Despite the feel-good activism and high-profile efforts, ultimately, Hollywood knows that it's not altruism that spurs love for one's planet -- it's mortal fear. With that in mind, Moviefone is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the films that make the scariest cases for taking care of our home turf while we still have a chance. We've rounded up 10 films that not-so-subtly demand we save the planet. Earth Day arrives only once a year, but Hollywood has a way of reminding us to care for our planet far more often. While some stars prefer to take their environmental efforts off-screen, crusading behind the scenes in high-level diplomatic meetings (see: Leonardo DiCaprio), others take their crusades on the road, hiking big mountains (Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch) or staging sit-ins (Darryl Hannah) to make a point.
Despite the feel-good activism and high-profile efforts, ultimately, Hollywood knows that it's not altruism that spurs love for one's planet -- it's mortal fear. With that in mind, Moviefone is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the films that make the scariest cases for taking care of our home turf while we still have a chance. We've rounded up 10 films that not-so-subtly demand we save the planet.
If only we had listened to the Mayans, maybe no one would have had to die. In this particular edition of director Roland Emmerich's apocalypse, the ancients' prediction of global demise comes true, and solar flares have heated up the earth's core enough to set off major earthquakes and tidal waves that threaten to wipe out civilization. Positing that only a man with brains, wit and a background in romantic teen movies might have the will to survive, '2012' stars John Cusack as Jackson Curtis, aka the one guy who might make it.
'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006)
Former veep Al Gore's documentary on the planet's swift demise is perhaps the most terrifying film ever made about the consequences of global warming. The movie brings Gore's traveling roadshow on the topic to the big screen, wielding facts as the ultimate scare tactic and boiling the subject down to digestible bites for the general public. Graphic comparisons -- such as the difference in snow cover on Mt. Kilimanjaro over the years, and just what might happen to Manhattan when the ice caps melt (can you guess?) -- show what's at stake in glaringly obvious terms. There are likely many reasons why 'An Inconvenient Truth' won an Oscar in 2007 -- but one may lie in the film's telling tag-line: "Nothing is scarier ... than the truth."
James Cameron scored box-office gold with his 3-D triumph, but Mother Earth won big, too. The film follows paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) to the planet Pandora, where a giant corporation is destroying native Na'vi land to mine for a valuable ore. Kicking it with the Na'vi in his avatar suit, he gets schooled in local culture initially as a diplomatic mission to befriend the natives so his employers can dig up their village to get the goods. But as Jake abandons the nature-hating agenda for his own race in favor of the sacred Na'vi land, his choice is clear -- and so is the movie's message.
'FernGully: The Last Rainforest' (1992)
Sure, 'Avatar's' Na'vi may have made 'FernGully's' little fairies seem like insignificant ants, but this rainforest needed saving before the story of Pandora earned a dime. It's sad that the kids for whom this cautionary tale was designed are now probably grown-up polluters, but you can't blame the cartoon for trying. It might be a little sadder, though, that the careers of the stars who voiced the fairies -- Jonathan Ward voices Zak/proto-Jake Sully, while Samantha Mathis voices Chrysta/proto-Leytiri -- haven't fared much better than Mother Earth. Still, Zak's arrival among the forest creatures allows for an important lesson for would-be nature-haters, no matter how old they are.
'The Book of Eli' (2010)
It's never explicitly mentioned how the earth was destroyed and the ozone became non-existent, but the general wasteland of a planet and dissolution of civilization is tacitly blamed on humanity, as punishment for a society gone astray. Denzel Washington plays the titular hero, who's on a quest across America to protect a book that holds the secret to saving humanity, but has a lot sword-fighting to do on the way. In this new reality, the sun's strength requires constant use of sunglasses and water is a prized commodity, so much so that its scarcity has turned people into aggressive grifters quick to kill each other for survival. With a color palette of grays and browns, a desolate, lawless landscape and Eli's tisk-tisk 'tude toward his fellow humans, 'Book' points a finger at us with a message that's loud and clear.
'Terminator: Salvation' (2009)
Machines are such a drag, and it's our fault for building them. At least, that's the ostensible undercurrent of McG's take on the post-apocalyptic chapter in the 'Terminator' franchise. Christian Bale stars as John Connor -- namely, humanity's only hope -- who leads the effort to fight back against the evil Skynet, which vows to finish off civilization with more nukes. By this point, in 2018, global warming concerns are irrelevant because everyone will probably die anyway. Don't even bother recycling, or buying a Prius, or using less water while brushing your teeth: Our quest for technology will render us the instruments of our own demise, and Bale will be the only one who can help.
'The Day After Tomorrow' (2004)
Doomsday-pro Roland Emmerich directs this cautionary tale about what will happen when the greenhouse effect gets the best of us (hint: everyone dies). Emmerich's grandiose vision unfolds unfolds one disaster at a time and includes all manner of natural hazards, from floods to earthquakes and hurricanes to tidal waves. Dennis Quaid plays the climatologist who tries to warn everyone with heart-stopping statements like, "If we don't act now, it's going to be too late," and becomes one of the few survivors at the dawn of a new ice age. The message is twofold: Scientists know what they're talking about, and stocking up on Gore-Tex might not be a bad idea.
'The Happening' (2008)
(Spoiler Alert!) Planet Earth strikes back in M. Night Shyamalan's critically-reviled tale about a family that flees natural disaster -- only to learn that flowers are finally taking revenge on their human enemies. Mark Wahlberg works his eyebrows to the max as Elliot Moore, a science teacher who can't seem to get his class to care that bees are disappearing mysteriously. Those kids care soon enough, though, once the blight spreads to humans as affliction that causes them to seize up and kill themselves. As all of the U.S. goes on terror alert, Elliot and his family flee for safety, and eventually realize that they are under a plant attack. The moral here is obvious, even if the casting isn't.
'The Road' (2009)
Human mistakes strike again in this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's eponymous, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Viggo Mortensen plays a father battling his way across a ravaged, post-apocalyptic America with his son in tow on a quest to find civilization amid cannibalistic gangs and general civil unrest. While the cataclysm in question doesn't get much discussion, McCarthy has been lauded by the media and experts, one of whom said that the movie's source material "could be the most important environmental book ever." Who needs science to spur action when an ugly landscape, dearth of food and the threat of marauding cannibals can say it all?
Poor Kevin Costner. Long before James Cameron had his global blockbuster triumph, the actor starred in and co-produced this gargantuan box-office failure of a cautionary tale. The film is set in the future, after the polar ice caps have melted and "Dryland" is merely an abstract concept -- conceived here as a dubious legend that leads Costner's character, a bad-ass mariner, to set sail with a hopeful pair of ladies to find their Mecca. Just in case the tropical, seafaring future sounds less than catastrophic, 'Waterworld' drives home the fear by giving humans gills and other creepy genetic mutations for this new environmental reality in which solid ground is a thing of the past.