Which Ones Pass Climate Check 5

Earlier this year, nonprofit story consultancy Good Energy teamed up with Colby College’s Buck Lab for Climate and Environment to release a tool to measure the representation of climate change onscreen, dubbed the Climate Reality Check. It was inspired by the popular Bechdel-Wallace test, which measures the representation of women in TV and film, and applied to 2024’s crop of Oscar nominees to mark its launch.

The Climate Reality Check is a straightforward two-part evaluation that asks whether, one, climate change exists in a project, and two, if a character knows it. In April, the two groups released a report applying the test to popular films of the past decade, crafting a list of IMDb’s most-rated films between 2013 and 2022; films that are nonfiction, high fantasy, not set on Earth, and/or set primarily before 2006 or after 2100 were not included in the study. Of those 250 films, only 24 films passed the Climate Reality Check.

Using this data pool, THR wanted to measure the test against box office success. We narrowed the time span down to 2018 to 2022, and from the report’s list of 250 films, found the top 20 box office earners in that five-year window. Of those 20 films, four passed both elements of the test — Aquaman, Jurassic World Dominion, Venom and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw — while The Batman passed only one element of the test. Projects do seem to be trending in a more environmental direction, though, as for the total 24 films that passed the test in the past decade, 17 of them were released since 2018.

The study also found that of the 250 films, 220 had theatrical releases, and films that included climate change (part one of the test) earned, on average, 8 percent more at the box office than those that did not. Additionally, films that included at least one character who is aware of climate change (passing part two of the test) performed 10 percent better at the box office than those that did not. Box office aside, though, streamers had the highest percentage of films that include climate change (25 percent), almost double the rate of the Big Five studios (12.7 percent).

This story first appeared in the June 2024 Sustainability issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to see the rest of the issue.

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