It’s Earth Day, an occasion to head outdoors (safely!), plant a tree, pick up some trash, or just appreciate mother nature. Of course, it’s also important to take a moment and educate yourself on the numerous problems our environment is facing. So if you’d rather stay inside and stream some topical films and shows instead, we won’t judge. It’s a scary world out there.
From climate change to deforestation to toxic pollution by massive corporations, the planet is in serious danger. However, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. This year we’re celebrating the women activists leading the charge and taking a stand to help protect our one and only planet. These brave women live all over the world and—alongside their communities—are helping to ensure that our Earth will survive many Earth Days to come. After watching these films, perhaps you’ll be inspired to start your own environmental activism journey!
I Am Greta
When it comes to the climate change movement, most people have heard of young environmental activist Greta Thunberg. For the past few years, Thunberg has had an active role in convincing world leaders to take immediate action to stop climate change. By the age of 18, Thurnberg had already spoken to the United Nations and received numerous awards for her dedication to the cause. I Am Greta follows Thunberg from her one-person strike in 2018 outside the Swedish parliament to world recognition as an outspoken advocate for change. Watching her question world leaders—her statement, “How dare you,” directed at the UN’s lack of action is downright empowering—might make you want to take a more active role in protecting the environment yourself. Which is exactly Thurberg’s goal.
Where to watch: I Am Greta is now streaming on Hulu
Jane Goodall: The Hope
From a young girl at the start of her activism journey to an icon who has been immersed in conservatism for decades, Dr. Jane Goodall’s legacy is commemorated in the new documentary, Jane Goodall: The Hope. After a lifetime of observing, studying, and fighting to protect wildlife, Goodall has created a series of community-centered conservation programs now active in six African countries. And while she has continued to fight for chimpanzees, Goodall has also become involved in human rights and climate-change activism. Much like I Am Greta, Jane Goodall: The Hope will inspire you to fight for your environment.
If you enjoy this film, you might also want to check out 2017’s Jane, which features never-before-seen footage of a 26-year-old Goodall as she first began to study the lives of wild chimpanzees in the 1960s, while also raising her first child. Is there such a thing as too much Jane Goodall? We don’t think so.
Where to watch: Both Jane Goodall: The Hope and Jane are now streaming on Disney+
Bees are a crucial part of our ecosystem, but in the last few years they’ve been dying at an unprecedented rate due to pesticides and habitat loss. While humans are responsible for the loss of bees, there are also human beekeepers out there trying to keep them safe. In the 2019 documentary Honeyland we meet Hatidže Muratova, a lone beekeeper who lives in the remote village of Bekirlija in North Macedonia. Due to its isolation, Bekirlija has no access to water or electricity, and Muratova is one of the last keepers of wild bees in Europe. Her life takes a wild change when a new set of neighbors show up. Interested in Muratova’s work, her neighbor decides to pursue beekeeping, so Muratova helps him. However, after the neighbor becomes wildly successful, he keeps producing bees that eventually attack Muratova’s hive. Filmed over the course of three years and edited down from more than 400 hours of footage, Honeyland is a “fly on the wall” documentary—meaning there are no interviews or voice-over narration. It touches on multiple environmental problems, including climate change and biodiversity loss, while also highlighting the negative impact of consumerism on nature.
Where to watch: Honeyland is now streaming on Hulu
This Changes Everything
Based on Naomi Klein’s book of the same name, the documentary This Changes Everything shows how various communities around the world are trying to fight the environmental destruction of the Earth. The activists depicted include Crystal, a young, Indigenous Beaver Lake Cree Nation leader residing in Alberta, Canada, campaigning for access to a restricted military base; Jyothi, an Indian matriarch taking a stand against a coal-fired power plant that could destroy a natural wetland; and Melachrini, a housewife in Greece fighting mining and drilling projects. This Changes Everything serves as a reminder that we must all do our part locally to stop climate change around the world.
Where to watch: This Changes Everything is available to stream on Tubi and Plex
Although this film is nearly 20 years old, director Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed biographical drama Erin Brockovich is still a powerful reminder of how one woman can make a huge difference. Based on a true story, the film stars Julia Roberts as Brockovich (a role which won her an Oscar for best actress), a legal assistant who became an environmental activist after building a landmark case against Pacific Gas & Electric in 1993. Thanks to Brockovich’s extensive research, outreach, and gathering of evidence, PG&E was ultimately held responsible for dumping numerous gallons of chromium tainted wastewater into various ponds around the town of Hinkley, CA, contaminating the town’s water supply and leading to cancer and other health problems among the residents. Keep an eye out for the real-life Brockovich herself, who makes a cameo as a waitress early in the film.
Where to watch: Erin Brockovich is available to stream on Fubo and DirecTV, and is available to rent on Amazon
Produced by Viceland, Rise is a seven part docu-series focusing on the Indigenous nations of North and South America as they battle against corporations and fossil fuel companies that build on or destroy sacred land. Each episode focuses on a different case, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, a toxic spill in Brazil, and mining on Apache land. The various communities who are impacted by this destruction all step up to take a stand against it. Rise reminds us that through the power of community, even massive multi-billion dollar companies can be taken down.
Where to watch: Rise is available to rent on Prime Video
Why not round out your Earth Day binge watch with a different kind of environmental she-ro? While most of the films on this list focus on humans, Bears features a determined mother brown bear and her two cubs living in coastal mountain ranges of Alaska. Narrated by John C. Reilly (who is, ironically, a bit bear like himself), Bears follows bear mom Sky and her cubs on a perilous journey across a vast and beautiful natural landscape. Once spring comes, the bears are able to leave the den, and encounter quite a few dangers: the threat of avalanches, a lone wolf, and other bears. The family works together to overcome these challenges, and the cubs eventually learn how to hunt and navigate the wilderness on their own. Bears is a relaxing film that sheds light on just how remarkable bears truly are. It’s a valuable reminder of why this planet and its inhabitants are worth protecting.
Where to watch: Bears is now streaming on Disney+