The Day After Tomorrow (Photo: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection)
A movie plot on climate change issue is rare to find in films until now. At least, there is a good amount of them for us to see and discuss with the world’s real problems. There are many movies related to the environmental catastrophe whether it is global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, eco-terrorists, dystopian futures, ecological collapse, and climate change in general.
Documentaries are far better in giving a real insight into the issue than feature films that tend to entertain. Some movies with the genre “cli-fi” or climate fiction are good, some are bad, some make the issue as a background story or it could work as allegories for an environmental catastrophe. Still, mostly they are very dramatic and halfway realistic as opposed to real-world events and scenarios.
Below are some of the movies on climate change, especially movies that use the melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels issue as its plot or even if it’s just a small background or side story to the whole movie. This list is sorted by date and only includes feature films and not documentaries and animation. May contain spoilers!
1. Waterworld (1995)
Rating: PG-13 | Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | Runtime: 2h 15min | Country: USA
Ratings: 6.2 (IMDb) | 45% (Tomatometer), 43% (Audience Score) | 56 (Metascore)
Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.” —email@example.com
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds | Cast: Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It is a post-apocalyptic action film. It tells about human civilization long in the distant future after the complete melt of the polar ice caps. The sea level has risen over 25,000 feet (7,600 m) and humans now live on atolls, a ramshackle floating communities. The film focused on the search for dry land by a group of survivors.
Watch on: Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Hulu | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
2. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Rating: PG-13 | Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | Runtime: 2h 4min | Country: USA
Ratings: 6.4 (IMDb) | 44% (Tomatometer), 50% (Audience Score) | 47 (Metascore)
Awards: Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 5 wins & 12 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “Jack Hall, paleoclimatologist, must make a daring trek from Washington, D.C. to New York City to reach his son, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.” —rball4042
Directed by: Roland Emmerich | Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It is a science fiction disaster film based on the book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. It tells about the catastrophic climatic effects in a series of extreme weather events that induce global cooling and lead to a new ice age. Across the world, the weather worsens. A giant hail storm, tornado outbreak, and rising sea levels happen in many cities. It also about how the government failed to act accordingly based on the finding by the scientists.
Watch on: HBO GO | Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Rating: PG-13 | Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy | Runtime: 1h 33min | Country: USA
Ratings: 7.3 (IMDb) | 87% (Tomatometer), 76% (Audience Score) | 86 (Metascore)
Awards: Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 93 wins & 123 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “Faced with both her hot-tempered father’s fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.” —Brian McInnis
Directed by: Benh Zeitlin | Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It tells about the frozen prehistoric aurochs inside an ice shelf in the Arctic that could melt and drift into the ocean. There is also about how the Bathtub, a community in the Louisiana bayou, confronts an approaching storm and rebuilding their community after that. The storm damaging their environment by contaminating the freshwater supply because of the surge in saltwater by the storm. And they must work together as a community to find a plan to drain the water away. There is also about authorities evacuation order and emergency shelter for the Bathtub residents.
Watch on: Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Fandango Now | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
4. Snowpiercer (2013)
Rating: R | Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi | Runtime: 2h 6min | Country: South Korea, Czech Republic
Ratings: 7.1 (IMDb) | 95% (Tomatometer), 72% (Audience Score) | 84 (Metascore)
Awards: Nominated for 1 Critics Choice Award. Another 33 wins & 102 nominations | See more awards
Plot summary: “In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges.” —Peter Mouland
Directed by: Bong Joon Ho | Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton | See full cast & crew
What it has to do with climate change: It tells about an attempt at climate engineering to stop the Earth’s global warming which backfires. Creating a new Snowball Earth, another ice age and extinguish all life forms. The last survivors of humanity were on the Snowpiercer train moving in a globe-spanning track. It also about class hierarchy and class conflict between the privileged passengers at the front and the tail end residents who exploited as labor.
Watch on: Netflix | Apple TV | Google Play | Prime Video | Vudu | View: Parents Guide
• Best Similar. “Climate Change Movies and TV Shows. →
• Hoad, P. 2017. “Spoiler Alerts: The Five Best Climate-Change Films.” The Guardian. January 19. →
• McKinnon, M. 2015. “The 8 Best Movies About Apocalyptic Climate Change.” Gizmodo. December 10. →
• Skymet Weather. “10 Amazing Hollywood Movies on Climate Change.” →
• The Climate Reality Project. 2018. “6 Must-see Movies About Climate Change. June 1. →