The darker nights are drawing ever closer so here is my list of inspiring films which have had a huge influence on me. These 30 films could change your life!
Films inspire as they connect directly with our emotions and draw on all of our senses transporting us right into the story like a hyperdermic syringe. In fact, that is a model of media influence that I studied in A-Level Sociology all those.. ahem… some years ago. You only need to look at the impact that TV series like Blue Planet II have had on conversations around the plastic pandemic.
As an Ocean Advocate in this new era of mass environmentalism, I am more and more drawn to looking at what mediums actually create long lasting change. Storytelling in a variety of formats, (including film) often come up top. Us humans have for millennia been drawn to stories to pass on our wisdom through generations. Emotional, heart driven impact is what creates long lasting change. Not excessive facts, nor relentless imagery of the problems, but these also have their place.
Some of these films will require a massive eco hug after watching and some will leave you feeling inspired that there are people out there instigating change. Perhaps you will be inspired to be the next environmental hero? So grab a huge bowl of popcorn, make a pot of tea and get comfy… These films could change your life!
#1 PLASTIC BRITAIN: ON OUR WATCH
Ok so my first recommendation isnt actually out yet, but since I have been working with the producers and have now seen the trailer I can’t help but feel excited at the possibilities that could come out of this film.
It is a feature length environmental documentary exploring Britain’s relationship with plastic. It discovers a nation whose rivers lay claim to the highest level of micro-plastics of anywhere in the world, while asking what the plastic pollution problem truly means for Britain?
Due to be released in 2019…
This film literally changed my life. After watching it I found Incredible Oceans – Whalefest and became a volunteer for them. I then meeting some of the Ex-SeaWorld trainers at Whalefest and I became inspired to take action for whales and dolphins. Within no time at all I started my journey into marine conservation and public engagement, determined to join those giving a voice to the voiceless creatures of our oceans.
Blackfish tells the true story of Tilikum, a notoriously aggressive orca that killed three people while in captivity at Sea World. Tilikum has since died in the prison which he lived. I, amoung many others, am determined to keep his story alive to protect the remaining orca living in tanks. I am fortunate enough to have seen orca in the ocean and never want to see them in tanks again! #EmptyTheTanks #WildAndFree
#3 THE COVE
This is the true story of Ric O’Barry, the man who trained the dolphins for the TV show Flipper. Since the dolpin committed suicide in his arms, Ric has dedicated his life to releasing captive dolphins back into the wild and trying to stop the drive hunts in Japan. Filmmaker Louie Pshihoyos and a team of activists join Ric. Together, they go on a covert mission to a hidden cove in Japan to expose the dark and deadly secret of how they treated their dolphins. I was lucky enough to meet Ric at Whalefest in 2015, a true ocean hero.
#4 HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Chronicling the birth of the environmental movement, the story of eco-hero Robert Hunter and his part in the creation of what we now know as Greenpeace. I have close friends who were very active members in Greenpeace in its hayday. I love their stories of enviromnetal heoicism and craziness. This film also documents how the organisation has changed over the years. With Paul Watson branching off and setting up Sea Shepherd, an organisation that isnt without its own controvercy but in a very different way. Needless to say, my friends arent involved anymore.
I have personal experience of the changing tides of charities as they grow and have the demands of sponsors to think about. It always amazes me how much ego there is in environmentalism. Dont get me wrong, they also do great work!
See what you think.
#5 A PLASTIC OCEAN
A Plastic Ocean was one of the first feature-length documentaries to shine the light on plastic pollution. It sets out simple steps we can take to create a shift away from the problem. It highlights the consequences of our global disposable lifestyle and dispels the myths about floating islands of plastic in the ocean. I have been fortunate enough to meet and work alongside both Jo Ruxton, the producer and David Jones the lead diver.
It contains never-before-seen images of marine life, plastic pollution, and its ultimate consequences for human health. During its four-year production period, A Plastic Ocean was filmed in 20 locations around the world in beautiful and chilling detail to document the global effects of plastic pollution and introduce workable technology and policy solutions that can, if implemented in time, change things for the better.
Since the film, far more scientific studies have been conducted and Blue Planet II has also created further shift in awareness. In fact, I understand that it was because of his involvement in the Plastic Ocean film that Sir David Attenborough insisted that Blue Planet cover the truth that his film crews and him had been seeing for so long. So in a way, this film was the catalyst for the global rise in plastic pollution discussion.
