If you hardly ever feel like spending a good chunk of your daily wages on movie tickets and overpriced theater food, then you’re the ideal candidate for a Netflix account. Subscribers have access to hundreds of feature films, including these excellent documentaries that touch on some critically important environmental issues.
Chasing Ice (2012)
Released last fall, this shocking doc follows photographer James Balog during his trip to the North Pole to document the effects of global warming on Arctic glaciers. Most of the running time consists of eye-popping time-lapse images that condenses several years of melt into a few seconds, including the longest footage every recorded of a glacial calving event.
Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
Werner Herzog has made two of the best nature docs of the last 10 years. His first, Grizzly Man (which, sadly, is not currently streaming on Netflix), illustrated the inherent dangers of living among a wild species. This feature takes a much more playful stance with wildlife; if you like penguins, Encounters is a must-watch. But the film also deals with serious environmental issues, such as glacial recession and rising tides, that have come to define the southernmost part of the planet in recent years.
If you’re not a fan of fracking, then prepare to have your mind blown with this doc from director Josh Fox. The film examines the long-term effects of natural gas drilling, particularly hydraulic fracking ― a highly destructive process that has become a talking point thanks to the impending Keystone XL Pipeline. His stops include several states where fracking is all too common, including Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)
At one time, the FBI considered Earth Liberation Front ― a covert group of radical environmentalists ― to be the most serious domestic terrorist threat in the nation. This doc examines the case of Daniel McGowan, a former member of ELF who was arrested and charged with committing arson against Superior Lumber Company and Jefferson Poplar Farms, two of Oregon’s leading timber companies.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
The enviro-doc that started it all, this Oscar winner follows former Vice President Al Gore on his steadfast campaign to educate the American people about the harsh realities of global warming. “It takes time to connect the dots, I know that,” Gore narrates. “But I also know that there can be a day of reckoning when you wish you had connected the dots more quickly.”
The Island President (2011)
Thanks to rising tides, the Maldive Islands are slowly sinking beneath the ocean ― and this has not sat well with the nation’s president, Mohamed Nasheed. This doc follows Nasheed as he travels the world to educate the world about his country’s critical plight. His message is simple: we must band together as a global community in order to effectively battle global warming. “I do not even like the term negotiate,” he says at one point. “There is nothing to negotiate with the environment.”
Waste Land (2010)
Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill, is located on a 1.3 million-square-foot plot of land outside Rio de Janeiro. This film details the remarkable collaboration between Vik Muniz, who is widely recognized as one of Brazil’s greatest living artists, and the catadores who make their living by picking recyclable materials from the landfill. The artwork generated from this project was eventually auctioned in London, and proceeds were eventually funneled back into the local community. This awe-inspiring film is one of the only docs to earn a 100-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.