Documentary 7 - Environmental Documentaries

It is all too easy to become overwhelmed with the very many environmental issues facing our world. It is all too easy, in the face of the huge numbers of documentary films, television series, books and podcasts - with all their stories, images and statistics - to feel small and powerless. 


It is all too easy to feel as if we are dealing in abstract concepts, issues that we have no power over and, as a result, do nothing.


Of course, deep down, we all understand that this approach is not sustainable. Not if we want to protect our planet - both for our own benefit and also for the benefit of generations (of humans, animals and plants) to come.


Documentary films about the environment serve three key purposes. They raise awareness of important issues. They help us to understand these issues - why they are happening and what impact they will have - in an accessible and visual way.


Finally, these films offer us ways to make a difference. It really isn’t too late… yet.


For my Documentary 7 collection of films about the environment, I have chosen two documentaries that show us what we stand to lose if we do not look after our world. The first is Luc Jacquet’s 2005 Oscar-winning film, March of the Penguins. The second is Werner Herzog’s stunning documentary, Encounters at the End of the World (2007).


Of course, there are many other documentary films (and television series - thank you Mr Attenborough) that show us the precious beauty of our world. Do let me know your favourites (you can find me @500DaysOfFilm on all the socials). One of my honourable mentions would be Jane - Brett Morgen’s film about the incredible work of Jane Goodall.



Think environmental documentary and one film inevitably comes to mind. Possibly the most famous powerpoint presentation in the world, An Inconvenient Truth is as powerful today as it was when it was released in 2006. 


Al Gore’s talk on climate change - repackaged as a feature length documentary by Davis Guggenheim - uses statistics (lots of statistics) to warn us about the impact of dramatic increases in carbon dioxide levels. However, despite the data, this film is surprisingly entertaining, hopeful and inspiring.


Before The Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2016 film (directed by Fisher Stevens) and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power (2017) followed - updating us all on the progress that has been made (still not enough) and the environmental issues (still too many) that we face.


The final three films in my Doc 7 collection about the environment (I’m cheating and counting both An Inconvenient Truth films as one entry) look at specific areas of environmental concern.


Gasland focuses on fracking, Chasing Ice looks at how our glaciers are melting at a horrific rate and Chasing Coral examines the devastating disappearance of the world’s coral reefs.


Documentary 7 - Environmental Docs

10 Powerful Documentaries About The Environment

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Chasing Coral

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Chasing Ice

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Before The flood

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An Inconvenient Truth & An Inconvenient Sequel

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Encounters at the End of the World

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March Of The Penguins

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Documentary 7 - Environmental Docs Honourable Mentions

I would also like to include the following honourable mentions: 2040: Join The Regeneration, The Ivory Game, Anote’s Ark, Being The Change, The Island President, Climate Of Doubt and Switch.


Do you have any environmental documentaries that you would like to recommend? If so, do let us know in the comments section below or over on Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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