×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood Grapples With Right Approach to Climate Change in Movies, TV Shows

The climate crisis is a frequent visitor to the plot of Hollywood movies, sometimes as a catalyst in disaster pics such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” sometimes as part of an allegory about Mother Earth, as Jennifer Lawrence and Darren Aronofsky have said is the case in “Mother!” The bombastic depictions of global warming and the havoc it portends have typically been more limited to fiction than documentary, save for the theatrical impact of “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.

“I think it’ll be interesting to watch those films in the future with some hindsight; we can read them as a reflection of our anxiety rather than a tackling of an issue,” says “The Hottest August” filmmaker Brett Story, whose doc asks people how they feel about the future. “How can we exist on a planet and oversee its destruction — a destruction that threatens our very existence — and seem to be so passive in the face of it? So it’s really a question about people.”

Her film, which screened at SXSW, is one of a handful of projects in 2019 that consider the issue. “I feel a responsibility to try and offer something genuinely illuminating about the state of things, but without creating something that’s self-righteous,” she says.  

On the small screen, the issue generally gets a more sobering look. There’s “Years and Years,” the simmering political drama on HBO that first aired on BBC One in the U.K. Of note is Apple’s forthcoming “Losing Earth,” based on the New York Times feature about the decade that the climate crisis was nearly solved. 

On the news side, CBSN has a recurring segment, “Climate Watch,” and CNN hosted a Climate Crisis Town Hall on Sept. 4 in which the Democratic presidential candidates discussed the crisis.

“Science is at the heart of this topic,” says CBS News Digital general manager and executive vice president Christy Tanner, adding, “Climate change is a factor of so many of the stories we cover right now. Everything from migration to extreme weather to food and water supply and quality, and obviously many other topics. So we are committed to covering the impact of climate change on a variety of topics that we cover day in and day out.”

Here’s a glimpse at how TV and film have touched on global warming and the climate crisis, directly or indirectly, in recent years. 

FILM

Dramatic

Dark Waters (Nov. 22, 2019)

“Aquaman” (2018) 

“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)

“The Predator” (2018) 

“Venom” (2018)

“Downsizing” (2017)

“First Reformed” (2017)

“Geostorm” (2017)

“Mother!” (2017)

“Interstellar” (2014)

“Snowpiercer” (2013)

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (2012) 

“Wall-E” (2008) 

“The Day After Tomorrow” (2004)

Documentaries (theatrical)

“The Hottest August” (2019) 

“Living in Future’s Past” (2018) 

“Chasing Coral” (2017) 

“In This Climate”(2017)

“An Inconvenient Sequel” (2017)

“Before the Flood” (2016)

“Chasing Ice” (2012)

“The 11th Hour” (2007) 

“An Inconvenient Truth” (2006)

TELEVISION

Photo Ark NatGeo, 2020; A two-hour event special spotlighting wildlife impacted by climate change, habitat loss and other threats

Wildlife Warriors Discovery Channel, 2020; Series about conservation and mitigating animal extinction 

Climate Watch CBSN, 2017-Present; Recurring news segment that tracks climate change

Climate Change: The Facts BBC, 2019; David Attenborough explores climate science and possible solutions to the crisis

A Climate Reckoning in the Heartland CBSN Originals, 2019 ; A documentary on the impact of climate change on farming in Nebraska

Ice on Fire HBO, 2019; The Leonardo DiCaprio-produced documentary examines “never-before-seen solutions” to the climate crisis

Our Planet Netflix, 2019; The Attenborough-narrated documentary tracks climate change’s impact on animals the world over

Years and Years HBO/BBC, 2019; The sci-fi miniseries follows a British family amid global warming and political chaos

One Strange Rock NatGeo, 2018; Series on Earth hosted by Will Smith and produced by Darren Aronofsky; Season 2 in the works

True North Go90, 2018l The docuseries produced by The Young Turks Network aired on Verizon’s mobile streaming service

Years of Living Dangerously Showtime, 2014; NatGeo, 2016; Star-studded global warming-focused docuseries 

Losing Earth Apple TV, TBA; In development; based on New York Times climate package

More TV

  • _DSF7736.RAF

    How 'The Expanse' 'Died and Went to Heaven' at Amazon

    In the content space race currently being fought out in the entertainment industry, shows getting picked up by one platform after being dumped by another is becoming a more frequent phenomenon. Some moves feel more like a marriage of convenience, while others feel like a more obvious fit. Take “The Expanse” moving to Amazon Prime [...]

  • Lulu Wang Nicole Kidman

    Lulu Wang Boards Nicole Kidman Amazon Series 'The Expatriates'

    “The Farewell” writer and director Lulu Wang is teaming up with Nicole Kidman for the drama series “The Expatriates” at Amazon. The show had received a straight-to-series order at the streamer back in July. Wang is joining the series as a writer and executive producer and will also direct multiple episodes. Wang and Kidman had [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    Former 'Letterman' Head Writer Merrill Markoe to Receive Writers Guild Honor

    Merrill Markoe, longtime head writer at “Late Night With David Letterman,” will receive the Writers Guild of America West’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television Writing Achievement. She will be honored at the Writers Guild Awards on Feb. 1 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “Merrill Markoe’s pioneering work created what was then a new language [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Natalie Martinez Joins

    TV News Roundup: Natalie Martinez Joins CBS All Access' 'The Stand' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Natalie Martinez will guest star in CBS All Access’ “The Stand,” and USA announces the third season premiere date of “The Sinner.”  CASTING Natalie Martinez (“The I-Land”) will guest star in CBS All Access‘ adaptation of “The Stand,“ based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Variety has exclusively learned. [...]

  • Deadliest Catch - Crab Fishing In

    Discovery Networks Corners Composers in Music Royalties Battle

    Shows on the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, HGTV and Food Network may sound very different in the coming months. That’s because Discovery Networks, which owns those and other cable channels, is instituting a new pay policy that virtually assures no composer currently working on their programs will do so after Dec. 31. Discovery has informed [...]

  • Will Poulter attends a special screening

    'Lord of the Rings': Will Poulter No Longer Attached to Amazon Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Poulter will not be appearing in Amazon’s upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series after all, Variety has learned exclusively. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, scheduling conflicts will prevent the “Bandersnatch” and “Midsommar” actor from joining the show based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Variety had exclusively reported on Poulter’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content