This is a chilling yet beautiful piece of cinematography and a film that will probably leave you needing a big eco-hug. In order to reach as many as possible the film has been made available for free permanently and there is the opportunity to host your own public screening of it. To help you with your post-film eco-hug, just remember that plastic pollution is a man made issue and so we can un-make that issue!
Every simple and small swap away from single use plastic, or brand that you convince to take action, creates a ripple effect. I am organising some Brighton based screenings with mindful support from me so do sign up to my mailing list for updates.
#7 SHARKWATER AND SHARKWATER EXTINCTION
I feel a personal connection to these films. I have just returned from Isla del Coco and travelled through the port at Punta Arenas in Costa Rica that is featured in these films. When diving in Socorro in 2018 the Sharkwater ship was docked in the port I left from. I’ve swam in the ocean with Hammerheads, Tigers, Galapagos, Oceanics and Reef Sharks. I’ve seen the hooks in their mouths and the decline in their numbers.
It is now necessary to go further and further away to find large numbers of our oceans majestic creatures. Why? Shark finning and the increasing shark meat trade, knock on consequences of as other fish stocks are now also critically declined.
Shark is now found in fertiliser, livestock feed, cosmetics and pet food. You could be smearing endangered super predators on your face and not even know it! We are now killing estimated numbers of 100 million sharks a year in comparison with around 5 human deaths, which will be due to an accidental mistake of identity on the sharks behalf. If you flap around on the surface of the water on a surfboard or whatever you tend to look like shark food (seals).
There is no doubt that we are the number one predators of the sea and these two films are the life work of Rob Thompson, a scuba diver that was dedicated to raising awareness of the illegal shark trade. Sadly Rob passed away in January 2017 while filming Sharkwater Extinction however the film was finished and released as his legacy and hopefully others will continue the fight. There are some great resources on the Sharkwater website for educators so do check it out.
#8 CHASING CORAL
In case you missed the memo, Climate Change is warming our seas, which in turn is killing our coral reefs. Reefs are important because they provide a vital habitat to protect juvenile species, our coastlines and act as carbon sinks as they form. Above a certain temperature however the coral spits out the algae that lives in it symbiotically. It is the algae which photosynthesises, a process that provides the coral with the energy it needs to survive. If waters don’t quickly recover to their initial cooler temperatures the reefs die. Also knows as coral bleaching as the algae gives the coral its colour, Chasing Coral is a story about those who are on the front line of coral research and also looks at what can be done to prevent the global loss of coral reef systems.
On my watchlist for the Autumn is also CHASING ICE, which I haven’t seen yet so can’t comment on.
Both of the ‘chasing’ films are also on Netflix.
One of the biggest ways individuals can positively impact our natural world is to stop with the relentless consuming. We are brainwashed into needing the next X or the best Y and the newest version of Z. But, do we actually NEED all this stuff!? The more suff I have the more trapped I feel. Get out there and live! Get in nature, get in the ocean, see for real our impact and you will soon think twice about buying that next bit of pointless tat that will sit around gathering dust.
This docu-film has been a huge inspiration to me. It explores how life can be better with less and takes you inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life-families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less. It is though a strange transition period at the moment as with the rise of minimalism and the increasing popularity of Marie Kondo and her ‘Magic Life Changing Book of Tidying Up’. Charity shops are in some places inundated while people clear out their unwanted crap. Meanwhile, manufacturers are still churning out products and an ever increasing rate. Don’t let that put you off though! We need to start somewhere and the more we delay the more backlog there will be in the transition.
#10 RACING EXTINCTION
Us humans keep destroying the natural world and as we do so, we boot more and more creatures out of their habitat. The same is happening to people to some extent, especially if you look at the recent fires in the Amazon. As the rich and powerful want even more power and greed we need films like this to influence an uprise against it.
Racing Extinction is an eco-thriller that examines our role in the mass extinctions that are happening today. Scientists, environmentalists, artists, and engineers draw attention to this pressing issue along side incredible footage and moving cinematography.
You only need to look at the huge amount of people moving in protest recently. The ever imminent tipping point of climate change in mind and the aim to get our world leaders to take action to prevent furter loss of the natural world. Racing Extinction is a few years old now and I’m certain many more species have been lost since its release. I would love to see a film coming out about the hugely inspirational Greta Thumberg.
Any other films on this topic that you think could inspire or change someone’s life please comment below!
#11 MISSION BLUE
Sylvia Earle is one of my all time heroes. She has done and continues to do so much for the world’s oceans. The world would be a very different place without her. I have been fortunate enough to be in the same room as her, to hear her speak. She was the first female scuba diver to live under the sea a story that is also featured in this movie.
