Watching fiction on streaming sites like Netflix is a pastime for many. However, every once in a while, you might be up for something a little more realistic and educational. Thankfully, Netflix does offer more than just sitcoms, K-dramas, and blockbuster films. It also has a large library of interesting documentaries. Which are the best nature documentaries on Netflix? Here is our list of the best ones you can watch today.
What Are Nature Documentaries?
Documentaries, whether they’re episodic or one-off films, are audio-visual portrayals of different aspects of reality. They’re under the non-fiction genre and usually act as educational or instructional tools for viewers. Moreover, they can also serve as a historical record documented in film format.
Therefore, watching a documentary on Netflix can be a form of educating yourself about real-life topics. The topics discussed here are usually well-researched and more reliable than what you would see in films.
In addition, these broadcasts are usually made for broadcast on television, streaming sites, or public broadcasting channels. Sometimes, they’re also prepared purposefully for cinema and big-screen viewing.
Meanwhile, a nature documentary is a more specific sub-genre under the documentary category. That’s because it focuses on topics related to nature such as animals, plants, and environments.
These films often concentrate on footage taken of non-human living organisms in their natural habitat. The editors also overlay narration over the footage, explaining and painting a more coherent picture of what’s happening.
10 Best Nature Documentaries On Netflix
What are the best nature documentaries on Netflix? Here are the top 10 best ones you can watch in 2022.
If you’re a sucker for animal documentaries, then Animal on Netflix should be at the top of your list. That’s because it features several different kinds of wildlife including bears, dolphins, birds, and primates. No wonder it’s one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix.
As the name implies, Animal is more of an educational documentary series. It’s not as artistic or cinematic as others on this list. Nonetheless, if you’re up for something light and full of rich information, then it’s certainly hard to beat.
It’s also one of the few documentaries that highlight multiple animals — so you can learn a lot at once. Moreover, it features tons of both adorable and striking moments and footage of various creatures. You’ll wish you were with the production team and film crew every moment of the show.
The series provides you with two full seasons containing four episodes each. Moreover, each episode offers a substantial runtime, letting you immerse yourself in different animals’ worlds for 40-50 minutes. Best of all, it features a star-studded cast of narrators such as Pedro Pascal, Andy Serkis, and Bryan Cranston.
The best nature documentaries on Netflix don’t have to have long run times or span multiple episodes. Some of the most incredible selections last only a short while, such as “Birders.” This documentary lasts only 37 minutes so it’s a great watch for a short lunch break.
What is “Birders” about? Contrary to what the name might imply, Birders isn’t just a film showcasing birds in their natural habitat. Of course, that’s part of what the documentary portrays, but its scope extends even further.
That’s because “Birders” also features passionate and enthusiastic birdwatchers from both the USA and Mexico. It showcases these people’s love for the hobby and how much empathy they hold for these majestic creatures. Moreover, they dip into its political aspects, discussing how best to safeguard and preserve the life of these animals.
In addition, the film highlights one of the species’ main patterns: migration. It showcases how birds never comply with man-made borders — potentially commenting on how immigration in human society shouldn’t be hindered.
Blackfish may be a little old because it came out in 2013. Nonetheless, it’s one of the best documentaries on Netflix that doesn’t take up too much time. The film only lasts 1 hour and 23 minutes – just short enough to watch before bed.
More importantly, it discusses an important topic that would otherwise go unnoticed: the cruelty orcas must endure in captivity. The film uncovers the dark underbellies of public aquariums that put these magnificent creatures on display. For example, it highlights the three human deaths that occurred when these aquariums held killer whales captive.
How did this happen? It all started when SeaWorld caught Tilikum in 1983 off the Icelandic coast. The whale became increasingly violent after being bullied by other whales when it entered the facility.
Blackfish is an eye-opening and cautionary tale, showcasing the consequences of taking animals out of their natural habitat. Furthermore, it illustrates how devastating it can be when humans force these animals into an unnatural lifestyle. Wild orcas never attack humans so it speaks volumes when Tilikum started attacking its trainers.
4. Chasing Coral
The incessant desire to control, utilize, and capitalize on nature is a key but an unfortunate feature of humanity. That’s made especially evident in Chasing Coral, one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix. The film runs for only an hour and 29 minutes. Nonetheless, it’s both strikingly beautiful and eye-opening — no wonder it came as a nominee for an Academy Award.
As the name implies, the film focuses on important coral reefs. It showcases the stunning beauty of coral reefs, the wildlife that depends on them, and the ecosystem’s delicate balance. However, almost immediately after, it cuts to the depressingly quick depletion of these essential corals.
