Movies are powerful tools to get messages across about climate change, pollution, and other environmental issues. While some films tend to over-dramatize or over-exaggerate the details, they still manage to inform the public of negative environmental trends and the potential outcomes they cause.
Earth.com presents: the top 10 environmental disaster movies.
The Day After Tomorrow
In this science-fiction disaster film, a climatologist unsuccessfully tries to warn public officials of imminent devastation. Despite the fact that the acceleration of the weather events is unrealistic, it is still a terrifying look at the dramatic impacts of abrupt climate change. The movie was inspired by the book “The Coming Global Superstorm,” a 1999 fictional novel.
When an astronomer sees that a comet is on a collision course with the planet, he dies trying to alert the world. A year later, the threat is uncovered and astronauts are sent to bomb the comet in an attempt to divert it. The comet splits into two fragments, one of which slams into Earth off of Cape Hatteras, and the impact causes a mega tsunami which kills millions of people.
When an asteroid the size of Texas is set to hit Earth in less than a month, NASA puts together a team of deep core drillers to save the planet by drilling into the center of the asteroid and detonating a nuclear warhead. While this fiction film has faced criticism for being scientifically inaccurate, the threat of an asteroid impact is still very eye-opening.
This film tells the true story of Erin Brockovich, a legal assistant who discovers that the groundwater in Hinkley, California, is seriously contaminated. From 1952 to 1966, Pacific Gas & Electric dumped around 370 million gallons of chromium 6-tainted wastewater. The energy company ended up paying $333 million, the largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.
A Civil Action
Also based on a true story about water contamination, children are becoming terminally sick and their families sue three large companies who have been dumping toxic waste. Ultimately, two of the companies are forced to pay for the largest chemical cleanup in the history of the Northeastern United States at that time, which cost them about $68 million.
This disaster film documents the rapid spread of a deadly virus transmitted by fomites. Researchers and public health officials scramble to contain the disease and to develop a vaccine. The movie was inspired by the real-life 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2009 flu pandemic.
The Earth’s core is heating up and causing volcanoes and earthquakes of unprecedented strength. The characters race to save their families as they face the end of the world. As huge landmarks like the White House are washed away, the movie and its special effects seem terribly unrealistic at times. However, the sheer possibility of an apocalyptic event is captivating.
The Sum of All Fears
This film also addresses an apocalypse as a Neo-Nazi Austrian sets out to start a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. In real life, the movie was criticized for vividly portraying terrorism only nine months after the September 11th attacks.
A deadly airborne virus outbreak threatens to wipe out civilization in this medical disaster film. The fictional virus, which is similar to Ebola, spread rapidly throughout the United States after an infected African monkey was smuggled into the country. When the film was released, a real-life outbreak of the Ebola virus was occurring in the African country of Zaire.
This fictional film shows how the industry of the 20th century led to pollution, overpopulation, and global warming issues in the year 2022. While critics say it was not the very best depiction of mankind depleting Earth’s resources, the basis of the story is hauntingly similar to some of the major environmental challenges we are facing today.