Seven thought-provoking climate documentaries

18 Dec 2019
3 min read

Get clued up on climate issues without leaving your sofa.

The number of TV programmes and films we have at our fingertips these days is honestly astonishing, but streaming platforms and catch-up services aren’t only home to blockbuster movies and bingeable boxsets – they’re also fantastic places to catch the most important, insightful and visually spectacular shows and documentaries about climate change and the planet. Take a break from the usual TV line-up to make time for one of these must-watch releases, and be prepared to face some hard truths.

1.  Before the Flood (2016)

This documentary has been described as one of the highest profile environmental films since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth shook Hollywood back in 2006. Undoubtedly, one of Before the Flood’s biggest draws is its all-star cast, which includes the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Barack Obama and even the Pope. But to be clear, the subject matter at hand is far from glitzy, and instead paints a straightforward but damning picture of the facts of climate change, and what needs to be done to mitigate its impact.

Watch it on Netflix

2.  Being the Change: A New Kind of Climate Documentary (2018)

A follow-up to the book of the same name, Being the Change tells the story of a regular American family determined to wean themselves off fossil fuels. Between 2010 and 2014 the Kalmus family reduced their annual emissions from around 20 tonnes to just two tonnes, and this hour-long documentary explains in fascinating detail exactly how they did it. Their impressive efforts might not be replicable by everyone, but this film demonstrates wonderfully how even the smallest actions can add up to big change.

Watch it on Amazon Prime

3.  Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

When the conversation around climate change is so dominated by talk of vehicle emissions and manufacturing, the agricultural impact on the planet is often overlooked. But this hard-hitting documentary lays it all out in crystal clear technicolour. The film explores all facets of animal agriculture and its devastating effect on the environment, and will certainly give you pause for thought next time you’re doing the weekly grocery shop.

Watch it on Netflix

4.  A Plastic Ocean (2013)

This documentary might be six years old now, but its message has never rung truer: humanity’s obsession with plastic is destroying our seas and all the wildlife that lives within them, and the knock-on effect to mankind can’t be ignored. But, as the film’s strapline of ‘We need a wave of change’ suggests, it’s not too late for us to turn things around, and A Plastic Ocean proposes multiple – entirely feasible – solutions to the problem.

Watch it on Netflix

5.  The True Cost (2015)

There’s no end of movies and TV shows about fashion, but these tend to focus on the glamorous side of the fashion world. This documentary does exactly what its name suggests, and exposes the true cost of fast fashion and its sobering environmental consequences. From the exploitation of labour to the proliferation of toxic chemicals, this eye-opening doc demonstrates that every time you buy a piece of clothing for a price that seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

Watch it on Amazon Prime

6.  Man Made Planet: Earth from Space (2017)

We’ve become accustomed to considering climate change from an Earth-bound point of view, but what does its impact look like from up above? In this visually spectacular documentary, astronauts use images of Earth taken from space across 45 years in stunning time lapse sequences to show how humanity is transforming the world – for better and worse.

Watch it on All4

7.  Planet Earth II (2016)

Sir David Attenborough is undisputedly the king of the nature documentary and the BBC’s iPlayer has all of them ready to stream. But, if you’re not sure where to start among his rich library, start with Planet Earth II, a six-part series that examines every region of our world, from islands and deserts to cities and jungles, exploring the lives of the animals that live there, and how humanity’s impact on the climate is affecting them in increasingly devastating ways.

Watch it on iPlayer



The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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