fly Away Home
Smart Rating: 88.58
Starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin, “Fly Away Home” follows the adventure of a father and daughter trying to lead a stray flock of geese back home with their homemade hang glider.
#7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Smart Rating: 89.76
When Earth is invaded by an alien probe, Kirk and his crew are forced to travel back in time in order to enlist the aid of humpback whales, the only beings in the world who can communicate with the alien threat.
#6. Never Cry Wolf
Smart Rating: 90.48
In this live-action Walt Disney film, a government researcher is sent to study the “menace” of wolves in the north, but ultimately discovers the amazing impact they have on the environment around them.
Smart Rating: 90.67
This truly unique movie filmed in 1982 showcases a collection of expertly shot footage revealing the hidden nature of humans, Earth and how the two have grown apart.
#4. An Inconvenient Truth
Smart Rating: 91.28
This award-winning documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim investigates Al Gore’s campaign to raise awareness about global warming, and explores the role humanity has played in the growing threat of climate change.
Smart Rating: 92.9
In this epic sci-fi drama directed by James Cameron, a group of human soldiers rebel against their corporate contractors to protect a foreign planet against commercial exploitation. In the process, they uncover a powerful understanding of humankind’s relationship with Earth.
#2. Princess Mononoke
Smart Rating: 94.15
In this beautiful anime by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, a warrior named Ashitaka is drawn into a conflict between the forest gods and the mining company that is destroying their environment.
Smart Rating: 96.39
Hailed by Wired as the most influential environmental film of the decade, the Pixar-animated movie follows a lone waste-collecting robot in the distant future whose mission will decide the fate of humankind.
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