The Best Environmental Films for Families

It can be difficult to find family films to begin with, especially when dealing with kids in varying age groups. And when you throw in the added criteria of movies that address environmental issues you might as well be taking a shot in the dark, right? In truth, there are tons of eco-friendly films out there that are suitable for kids of all ages, and many will appeal to young and old alike. Here are just a few to consider.

1. My Neighbor Totoro (1988). I know what you’re thinking – there’s no way this movie came out that long ago! You’re half right. The animated Miyazaki masterpiece didn’t get a stateside theater release until 2009, after the genius behind it had gained popularity through several other films. But this beautiful and creative tribute to nature (set in 1950s rural Japan) was actually one of his earlier creations. Although this film isn’t teeming with environmental overtones, the central theme about the mystical power of nature to heal our innermost ailments is ever-present, making this fanciful film a wonderful introduction for kids to the concept of conservation.

2. FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). It doesn’t get much more heavy-handed than a fairy-led tour of a magical rainforest that comes under attack by a squadron of looming logging machines. And following the Disney formula (although it was made in Australia) the script is tragicomic (so it may not be suitable for very young kids despite the G rating). But all in all it’s a cute entry into the green movie lineup that most children will likely enjoy.

3. Dirt! The Movie (2009). This is one that not too many families have stumbled upon, probably because it is a documentary. But if you give it a chance you’ll likely find that you and your kids all enjoy this interesting look at the ground we carelessly trample every day (both literally and figuratively). The film explores the long-standing relationships between humans and dirt, and how our way of thinking has changed significantly since the beginning of the agricultural revolution. If we want to survive we need to restore the bond we have with the soil that is a vital factor in growing food and sustaining life, and this movie can help us understand how.

4. Avatar (2009). This one is for the older kids (tween and up) with a PG-13 rating earned for some violence and sexual overtones. But the 3D masterpiece is a truly awesome cinematic experience that will delight kids so much that they won’t even realize they’re being beaten over the head with a message of environmentalism. Okay, so the “protect nature” diatribe gets laid on a little thick, but the stunning graphics and stellar action sequences more than make up for it. In short, this is one movie that every green cinephile should see.

5. The Lorax (2012). You might recall a Dr. Seuss book of the same name, and sure enough this is the filmic iteration of that very book about a boy who goes looking for a tree and instead finds nature’s protector, the Lorax. The DVD isn’t set to come out until next month (even can’t help you there), but when it does you can bet there will be plenty of parents looking to share this cautionary tale of greed and its environmental consequences with their kids.