Hollywood has a long and celebrated history of making a big mess. Can’t anyone ever save the day without leveling several blocks of Manhattan or destroying a national monument? Then again, what would be the fun in that? Mayhem and destruction are all fine and dandy on the big screen, but the last thing we want to hear about is movies making environmental destruction off-screen as well. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest environmental disaster movies both on and off-screen. Some you’ll expect, and some you won’t. A couple even have unexpectedly happy endings. For the planet’s sake, let’s hope CGI continues to get better and better.
(Photo Credit: Lionsgate)
Apocalypse Now Robert Duvall might love the smell of napalm in the morning, but you can assume the people of Vietnam were less enthused. It’s not like Francis Ford Coppola, when filming Apocalypse Now, actually dropped napalm bombs on several acres of forests — that would be awful. On the other hand, he did douse them in 1,200 gallons of gasoline, then set them ablaze with explosions and burning tires scattered throughout for maximum effect. In his own words: “There aren’t too many places in the world you could do it… They’d never let you in the US; the environmentalists would kill you.”
(Photo Credit: MGM Studios)
City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold Wait, really? Hardly your typical action feature, City Slickers II nevertheless had its own share of environmental no-nos. During the filming of the stampede scene, production crews destroyed about 30 percent more acreage than initially had been agreed upon with the Bureau of Land Management, and ultimately had to remove the topsoil. To make matters worse, the area is visible from a local state park. The production team apparently also dumped contaminated water into a drainage and built an illegal 50-yard-long road. The reason for that last one? Billy Crystal needed a smooth surface for a scene in which he’s dragged by horses.
(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)
The Beach Danny Boyle and Leonardo DiCaprio were hot off of Trainspotting and Titanic respectively, and decided to pack up and film a tale of paradise gone wrong, in an actual paradise. The island of Ko Phi Phi Lee in Thailand was scouted and selected for shooting The Beach… only it wasn’t quite perfect enough. To make the ideal beach more ideal, the production crew removed some trees and sand dunes, and otherwise widened the area. They also, as it turned out, removed important erosion-control elements, seriously damaging the ecosystem. Court battles went on for years, but nature eventually took matters into its own hands. A 2004 tsunami all but undid the man-made landscaping, returning the area to its natural ecological balance.