by Allison Ledwon
It’s here! No, not midterm season (although that’s here too), but Earth Week, the time to celebrate the planet humans and so many other amazing beings call home. You may be attempting to plan a way to celebrate. If you weren’t, here’s a suggestion, watch a nature documentary. Now you’re probably saying, watching a movie isn’t a life-changing event. Well, all eco-superheroes need to start somewhere. You want to be an eco-superhero don’t you? So here’s a list of ten films, in no particular order, that will teach you, but also amaze by the way our world works.
Any of the DisneyNature Films (2009-2015)
Now these are a little difficult to find online, but one or two may be lurking in the Netflix menu. If you can find them (or buy them), they are worth your time. With topics ranging from monkeys to bears to anything with wings, there is something for every nature lover in this series. DisneyNature usually tells the story of a specific group of animals narrated by actors like Meryl Streep, Samuel L. Jackson and James Earl Jones Jr. There is no going wrong here. If you’re a major planner, mark your calendars for next year’s installment that hits theaters on Earth Day, Born in China, following pandas, snow leopards and golden monkeys. It’s okay if you squeal at the adorableness, no judgement. We did too.
Planet Earth (2006)
If you haven’t seen this series yet, finish reading this list and immediately proceed to binge-watching the BBC’s 11 part documentary, which can be found on Netflix. You’ll thanks us; maybe not for the procrastinating, but definitely for exposing you to this series. From the depths of the ocean to the treetops in jungles, Planet Earth showcases stunning cinematography packed into 50 minute episodes from all over the world and including all forms of life. Narrator Sir David Attenborough, the British naturalist and broadcaster, is the added bonus to the entire film, if you dig accents.
Living Amongst Gorillas (2011)
Set in the Central African Republic, Living Amongst Gorillas follows the journey of filmmaker Thomas Behrend to be among the first to document and film, with the help of zoologist Angelique Todd, the lowland gorilla. Behrend and Todd focus on a specific group of gorillas known as the Makumbas, after their patriarch of the same name. The group is quite comfortable with humans studying them, even to the point of creating bonds. This documentary demonstrates the connections people can foster with animals and nature, an essential part of your Earth Day celebration.
The Blue Planet (2001)
BBC’s precursor to the Planet Earth series, The Blue Planet focuses on life in and dependent on the two-thirds of Earth that is covered in water. The eight episodes focus on areas from the frozen seas of the Artic to tropical coral reefs. If you love anything related to marine life, this is your documentary series.
Human Planet (2011)
BBC strikes again with another mini-series. Human Planet takes all of the cinematic beauty seen in Planet Earth, but this time follows humans’ interactions with nature and the struggles tied to living here. As humans, we are quite self-centered and enjoy hearing about ourselves, but also stories of human ingenuity and survival (if you’re a robot this may be difficult to relate to, sorry).
In the Mind of Plants (2008)
Are you more of a green thumb than an animal lover? Here’s one for you. In the Mind of Plants investigates the theory that plants are intelligent and are able to adapt and change according to their environment much like non-stationary organisms, conscious of what they are doing. Even if you disagree with the “plants as sentient organisms” notion, this documentary is still worth a watch. Plus you can watch it here for free.
This 2015 Showtime documentary isn’t particularly focused on nature, as all the other films have been so far. The film follows the stories of three mountain climbers and their collective attempt to be the first people to scale Mount Meru in the Indian Himalayas, a 21,000 feet, treacherous climb. Although more focused on the human experience, the documentary contains some breath-taking images of the Himalayas, a site that makes a great story even better, and applicable to this list.
March of the Penguins (2005)
Emperor penguins, an Academy Award and the voice of Morgan Freeman. That’s all you should need to know.
ANTS: Nature’s Secret Power (2004)
Smaller creatures are more your thing? This documentary zeros in on the little creatures many people find a nuisance. In reality these insects are much more complex. They have an extensive communication system, insane strength and are capable of so much more. This documentary will teach you about all of it, as well as how to appreciate the smaller stuff. A life lesson and an Earth Day celebration? Sign us up. You can watch it for free on Amazon if you are a Prime member or there’s a full version on YouTube. Basically, this means that you HAVE to watch it; you’re a college student that lives on free things.
Mysteries of the Unseen World (2013)
If the ants amazed you, then this National Geographic documentary will likely blow your mind. It takes the microscopic world that surrounds us and makes it visible and slows down processes that happen too quickly for us to see. There is a whole other world that surrounds us that plays a major role in our lives and our larger global existence. Celebrate Earth Day by celebrating all parts of Earth, especially the parts that we don’t see, think about or even know about.