10 Environmental documentaries that will change your life

Those who take an interest in the natural world and the environment will know that there are an endless number of cinematographic works inspired by both themes. Indeed, the popularity of documentaries based on such issues has grown in recent times. They tackle many themes ranging from charges against institutions and private companies of environmental damage to artistic pieces based on images and sounds that arouse all kinds of emotions in the viewer. This piece will present you with 10 documentaries about the environment that could end up changing the way you view things.

Planet Earth

This extremely popular documentary series produced by the BBC took five years to complete. It was first broadcast in the United Kingdom in 2006 and has since been shown in more than 100 countries worldwide. The Emmy award-winning series, produced by Alastair Fothergill, takes the viewer on a trip around the world looking at the connection between all the planet’s different habitats. Almost every scene of the 11-episode series was filmed in high definition. A film version of the series called “Earth” was released by Disney.


This extraordinary French documentary, released in 2010, brings to the screen the drama of the world’s oceans. With a budget exceeding €50 million, the film was billed as one of the most spectacular documentary productions in history as well as one of the most expensive. It explores the depths of all the seas of the planet, showing fascinating marine creatures and the dangers that surround them. The razor-sharp quality of the images allows you to see coral reefs, whales, dolphins and sea dragons in all their splendour. The documentary also reveals how this beautiful underwater world is threatened by human actions damaging the ocean floor.

An Inconvenient Truth

This 2006 documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, follows former United States presidential candidate Al Gore’s efforts to raise public consciousness about the issue of global warming. It has become a reference point for those who believe that carbon dioxide emissions created by human activity are having terrible consequences on the health of the planet. The documentary presents the viewer with a number of disturbing facts about climate change and also offers a number of solutions to the problem.

The Cove

This film, which won an Academy Award for best documentary in 2010, attempts to shed led on the shadowy world of Japanese dolphin hunting. With the help a group of activists, led by former dolphin trainer Richard O'Barry, the documentary reveals that more than 23,000 dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered by Japanese fishermen every year. In particular, the documentary centres on alleged dolphin hunting at a cove at the National Park at Taiji, in the Japanese city of Wakayama. According to the film, this hunt is fuelled by the generous profits to be obtained from selling captured dolphins to aquariums and dolphin meat to supermarkets. It also attempts to show how dolphin meat can pose risks to human health. Directed by National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos, the documentary is characterised by the use of hidden cameras and microphones positioned underwater and in rocks.


This documentary, released in 2009, tells how mankind has affected the natural balance of the planet Earth. Directed by the famous French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, this work differs for other documentaries in that its story is almost exclusively developed using shots taken aerially from a helicopter. The footage was recorded in 54 countries around the word. It reflects on how the planet's ecological problems are all interconnected and warns us that there could be disastrous consequences if mankind does not reverse the trend of destruction.

The 11th Hour

This 2007 documentary was co-written and produced by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio. The actor also narrates the documentary, which centres on the destruction caused by climate change and extreme weather. Many interesting contributions are made by politicians and scientist such as former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and Stephen Hawking. The film presents both practical and radical solutions towards the restoration of ecosystems, while focusing on the need to prevent a climate catastrophe which could threaten the existence of mankind.


Directed by Ron Fricke, this 1992 documentary does not feature any narration or voice over and it relies on images and sounds to tell the story of the relationship between mankind and the natural environment. It was shot in 24 different countries over a period of 14 months. Its sublime cinematography features natural wonders, big cities, factories, traffic jams and ancient civilisations. The word "Baraka" is of Arab origin and it can be translated as "blessing" and interpreted in the context of the documentary as the importance of caring for the Earth as a unique habitable environment.

The Light Bulb Conspiracy

This documentary, directed by German filmmaker Cosima Dannoritzer, proposes that certain products are purposely manufactured to breakdown so that consumers have to buy replacements. She argues that this cycle of profits was first established by a cartel of companies who conspired to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb in the 1920s. According to the film, this process of “planned obsolescence” was deepened with the birth of the consumer society in the 1950s. It is suggested that the culture of constantly discarding products is now having grave consequences for the environment.

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This Canadian documentary, directed by Franklin Lopez, analyses the exploitation of the environment through the application of systematic violence in supposed civilised countries. With an energetic and dynamic narrative, it raises issues such as the chaos of modern Western life, the crisis of the global economic system, scarcity of resources such as oil and the failure of world institutions. It chronicles the efforts of people and communities offering resistance against a system intent on destruction of the world’s natural resources.

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Plastic Planet

This Austrian-German documentary, released in 2009, aims to analyse the effects of a material that has seemingly become indispensable in modern life. Director Werner Boote shows how the processes and chemicals that have made plastic into such a useful and durable product have actually created an environmental time bomb. He also argues that plastics can cause serious damage to human health. During his journey around the world he investigates issues such as consumption habits, waste disposal and pollution of seas and deserts.

Related: How to organise your recycling

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About the Author

Mi nombre es Eugenia Orbe. Soy Licenciada en Comunicación y Técnica Universitaria en Periodismo, de la Universidad Católica Argentina. Cuento con 10 años de experiencia en distintas áreas de la comunicación. He trabajado como redactora y editora en medios, editoriales, gráfica, portales Web, publicidad, marketing online y redes sociales.