11 Movies That Celebrate Our Amazing Planet for Earth Day
Celebrate Earth Day with our must-see list of the greatest movies that showcase the majesty of our planet and the fierce power and beauty of nature itself.
Everest is an epic mountain-climbing adventure that was filmed on location in Nepal—at times in freezing temperatures. This action movie documents the true story of the 1996 Mount Everest blizzard disaster, which took the lives of several climbers. The photography takes you to the sun-drenched summit, but also captures the mountain’s scale and danger in dizzying scenes of the climbers’ strife. It’s so perilous on Mount Everest that additional filming had to take place in the Italian Alps and in Iceland. Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Sam Worthington play the courageous adventure seekers who dare to climb the famously harsh mountain.
Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
Sigourney Weaver plays primate expert and activist Dian Fossey in this nature epic that was actually filmed near an extinct volcano in Rwanda—the site where Fossey did her original research. The scientist’s life work was to keep these gorillas safe from poachers. To prepare for the role, Weaver got close to the same animals. One of the original gorillas Fossey studied even made it onscreen in the movie. And although some of the primates are played by humans in suits, it’s hard to tell the difference. The cinematography is immersive and you’ll feel like you’re right in the midst of nature in this moving story about saving an endangered species.
The Beach (2000)
Filmed on Koh Phi Phi, a gorgeous Thai island, The Beach is considered one of the most stunning displays of natural beauty in cinema. The story stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an adventurer on a quest to find a hidden lagoon. He discovers a community living in paradise, but all is not as utopian as it seems. Some of the scenes were digitally enhanced, but they capture the beauty of the Thailand tropics, including a waterfall in one the country’s national parks. The landscape is so valued, that lawsuits sprang up post-production because film crews damaged one of the beaches with a bulldozer.
Even though Pandora is a fictional locale, this film’s setting is known for its glorious views of natural wonder. The blockbuster is set on a lush planet where plants and animals exist harmoniously. The plot concerns bad guys coming in to strip the wonderland of its natural resources. Audiences fell in love with the amazing sights, including the tree community the peaceful blue Na’vi folk call home. Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Park is set to open a recreation of the magnificent land so you’ll be able to experience the stunning environment in person.
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Al Gore’s acclaimed documentary about climate change gave audiences a great lesson on environmental issues and concerns. Gore’s passion project helped raise awareness around global warming and included action items that viewers could take away to start their own efforts to help the planet. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and is credited with jump-starting renewed efforts in environmental activism.
Life of Pi (2012)
This is visually stunning story is about a boy who survives a shipwreck only to find himself adrift on the ocean in a small boat with a magnificent tiger as his only companion. While the film drifts into fantasy sequences, it contains breathtaking imagery of natural wonders. The story is a moving meditation on truth and tragedy, but its journey includes a gorgeous tropical island populated by meerkats, beautiful views of a starlit sky, and an ocean storm scene that will knock your socks off. That tiger is really amazing too!
March of the Penguins (2005)
Audiences fell in love with this documentary about the incredible endurance and rich lives of penguins. The cinematographers spent over a year in isolation up in Antarctica to photograph the little critters as they made their way through mating season into parenting. The small crew had special cameras that could operate in freezing temperatures. The outcome was a heartwarming and relatable journey, narrated in the American version by the warm, inspiring voice of Morgan Freeman.
Monkey Kingdom (2015)
Monkey Kingdom is one of the most loved of the Disney Nature documentaries—movies that provide a close-up look at remote locales and the incredible creatures who dwell there. This one provides a view into jungles in Sri Lanka and the amazing macaque monkeys that live and play amidst breathtaking ancient ruins. The film follows a mama primate on her quest to find a safe home for her family. Tina Fey narrates the story, meant for children, but well worth a watch for nature lovers of any age.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Diane Lane stars as an American divorcee who spontaneously relocates to the Italian countryside. While the film is a romantic comedy, the real love story is with the incredible scenery and her newly purchased house. The Italian villa is gorgeous and charming, but needs a lot of work. The movie was filmed all around Tuscany and captures the sights and tastes of life in Italy. You’ll be thinking it sounds like a good idea to drop everything and buy an old house in wine country by the time the film is over.
Winged Migration (2001)
This French documentary is considered one of the best nature documentaries of all time. And it deserves that distinction. Shot on all seven continents, the photography makes you feel like you’re actually flying alongside birds as they soar across the planet. Filmmakers used special cameras and techniques to achieve its amazing footage—reportedly without using special effects. Crews followed many of the birds from birth onward so the winged creatures got used to flying near the cameras. This is a soaring journey about the amazing nature of birds, especially Canadian geese.
The Searchers (1956)
This famous John Wayne western is one of many film classics to showcase the awe-inspiring beauty of Monument Valley—a landscape near the Arizona-Utah border known for its grand buttes and valleys. It was filmed in widescreen VistaVision to show off the scale and scope of the American West. Wayne’s gritty cowboy journeys across the plains on his desperate search, but the movie is as much about the tremendous power of the frontier and all it represents. In true Hollywood fashion, a few of the outdoor scenes are filmed on a soundstage, but nothing matches the visual splendor when Monument Valley is the backdrop.
Originally published as 11 Movies That Celebrate Our Amazing Planet for Earth Day on ReadersDigest.com.