America is addicted to oil. George W Bush notably made this statement. But he was not the first President to voice this exact opinion. Sadly, the White House has been telling us Americans about our addiction for over 40 years. This same message has also been documented in cinema for even longer, exposing the grave damage this addiction has caused. More importantly, these films reveal the complexities of what it would take to collectively break our habit and express the precise reason we should: to save our planet.
Picking on the oil industry isn't new in Hollywood. Whether the criticism is fair or not doesn't matter: oil makes for good drama. There are not many other industries that can turn a roughneck into a millionaire over night. After the semi-unscientific poll I conducted at an eco-fashion line launch party last week, I now bring you the best movies about our addiction to oil.
1. Giant (1956) Is a drama directed by George Stevens starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Dennis Hopper, Texas and Oil. Giant portrays the saga of James Dean's character Jett Rink rising from ranch hand to oil tycoon to drunken shell. It has to be the oil movie against which all oil movies will ever be judged. Half a century after "Giant" was made Levi's still uses James Dean's scenes to sell jeans. In her day Liz Taylor had no peer. Sure, the movie takes too long, but so does driving across Texas.
2. An Inconvenient Truth (2006) This documentary is not exclusively about America’s addiction to oil. However, I felt the need to put this at the top of the list because I consider this film a tipping point in our collective awareness about the very real and dire urgency to save our planet. This documentary is directed by Davis Guggenheim about former United States Vice President Al Gore's campaign to educate citizens about global warming.
3. There Will Be Blood (2007) This drama is written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. The film is loosely based on Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil!. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as psychopathic wildcatter Daniel Plainview, who hits it big in California's Kern County oilfields, adopts the orphan of a man killed on one of his rigs, kills another couple guys himself with a hammer and a bowling pin, and revels in pumping out oil from under his rival's land ("I drink your milkshake").
4. Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) This documentary film is directed by Chris Paine and explores the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the mid 1990s.
5. A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (2006) This documentary is about peak oil, produced and directed by Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack. The documentary examines our dependence on oil and asks the tough question, “What happens when we run out of cheap oil?” Through expert interviews, the film spells out in startling detail the challenges we would face in dealing with the possibility of a world without cheap oil—a world in which it may ultimately take more energy to drill for oil than we can extract from the oil the wells produce.
6. Syriana (2005) Is a geopolitical thriller film written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, and executive produced by George Clooney, who also stars in the film along with Matt Damon. Damon's character leverages the accidental death of his son at an oil honcho pool party into a consulting gig with the heir to a progressive Middle Eastern emirate. Two big U.S. oil companies merge and lay off young Muslim workers who turn into terrorists. The progressive Emir-heir tries to duck out from under western hegemony and gets assassinated by a guided missile. Just an average day in the office, right?
7. Fuel (2008) Director Josh Tickell takes us along for his 11-year journey around the world to find solutions to America's addiction to oil. A shrinking economy, a failing auto industry, rampant unemployment, an out-of-control national debt, and an insatiable demand for energy weigh heavily on all of us. Fuel shows us the way out of the mess we're in by explaining how to replace every drop of oil we now use, while creating green jobs and keeping our money here at home. The film never dwells on the negative, but instead shows us the easy solutions already within our reach.
8. GasHole (2008) The documentary is directed by Scott Roberts and Jeremy Wagener and narrated by Peter Gallagher is about the history of Oil prices and the future of alternative fuels. The film takes a wide, yet detailed examination of our dependence on foreign supplies of Oil. What are the causes that led from America turning from a leading exporter of oil to the world's largest importer? What are the economic and sociological forces that have contributed to that change and impede its solution? The film examines many different potential solutions to our oil dependence.
9. Crude Independence (2009) This documentary is directed by Noah Hutton. In 2006 a study estimated there to be more than 200 billion barrels of crude oil resting in a previously unreachable formation beneath western North Dakota. The film takes us to the town of Stanley (population 1300), sitting atop the largest oil discovery in the history of the North American continent, and captures the change wrought by the unprecedented boom. Crude Independence is rumination on the future of small town America-a tale of change at the hands of the global energy market and America's unyielding thirst for oil.
10. Revenge of the Electric Car (2011) Is a feature documentary by Chris Paine, who also directed Who Killed the Electric Car?. Revenge follows four entrepreneurs from 2007 through the end of 2010 as they fight to bring the electric car back to the world market in the midst of a global recession. The protagonists are Bob Lutz from General Motors, Elon Musk from the American start-up Tesla Motors, Carlos Ghosn from Nissan, and Greg Abbott, an independent electric car converter from California. Whereas the 2006 film Who Killed the Electric Car? ended with the destruction of nearly 5,000 electric cars from California's clean air program, notably the GM EV1, the new film features the birth of a new generation of electric cars including the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster.
My name is Dolphina and I’m an addict. But I am going to kick the habit. Yep, I am converting a fossil fuel vehicle into an electric car. You can follow my journey on www.mydrivingrevolution.com