It’s almost time for Planet Earth ll, the BBC’s sumptuous look at the world around us from the viewpoint of the animals featured. In honor of this, let’s take a look at a few nature documentaries. Luckily for us, Netflix has a bounty of beautiful titles for us to view. Hone your mind and learn a little more about the lovely planet we happen to walk upon with these engaging titles. More than informative, they are inspirational.
10. More Than Honey
Bees are crucial to our very existence. But other than the occasional pesky fly-by, how often do you think about them or their role on earth? Without the pollination that bees perform constantly, we would be unable to sustain many things. Here beekeepers, scientists and others discuss the world’s declining bee population and what it may mean for modern society.
9. Terra (2015)
This 90 minute documentary from Yann Arthus-Bertrand & Michael Pitiot is truly stunning. Exploring the natural history of mankind and our existence on Earth, they travel to more than 20 countries over 2 years and gathered extraordinary footage. It’s a beautiful look at the complexities of life, both plants and animals, and how it all relates to each other.
7. The Ivory Game
This exposé spotlights the ivory trade, the poaching, and the looming extinction of elephants. The directors spent 16 months undercover (along with their crew and several subjects) investigating the killing of elephants for their tusks and the smuggling of ivory to China, where it is seen as a status symbol. While legal, there is a rampant black market where corrupt business practices and dealings occur.
The film takes its viewers from Tanzania, Kenya, and Zambia to China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, briefly stopping in London. The ivory trade has become a global concern, pitting governments and environmentalists against poachers and merchants.
As of this writing, Chinese government officials have pledged to ban all ivory trade by the end of 2017. One of the film’s directors, Richard Ladkani, said they had heard rumors of officials watching the documentary and were “cautiously optimistic.” But, he says,
“When the news hit that all ivory trade would be banned by the end of 2017 we were just blown away.”
Virunga is a partnership between Netflix and Leonardo DiCaprio. Part investigative journalism and part nature documentary, the film follows an embattled team of park rangers and the endangered mountain gorillas they protect in Africa. Focusing on conservation work, it investigates the activity of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site.
After airing on Netflix, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Following its Oscar-nominated success, Leonardo DiCaprio is set to produce further environmental films in a multi-year partnership with Netflix. Judging by this film, we have a lot to look forward to.
4. Frozen Planet
From the Discovery Channel, Frozen Planet Frozen follow the ultimate portrait of the Earth’s polar regions. Co-produced by the BBC, the seven-part series focuses on life and the environment in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The purpose was to film a comprehensive record of the natural history of the polar regions because climate change is affecting landforms such as glaciers, ice shelves, and the extent of sea ice. The resulting footage allows us access to animals that range from majestic to adorable.
There are four Frozen Planet titles currently available, each dealing with their epic polar region journey in a different way.
Another collaboration between The Discovery Channel and the BBC, David Attenborough takes viewers on a journey through the vast and diverse continent of Africa. Four years in the making, it captures an array of never-before-filmed species, animal behaviors and previously unknown places.
Critically acclaimed, a companion book called Africa: Eye to Eye with the Unknown was published. It was written by Michael Bright, a former BBC Natural History Unit producer, with a foreword by David Attenborough. The book is divided into chapters which correspond to the six programs in the TV series. A separate chapter explains how the series was made for those interested in even more information about the journey.
2. Black Fish
When you think about nature documentaries, this one probably leaps to mind. It got huge amounts of attention at the time of its release and sparked much controversy and protest. Touted as the “documentary that exposes SeaWorld,” it’s the story of Tilikum, a captive killer whale that has taken the lives of several people. The film calls attention to the problems within the sea-park industry and how little has been learned about the powerful mammals, even after all the years of captivity. It’s a very good example of what we get from the best documentaries: a movie that captivates from beginning to end and keeps you thinking long after the film is over.
1. Planet Earth: The Complete Collection
This landmark television series is an epic look at the world around us. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC and also the first to be filmed in high definition. From the oceans to the deserts to the polar ice caps, it’s a breathtaking look at the planet. Each episode features a global overview of a different biome or habitat on Earth. Catch up now with one of the most comprehensive and spellbinding looks at life on earth before the premiere of Planet Earth ll.