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Ah, good ol’ Netflix. Home to countless films and television series. From crime to drama, romance to horror and everything in between, Netflix seems to have something for everyone. But how many times can you re-watch episodes of Breaking Bad or Californication? Luckily, Netflix has an extensive collection of documentaries that you can enjoy and learn from. Like their other content, they seem to have a documentary to fit almost all genre. I thought I would curate a list of 9 of the best animal documentaries on Netflix at the moment based on visual style, content and narration. Some are shocking whilst others will be eye opening. Rest assured, all are fascinating and deserve to be watched.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Project Nim
Project Nim is equally as eye opening as it is saddening From the Oscar-winning team behind “Man on Wire,” Project Nim tells the story of the chimpanzee who was the focus of a landmark experiment to show that an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised and nurtured like a human child. Combining recent testimony from key participants with dramatic imagery and newly discovered archival film from the 1970s, the feature documentary follows Nim’s extraordinary journey through human society, chronicling his enduring impact on the people he meets. Project Nim goes back and tells the story of this experiment with interviews from everyone involved. From his carers to the scientists involved, everyone gives their rendition of their experience working with Nim and the eventual fall-out from the experiment.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Blackfish
Described in one review as ‘coldly compelling’, Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.
Similar to Project Nim, Blackfish is a documentary that explores what happens to intelligent animals when you remove them from their natural surroundings and try control their environment.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.
The documentary looks into the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution… animal agriculture. According to the filmmakers, the industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Planet Earth
It took 5 years to make, was the most expensive documentary filmed and also the first to be filmed in high definition. That’s right, Planet Earth is a landmark documentary, narrated Sir David Attenborough, that focusses on a different ecosystem on our planet in each episode. If there was a hall of fame for documentaries, Planet Earth would be towards the top of the list. No wildlife documentary got as in-depth a look into animal behavoir before or gave an audience as close a view to the animals outside of a zoo or safari.
Seriosuly. If you havnt seen Planet Earth, you should add it to your watch list now.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: The Blue Planet
The critically acclaimed documentary about the life within the Earth’s oceans has made its way to Netflix.The documentary leads up on a voyage of exploration from the coasts, the very edges of the oceans, to the deep where weird and monstrous fish lurk in a world of perpetual darkness. Along the way we are introduced to a whole host of wonderful creatures — from tiny copepods to majestic blue whales, and from the grotesque hairy anglerfish, to the amazing tripod fish that stands on its three delicate legs waiting to snap up unsuspecting prey. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, The Blue Planet is a spectacle to behold and brings us closer than every before to one of the least explored parts of our planet.
If you favorite episode of Planet Earth was the one about the oceans, The Blue Planet is perfect for you
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Virunga
Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world has forgotten. In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and the film’s participants caught in the crossfire.
A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten, and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Life
David Attenborough’s legendary BBC crew explains and shows wildlife all over planet earth in 10 episodes. The first is an overview the challenges facing life, the others are dedicated to hunting, the deep sea and various major evolutionary groups of creatures: plants, primates and other large sections of other vertebrates and invertebrates.
Life is certainly a documentary to watch once you have decimated the Planet Earth and The Blue Planet box sets.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: Frozen Planet
The team that produced the award-winning Planet Earth series combine forces once again for this sweeping seven-part documentary. Shot entirely in high-definition and featuring cutting-edge cinematography to capture undisturbed observations of animal behavior, Frozen Planet chronicles the ecosystems and animals of the Arctic and Antarctic, where the filmmakers spent more than 2,300 days in the field and 18 months at sea to record unprecedented footage. Episodes track the lives of polar bears, wolves, killer whales and penguins from the spring through the winter. The series is narrated by Alec Baldwin; the seventh episode, a look at the effect global warming is having on not only the poles but also the rest of the planet, is hosted by British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.
Best Animal Documentaries on Netflix: The Ivory Game
Similar to some of the other documentaries in the list, The Ivory Game, sad, eye opening and shocking all at one. This is a documentary that plays with the gripping pacing and glossy production values of a suspenseful, international thriller. Unfortunately, the story it’s telling is all too true—and relevant.
Directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, their crew and various subjects spent 16 months undercover investigating the killing of African elephants for their tusks and the smuggling of ivory to China, where selling the precious material is legal but corrupt, black-market business practices still exist nonetheless. They hop from Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, with a brief stop in London in between.
What animal documentaries on Netflix would you recommend?
Do you know of any other nature, wildlife and animal documentaries on Netflix that you want to shout about. Leave the name in the comment box below for others to enjoy!