Nature Movie Recommendations

Must-watch films for all nature lovers


Photo by Mahima on Pexels

Kaleb Oakley, Staff Writer

1. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Released in the late nineties, Princess Mononoke is one of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s most enduring works. The film tells the story of a young prince named Ashitaka who, after getting a strange infection from a boar attack, sets out on a journey to meet a deer god who could cure his condition. On his journey, Ashitaka encounters a refuge for outcasts and lepers employed to make firearms in furnaces fueled by the clearcutting of the deer gods’ forest. He also meets the pack of the wolf goddess Moro and a human girl who rides with them and assists them in their quest to protect the woods of the deer god. Princess Mononoke boasts one of composer Joe Hisaishi’s greatest scores and some of the greatest artwork ever put to the screen, but the real thing that makes it a masterpiece is the overpowering themes of man vs nature, man vs man, and man vs self. I put Princess Mononoke on this list because of the beautiful artwork and layered writing and because I feel every person who wishes to be more at one with nature must view this at least once. It can be streamed on HBO Max.

2. Only Yesterday (1991)
Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday, released by Studio Ghibli in 1991, is one of the studio’s lesser-known titles in the West because Disney chose not to release the film to an American market as the film mentions menstruation. The film follows a woman named Taeko in her late twenties who has lived her entire life in Tokyo. She decides to go visit the rural Yamagata region of Japan and help with a safflower harvest, but while in transit she is flooded with memories of her life as a child. In lyrical switches between the past and present, Taeko ponders on whether she has been true to the little girl staring back at her in the mirror or if she has betrayed her younger self. I put this on the list because this film gives a beautiful depiction of the Japanese country and it gives us a chance to reflect on how true we are to our past selves. It can be streamed on HBO Max.

3. Badlands (1973)
In 1973, a thirty-year-old Harvard graduate by the name of Terrence Malick scraped together enough money to direct a low-budget debut film. That film was Badlands. Badlands, loosely based on the Starkweather murders, follows Kit, played masterfully by Martin Sheen, and Holly, played by a 24-year-old Sissy Spacek, who decide to run away from their dead-end South Dakota town and, in the process, begin a cross-country killing spree on the backdrop of the endless sky of the Midwest. Many of Malick’s trademarks as a filmmaker, such as meditative voiceover, magic hour cinematography, and prominent themes of nature and the conflict between reason and instinct, are all present here. For a little bit of trivia, one of the film’s promotional taglines, “In 1959 a lot of people were killing time, Kit and Holly were killing people,” caught the attention of the zodiac killer, who was lying low at the time, when he was reading the San Francisco Chronicle, and it upset him so much that he sent a letter to the editor of the paper asking for its immediate removal. It can be bought or rented on Amazon Prime.

4. The Thin Red Line (1998)
At a glance, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line sounds like every other American war movie, but that could not be further from the truth. The Thin Red Line, loosely based on the novel by James Jones, follows a soldier who returns to the front lines in the Pacific theater battle of Guadalcanal after briefly deserting to live with a native tribe. The plot often takes a backseat to the meditative, often unrelated, voiceover and the breathtaking score by Hans Zimmer. The large ensemble cast features many big names, such as George Clooney, Sean Penn, and Adrien Brody, but every actor selflessly shares the spotlight allowing the viewer to get lost in a sea of helmets. I put this movie on the list because of its powerful themes of nature and man’s place within it and because it is one of the most technologically-perfect films ever made. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.