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The 8 Most Spectacular Climate Action Documentaries of 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio's Before the Flood was one of 2016's highest profile documentaries. Photo: National Geographic
Leonardo DiCaprio's Before the Flood was one of 2016's highest profile documentaries. Photo: National Geographic

Looking for some inspiration during the holiday period? If you’re a fan of climate change-themed documentaries, 2016 has been a treat.

Whether you’re a fan of climate science, innovation, space flight or even cartoons, this year had it all. We’ve listed eight of the most spectacular releases below, check out the trailers or watch them in full on platforms such as Netflix, iTunes or Google Play.

1. Before the Flood

Star power matters – as confirmed by researchers who looked into the ‘DiCaprio effect’ this year – and the movie star certainly made a big impact with his Before the Flood climate change documentary, which also includes appearances of the Pope and Barack Obama. The film was released globally just ahead of the US election.

The documentary has been described as highest-profile environmental film since Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth‘ and was summed up by The Wrap as a “straightforward, elegantly presented survey of the science on climate change” along with suggestions on how to fix it. Continue >>

2. Time to Choose

So yeah, DiCaprio’s blockbuster didn’t stop the election of  Donald “let’s make coal great again” Trump. But if you need some cheering up, this film by Academy Award-winning documentary maker Charles Ferguson might leave you feeling uplifted and inspired. Although the trailer first highlights the challenges of climate change, the focus on the film is on solutions. Continue >>

3. Les Saisons

Europe may be better known for its many cities these days, but its still harbours the odd stretch of primitive wilderness. One of this year’s most innovative documentaries explores these ancient sites to travel 12,000 years back through time to a continent waking up from the last ice age – before modern humans, and problems like man-made climate change. Continue >>

4. Years of Living Dangerously

The first season of this made-for-TV documentary series focused on the problems and causes of climate change. But 2016’s eight-episode run highlights the solutions that people around the world are working on according to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator actor and former governor of California and one of the show’s producers. Continue >>

5. Three Seconds

This four-minute short film won one of the main prizes at the UN’s Connect4Climate video competition. Richard Williams – better known by his stage name Prince Ea – is a spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker. For the duration of the film, Williams sits on a beach and points out that if you would condense the Earth’s lifespan into 24 hours, humans have existed for just three seconds. Continue >>

6. An Inconvenient Truth’s Tenth Anniversary

This groundbreaking documentary by Al Gore was of course not released this year, but in 2006, and celebrated its tenth  anniversary in 2016. Although like Gore, Clinton won the popular vote but lost the election, a lot has changed since the iconic film helped spark a global debate on climate action a decade ago. In the age of Trump, the film that prompted millions to start asking questions about climate change is still very relevant. Continue >>

7. A Beautiful Planet

NASA and IMAX teamed up for the documentary A Beautiful Planet – a breathtaking portrait of Earth, filmed from space. The documentary provides a unique perspective on the planet and galaxy as never seen before. The film, narrated by Hollywood star Jennifer Lawrence, features stunning footage of planet Earth and the effects humanity has had on it over time. Continue >>

8. Next: Captain Planet?

This one is not so much a documentary and hasn’t been created yet, but rumours about the potential Hollywood remake of the popular 1990s cartoon show by Leonardo DiCaprio made major headlines in 2016. Originally broadcast from 1990 until 1996, the Captain Planet series was a form of edutainment and promoted environmentalism through an animated story that revolved around five teenagers known as the Planeteers, aided by superhero Captain Planet. Continue >>

Feeling inspired? Find out about how Climate-KIC can help you get involved with climate action as a student or a start-up.

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