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10 Best Environmental Documentaries

June 11th, 2020

From reducing food waste and exploring sustainable agriculture to tackling climate change and braving the Arctic, there’s a lot to learn about our planet—and how to protect it. Whether you’re watching alone with a glass of clean wine, hosting an online viewing party with friends, or sharing the couch with roommates or family members, here’s a closer look at 10 of the best environmental documentaries for your next viewing party.

10 Environmental Documentaries to Watch In 2020

Grab the remote—these environmental documentaries are worth a watch.

The Biggest Little Farm

Ever wonder about life on a biodynamic farm? This documentary takes you behind the scenes at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California—one of only 66 farms in the state to be Certified Biodynamic. The film introduces you to John and Molly Chesters, a couple who left their day jobs to spend a decade turning a nutrient-depleted horse ranch into a self-sustaining farm. It’s a story about animals, food, biology, and the successes and losses in an average year.

Length: 1 hour 32 minutes
How to watch it: YouTube, Google Play, Hulu, Amazon Prime

Food, Inc. Documentary

One of the original food-system documentaries, Food, Inc. premiered in 2009 and remains a relevant look at our broken food system. Bolstered by interviews with Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), director Robert Kenner helps unveil the truth: most of our food is grown by only a few multinational corporations, and this model isn’t doing any favors for our health—or the planet.

Length: 1 hour 33 minutes
How to watch it: Amazon, Google Play, Hulu

Chasing Ice

Twenty years ago, geographer and photographer James Balog felt that the threat of global warming was too abstract, and decided to chronicle the planet’s shrinking glaciers. Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski often served as cameraman while he documented everything from the weather to Balog’s reflections. NPR notes what sustains the film are “spectacular images of places few people have ever seen.”

Length: 1 hour 16 minutes
How to watch it: Netflix, Amazon Prime

More Than Honey

There’s been a lot of buzz about this documentary exploring colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon that’s caused the world’s bee population to rapidly decline. It travels to California, China, and more regions affected, exploring potential culprits such as the varroa mite and the stress of travel for pollination. The New York Times shares that while the film “doesn’t directly blame CCD on pesticides, it implies a strong connection.”

Length: 1 hour 35 minutes
How to watch it: Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes

The 11th Hour

Released in 2007 and cowritten and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, The 11th Hour explores the effects of global warming. To cover deforestation, species extinction, and other critical issues, the film interviews more than 50 scientists, activists, and politicians to help document one of the biggest challenges of our time.

Length: 1 hour 35 minutes
How to watch it: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime

Before the Flood

In the running for best climate-change documentary is Before the Flood. Presented by National Geographic, this film puts Leonardo DiCaprio in front of the camera to track his journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. DiCaprio goes on various expeditions across five continents with scientists to learn first-hand about the land and species threatened by climate change.

Length: 1 hr 36 minutes
How to watch it: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play

Our Planet

This gorgeous docuseries is one of the top nature documentaries and sheds light on our interconnected ecosystem, revealing many of the ways we all contribute to disrupting the balance. The series introduces viewers to eagles, humpback whales, hunting dogs, and even leafcutter ants. At every turn, Our Planet reminds viewers “that the wonders they are witnessing are imperiled by human action.”

Length: 8 (50-minute) episodes
How to watch it: Netflix

The Dark Side of Chocolate

In this fair-trade chocolate documentary, journalists travel to Ghana and the Ivory Coast to investigate how child trafficking helps fuel this global industry.

Length: 46 minutes
How to watch it: YouTube

The River and the Wall

Centered on the Texas-Mexico border, this documentary introduces you to the animals that call Boquillas Canyon home, alongside a powerful narrative on immigration policy. Throughout the film, a river guide, conservationist, ornithologist, and a second documentarian take a 1,200-mile journey from El Paso to the Gulf Coast by bike, canoe, and horseback. Along the way, the group speaks with ranchers who are fighting with the federal government to keep their land.

Length: 1 hr 50 minutes
How to watch it: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

Treeline

Trees that are hundreds of thousands of years old—red cedars, limber pines, and bristlecones—are central characters in this documentary produced by Patagonia. Forest ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees “communicate” by sharing carbon with each other via underground fungal networks, and poetically explains our human connection to these ancestral giants.

Length: 40 minutes
How to watch it: YouTube, Patagonia

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Nicole GulottaNicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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