5 Great Environmental Documentaries

The Academy Awards shine a spotlight on the best movies made in any given year. Here’s a list of five of the best environmental documentaries made in 2015.

The Human Experiment
This documentary tells the stories of three families who believe their health has been seriously compromised by toxic chemicals circulating willy-nilly in our environment. Produced and narrated by Academy Award-winner Sean Penn, the film examines what we know (and don’t know) about the connection between skyrocketing rates of cancer, autism, infertility, asthma, and other diseases and the chemicals we encounter in such common household items as plastic baby and water bottles, fragrances in perfumes and cosmetics, and chemicals in shampoos, deodorant and cleaning products.

Companies that produce and use toxic chemicals do not need to prove they don’t pose a human health risk. That’s because the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, called TSCA, places the burden of proof on the consumer, not the company producing the product. The film makes a powerful argument for strengthening federal laws to get dangerous compounds off the market and away from the people they can hurt. You can read the full review on Care2 here.

Stink also examines the impact toxic chemicals can have on our lives, but from the point of view of a father who is shocked when the new pajamas he buys for his two daughters stink so badly from the flame retardants they’ve been doused in that the girls can’t wear them. The father, who is the filmmaker Jon Whelan, goes on a quest to figure out why so many toxic chemicals are allowed into our world. He also tries to figure out whether his wife’s death from breast cancer could somehow be connected to chemicals she was exposed to. The film is gripping, even devastating in parts, but also lights a fire under the viewer, as the filmmaker makes it clear that we citizens must support stronger legislation to reduce toxic exposures.

Mislead: America’s Secret Epidemic
Tamara Rubin founded the Lead Safe America Foundation when she realized her own children were lead poisoned. Then she decided to make a movie about the lead poisoning crisis that is making so many people, specifically children, sick.  The resulting documentary, titled MisLEAD: America’s Secret Epidemic, makes a powerful case that lead poisoning is dangerous, pervasive and must be stopped.

Tamara and her crew highlight 17 different families, all of whom are trying to help children already lead poisoned while preventing the situation from getting worse.  The documentary draws a direct line between the “sudden, alarming” rise in the number of American children suffering from ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum symptoms and similar neurological disorders and children’s exposure to lead. These disabilities cost society more than $50 billion annually, says Lead Safe America. Especially in light of the terrible crisis facing the families living in Flint, Michigan whose children have been poisoned by lead in drinking water, the film couldn’t be more timely.

National Parks Adventure 3D
For a completely different kind of film, don’t miss MacGillivray Freeman’s National Parks Adventure in 3D. Narrated by Academy Award winner Robert Redford, the movie takes you on an IMAX® adventure into what Redford calls the “most awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping places that belong to us all.”

Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Everglades, the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands are among the nation’s crown jewels featured in this film, all perfectly suited to the giant-screen cinematographic adventure IMAX provides. If you liked some of MacGillivray Freeman’s other Great Adventure Films — including “Everest,” “Dolphins,” “Journey Into Amazing Caves” and “Grand Canyon Adventure” — you’ll probably love this one, too.

Short of visiting a national park yourself, this may be one of the best ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of the national park system, which occurs on August 25, 2016.

My Life as a Turkey
Writer and naturalist Joe Hutto quite unexpectedly found himself raising 13 endangered wild turkeys in the flatlands of Florida from the moment they hatched. Hutton told the tale first in his book “Illumination in the Flatwoods.” Now , he brings it to life in this poignant film, and it’s not one you want to miss.

“Day after day, for over a year, I saw no one – except my family,” he says as the movie opens, Joe walking shrouded in mist and surrounded by his feathered youngsters. “It was a family like none you know. But I’m a mother, it seems, and these are my children.”

Hutto spent each day ambling deep into the Everglades with these birds, roosting with them, taking them foraging and even learning to speak their “language.” In the process, he says, “they revealed their charming curiosity and surprising intellect.”

The day came for Hutto the way it comes for all parents, and he had to let his brood go off on their own. Keep some tissues handy when you watch this sweet, lovely film. 

For more film options, check out the offerings at the D.C. Environmental Film Festival or the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.


Cat L.
Cat H2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn3 years ago

i'm going to the cinema

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Valentina R.
Valentina R3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Muff-Anne York-Haley

I'd love to see the Turkey Doc:)

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago


Andrea A.
Andrea A3 years ago


Patricia Harris
John Taylor3 years ago

The more articles there are of learning about animals/wildlife, the better we'll all learn to respect them and the planet we all share with them!!