Chasing Coral

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Chasing Coral Movie Poster Image
Awe-inspiring, poignant docu tracks decline of coral reefs.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Fervently advocates public awareness of plight of the ocean's coral reefs. Reveals the critical, ongoing nature of warming oceans' assault on our ecosystem. Finds optimism in the crucial involvement of the planet's human inhabitants, particularly children. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The filmmakers and scientists portrayed (male, with a sprinkling of females) are exemplary environmental activists, working hard to inform a wide audience of the dangers to our ocean ecosystems. They display courage, teamwork, determination, ingenuity, concern for the planet, and a passion for saving the coral. Ethnic diversity only at film's end when multinational effort to record the dying reefs is shown.


"Dammit," "hell."


Incidental visuals of filmmaking, scuba, and other equipment (e.g., Lumix, Igloo, U-Haul).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chasing Coral hopes to spark public outcry and action by portraying the ongoing devastation of the earth's coral reefs. The reefs are the movie's true stars: We get to see their brilliant colors, their amazing interdependence with other sea creatures, and the desperate measures the coral takes to fight for life. But the commitment, ingenuity, and passion of the humans involved in both filming and saving the coral are part of a separate, equally valuable tale. Clearly designed to inform and inspire both awareness and action, Chasing Coral gathers filmmakers and scientists to directly attribute the decline of one of the ocean's most essential living creatures to climate change. Expect sad moments, which are intensified because the events are real, happening now, and potentially irreversible. Filled with facts, well-presented, and beautifully photographed, and with an ending that inspires optimism, this film is highly recommended for family viewing.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byredorcasunshine May 29, 2019

Strong language for PG rating

This is a great documentary about coral bleaching and climate change. The film makers do a great job of explaining the processes that are happening through data... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byslikbak the hedgehog March 25, 2020

Chasing Coral Review

Teen, 14 years old Written byTheAlmightyCastform February 24, 2018

Beautiful underwater scenery, realistic showings of the catastrophic events climate change is having on our planet.

Like "Chasing Ice", this movie is about showing that "the environment" isn't just some abstract thing. This one shows about the underwa... Continue reading

What's the story?

It took months of major setbacks and small successes, but the efforts of director Jeff Orlowski and his team of scientists, photographers, and crew resulted in their obtaining exactly the footage they needed to make CHASING CORAL. Capitalizing on the success of Orlowski's earlier feature, Chasing Iceand hoping to explore coral as glaciers had been explored, the creative team decided to film the actual breakdown of the earth's dwindling coral reefs. They traveled to the planet's most fragile shores to place underwater cameras as a means of recording the degradation of the reefs over a period of two months. Problems arose, seemingly insurmountable ones, but the commitment of those involved only got stronger. Despite unexpected expenditures of time, effort, and funding, the determined team refused to give up. The movie is part adventure, part testimony to their remarkable knowledge and will, and, most significantly, an amazing accounting of the destiny of one of earth's most beautiful and precious species.   

Is it any good?

Extraordinary photography, a suspenseful story, a wake-up call to save a crucial creature in our earth's complex ecosystem, and an abundance of intriguing characters ... this documentary has it all. Chasing Coral is a tribute to everyone involved. Even climate change skeptics will find it impossible to ignore the photographic evidence of the phenomenon of dying coral reefs. Measured temperatures prove the oceans are warming. Only the cause of such warming may be debatable by some. Whatever the cause, the outcome is disturbing. And yet, beneath the tears -- even shed by some of the folks on-screen -- the team has found a way to evoke optimism and pass that along to the audience. They're hoping to reach, first and foremost, young people, even kids. That's why one of the principal "actors" in the film has taken his act to schools across the United States. If movies can ever be said to have a "higher purpose," this movie is one of them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the filmmakers' open declaration that Chasing Coral has been produced to heighten awareness of the plight of our planet and inspire action to save it. Were they and the scientists on screen successful in their goal? Are you inspired to act? How?  Why do movies help spread the word about important issues?

  • Talk about Zack Rago as a role model. How did Zack translate his childhood passion for coral into a life's work? What traits (i.e., curiosity, courage) did he call upon to help make this film happen? How does Zack's journey show how just one person can make a difference?

  • What is meant by the film's statement "You're gonna like yourself much more if you can say, 'Sure, I tried to turn that around'"? What, if anything, do you feel strongly enough about to "try to turn around"? 

  • As in the case of the oceans and the coral reefs, talk about how the survival of every organism affects our ecosystem. 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate