The 10 best Earth documentaries give new insights and dimensions to the mind-blowing life forms, the scary ecology and the future of our home planet.  Mind your mother, Mother Earth, that is, and find out everything you need to know in these gorgeous and haunting films.

  1.  “Home” (2009) The saying goes, “As above, so below” and director Yann Arthus-Bertrand illustrates this truism with gorgeous aerial photography of 54 countries around the planet. Glenn Close narrates this exploration of our interconnected ecosystems around the world.

  2. “Earth” (2007) James Earl Jones narrates this feature-length distillation of the brilliant BBC “Planet Earth” series covering a year in the life of animal species coping with the environmental changes brought by mankind. Starring polar bears, snow leopards, and African elephant, this visual treat provokes ecological worries without heavy-handed preaching.

  3. “Nanook of the North” (1922) Move from the animal world to the human struggle for existence in a fascinating historical piece of cinema. Almost one hundred years ago, director Robert J. Flaherty captured the hunting and gathering life of an Inuit Eskimo family in the Canadian Arctic, headed by the charming and resourceful Nanook.

  4. “Encounters at the End of the World” (2007)  Fast forward to the 20th century with Werner Herzog’s exploration of Antarctica through the landscapes, and the unusual personalities that live and work in this remote, but achingly beautiful part of the globe.

  5. “March of the Penguins” (2005)  Sharing the Antarctica continent are the Emperor penguins of this Academy Award winning documentary. Director Luc Jacquet gives an anthropomorphic view, of relationships, mothering and existence through a year’s cycle of these amusing birds.

  6. “Winged Migration” (2001) A compelling close-up view of the strange beauty of migratory birds over seven continents, agains predators ranging from weather, illness and humankind by directors Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debat.

  7. “Koyaanisqatsi” (1982) For a poetic and disturbing contrast to animal life, this haunting, narration-free film uses time lapse and slow motion photography to demonstrate “life out of balance” (translation of the title’s Hopi term). Minimalist music by Phillip Glass provides the perfect juxtaposition to the American cities and landscapes depicted. Director Godfrey Reggio later completed a Qatsi trilogy of this cinema style with “Powaqqatsi” (1988) and “Naqoyqatsi.”

  8. “Inconvenient Truth” (2006) Few films lead to a Nobel Peace Prize, but Al Gore’s lifelong commitment to environmental causes was rewarded the year after this Academy Award winning film premiered. Showing a surprising humor and warmth from the famously stiff politician, director Davis Guggenheim blends the science of climate change with Gore’s personal story for a thoroughly satisfying result.

  9. “Food, Inc.” (2008) Without food there is no life, and director Robert Kenner’s timely examination of how that food reaches our table, brings a new perspective and a little revulsion) to the corporate food production that supplies most of our sustenance.  

  10. “Cosmos” (1980) We are just one small planet amongst a million (or is it a billion stars?). Scientist Carl Sagan’s thirteen episode tour through the Universe remains a thorough and surprising overview of the Universe, and how this planet first came to be.