The film perfectly captures and elaborates on the difficult truth we must all accept. That is how our marine life depends on the survival of these reefs — and our responsibility to preserve them. However, unlike what you might expect, the documentary doesn’t have a completely hopeless tone. It’s somewhat optimistic, assuring us there’s still time to act.
5. Dancing With The Birds
Birds are some of the most majestic, diverse, and colorful creatures on the planet. The species offers a wide assortment of colors, personalities, and habits that entrance bird lovers everywhere. That’s what Dancing With The Birds, one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix, captures perfectly.
In addition to this, the film dives deep into how the birds behave in the wild. For example, one of the most amusing parts of the documentary is how these birds impress the opposite sex. Add to that the whimsical music the show incorporates and you have 51 minutes of pure fun to anticipate.
Overall, the film is more lighthearted than the others listed here. There’s less of a serious tone of urgency that prompts you to act on climate change and environmental deterioration. Those kinds of films and topics are certainly important. However, it never hurts to watch something lighter to lift your spirits and delight more in nature.
6. Mission Blue
Mission Blue is one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix if you’re passionate about preserving the ocean. That’s because it follows Dr. Sylvia Earle, a veteran from National Geographic. The film depicts her journey to protect the ocean and its marine life from pollution, overfishing, and global warming.
This one-hour-and-34-minute film showcases how she started campaigns for marine sanctuaries and underwater national parks. Furthermore, the documentary exposes the different disasters, like oil spills, that have led to marine life deterioration.
Overall, Mission Blue is an outstanding film to watch as one woman takes a stand to preserve the seas. It’s also educational and teaches important information about the ocean and aquatic life.
The documentary is certainly one of the more unique ones because of its focus on one person’s efforts. It’s also incredibly heartfelt and hopeful despite the saddening status of our planet’s waters.
7. Night On Earth
Are you up for a more unique take on nature? Then we recommend Night On Earth, one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix. As its name implies, it’s one of the more uncommon nature shows because it focuses on animals’ nighttime activities. The episodic documentary features 6 episodes of 40-50 minutes each, perfect for a weekend binge.
Like most films, documentaries have always been limited to camera technology. In the past, cameras could only capture wildlife under proper lighting. However, because our cameras have advanced in recent years, the new equipment has paved the way for better night filmography.
This has become the foundation of Night On Earth as it showcases the curious activities of animals at night. Nocturnal beasts, such as bats, are unsurprisingly preying on other living beings at night. However, some surprising habits also come up, such as nighttime hunting by lions.
Overall, the cinematography and direction of Night On Earth are captivating. Unfortunately, it does fall short a little compared to the rest because of its monotonous narration. Nonetheless, the footage it showcases is captivating enough to forgive this one flaw.
8. Our Great National Parks
Footage and editing are certainly important parts of making a compelling documentary. However, the narration can just as equally make or break a film or series, either capturing or losing interest.
In Our Great National Parks, Barack Obama takes it upon himself to narrate the entirety of the show. He does a splendid job of explaining and illustrating some of our world’s best wild locations and national parks. Through the 5-episode show, you travel through various areas from Kenya to California. Throughout, you watch stunning and exotic footage of various places and animals.
Each episode runs for 50-55 minutes, offering you tons of content to binge on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll be stunned by how many insights the documentary provides about our planet. It will surely encourage you to both preserve the nature around us as well as travel its breadth and width.
9. Our Planet
Our Planet is one of the best documentaries on Netflix by far, going even beyond the “nature” category. That’s because it was created by David Attenborough, arguably the most passionate nature enthusiast.
This documentary uses his voice as he talks about various topics he’s passionate about. For example, he introduces how much variety exists in the diverse habitat of the planet. Whether you’re curious about Africa, Arctic locations, or marine life, this documentary has something for you.
Moreover, it’s not just informative but is also stunningly and creatively made. Everything from the cinematography to the narration is on-point. The tone is both serious and urgent while maintaining a sense of wonder and awe.
In addition, what’s excellent about Our Planet is that it brings attention to human responsibility. More specifically, how we’re responsible for the environment, climate change, and what we must do to preserve our planet.
Finally, the documentary series spans 8 episodes of around 50 minutes each. You’ll have more than enough to watch as you wind down during the nighttime.
10. Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale
Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale is one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix. That’s because, unlike most other documentaries, its sole focus is not just various wildlife found on our planet. It also zooms in on the importance of family and clans to various species.
Through the documentary film, you’ll discover how each animal learns and interacts with various members of their families. They’re an important part of overcoming crises like hunger, drought, and danger from hunters or attackers. Even carnivorous predators need a community to belong to give them both companionship and protection.
However, do note that this documentary focuses on wildlife from the Kalahari Desert. Hence, its range of animals won’t be as diverse as that of other films. Nonetheless, it’s certainly one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix spanning only an hour and 19 minutes.
