Climactic climate movies
You’ve heard of sci-fi, but what about cli-fi?
Cli-fi, short for climate fiction, is a sub-genre of science fiction that explores how humans manage a changing climate. Cli-fi movies come in several different forms, from real-world to imaginary settings and deal with disasters, dystopias and even full-on apocalypses.
Though the term cli-fi may not have seen popularity until the 2010s, movies have been addressing the climate, its effects on humans and humans’ effects on it for decades.
If you’re tired of watching the rain out your window, here are a few climactic climate-related movies to help you weather the weather.
This ‘90s disaster adventure follows Bill and Jo Harding, portrayed by Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, as they chase a series of tornadoes in the Midwest.
Jo’s father was killed during a tornado when she was a child, and as an adult, she becomes obsessed with gaining a better understanding of the storms to develop improved warning systems. The tornadoes get increasingly stronger as the storm-chasing team travels across Oklahoma’s “Tornado Alley.”
Though the action-packed movie sends viewers through several twists and turns, it has some real-life inspiration. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked with producer Steven Spielberg, the screenwriters and cast members during production. And Dorothy, the storm tracking instrument shown in the movie, was based on a real NOAA device named TOTO.
"The Perfect Storm"
Based on the creative nonfiction book “The Perfect Storm” by Sebastian Junger, this disaster drama film of the same name is based on the true story of Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing vessel caught in the Perfect Storm of 1991. The Perfect Storm, sometimes called the Halloween storm, was an unnamed hurricane, created from the emergence of Hurricane Grace’s remnants with a nor’easter along the Atlantic.
The movie plot centers around the Andrea Gail crew — portrayed in the movie by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly, among others — who were caught at sea in the storm’s havoc.
This pensive Christopher Nolan film was released in 2014 and depicts an apocalyptic environmental fallout.
Set sometime in the future, Earth is riddled with troubles, like crop blights, famines and a second Dust Bowl. Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway costar as part of a team of astronauts, who travel through a wormhole in space to try to find another planet suitable for human survival.
Who said cartoons can’t take on serious subjects like human environmental impacts?
Disney Pixar released this animated piece of science fiction in 2008. The lovable, lonely robot WALL-E doesn’t say much, but he pulls at viewers' hearts as he cleans up the abandoned wasteland that Earth became after centuries of unchecked consumerism and environmental neglect.
The garbage pile-up became so severe that humans evacuated Earth on a spaceship. When WALL-E finds a lone plant seedling and meets the scouting robot EVE, a series of events unspool as the robots try to bring humanity back to Earth.
"Ferngully: The Last Rain Forest"
Years before “Wall-E,” came this environmental cartoon with Robin Williams providing voice talent. The 1992 animated movie also addresses human-environmental impact — although in a more fantastical way.
“FernGully: The Last Rain Forest” follows a group of fairies who must fight to save their home when a logging company begins cutting down trees and releases the evil spirit Hexxus, a dark oily being that feeds off pollution and wants to destroy nature.
"The Day After Tomorrow"
Released in 2004, this climate fiction disaster movie stars Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall, a paleoclimatologist concerned about climate changes in the environment. When a series of enormous “superstorms” plunge the world into a new Ice Age, the U.S. begins a massive evacuation to the equator. Hall battles the unstable climate as he travels north to rescue his son, portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, and his friends from a submerged and frozen New York City.
This post-apocalyptic film from 1995 is set in a distant future where the polar ice caps have completely melted. Sea levels have risen a whopping amount — Earth is nearly entirely submerged.
The plot follows the Mariner, portrayed by Kevin Costner, and other humans as they tread the waters of survival.