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17 movies with environmental themes

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Interest in the environment, concerns about pollution, and mankind's effects on the planet have proven to be a rich source of material for Hollywood. Several films over the last few decades have successfully used an environmental theme as the basis for dramatic story-telling.

Here is a list of several such films, some of which may be obscure, and some of which were filmed right here in Kern County. All of them touched on either air pollution, global warming, water pollution, man's interference with nature, or similar topics.

Have you seen all of these? Do you have a favorite that isn't listed here? Feel free to comment below. Not included were cartoon movies, like Fern Gully:The Last Rainforest, Wall-E, and Avatar.

Waterworld
Waterworld Daryl Mitchell / Creative Commons license

Waterworld

Although the movie kind of bombed, this tale of a future Earth almost totally submerged after the ice caps have melted proved popular in one respect - recreations of Waterworld sets for amusement parks across the country such as the one shown here. Parts of the movie were filmed at Kern County's Mojave Airport.

An Enemy of the People
An Enemy of the People Amazon.com ad - fair use

An Enemy of the People

Not many people realize this (or saw the film) but Steve McQueen was almost unrecognizable in one of his last roles. In this adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play, he starred as a doctor who tried to warn his fellow citizens of water pollution from a nearby factory.

Armageddon
Armageddon Angela Weiss / Getty Images

Armageddon

Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton starred in this movie about an oil drilling crew recruited to blow up an asteroid in outer space before it would wreak environmental havoc by crashing into Earth. Although panned by many, the movie had exciting special effects, humor, and action sequences as it dealt with a subject that just might happen some day. Parts of the film were shot at Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County.

The China Syndrome
The China Syndrome Amazon.com ad - fair use

The China Syndrome

Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, and a young Michael Douglas starred in this drama about a meltdown at a nuclear power plant. The release of the movie occurred less than 12 days before a nuclear accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in March of 1979.

Children of Men
Children of Men Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Children of Men

Clive Owen starred in this somber vision of the future, when an unknown event has rendered women infertile. The cause of the infertility is never explained and the film touches upon themes of hope, religion, anarchy, science research, and immigration. It was nominated for three Academy Awards.

The Day After Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow Steve Finn / Getty Images

The Day After Tomorrow

Jake Gyllenhaal starred in this film depicting havoc on Earth caused by climate change. Although the plot turns appeared to conflict with what current climate science predicts, the film proved popular nonetheless, with spectacular special effects sequences.

Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich Maree Williams / Getty Images

Erin Brockovich

Based upon a true story about environmental crusader Erin Brockovich (pictured here) and her fight for people who were exposed to industrial chemicals in their groundwater, the film starred Julia Roberts and proved to be a box office hit. Some of it was filmed in Boron in Kern County.

Twister
Twister Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Twister

Helen Hunt starred in Twister as one of several scientists who track down tornadoes. With remarkable special effects, the story showed the destruction that severe storm events can cause and explored ways that science is trying to obtain new information on their formation and how to provide better warnings of such events. Parts of Twister were filmed on the Tejon Ranch in Kern County.

Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III
Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III Vince Bucci

Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III

Tea Leoni starred in the third installment of the Jurassic Park films, which dealt with what happens after scientists tried to manipulate genes such that extinct dinosaurs may be brought back to life.  Both Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III were partially shot in Kern County, with locations in Red Rock Canyon and the Kern River used.

The Last Winter
The Last Winter Carlo Allegri / Getty Images

The Last Winter

Ron Perlman starred as an oil company executive who cared more about drilling for oil than the destructive effects of that drilling upon the Alaskan environment. Utilizing global warming themes that resulted in the unleashing of unstoppable supernatural beings, the film is an eerie, must-see film for sci-fi and horror fans.

Michael Clayton
Michael Clayton Scott Wintrow

Michael Clayton

George Clooney starred in this film that touched upon environmental problems caused by a giant agri-business firm and its use of toxic chemicals. Voted as one of the 10 best films in 2007 by many critics, it was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, with Tilda Swinton winning for Best Supporting Actress.

Deep Impact
Deep Impact Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Deep Impact

Another film about an extraterrestrial object (this time a comet) about to strike and destroy Earth's eco-system, Deep Impact was directed by Mimi Leder. Some of its sequences were filmed in the mountains of Frazier Park and Mt. Pinos in Kern County.

Sharknado
Sharknado Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Sharknado

The name says it all - this TV movie on the Syfy channel caused quite a commotion when it aired this year. With a totally laughable global warming theme, ocean tornadoes suddenly appeared over the ocean near Los Angeles, scooping up sharks in the process and unleashing them on the terrorized citizens of L.A.! This is not to be missed, if only for the sheer audacity of the premise!

Soylent Green
Soylent Green Amazon.com ad / Fair Use

Soylent Green

Charlton Heston starred in this sci-fi fantasy of a futrue world where overpopulation has resulted in, shall we say, interesting ways to feed all of the hungry people. Heston has one of the greatest ending lines in the history of film.

The Andromeda Strain
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The Andromeda Strain

A satellite returns to Earth near a small desert town. A virus is released. Everyone except an old man and a baby are killed. Scientists rush to find a cure before an environmental disaster spreads across the country. The Andromeda Strain - one of the best by Michael Crichton.

The Omega Man
The Omega Man Amazon.com ad - Fair Use

The Omega Man

A remake of an earlier Vincent Price vampire movie (The Last Man on Earth), The Omega Man deals with the aftermath of biological warfare between Russia and China which kills most of the world's population, leaving the survivors as albino mutants who only come out at night, bent on destroying scientists who they blame for the disaster. Charlton Heston starred in one of his more iconic roles. Both movies were based on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, which was remade under the same title in 2007 in a film starring Will Smith.

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