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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 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.

Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner directed the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Learn more at

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Comments (8)

  • Avatar

    Mike Hanauer


    I have not seen many of these films, so my opinion is a bit jaded. But, I love “Growthbusters: Hooked on Growth” because it shows what has happened — it is not prediction, it is now. Also, because it emphases the declining condition due to eternal growth that exist right here in the USA, it doesn’t pretend it is a “global” problem — which I see as a cop out since there is not global government. People in the USA have to see the problem is right here and we need to set the example for the rest of the world.


  • Avatar



    I´ve seem some of these movies, Soylent Green really deserved a remake, one made correctly this time, maybe Neil Bloomkamp directing it…

    some criticism:


    I know, it´s a kids movies, but it gives a completely wrong message to them, if we wreck this world we starve to death, we´ll not scape in luxury starcruisers so full of food that everyone is obese to a point they cannot even walk. Also, there´s more ways we are destroying this world them simply piling trash…

    Children of men

    I consider it to be an UTOPIA, except that by the end they find a pregnant woman so, unfortunatelly, mankind will be saved once again.
    I love this movie, I love every Alfonso Cuaron works, but this movie is stupid to the point of telling us that “depopulation damages the environment”, the book states this and the movie makes some atempts at it too, when they film for no apparent reason a polluted small river.

    Soylent Green

    The book makes no effort to hide the root of the problem, overpopulation, talks about religious stupidity and everything, the movie, however, even in the face of obvious overpopulation, blames on “scientists” for poisoning the earth making it sterile, also, the cannibalism plot makes completely non sense, so, Thorn found their “secret” and now what? There´s no food to go along, so what´s the point in hiding what they used to produce soylent green?


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      Thanks for your comments, good points all. There certainly hasn’t been a perfect film made yet, so I tend to be thrilled when a film even makes an attempt.


      • Avatar

        Luis Zardo



        Yes, but, most of these attempts are actually pronatalist propaganda, ZPG, for example.

        A recent good movie depicting an overpopulated future, in spite of the stupid ending is Elysium.

        Perhaps you could write a similar article about overpopulation in novels.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      The Bladerunner films definitely paint a bleak picture, which seems to be fairly clearly due to overpopulation, yes. But that issue doesn’t seem to be part of the plotline. Otherwise I would have definitely listed the original when I made this list in 2013. Appreciate the comment!


  • Avatar

    Joan Philips


    I did not see the movie Children of Men, but I read the book and it was the worst book I’d ever read. Excruciatingly boring, except for a bit toward the end. Also a ridiculous plot. Why would people fight each other if there were no births? Today we fight to make room for and control resources for our offspring. In a world with no births, there would be plenty of space and resources. It might result in chaos, but not killing.

    I really like the TV series Last Man on Earth, which shows a much more realistic view of a depopulated planet.

    Beware the subtle pronatalist message of Wall-E. At the end he falls in love with EVE and she has life growing inside her. Doesn’t that just want you to start making babies?


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