THEM! (Gordon Douglas, 1954) This is the best of the low-budget nuclear paranoia horror movies. Giant ants appear near the desert test sites and migrate to the L.A. sewers: it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. The cast is pretty good: James Whitmore, James Arness, Edmund Gwenn - and Joan Weldon as that staple of 50s sci-fi, the hot science babe.
SAFE (Todd Haynes, 1995) Haynes's masterpiece is anchored by Julianne Moore's tremulous, exhausted performance as a woman being killed by the environment. She's allergic to the world, at least that portion of the it served by the 213 and 310 area codes.
SILENT RUNNING (Douglas Trumbull, 1972) A rare feature by effects master Trumbull, Silent Running stars Bruce Dern as the lone human on a space ark delivering the world's surviving plants to a safe place away from the polluted Earth. The ending's not exactly coherent, but it's heaven for Dern fans.
SUNSHINE STATE (John Sayles, 2002) A multi-character, almost Altmanesque drama, this film shows the effects of big development on a small Florida community. It's a bit messagey but true to its characters, with particularly nice turns by Edie Falco, Mary Steenburgen, Angela Bassett and Bill Cobbs. Also, it's a rare environmental film that deals with a human ecology.
CANE TOADS: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY (Mark Lewis, 1988) A few decades back, someone had the bright idea of introducing the Hawaiian cane toad into Australia as a counter-pest for the sugar cane beetle. Things didn't go as planned, and the toads found lots of other things to eat. An excellent short documentary on human folly and eccentricity.
HALF LIFE (Dennis O'Rourke, 1985) A horrifying documentary on the impact of U.S. nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific by Australian O'Rourke. You don't want to think too long about the phrase "jellyfish babies."
THE SIMPSONS, SEASON TWO, EPISODE FOUR: TWO CARS IN EVERY GARAGE AND THREE EYES ON EVERY FISH Mr. Burns runs for governor but is dogged by questions about mutant fish caught near the nuclear power plant's effluent pipes. The Simpsons frequently touches on Burns's malevolent belief that the environment is just a place to dump his trash, but this is episode is very funny and has a couple of the show's trademark Citizen Kane parodies as a bonus.
ERIN BROCKOVICH (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) Julia Roberts battles big powers that were apparently poisoning the groundwater in rural California. It's classic Hollywood in that it reduces a complex social issue to something that can be managed by a heroic individual who gets paid seven figures a picture. Or it's Silkwood with a happy ending.
A CIVIL ACTION (Steven Zaillian, 1998) The story of a lawyer who went broke representing a group of people with problematic chemicals in their water, this makes a good double bill with Erin Brockovich. From Jonathan Harr's bestseller, with an excellent cast anchored by John Travolta, Robert Duvall and William H. Macy.