Films on Pollution

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution most often is caused by chemical substances.

Homo Toxicus

Documentary 2008 NR 87 minutes. Documentarian Carole Poliquin uses wit, intelligence and common sense to unravel bureaucratic red tape and illuminate the science of the more than 100,000 chemicals created since World War II that contaminate mammals, plants, fish and even human DNA. Poliquin examines the prevalence of estrogen-mimicking compounds resulting in a lower birth rate of human males and the mutations of various species, and how science and governments are reacting. See Full Review

Living Downstream

Documentary 2010 NR. This award-winning documentary follows ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. No one wants to live in a polluted area that will very likely harm them and their children. Yet, through greed and corruption of local, state and federal governments and courts biased toward corporate interests aimed at deflecting accountablility covering up and misrepresenting the actual magnitude of these man-made disasters, that is exactly what a large sector of Americans are made to do.

Earth Days

Documentary American Experience 2009 NR 102 minutes. Robert Stone’s absorbing documentary revisits that April day in 1970 when 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, a far-reaching call to action that helped to forge the modern environmental movement. Amazing archival footage combines with in-depth profiles of nine key players in the movement to chart the growth of the public’s understanding of the environmental crisis. The film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Earth Report
State of the Planet 2009

Documentary National Geographic 2009 NR 50 minutes. This National Geographic special gives planet Earth a head-to-toe checkup, examining the overall health of our environment through an in-depth analysis of global development and how it has affected our natural resources. With a nod toward the future, the documentary also spotlights a number of corporations, people and government agencies making an effort to adopt ecofriendly policies and behaviors.

Plastic Planet

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 39m. This documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets. See Full Review


Poisoned Waters

Documentary Frontline 2009 NR 120 minutes. Turning a critical eye toward the growing problem of water pollution, this sobering installment of “Frontline” examines the conditions that lead to water contamination and the danger it poses to human health. The program exposes the worsening conditions of Puget Sound on the West Coast and Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, pointing to the threat of continued runoff from development, agriculture and industry. See Full Review


Documentary 2013 NR 44m. With an oil pipeline proposal comes talk of what there is to be gained. STAND asks the question, ‘What do we stand to lose? We hear a lot of talk about the Northern Gateway pipeline here in British Columbia, but not too many realize what’s actually at stake should something go wrong. Stand takes us on a trip into on of the last pristine wilderness areas on earth and uses surfing as a vehicle to showcase the beauty of BC’s north coast. It’s beautifully shot and is well worth a watch.

The Last Mountain

Documentary 2011 PG 1hr 35m. This is a gripping documentary that follows ordinary citizens in West Virginia’s Coal River Valley as they wage a campaign to prevent the infamous Massey Energy Company from expanding ruinous mountaintop removal mining operations. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the people of Coal River for show us that corporations have to be held accountable for their greed and belief that profits trump life. See Full Review


Documentary 2010 NR 107 minutes. In this Oscar-nominated documentary, director Josh Fox journeys across America to examine the negative effects of natural-gas drilling, from poisoned water sources to kitchen sinks that burst into flames to unhealthy animals and people. See Full Review

Split Estate

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 16m. The struggle between preserving public health and public treasures and satisfying the economy’s never-ending hunger for new energy sources is played out in the scenic landscape of Garfield County, Colo. Narrated by Ali MacGraw, the film details the oil and natural gas industry’s legacy of environmental damage and pollution in Colorado and elsewhere, as well as residents’ battle to protect their health and their clean water supplies.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Documentary 2011 NR 76 minutes. This wrenching documentary follows Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to a rare leukemia, as he reveals how the Marine Corps has betrayed its soldiers and their families by exposing them to toxic water at a base in North Carolina.


Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 1m. Subtitled “Louisiana Water Stories,” SoLa is a retrospective of a way of life that may have been destroyed forever by Hurricane Katrina. Beautiful photography of a gorgeous environment, ruined by the rusty, leaky, abandoned equipment from the oil and gas industries. The oil industry toiled in the dark for almost 100 yrs, hidden behind their lies or distance from large populations. Well, now our high population makes that harder to do and their lies are coming to light in ways that can’t be brushed off anymore.

A Sea Change

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 23m. Though he’s an environmentalist, Sven Huseby is a grandfather, too. And he’s increasingly concerned about the kind of world his grandson will inherit. A very well made, informative film about global warming’s sister threat: ocean acidification.

Tar Creek

Documentary 2009 NR 53m. Decades after being declared a Superfund cleanup program, the community in an environmentally devastated area of Oklahoma continues to struggle.

Strange Days on Planet Earth

Documentary 2008 Episode 2 Dirty Secrets TV-PG. “Dirty Secrets” tackles water pollution, showing how, for example, overdevelopment of resorts in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula can destroy the very marine ecosystem which drives such development. Actor Edward Norton narrates this thought-provoking National Geographic series that gets to the bottom of the most vexing environmental mysteries. Segments explore the global spread of disease, the indispensable role of predators and other topics.