Sylvia Earl is one of the pioneers for raising awareness of the oceans issues and has facilitated the mapping of this relatively unexplored part of our blue planet. This film is about her, about the ocean, about inspiration and about how one person can change the world.
#12 END OF THE LINE
This film has been called ‘The Inconvenient Truth About the Ocean’. If you eat fish or seafood then you really should watch this film. Not because I want you to feel bad but because I think it is important to know where your food comes from and the impact it has so you can make an educated decision for yourself.
As a result of watching this movie, I now eat fish probably one or two times a year only. Some might criticise me for not giving it up entirely (I have never been a big fish eater anyway), but this is my choice and what works for me. If every fish eater changed to limiting their intake to even once a month imagine the impact that would have on our oceans.
We are now in a world where the first blue fin tuna of the season in Japan has been sold at a record amount of over a million dollars. Only to be sold at a loss. Why?! For status. Tuna (especially the rare blue fin) has become such a rare delicacy on the sushi scene that it is now a way for shushi restaurants to boast about their prosperity and to get their name up there as the place to be. You can learn more by watching Blue Fin.
I have come face to face with tuna under water a few times. But as with other fish, I have to go to further away and to more and more remote places to find large pelagic fish these days. Under the surface us divers can see how few fish there are. I wonder how much the very last ever blue fin tuna will sell for?! It is only a short matter of time until that happens.
#13 CLOSING THE LOOP
“Unless we go Circular, its Game over for our Planet”.
Recommended to me by the Brighton and Hove Circular Economy Club, Closing The Loop is the world’s first feature length documentary on the circular economy. It is presented by Prof. Dr. Wayne Visser, a global sustainability expert & Graham Ehlers Sheldon, a two-time Telly Award & Emmy Award winner. The documentary features innovative cases moving from a take-make-waste linear economy to a borrow-use-return zero-waste economy.
Presented in partnership with the Circular Economy Club, since it was made lots more innovation has occurred and I for one am excited at what is to come. Claire Potter, featured on episode 2 of the Clare Talks Rubbish Podcast is a circular economy design expert, tune into her episode for more circular inspiration. Claire has also been hugely inspired by the Minimalists film and she talks about minimising her life so she can live on the boat she is lovingly converting.
Closing the loop is open sourced and avoilable to watch for free, link for the full movie on Youtube below.
#14 TRUE COST
The True Cost is a documentary film exploring the impact of fashion on people and the planet. If you want some inspiration before watching the Minimalists, this is it.
I am honoured to have worked with pioneering fashion designers Vin and Omi who for years now have been working to highlight the benefits of circularity in fashion and the detrimental effects of fast fashion. Vin and Omi will also feature in the Plastic Britain documentary mentioned in #1 above. I am also fortunate to know the founder of a local eco brand in Brighton and Hove Ruby Moon Swim to Gym. Jo Malone has been making sports fashion out of ghost fishing nets now for several years. We are super keen to have her on the Clare Talks Rubbish podcast so watch this space.
#15 ISLAND EARTH
I came across this film when listening to Cyrus Sutton’s episode on the Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast (a favourite of mine!). Island Earth is his story and the struggle for truth between science and tradition as he enters an industry that many feel is threatening his homeland. His complex journey through the corn fields of GMO companies to the loi patches of traditional Hawaiian elders reveals modern truths and ancient values that could save our future.
#16 BLOOD ROAD
I also found this film via the Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast. I have travelled extensively through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and the atrocities that happened there in my lifetime are still so raw that it really affected me. We are in hugely uncertain times at the moment and it pays to remember how bad things can get so quickly when politics goes wrong.
I recently attended a talk by Simon Sinek and he used the Vietnam war as an analogy of how being in it to win it is a model of battle that just doesn’t work. If you are in it for the long game and focus on thriving rather than winning you will generally come up on top.
Blood Road follows the journey of ultra-endurance mountain bike athlete Rebecca Rusch and her Vietnamese riding partner, Huyen Nguyen, as they pedal 1,200 miles along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Their goal was to reach the crash site and final resting place of Rebecca’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Laos some 40 years earlier. However the journey becomes so much more than that. A voyage of self discovery, the women push their bodies to the limit while learning more about the historic ‘Blood Road’ they’re peddling and how the Vietnam War shaped their lives in different ways.
#17 SEED THE UNTOLD STORY
As many irreplaceable seeds near extinction, Seed reveals the harrowing and heartening story of passionate seed keepers as they wage a David and Goliath battle against chemical seed companies, defending a 12,000 year food legacy.
