Last Updated: March 29th
In order to share this world with us, nature documentaries tackle the dual responsibility of having to be both educational and engaging. It’s a tough feat to pull off successfully. Below is a list of some of the most inspiring, engaging, and jaw-droppingly beautiful nature documentaries on Netflix right now. Each one explores a different facet of our natural world, and maybe one or two will inspire you to action.
Planet Earth (2006, 1 season)
Planet Earth is the mountaintop when it comes to nature documentaries. The visuals are iconic and stunning. David Attenborough’s commentary is insightful and educational while still being engaging. Overall, Planet Earth is the best introduction to the vast and varied nature that surrounds our planet, making it a must view docu-series for everyone.
Chasing Ice (2012)
Our melting ice caps and glaciers are changing our world every day. Chasing Ice takes a long and fascinating look at the accelerated melting of the ice that helps maintain our planet’s climate. The film doesn’t offer any answers or take a political stance, it simply shows you the facts as they are by presenting the drastic rate the ice is actually melting. It’s disappearing nature that needs more attention from all of us.
The Ivory Game (2016)
Elephants are being slaughtered at alarming rates. Their place in the wider ecosystems they inhabit is crucial and we seem to be indifferent to their destruction. That’s something that needs to be rectified before it’s too late and we lose these amazing animals forever. The Ivory Game takes a hard look at the multi-layered world of ivory harvests (occurring mostly through illegal poaching).
It’s a harrowing look into a trade that some argue doesn’t really even need to exist.
Flight Of The Butterflies (2012)
The creation and life of a butterfly is one of nature’s many magical acts. This film takes a look at the butterfly’s world and our desire to understand it. While this film isn’t a call to action, it does provide a stunningly well-rendered look into the striking beauty of the butterfly’s world and the overall wonder of the natural world.
“Every second, 2,000 animals are slaughtered to feed Earth’s human population.” Terra delves into the relationship that animals and humanity have with the natural world and all the other species therein. The film asks questions about our place in our shared ecosystem and puts humans in a position that equates our use of the planet and its wildlife with our seemingly destructive ways.
Life (2009, 1 season)
Life on earth is so varied and lush that a hundred docu-series would still only scratch the surface. The BBC’s Life series touches on how the various forms of life on earth manifest themselves with the BBC’s signature engaging visuals and the always welcome commentary of David Attenborough. Life delves deep into how species survive on this planet and ultimately thrive or die.
The Congo and Virunga may seem half a world away, however, the struggles and tribulations of the region resonate across the entire planet. The film follows park rangers, military officers, journalists, gorillas, and locals as they try to make sense of a world where natural resource extraction violently trumps human rights, much less, animal rights. Virunga is required viewing if you want to understand the unfathomable toll our resource dependency is having on humanity, gorillas, and the planet itself.
Blackfish asks where we should draw the line between animal safety and our entertainment. Of course, it could be argued that we shouldn’t be trapping and forcing animals to perform for us in the first place. Blackfish looks at the life of an orca that lashes out at the humans around it and the denial a theme park carries in the name of putting asses in seats. Yet, this film is also a testament to the power of the medium as the park’s stocks plummeted after its release and they’re now building protective environments for orcas and ceasing all the shows.
Planet Earth II (2017, 1 season)
The BBC struck cinematic gold with their 2006 release of Planet Earth. Ten years later they came back and stuck even more gold with, far and away, one of the best nature documentaries ever made. The marriage of breathtaking photography and nature has never looked better and been more transcendent for the viewer. You’re swinging with lemurs, leaping with monkeys, stalking with dragons, and flying with flocks of birds. This doc takes you into nature in ways not seen since Planet Earth I.