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Best nature movies
5/12/2016 Volume XLIX, No. 18

The best way to experience nature and the outdoors is in person … in parks, forests, meadows, mountains, rivers, oceans and far-away lands. But perhaps the next best way is through films.

Luckily, movies live on forever in today’s world, no longer limited by brief runs at theaters. Just about every film ever made can be found online, only a click or two away.

So whether you like long-distance hiking, fishing in pristine trout streams, close encounters with wildlife, mountain peak vistas or surviving in harsh environments, there’s a movie to transport you.

Here are some New Jersey Conservation Foundation staff favorites:

A River Runs Through It (1992) – If you love fly fishing and trout streams, it’s hard to beat this story of two boys growing up in rural Montana on the Blackfoot River.

Born Free (1966) – This Oscar-winning movie about a husband and wife living in northern Kenya raising an orphaned lion cub, Elsa, is a classic. Can Elsa survive in the wild, or will she have to spend her life in a zoo?

Never Cry Wolf (1983) – A researcher goes to the Artic to study wolves that are believed to be killing caribou, but instead learns about the beneficial nature of wolves.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972) – After a stint in the army in the 1840s, a man leaves civilization behind and heads for the American west for a life of solitude as a trapper.

Gorillas in the Mist (1988) – This film is based on the true story of Dian Fossey, a naturalist who studies and befriends African mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Mile … Mile & a Half (2013)- In this documentary, a group of friends leave their everyday lives behind to hike a 211-mile section of the historic John Muir Trail in California.

The Perfect Storm (2000) – Nothing captures the ocean’s fury better. This film is based on the true story of a commercial fishing crew caught in a brutal East Coast storm in 1991.

Into the Wild (2007) – After graduating from college, Christopher McCandless gives away all his money and possessions and hitchhikes to Alaska to live alone in the wilderness, not realizing the difficulties he will encounter.

Fly Away Home (1997) – An orphaned flock of geese doesn’t know how to fly south for the winter, and it’s up to a girl and her father in an ultralight plane to teach them migration.

180 Degrees South (2010) – This documentary follows adventurer Jeff Johnson to Patagonia as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of his heroes … and ends up meeting them.

Cast Away (2000) – A FedEx executive is marooned on a remote tropical island after his plane crashes, and learns to find food and shelter in the wild while planning his rescue.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960) – In a decades-earlier movie about being stranded, a shipwrecked family figures out how to survive on the island … and deal with pirates.

The Endurance (2000) – A retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914-16 expedition to Antarctica, when his ship became encased in ice.

Deliverance (1972) – A group of city-slicker friends head out for a white water canoeing adventure in northern Georgia, getting far more than they bargained for.

Silent Running (1972) – Earth’s last nature preserve is in a greenhouse circling the planet, and the astronaut in charge has been ordered to destroy it with all its flora and fauna.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) – A funny yet serious movie about a peaceful bushman of the Kalahari whose life changes when a Coke bottle drops from a plane. His harmonious life is juxtaposed with those who are incompetent at dealing with the natural world.

These two series are also well worth watching:

Years of Living Dangerously –This Netflix documentary series highlights climate change challenges, as celebrities tell the stories. 

Rock the Park – Also on Netflix, this series features two crazy guys who have made it their mission to explore every national park in America. 

Happy viewing! If you have a favorite outdoor, nature or environmental movie not listed here, please let me know at

And to learn about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at



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