Top 10 Population Films of All Time
As we observe World Population Day (July 11) I thought I’d share some of the most interesting films about human population, or least films with significant population themes.
I posted a list of the films I was considering, and invited you to vote for your favorite (or nominate others), so I could rank them by popularity come World Population Day 2013. So here they are, in the order you ranked them. I’m leaving the voting open on this page, so I’ll come back and revise this list if the voting swings significantly.
Be sure to check out www.worldpopulationday.org for other outstanding videos and other population news.
#1: GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth (2011)
I directed this documentary challenging the myths linking growth with prosperity and fulfillment. It explores how our beliefs about economic, consumption and population growth prevent rational responses to evidence we’ve outgrown the planet. I’m biased, but this film belongs on the list because of its honesty about overpopulation and exploration of the topic’s taboo. GrowthBusters includes interviews with a host leading thinkers like Paul Ehrlich, William Rees and Herman Daly. It also chronicles my own David vs. Goliath adventures in growthbusting: “My mission is to make it okay to be against growth.”
Available on Pivotshare, Amazon, and direct from producer
#2: Mother: Caring for 7 Billion (2011)
This elegant documentary by Christophe Fauchere is a must for any list of films about overpopulation. It’s factual, sensitive, and well-made, but a little more PC than GrowthBusters. In some ways that’s a plus; in others not so much.
Currently available free at the producer’s website
#3: Soylent Green (1973) Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, Dick Van Patten
This cult classic starred Charlton Heston as a police detective navigating a highly overpopulated world. The imagery of an overcrowded world in this film is intense. Meat is a rare, expensive, black-market delicacy. Food is rationed, and it doesn’t look too tasty. The dead are picked up every day by what look like garbage trucks and hauled off to… well, let’s not spoil the plot. If you haven’t seen this somewhat cheesy sci-fi romp, I recommend it. With each passing day I think the world imagined in Soylent Green is less and less far-fetched.
Available on Amazon
#4: Idiocracy (2006) Luke Wilson
This depressing comedy depicts a world in which irresponsible people outbreed the intelligent. Centuries of this phenomenon have resulted in a dim, oversexed dystopia.
Available on Amazon
#5: Critical Mass (2012)
This documentary by Mike Freedman centers on the work of Dr. John B. Calhoun at the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. between 1958 and 1983. Calhoun experimented with rats to explore changes in behavior as they were provided unlimited food and water, but not space. This launches an exploration of human population growth.
Available on Vimeo and Youtube
#6: Wall-E (2008)
Reader-Nominated. In a distant, but not so unrealistic, future where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with trash from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation, WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot has been left to clean up the mess. Mesmerized with trinkets of Earth’s history and show tunes, WALL-E is alone on Earth except for a sprightly pet cockroach. One day, EVE, a sleek (and dangerous) reconnaissance robot, is sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable. WALL-E falls in love with EVE. There is much truth about the human race in this animated robot love story.
Available on Amazon, iTunes and NetFlix(DVD only)
#7: Children of Men (2006) Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine
The world of 2027 has fallen into chaos on the heels of an infertility defect in the population. The world’s youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set against a backdrop of London torn apart by violence and warring nationalistic sects, Children of Men follows a disillusioned ex-activist turned bureaucrat trying to protect a women who has become miraculously pregnant.
Available on Vudu and Amazon
#8: Logan’s Run (1976) Michael York, Jenny Agutter
The idyllic society of 2274 figured out how to avoid the overpopulation problem. Everyone must be terminated when they reach age 30. As you might guess, Michael York explores other options.
Available on Amazon
#9: ZPG (1972) Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin
In a very smoggy and overpopulated world sometime in the future, the Earth government has banned the birth of babies for 30 years. Substitute robot babies are supposed to satisfy the urge to raise children. This film follows a woman who succumbs to maternal instincts, gives birth and tries to hide that fact from friends and the citizens of her community. Probably a bit of a P.R. nightmare for the group, Zero Population Growth, which was quite active at the time (years later ZPG changed its name to Population Connection).
Available on Amazon and Netflix (DVD only)
#10: Should We Stop Worrying and Love the (Population) Bomb? (2013)
I added this short film at the last minute in order to round out our top ten. This GrowthBusters original was just released today, but it is climbing the charts.
Available on YouTube. You are free to show this video in the classroom, at presentations, on television, in theaters. It is to be freely used.
Thanks for your votes and nominations.
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