The Unforeseen

Documentary 2007 NR 93 minutes. Robert Redford and Terrence Malick executive produce director Laura Dunn’s vivid examination of unchecked development at the expense of environmental sustainability, specifying the Barton Springs aquifer of Austin, Texas, as case in point. The documentary draws on archival footage and interviews with Redford, former Gov. Ann Richards, lobbyist Dick Brown and Austin land developer Gary Bradley to contemplate the true cost of the American Dream.

Erin Brockovich

Docudrama 2000 R 131 minutes. Julia Roberts earned an Oscar in this unconventional drama based on actual events for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced mother of three who sees an injustice, takes on the bad guy and wins — with a little help from her push-up bra. She develops a case against PG&E; for poisoning the water of the community of Hinkley, CA, with the carcinogen, hexavalent chromium. See Full Review

A Civil Action

Docudrama 1998 PG-13 115 minutes. In this drama based on a true story, John Travolta stars as a personal-injury lawyer who sues a major corporation when the drinking water in Woburn, Mass., is found to contain high levels of industrial solvents. Believing the contamination is responsible for the large number of leukemia deaths among the town’s children, the citizens — lead by a woman (Kathleen Quinlan) whose child has died — hire a lawyer to take on the corporate polluters.

Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal

Docudrama 1982 TV-14 96 minutes. Marsha Mason stars in this inspirational made-for-TV movie as mother turned activist Lois Gibbs, who refused to keep quiet when she suspected that chemical waste was poisoning her children — and scores of others in Love Canal, N.Y. What begins as a one-woman crusade to get the government to take responsibility for their suffering mushrooms into a 700-strong community battle for accountability, justice and truth.

In Our Water

Documentary Frontline 1983. Frank Kaler’s story begins simply enough when he requests a water test. Why? Because his children develop skin lesions after bathing in it. Frontline chronicles Kaler’s six-year battle with local and federal officials over the chemical pollution of his drinking water.



Documentary Frontline 2008 NR 116 minutes. “Frontline” producer Martin Smith investigates the environmental impact of big business. For years, corporations fought against compliance. That all changed when investors, advocacy groups and governments pressured companies into responsibility. But going green isn’t necessarily the norm in developing countries, as Smith reveals in his journey around the world to learn how businesses everywhere are dealing with the issue.

An Inconvenient Truth

Documentary 2006 PG 96 minutes. Director-producer Davis Guggenheim (HBO’s “Deadwood”) captures former Vice President Al Gore in the midst of waging a passionate campaign — not for the White House, but for the environment — in this Oscar-winning documentary. Laying out the facts of global warming without getting political, Gore makes a sobering impression on the audiences who hear his message, urging them to act “boldly, quickly and wisely” … before it’s too late.

Extreme Ice

Documentary Nova 2009 TV-PG 53m. Both breathtaking and unsettling, this fascinating array of extreme images gathered by photojournalist James Balog paints a startling portrait of climate change using time-lapse photography shot over the course of two years. Thanks to cameras that recorded pictures once an hour during daylight, you’ll see glaciers rapidly melt and shrink and sea levels rise ominously higher right before your eyes.

The City Dark

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr10m.  Taking cues from New York City’s bright nighttime sky, a documentarian examines the effects of light pollution on human health and the natural world.   Imagine any naturally beautiful spectacle..the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Smoky Mountains, the view from Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, Niagara, Angel Falls, and then imagine that pollution was rapidly beginning to block permanently your ability to see them. That’s exactly what we are doing every night with unnecessary and preventable light pollution: blocking one of the most spectacular and beautiful natural wonders ever viewed by human-kind, the night sky. Thanks to the creators of this thoughtful movie for highlighting this issue in a film. The fact that this documentary has been made gives hope that someday enough people will be thoughtful enough regarding this form of pollution to act on curbing it – as has happened with other forms of pollution.  The film covers the problem of uncontrolled light pollution from several vantage points; at least a couple of them should find resonance with just about anyone. In fairness, there is at least one section on nighttime safety that would seem to validate broad lighting; this film lets the viewer decide what is important and what is not. There are broad issues about health and general sky-watching effects of light pollution as well as personal stories and local neighborhood issues. Cheney seems to have found balance in his presentation.


The Spill

Documentary Frontline 2010 NR 53 minutes. This installment of the PBS documentary series investigates the disaster involving Deepwater Horizon, the BP drilling rig that exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Focusing on BP’s appalling record of safety violations, this program paints a scathing portrait of a company callously committed to profits despite repeated pledges to better protect its workers and the environment.

Plastic Planet

Documentary 2009 NR 1hr 39m. This documentary examines the ways in which plastic saturates our modern lives, and how our dependency on this petroleum product harms ourselves and our planet. See how plastic’s toxic chemicals enter the food chain and other disturbing secrets. See Full Review

Bag It

Documentary Humor 2010 NR 79 minutes. With a humorous tone, Suzan Beraza’s documentary follows average guy Jeb Berrier as he embarks on a personal quest to figure out where plastic bags come from, why they’re so ubiquitous and where they end up after they’re thrown away. One humorous bit points out that Evian spelled backwards is Naive. And Bag It is defined as 1. Put in a bag or 2. Stop doing it.

See also:

Films on Pesticides

Films on Nuclear Pollution


Custom Search


Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know