As I was researching environmental disaster movies it was interesting to see how long this idea has been around that humans could destroy the earth simply by taking its resources for granted. Long before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, filmmakers and fiction writers were clearly aware that manmade pollution has a chance of bringing about an apocalyptic scenario here on earth. So, in honor of Earth Day I present a few movies that, in their own over-the-top ways urge audiences to heed the warnings of the day lest we succumb to a future worse than what these films imagined.
The Day After Tomorrow
This is probably the first cautionary global warming tale that springs to most people's minds when you think "environmental disaster." In The Day After Tomorrow the rising temperature of the planet speeds up the disaster effects some real-life scientists predict will happen eventually. The film stars Daniel Quaid as a sexy — wait for it — paleoclimatologist who tries to save his son (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the other survivors stuck in New York after the city is flooded and then frozen over by the rising ocean. The movie is all CGI effects and silly one-liners but the action is heart-pounding and Quaid and Gyllenhaal are easy on the eyes.
For more movies that may scare you into recycling and using energy-efficient light bulbs,
Before Star Wars wowed audiences with stellar effects, there was the campy and slightly corny Logan's Run. The film is based on the bestselling science fiction novel of the same name that was written in 1967. The movie takes place in the future (23rd century to be exact) where the earth has basically been destroyed by overpopulation and pollution. A few survivors live in a domed society which would be rather lovely if it weren't for the fact that everyone must die at age 30 (population control). The movie stars Michael York (a.k.a. Basil from Austin Powers) and actually won an Academy Award for visual effects at the time. It's a bit dated, but is still an interesting look at a scary dystopian future.
Similar to Logan's Run, Soylent Green was released in the '70s, but this time takes us to the year 2022. Now that overpopulation and global warming have led to a world where food like fruits, vegetables, and meats are rare, most of the population lives off "soylent green" processed food. Charlton Heston stars in this classic thriller about the potential for corruption when resources are scarce and humankind is desperate.