Here’s a list of some plant-related movies which we recommend viewing at least once, presuming you’ve never come across them to date. From the sublime to the ridiculous, there should be something to suit everybody’s taste covered here!
If you’re a parent or other relative of, or are otherwise related to, young children, you might also like to read our list of plant-related movies recommended for kids.
Recommended Plant-related Movies
‘A Little Chaos’ (2014)
An acceptable (if you like that sort of thing) historical romance, centred on two landscape artists working in Louis XIV’s palace gardens at Versailles. Starring Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman (who also directed).
Directed by Spike Jonze, working from a script by Charlie Kaufman based loosely on Susan Orlean’s book ‘The Orchid Thief’ (the story of a rare orchid hunter). This strange piece stars Nicholas Cage as a troubled screenwriter trying to adapt said publication and also features Meryl Streep and Tilda Swinton in main roles.
A surreal, dreamlike science fiction, written and directed by novelist Alex Garland, from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer. Starring Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh (and the wonderful Benedict Wong!), who join a perilous expedition to an environmental disaster area where the usual laws of nature don’t apply.
‘Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus’ (2013)
The comedy adventures of an American student looking to obtain some ‘San Pedro’ cactus in Chile, with all the madness that entails! Starring Michael Cara (‘Superbad’) and Gaby Hoffmann (‘Uncle Buck’).
‘The Day of the Triffids’ (1962)
Also known as ‘Invasion of the Triffids’, this is a patchy, loose adaptation of John Wyndham’s amazing book about a planetary invasion by plant-like aliens. Notable mainly for some unaccredited direction by British Hammer/Amicus stalwart Freddie Francis, but still worth a watch if you’ve not seen it.
‘Embrace of the Serpent’ (2015)
An incredible, relatively low budget film from Colombian writer and director Ciro Guerra, based on the diaries of ethnobotanists Richard Evans Schultes and Theodor Koch-Grunberg! Visually stunning (and filmed using a combination of black and white and colour), the film tells the story of an Amazonian shaman and his forty-year relationship with two western scientists as they search for a sacred healing plant.
‘The Good Herbs’ (2010)
A powerful Mexican drama, focused on a concerned daughter searching for the right plants to heal her sick mother – an ethnobotanist and traditional healer. Directed by María Novaro from her own script.
A feel-good movie based on a true story, this one’s about a prison inmate who enters a national gardening competition, which surely makes this a plant-related movie. Stars Helen Mirren, Clive Owen and Danny Dyer(!).
‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956) / ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1978) / ‘Bodysnatchers’ (1993)
The quintessential plant-alien-body horror tale (and years before Cronenberg!), we’ll not even try to pick one of the three feature films based on Jack Finney’s classic 1954 science-fiction novel ‘The Body Snatchers’. Rather, we’ll just bring them all to your attention and you can decide whether you fancy one version over the other – although we suggest watching all three of them! Before you email us, we’re not including 2007’s ‘The Invasion’, simply as we’ve not seen it!
The 1956 black and white original – directed by Don Siegel (‘Escape from Alcatraz’) – opts for a moody, semi-noir style, as leads Kevin McCarthy (‘Death of a Salesman’) and Dana Wynter (‘Sink the Bismarck!’) struggle to avert the titular invasion by the strangely familiar “pod-people”… If you’ve a keen eye for a cameo, then you might perhaps spot a young Samuel Peckinpah for a few moments too.
The 1978 version is a classic of claustrophobic paranoia, which sees director Philip Kaufman (‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’) transposing the setting to San Francisco, casting Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams (‘The Dead Zone’), Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum in the leads.
Finally, 1993’s ‘Bodysnatchers’, directed by Abel Ferrara (‘Driller Killer’), is a more economical, thoughtful take on the theme. Comparatively distant from the original novel, the major difference here is that the action takes place on an army base in Alabama, offering Ferrara the easy option of attempting to use the story as a metaphor for the military mind-set. Starring Gabrielle Anwar, Forest Whitaker and Meg Tilly, this could have been truly spectacular – the original story was by Larry Cohen (‘Q: The Winged Serpent’), the script was a collaboration between Stuart Gordon (‘Re-Animator’), Dennis Paoli (‘From Beyond’) and Nicholas St. John (‘King of New York’) and the score was composed by Joe Delia (‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’)! If you can only watch two Bodysnatchers films, it’s probably not the end of the world if you miss this one, but it’s still a mostly enjoyable hour and a half of your life if you’re so inclined.
‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’ (1978) / ‘Return of the Killer Tomatoes!’ (1988) / ‘Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!’ (1990) / ‘Killer Tomatoes Eat France!’ (1991)
We had to include these even though they’re absolutely terrible! In case you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the last few decades, the ‘Killer Tomatoes’ series is a truly odd sequence of films, beginning with 1978’s ultra-low budget sci-fi-comedy-horror-musical ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’, intended to be a spoof on the B-movie continuum. We can’t put it any better than Wikipedia (sorry), who describe the basic story-line as “tomatoes becoming sentient by unknown means and revolting against humanity”.
The film’s relative popularity spawned three sequels (all directed by John DeBello and written by the same three writers as the original), a cartoon series, several video games and a comic. there’s also at least one novel (‘Attack of the Killer Potatoes’) and a Greek film (‘The Attack of the Giant Moussaka’) inspired by the sequence. More trivia: the song ‘Puberty Love’ (featured in the first film) was sung by a young Matt Cameron (later to become drummer for Soundgarden and then Pearl Jam), while the 1990 instalment was one of George Clooney’s early roles.
‘The Lemon Tree’ (2008)
An Israeli-French-German co-production, this thoughtful and dramatic (yet seemingly realistic) piece depicts a Palestinian widow living in the West Bank, who’s fighting to save her lemon grove from the Israeli Defence Minister. Directed by Eran Riklis and starring Hiam Abbass.
‘The Little Shop of Horrors’ (1960) / ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986)
We knew that no list of plant-related movies would be complete without this pair of wonderfully inspired black comedies! In case you exist in a vacuum, the 1960 production (made in only two days and later inspiring an off-Broadway rock musical) is a great bit of vintage Roger Corman, featuring the wonderful Dick Miller and an early role for young Jack Nicholson. The 1986 version – based in the main on the musical rather than the original film – is a classic bit of comedy strangeness, directed by Frank Oz and starring a host of big names, including Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. If you’ve not already seen this at least ten times, you’re mental.
‘Medicine Man’ (1992)
Set mostly in the Amazon jungle, this is a fun (yet rather formulaic) romantic adventure, starring Sean Connery and Lorraine Bracco as scientists who may have found a cure for cancer. Directed by John McTiernan.
‘Mood Indigo’ (2013)
A charmingly weird fantasy (directed by Michel Gondry, obviously) about a man looking to cure his lover’s novel illness – brought on by a flower which grows in her lungs… Starring Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris.
‘The Mutations’ (1974)
An obscure horror/science-fiction, portraying a scientist and his experiments attempting to cross human beings with plants. Directed by acclaimed cinematographer Jack Cardiff and starring Donald Pleasance and Tom ‘Dr. Who’ Baker. Brilliantly ridiculous!
‘The Ruins’ (2008)
A creepily atmospheric modern horror film with a fairly novel plot-line. This is a fast, fun ride, following a group of young American tourists visiting Mayan ruins located deep within the Mexican jungle – with unexpected consequences! Directed by Carter Smith (who also directed an S Club 7 music video!) from a screenplay by Scott Smith (based on his novel of the same title).
‘Silent Running’ (1972)
The future: all Earth’s flora plant life is extinct, with but a small sample remaining, in a greenhouse inside an orbital craft. Unfortunately, somebody is looking to destroy this too… A classic slice of seventies eco-sci-fi, starring Bruce Dern and Ron Rifkin and directed by Douglas Trumbull (effects wizard on films such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Close Encounters of the First Kind’ and ‘Star Trek’).
‘The Terror Beneath’ (2011)
Horribly cheesy (it’s an offering from the SyFy channel) sci-fi romp, also known as ‘Seeds of Destruction’ and ‘Garden of Evil’. The premise is at least novel, hence its inclusion here. Starring Adrian Pasdar (a long way from ‘Near Dark’ and ‘Top Gun’!), the story-line sees our heroes battling some ancient seeds which have grown into a planet-threatening root system, burrowing all about the place! Wow.
We hope you enjoyed our list of plant-related movies!