No, this is not the dreadful 2012 adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic book. This short (less than half an hour) version of Seuss' cautionary tale about unfettered greed and environmental pillaging feels more like a TV episode than a movie. Nevertheless, the old-school animation and voice talent—including Eddie Albert as the narrator—effectively remind us of the book's timeless message: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
Watch The Lorax.
Arguably the best movie ever made about Los Angeles, this postwar neo-noir starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway is a detective story and a murder mystery. But through Robert Towne's clear-eyed screenplay, it's also an exploration of the most elemental question imaginable. Namely, who controls the fresh-water supply to our planet's booming populations, and what if those who control that supply are, in the end, nothing more than venal, corrupt businessmen?
Watch a trailer for Chinatown.
Based on Farley Mowat's classic book, the film follows Tyler, a Canadian government biologist, as he studies wolves in the Arctic. He’s preparing a report about what he believes is their role in decimating the region's caribou population. Over time, Tyler comes to understand that that the wolves play no part in the caribou's decline. In fact, he learns that the wolf is a far more complex, sociable, and even noble creature than he ever imagined.
Watch scenes from Never Cry Wolf.
Get out your handkerchiefs. This movie, starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin, follows a dad and daughter as they teach migration patterns to geese using ultralight aircraft to guide the birds to safety. See this with your kids, and watch their expressions when the young daughter first takes off in the ultralight, a ragged line of geese following behind. Then brace yourself for the waterworks when it all comes out all right in the end.
Watch a trailer for Fly Away Home.
Whale Rider tells the story of a 12-year-old Maori girl (the riveting Keisha Castle-Hughes) who dreams of becoming chief of her tribe—not for the power the position might hold, but to heal her scattered and hopeless people. A remarkable mix of raw realism and gorgeous, dreamlike scenes, Whale Rider is a poetic love letter to humanity's place in the natural order.
Watch the trailer for Whale Rider.
This dystopian nightmare about a world where humans are no longer able to reproduce was the smartest, scariest, and in many ways the most purely entertaining movie of 2006. Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine are brilliant in this white-knuckle thriller, but in a real sense the star of the film is planet Earth. We've abused our home, the movie suggests, and now it's fighting back.
Watch the trailer for Children of Men.
One of Pixar's best animated movies, WALL-E is set in a future where Earth is nothing but a giant landfill. Horrifically out-of-shape humans live "off-world" on floating space stations, gorging on junk food and sugary drinks. The title character is a thoroughly engaging trash-compacting robot back on Earth who falls in love with another, newer, sleeker machine. Packed with ideas about responsibility, friendship, and the value of hard work, WALL-E is a delight. If you've never seen it, do so.
Watch the trailer for WALL-E.
With a box-office take of nearly $3 billion since its release, Avatar is the highest-grossing movie of all time—by a long shot. Occasionally overwrought, director James Cameron's film is still a marvelous and beautiful plea for environmental sanity. Not bad for a story about blue-skinned tree-hugging aliens fighting a bunch of planet-plundering corporate stooges.
Watch the trailer for Avatar.