Climate Fictions: How Movies Dream About the Future

It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel like watching movies.

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at climate change movies.

There are some corners of the movie store that require a hazmat suit. Not because they’re especially gory or graphic. But because exposure runs the risk of striking an especially tender nerve. I’ve maintained, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, that 1970s sci-fi should be approached with such caution. To say that 1970s science fiction isn’t hopeful about humanity’s future is putting it lightly.

Sci-fi in the 1970s was a charred and toxic landscape of our own creation; a galaxy of sick planets choking from pollution, war, pestilence, and all the symptoms of the human disease that make headlines to this day. It’s a cinematic vision of environmental collapse: the polluted farmlands of No Blade of Grass (1970); the intergalactic Noah’s Ark of Silent Running (1972); the self-cannibalizing society of Soylent Green (1973).

As the video essay below posits, the grim nihilism of 1970s sci-fi is one expression of a larger genre: cli-fi, a.k.a. climate fiction. From older retroactive visions of an imagined future to modern tropes (hero scientist dads) to more comedic to take the apocalyptic edge off, cli-fi is a varied genre whose concern with human futures comes in many forms. Check out the following video essay for a brief introduction to the ever-evolving genre of climate change movies:

Watch “Climate Fictions, Dystopias and Human Futures”:

Who made this?

This video essay on Cli-fi and Ecocinema is by Julia Leyda and Kathleen Loock. Leyda, alongside Susanne Leikam, wrote a marvelous 2017 bibliography titled Cli-Fi in American Studies: A Research Bibliography, which you should totally check out if any of this sparked your interest. The bibliography includes things like Dan Bloom’s “To Fight Climate Change, We Need Beter Movies” and Adam Flynn’s “Solarpunk: Notes Toward a Manifesto.”

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    Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.