Why Should You Watch Nature Documentaries?
The list of the best nature documentaries on Netflix is certainly long. However, just because these films and shows are plentiful, doesn’t mean they’re always worth watching. With that said, what exactly is the point of watching the best nature documentaries on Netflix?
Firstly, nature documentaries are one of the best ways we can educate ourselves beyond our regular educational institutions. These documentaries are usually well researched and backed by science, so they’re certainly reliable sources of information.
Sure, some of the knowledge you’ll obtain won’t be practical. Nonetheless, the topics covered here are important to learn about, especially if you want to be a responsible citizen. That’s especially true because many shine a light on human responsibility and the impact we’ve had on our planet.
We neglect our environment’s health and preservation much too often for the sake of progress. Hence, we leave our planet devastated and our future generations more hopeless than generations past.
Finally, the best nature documentaries on Netflix offer some of the most entertaining yet realistic content on the platform. They’re also well-made, providing you with stunning visuals, cinematography, sound design, and narration. These documentaries are certainly a feast for the senses just as much as your average blockbuster film.
Alternatives For Nature Documentaries
Netflix isn’t the only app with nature documentaries. There are tons of alternatives available offering the best nature documentaries for streaming. Which ones are a good pick? Here are the top five best alternatives you can turn to.
Amazon is arguably one of the best sources of visual media for entertainment in existence. It offers a large library of films, shows, and documentaries available for online consumption.
Moreover, it even provides you with obscure content because nearly anyone can upload and sell content on the platform. You can stream them or purchase these various titles, depending on your payment or subscription preferences.
The History Channel is one of the most famous educational channels on cable TV. However, with the industry’s shift towards streaming platforms, the channel had to adapt itself to new mediums. Thus came History Vault, the channel’s large library of infotainment documentaries and shows.
Through it, you can watch and stream the channel’s various documentaries for the low price of $4.99. Best of all, these documentaries are usually high-quality and don’t cut costs when it comes to accuracy. There’s also numerous original content so you won’t run out of shows.
However, the catch here is that the service is only available in the USA. Moreover, you can’t view the channel’s videos and media content offline on an Android device. The app also needs work, as there are few features, accessibility options, and parental controls.
Hulu is one of the best Netflix alternatives you’ll ever find in online streaming. That’s because it has a large library of content that offers numerous shows and movies. However, Hulu’s specialty when it comes to documentaries is entertainment, so there are not many nature-centric ones to watch there. It does have the family-friendly March of Penguins, though.
Nonetheless, it’s certainly a good option if you’ve exhausted Netflix’s library of content. That’s especially true if you want a streaming service that complements Netflix’s library. It also has a basic plan that contains ads, but it does support 4K streaming and offline streaming. However, these features are locked behind an ad-free subscription tier.
If you’d like to try it out, Hulu has a 1-month free trial available for new potential customers. You can easily check its services and offerings through the app or website.
PBS is one of the most renowned and reputable broadcasters in modern media. It has 50 years’ worth of experience under its belt and a staggering collection of documentaries in its library.
With that said, it’s certainly one of the top alternatives to Netflix when it comes to documentary streaming. It’s especially compelling when you consider the cheap $3.99 monthly subscription price.
The platform offers content from big names and even provides whole collections by known directors like Ken Burns. You can even find academy award-nominated pieces like “Last Days in Vietnam.” One of the most notable nature documentaries it has is “Your Inner Fish,” detailing the history of the human body.
Do note that PBS Documentaries is a channel contained within Prime Video. This makes the platform accessible on nearly every mobile platform, including those using Amazon’s Fire OS. Moreover, it’s available on streaming hardware of all kinds like Fire TV, Apple TV 4K, Roku, and Google TV. Even famous game consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox, house the famous content provider.
You’re probably already familiar with the world-famous video streaming website and app called “YouTube.” It’s one of Google’s biggest money-makers and has been a frontrunner in the realm of creator content monetization.
You can easily jumpstart your career as a video maker or influencer through the app by uploading engaging videos. Once you have enough subscribers, the app opens up opportunities for you to participate in ad revenue sharing.
However, apart from YouTubers offering original videos, it’s also full of official content from studios. You can easily purchase or rent films or shows you like – even documentaries. All you need is to browse through their catalog and find a compelling one.
Enjoy The Best Nature Documentaries On Netflix Today
If you’re hungry for a good nature documentary then Netflix has you covered. The app’s films and shows are well-made, offering insightful commentary and educational content. They’re sure to keep you engaged on a Friday night or long weekend. Whether you want something serious or more lighthearted, there’s a documentary for you.