Chasing Ice

Movie review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Chasing Ice Movie Poster Image
Beautiful, affecting documentary about glacier retreat.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 74 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

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

Positive Messages

The issue of global warming is subject to heated debate in the public and political forums, and this documentary is intentionally one-sided. Balog's passionate claims are hard to deny in light of his photographic evidence, but opponents might find holes in his conclusions. Either way, the movie raises important points and encourages discussion about environmental issues.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Balog's heart is in the right place, and he's tireless in his efforts to bring attention to what he considers to be a dangerous natural predicament. The extreme elements make his work hazardous, but he takes the risk out of a sense of responsibility toward humans' need to know the truth. He demonstrate courage, curiosity, and perseverance.


A small set of photos shows bloody animal carcasses strung up for gutting and skinning.


Very rarely "s--t," "fricking," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation.


Visible logos for Shell Oil, Apple computers, and TED.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chasing Ice is an award-winning documentary about the work of celebrated photographer James Balog in tracking glacier retreat. It introduces scientific terms related to climate change and presents one side of the global warming debate, aiming to convince viewers of the looming threat of warming temperatures. There are moments of anger, frustration, and sadness as the subjects brave harsh elements and technological failures to complete their work, but the lengths to which they will go for the truth is inspiring. Language ("s--t," "fricking," "Jesus Christ") is minimal, as are viewers' exposure to scenes of splayed and bloody animal carcasses being prepared after a hunt.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7-year-old Written bySierraAmie April 21, 2015

Phenomenal documentary with powerful visuals for kids

This is one of my all-time favorite documentaries mainly because of the cutting edge cinematography - footage never before taken of glaciers moving and ice shee... Continue reading
Adult Written byCSM Screen name... June 8, 2014

Chasing Ice: Ok?

I believe that Chasing Ice is good for kids 11 and up. The reason for this is in the movie some people curse when they get upset. There are also some intense sc... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTheAlmightyCastform January 30, 2018

Amazing photographic evidence of melting glaciers shows climate change isn't abstract. There is some justified cursing, peril.

This movie is about a team of scientists who show photographic evidence and time lapses of melting glaciers. My class, while we were watching this movie, were a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byEmmsdarc July 28, 2017

Super informative film from national geographic photographer

Really important message of being able to show physical proof of climate change and the effect on the glaciers in Alaska, Iceland and Greenland. Some strong lan... Continue reading

What's the story?

CHASING ICE chronicles the arduous work of National Geographic photographer James Balog and his team to document the decline of some of the world's most massive glaciers in Greenland and Alaska. As the debate over global warming rages, the world's glaciers are shrinking at a rapid rate, leaving rivers and rising water levels in their wake. Using a series of cutting-edge automated cameras positioned around vulnerable areas, Balog's Extreme Ice Survey creates time-lapse evidence of the retreat of these ancient ice masses.

Is it any good?

Whatever your stance on the climate change debate, this stellar documentary is well worth watching, and Balog's passion for his life's work is inspiring. The film devotes more time to following the ups and downs of Balog's quest than it does to lecturing viewers on the dangers of fossil fuels, but its ultimate message is clear: Global warming is causing glaciers to disappear at a frightening rate, and the effects on the world's population could be devastating. He makes a firm case for his claims, presenting remarkable photographic evidence of ice masses -- some nearly as large as Manhattan -- succumbing to the elements and being lost forever to the sea.

Chances are your kids won't find Chasing Ice's subject matter particularly fascinating unless they have some familiarity with the issues already, but the opposite is true for older viewers. You'll come away from it thinking hard about the environmental issues that plague our planet and our role in maintaining its well-being for generations to come, which can spark great discussions and possibly take-action projects within your family and community.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about climate change and other environmental issues. Balog presents one side of the argument in Chasing Ice, but what is the other? On which side of the fence do you fall? Can you find fault with any of the subjects' findings?

  • Explore the nature of propaganda. Who uses it and for what purpose? Is any information that we get through media sources entirely reliable? Why or why not?

  • What small changes can your family make to be more environmentally conscious? What kind of an impact would it have if your community got on board as well? Is this something the government should mandate? 

  • How does Chasing Ice promote courage, curiosity, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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