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The Best Eco-Thrillers and Environmental Films

Let’s face it: ecologically speaking, we live in a scary time. But even before greenhouse gases and corporate polluters threatened to upend our ecosystem, humankind had always feared the power of mother nature. And whatever we fear, we seek to explore.

The following list comprises four of the most chilling, hard-hitting thrillers that take on the subjects of environmental threat. Whether that threat is coming from or toward us, you’ll have to watch to find out.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Based on the non-fiction book by Andreas Malm, Daniel Goldhaber’s recent release is a taut political thriller that follows a ragtag group of dispossessed youth. At first, it’s unclear why they’ve all met up in the desert or how they all know each other.

But as the pieces come together, you realize: each of them has been impacted negatively by climate change and the corporate greed that spurs it on, and they seek revenge. Watching the film, it’s hard not to think what our world would look like if we embraced green initiatives like a carbon tax and green technology like portable power stations. How to Blow Up a Pipeline sends the urgent message: there’s still time to change.

Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal

This criminally underseen television from 1982 tells the story of Lois Gibbs, the brave New York housewife who sought justice for the Love Canal Tragedy. 

When Gibbs (played by Marsha Mason in the film) notices her children have begun breaking out in hives and coughing, she asks other local parents if their kids are experiencing the same things. They all are, and Gibbs is able to trace it back to the fact that the children’s school was secretly built atop a toxic waste dump.

This righteous, thrilling film follows Gibbs’ crusade against corporate and government entities. It’s a rallying cry for upset parents and sick children who refuse to sink into the shadows, inspiring us all.

Night Moves

This sleek 2013 eco-thriller was directed by one of the greatest living filmmakers, Kelly Reichardt. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgard as a group of environmentalists who plan to blow up a dam.

This taut, explosive film would play great on a double bill with How To Blow Up A Pipeline because the films end on such different tones. We won’t say too much, but don’t expect to walk out feeling victorious.

The China Syndrome

This critically acclaimed film from 1979 chronicles the risks of nuclear power production. Nuclear power was once heralded as a clean, unlimited alternative to coal and gas. Films like The China Syndrome showed we have far more to fear than just pollution from nuclear energy.

Jane Fonda plays a television reporter who accidentally uncovers a series of safety violations and cover-ups at a nuclear power plant. It becomes a race against the clock to save the plant from a total meltdown.

Protect the Green

No matter how frightening the delivery, the message underlining these films is sweet: take care of our planet because it’s always taken care of us.


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