An incredible film about a robot left alone to clear up earth after it has been ransacked by humans. Us humans having grown so fat we sit in floating chairs on a spaceship plugged into digital devices (crazy – or scarily possible future?). If you are that way inclined (like me) its a bit of a tear jerker…. The kids films always get me! An epic watch for a Sunday afternoon sofa session on a cold and rainy afternoon.
This film has created a huge wave in popularity of the vegan diet. Backed up with the health benefits outlined in What The Health. Particularly poignant at the moment with Bolsanaro turning a blind eye to the farmers who are allegedly starting fires to clear way for more lucrative cattle farms in the Amazon basin.
I did attempt a vegan diet after watching Cowspiracy, then ping ponged between being a veggie and a meat eater. The films has changed plenty of lives by inpiring a diet change even if not to full veganism. Personally, I have settled at being a conscious flexitarian, barely eating meat and dairy but allowing myself to have it on occasions. Generally, I am careful where any meat I consume does come from and I avoid beef except for perhaps one or two time a year. I feel better as a result and am a massive advocate of this way of being.
Veganism or even vegetarianism aren’t accessible to all so aiming for meat and dairy in moderation would have a significant impact and is more realistic and achievable for most. I applaud vegans for doing it though, especially those who are non-judgmental in their approach. Watch and decide for yourself.
#20 BEFORE THE FLOOD
“Climate Change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future but, at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General.
If you have heard about Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thumberg, the climate strikes, seen the protests but arent yet sure what its all about then this is the film for you. Presented by Lionardo DiCaprio and National Geographic.
Also watch An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006. Still no action has been taken by global leaders.
It is so important to counter the issues with the solutions so I love the fact that this movie adresses that on its website. There are also discussion and education packs if you want to run your own screening.
#21 OUR PLANET
Netflix’s version of the Blue Planet featuring Sir Attenborough himself.
#22 THE GREAT HACK
This film was the last I watched on this list. It exposes the corruption behind the Facebook fisching scandal with Cambridge Analytica in the elections of Donald Trump, Brexit and well pretty much all of the far right politicians who have now forged their way into power. Its pretty scary stuff but stuff that we should all be aware of and all bear in mind. A Netflix original.
I havent seen it yet but Data Centre: The True Cost of the Internet may also be worth a watch if this interested you.
#23 FAHRENHEIT 11/9
In a political environment where the rich elite have successfully used tactics straight out of the Nazi handbook to gain power and oppress the poor while getting richer and richer this film is an absolute must watch to all. Take the content on board then join with your community to take any small steps you can to change the tide of greed.
I was a big fan of the 9/11 film of the same name, exposing the potential conspiracy behind the collapse of the twin towers in New York. This film has far more evidence and scary tales about the ‘elected’ in power and their motives and strategies. Including the shocking situation in Flint Michigan where the water has illegal toxic levels of lead and dirt but while children get sick and die, no one does anything about it. If that isn’t enough, the city has been turned into an army training ground and you could be mistaken that you were in a war zone rather than a city that is in the country where ‘dreams come true’. A scary and gripping watch.
If this film grabs you then also check out Vice, which documents the changes in American politics which laid the foundation for this current crazy.
IThese films could leave you feeling a bit lost, apathetic or out of control. To that I will say, never lose hope, that’s what they want! There are many historical instances of people winning over power. If we all campaign and work towards the greater good, I have faith that change will come and sense will prevail. The universe normally comes good in the end.
Not the same topic at all but check out my podcast episode with Melanie Rees if you want to hear a positive story about people power that will inspire you and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
#24 THE AMERICAN MEME
There really is more to life than being a social media influencer. It’s an interesting insight into how social media has taken over the world.
Know that by sitting and looking at your phone, you often adopt a slumped body posture that tells your neurology you are feeling sad and low tempo. No wonder there is a rise in instances of mental health problems. So, despite this being a list of great films to watch, save them for a rainy day.
Its time to shut your laptop, put your phone down and get outside. Connecting with nature has so many benefits for your mental and physical wellbeing, and you are going to need to be fighting fit if you are to help us battle to save our beautiful planet.
# 5 MORE FILMS THAT COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE (THESE ARE ON MY LIST BUT NOT YET WATCHED)
#5 GARBAGE WARRIOR
I hope that these films inspire you. Do let me know what you think in the comments below or on my socials. If you know of other films that could change someone’s life stick suggests in the comments too!