14. An Inconvenient Truth (Davis Guggenheim, 2006)
Unfortunately, for some this will always be remembered as the “Al Gore movie”., but “An Inconvenient” is actually a very well-made and shocking documentary on global warming. The fact that it had Al Gore in it only made it controversial and gave it a wider release. Depending on whom you talk to, this was either the most important or the most damaging film for the environmental movement.
It presented the scientific case for global warming in no uncertain terms, but it seemed to polarize people on the subject. Nevertheless, it was historically important in opening up funding for the documentary genre. In the attempt of making such a harsh subject appealing, bits of eye-catching animation were introduced. Overall, a documentary that is definitely worth seeing.
15. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)
“Michael Clayton” is more than just a courtroom drama or thriller. It is a movie about conscience, ethics and environmental awareness. It is loosely based on a multinational corporation of agricultural biotechnology.
The film chronicles the attempts of attorney Michael Clayton (George Clooney) – a man the company usually brings in to “fix” things – to cope with a colleague’s apparent mental breakdown and the corruption and intrigue surrounding a major client of his law firm, who is being sued in a class action case over the effects of toxic agrochemicals.
At first, Clayton just wants to the job that he has been paid a lot of money for, and move on to the next case – this a healthy worth ethic for Michael and the health of his conscience. But Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) is not only his colleague but also his friends, so Michael decides to dig deeper into the case and to try to figure out what is going on. But as his case evolves, Arthur is killed and his own life is put to grave danger.
This might seem like just another movie where the lead character is way in over his head but the fresh approach, in which the story is presented to the viewer, makes it a very enjoyable thriller that talks about some very important issues.
16. The 11th Hour (Leila Conners & Nadia Conners, 2007)
Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, “The 11th Hour” is a little different from other documentaries of the genre because it does limit itself to slamming the modern day of society and blaming it for all the problems of the environment, but also offers visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet’s ecosystem. It also a notable documentary for it features the contributions of politicians, scientist and environmental activists, including Mikhail Gorbachev, and Stephen Hawking.
Like said earlier, the film’s premise is that the future of humanity is in jeopardy because of humanity and that the solutions lie within us. The film tries to offer solutions (some radical, some utopic some reasonable and practical) regarding Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans’ habitats.
17. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
In a distant future, humans abandon Earth because there is too much trash on it. WALL-E – a small waste collecting robot – lives alone on the planet with a pet cockroach. He has quite a collection of things: lighters, a working iPod, a small ring box (without the ring) and the last living plant. When a spaceship comes to earth and drops a sleek and dangerous probe (EVE) to look for a living plant, WALL-E falls in love with her. WALL-E gives her the plant, which makes EVE go into sleep mode.
When the spaceship comes to take EVE back, WALL-E decides goes with her. What follows is an adventure onboard the Axiom, where people move on hovering chairs and eat liquid food, which they suck up through a straw. Due to laziness, the people on the ship have become so fat that they are unable to move. When the auto-pilot computer, acting on hastily-given instructions sent many centuries before, tries to prevent the people of Earth from returning by stealing the plant, WALL-E, EVE, the portly captain and a band of broken robots stage a mutiny.
“Wall-E” was very well received by both the public and the critics not only because it is a very touching love story but also because of the boldness of touching such a dangerous subject such as human waste. To talk about this subject in an animation film is truly an act of courage.
18. Home (Yann Arthus-Bertrand, 2009)
Every once a while, a different kind of documentary will come along and will challenge filmmakers and the cinematic language in general. Such a documentary came out in 2009. It was suggestively titled “Home” and it consisted only of aerial shot of various places on our beloved Earth. The purpose of this was to show the diversity of life on Earth and also how humanity is threatening the ecological balance of the planet. All of this from a third person vantage point.
The film is narrated so the viewer can benefit and learn from his two-hour walk-through around the world. Despite it unconventional structure, the message of the documentary is a simple but strong one: unlike our nations, our ecosystem doesn’t have any borders.
As humans organized in nation states, we spend 12 times as much on weapons to defend ourselves from each other than we spend on aid for the poorest. The effects of the exploitation of our shared ecosystem will affect us all and will hit those who already face the toughest circumstances the hardest. The problems that our world faces cannot be solved by any country alone. The fact that the film is visually amazing is merely a bonus.
19. The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, 2009)
The subject of illegal and legal whale and dolphin hunting has always been very delicate. Filmmakers wanting to tackle the subject were always very careful and mostly danced around it. But with a documentary, “this dance” is not needed, as the images and testimonies speak for themselves. “The Cove” analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan.
The film is a call to action to halt mass dolphin kills, to change the Japanese fishing practices and to inform and educate the public about the risks, and increasing hazard, of mercury poisoning from dolphin meat. The film is told from an ocean conservationist’s point of view and it highlights the large number of dolphins that are being killed every year. The migrating dolphins are herded into a cove where they are netted and killed by means of spears and knives over the side of small fishing boats.
The film argues that dolphin hunting as practiced in Japan is unnecessary and cruel. On this note, a group of activists infiltrate into a cove near Taiji, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
20. Gasland (Josh Fox, 2010)
This was a very controversial documentary, as many scientists have disputed its authenticity and even went as far as publicly slamming it for misleading its audience.
The director narrates his reception of a letter, from a natural gas company offering to lease his family’s land for $100,000 to drill for gas. He then sets out to see how communities are being affected in the west, where a natural gas drilling boom has been underway for the last decade. He spent time with citizens in their homes and on their land, who have experienced a variety of chronic health problems directly traceable to contamination of their air, of their water wells or of surface water.
The second part of the documentary is more political than scientific, as it tries to single out those responsible. Throughout the documentary, Fox reaches out to scientists, politicians, and gas industry executives, in order to establish some kind of truth.
Author Bio: Horia Nilescu is a 30-year-old cinephile from Brasov, Romania. He works at a local bookstore as a multimedia & events manager (handling supplying issues in regards to cd’s and dvd’s and also organizing local events). He is passionate about film and fascinated by its diversity. He has created a local film club in Brasov (going of 3 years) in which he handles all aspects. He likes to talk and write about movies but most importantly he likes to watch them.