And the Oscar Goes To …: Tell Us Your Favorite Environmental Movie Moments

Written by Kerry Crisley on . Posted in Act

I hope I can make it across the border.

I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.

I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.

- Morgan Freeman as “Red,” The Shawshank Redemption

I recently watched one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption. Again. Each time, I’m captivated by Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins reuniting in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

I wonder, though. Would the ending still have the same emotional punch if it weren’t set on a gorgeous beach? Probably not. That got me thinking about other films in which nature steals the show, even if it’s just for one unforgettable scene.

So below, I’ve pulled together my own list of nominees for the Conservancy “Oscar”; our version being the fish from the Amazon basin.

The Sound of Music: It has catchy songs, romance, war, matching outfits made from really bad curtains, and the incomparable voice of Julie Andrews. But really, what’s the first image that comes to mind when someone mentions this movie? Maria spinning in the Alps, right? Now, if she had been leaning out the window of a streetcar singing “the trams are alive with the sound of music”? Not so much.

The English Patient:  It’s the age-old plotline. Boy meets girl. Boy feigns indifference to girl. Boy and girl’s truck gets buried in a desert sandstorm. But what a desert. The texture, the shifting dunes, the brilliant colors and peaks and valleys of sand, it’s as exotic a backdrop for a secret affair as they come.

The Lord of the Rings: There’s a lot of beauty in LOTR, but here’s what sticks with me: the lighting of the signal fires from Gondor over the rugged, snowy mountains to Rohan in The Return of the King. It’s majestic and powerful and my favorite sequence in the trilogy. Way cooler than an S.O.S. via instant messaging.

Local Hero: If you haven’t seen this below-the-radar gem about a Houston oil executive sent to a sleepy village on the Scottish coast to make a land deal, stop reading now and put it in your movie queue. I’ll wait. Good. You won’t be sorry. The scenery – Highland moors, craggy rocks, and a coveted stretch of sandy beach – is on par with Braveheart, another huge favorite of mine. But because I’m a pushover for a good indie (not to mention a Mark Knopfler soundtrack), I’m tipping the scales toward Hero.

Dances with Wolves: Maybe you have special place in your heart for Costner after Bull Durham, or perhaps you think his most convincing performance was playing the deceased in The Big Chill (and even then he was edited out). That said, for me this film is all about the grasslands and herds of bison. “Amber waves of grain” is sung during most seventh-inning stretches for a reason.

So there’s my list – five times that nature left me speechless at the theater. I know that many of you out there have your own favorites: we’d love to know what they are!

Kerry Crisley is associate director of strategic communications for marine issues at The Nature Conservancy

Photo by Flickr user Staceyd1972 (An Oscar fish.)

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Comments (19)

  • Matt Barrett

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    I love that sea-side Scottish Village in Local Hero! tremendous selection. I’m inspired to make my own list now…let me start by offering up the sweeping western U.S. as my theme and three movies: 1) Junior Bonner (a phenomenal Sam Peckinpah-directed rodeo flick starring Steve McQueen and Robert Preston that takes place largely in Arizona); 2) Little Big Man (a sweeping dramedy epic starring Dustin Hoffman as a “white man” raised by Native Americans and featuring many incredible Western U.S. vistas); and 3) Lonesome Dove (I’m cheating here cuz it’s a TV miniseries adaptation of the Larry McMurtry classic novel, but it stars Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Lane, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover, Chris Cooper, Steve Buscemi…I could go on) in one of the best “buddy movies” of all time as they make their way from Texas to the northern plains to start a cattle ranch)

    Reply

    • Paula Hannah

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      Good choices – I love every one of those movies. Another good one was Deliverance and we can’t forget about all the movies made at sea. I especially liked the movie made maybe 7-8 years ago with Russell Crowe as the ship’s captain. He made the following toast: “To our wives and mistresses, may they never meet.”

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      • Matt Barrett

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        Paula – Master and Commander – great addition!

        Reply

  • sheri

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    The Cove. It’s not a real pick me up, but it’s a wake up call.

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  • Hikerstepheb

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    An older one, but still love it would be Never Cry Wolf. I stlil watch it from time to time.

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  • Diego

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    Well, it is not the best movie ever, but nature is showed in a magnificent way in Apocalito, directed by Mel Gibson…

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  • M. Ben

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    SeaWorld for all that beautiful blue Pacific Ocean (though I don’t remember any reference to the Pacific) and the final scene that panned on our gorgeous coastline of our Waipio Valley on our Hawaii Island.

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  • Wendé Anne Maunder

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    The opening sequence to Lawrence of Arabia. Again a desert scene.

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    • Susan

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      Yes, absolutely the best scene in movie cinematography with Omar Sharif…

      Reply

  • Sean

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    Local hero was the film that inspired me to work in cinema. A teacher explained all the themes, how the main character dresses more and more like a local in each scene etc.

    My most memorable nature scene is one in which Snails make love, tenderly, in Microcosmos (beautiful French nature film). An hour of beauty and no words. I came outside, spellbound, and lay on the grass in a London square, in the rain.

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  • Blythe

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    I know it’s Brad Pitt. Yes, I’m going there: Legends of the Fall. Seriously, the scenery is spectacular. (And the nature shots aren’t bad either.)

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  • Blanche Devareaux

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    Lawrence of Arabia
    Out of Africa
    The Gods Must Be Crazy
    Gorillas in the Mist
    Born Free
    Walkabout

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  • Ingmar

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    “Out of Africa” (the Kenyan aerials are as great as Meryl Streep’s Danish accent);
    “Australia” (bad Baz Luhrmann movie, but breathtaking scenes of Western Australia);
    “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” (obscure movie but chilling Arctic ocean scenes around Greenland);
    “Days of Heaven” (great American heartland panoramas in Terrence Malick’s 70s masterpiece);
    “The Sheltering Sky” Vittorio Storaro’s undulating Sahara in this mediocre adaptation of the Paul Bowle’s novel)

    Reply

  • Mark Jennings

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    Have to go with the North Carolina mountains in “Last of the Mohicans”–the one with Daniel Day Lewis. Also the Scottish scenery in “Rob Roy” with Liam Neeson, the Rocky Mountains in “Jeremiah Johnson”, the Himalayas in “Seven Years in Tibet,” and if we are going with fish how can you go wrong with the fish in “A Fish Called Wanda?”

    Reply

  • Susan

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    My favorite “nature” moment was undoubtedly from the film “Fly Away Home” when the Canadian geese were flying south to their sanctuary – being guided by their imprinted “mother,” young actress Anna Paquin in her ultra-lite. There is nothing more moving than seeing this – every time is brings a wonderful feeling, reminding me that there are so many people who do such genuinely selfless acts to protect our nature.

    Reply

  • Dawn T

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    Last of the Dogmen, the last scene traveling by horse through the snow, just lovely.

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  • irene

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    The Black Stallion. The scenes on the beach where Alec tries to get close to the stallion and coax the horse to allow him to ride were unforgettable.

    I also agree with The Sound of Music and Lawrence of Arabia. I would add Shane.

    Reply

  • cate

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    Finding Nemo! Loved Nemo and buddy Dory. The coral reefs were beautiful and looked so real. And we can’t forget those cool surfin’ turtles. Makes me cry every time.

    Reply

  • Karen Chandler

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    A River Runs Through It with Brad Pitt, and Robert Redford narrating it. The river scenes were breathtaking!

    Reply

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