What's more thrilling than bombastic soundtracks, sweeping panoramas, and larger-than-life global disasters? When the stories are real.
If the planet continues on the climate change trajectory that the [majority of the] scientific community predicts, then extinction, war, starvation, flooding, and fire are just a few plot points filmmakers can choose to cover. And when increasingly high documentary production values collide with this kind of high-stakes global catastrophe, you get a year full of epic environmental films.
To recap, the year started off with the Sundance Film Festival adding a brand-new section called The New Climate. The same week, Donald Trump, after running on the denial of climate change, was sworn into office. Later in the year, the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. All of the sudden, enviro docs pawing around on the festival circuit from 2016 started to get distribution. Are these documentaries more entertaining than ever before, or are audiences hungry for films that take threats to the planet seriously? Or some combination of both? One thing is for sure, this genre has really upped its game.
Take a look at this list of 16 intriguing films that were released in 2017, organized according to topic, and decide for yourself why it's a banner year for documentaries about our planet.
Starting its festival run in 2016 and released this year, Jared P. Scott's The Age of Consequences looks at the effects of climate change through the lens of national security.
In this cinematic documentary masterpiece, filmmaker Jeff Orlwoski and his team pioneered underwater camera time lapse technology to document mass coral bleaching due to the rising temperature of the ocean.
Filmmakers David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg give us a rare portrait of larger-than-life science personality Bill Nye on his mission to stop the spread of anti-scientific thinking, including climate change denial, across the world.
Accompanied by a VR companion film, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow-up with former Vice President Al Gore to find out how far we've come to a real energy revolution since An Inconvenient Truth first came out over a decade ago.
Filmmaker Jiu-Liang Wang follows an 11-year-old girl as she works to sort some of the ten million tons of trash that China imports every year from developed countries around the world.
Starting the festival circuit in 2016 and available this year, this film by Sue Williams profiles Chinese factory workers and American families in this portrait of the dark environmental consequences of our current culture's addiction to newer, fancier, shinier electronics.
Examining the intersection of the big-game hunting industry and wildlife conservation, filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau weave a complex story of our habit of commodifying animals, especially those on the brink of extinction.
Filmmaker Ashley Scott Davison tells the story of the rapidly disappearing giraffe, a gentle giant whose seen an 80% decline in the last decade alone.
Released for the first time in Ultra HD, this continuation of the BBC classic with iconic David Attenborough takes us into the inner-workings and future prognostications for animals in the fastest growing habitat on earth: cities.
Filmmaker Mike Day takes us to the Danish Faroe Islands, where centuries-old way of life for the Faroese is doubtful to continue because of, among other things, plummeting wildlife populations and rising mercury levels.
Filmmaker Paul Allen Hunton takes us into the current problems facing the U.S. state with the largest regional warming in all the country, and asks, why is permafrost thawing in Alaska is important to the rest of the world?
Basing the film on the real-life heroes in the book, filmmakers Susan Froemke and John Hoffman show us the little know figures in conservation who are feeding the world while stewarding the land and water.
Filmmaker Marina Zenovich exposes the conflict between small farmers and citizens as they come up against barons who profit from the scarcity of water.
In this first-person story, filmmaker James Redford takes us on a cross-country trip to take a hopeful look at the technologies Americans are currently using to combat climate change.
Filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio takes us from Appalachia to the West's Powder River Basin to illustrate, sometimes quite painfully, what's at stake for our country in a post-coal world.
Promising Documentaries Yet to Be Released
- Eating Animals
- Rodents of Unusual Size
- The New Fire
- Angry Inuk
- The Beekeeper and His Son
- Atomic Homefront
Have you seen a good enviro-doc this year that we left out? Let us know in the comments.