Best Nature Documentaries on Netflix in 2019

If you love documentaries, Netflix is a treasure chest with hundreds of titles available. But among their best are their nature docuseries and documentaries. Here’s a look at the best nature documentaries streaming on Netflix as of 2019, which we’ll regularly update throughout the year as titles come and go. 

The majority of nature programming on Netflix comes from National Geographic and the BBC in the United Kingdom. Be warned in 2019 though, National Geographic may be moving all their content over to the new Disney streaming service, due out at the end of the year.

Netflix also has a major series coming out in 2019 that is presented by David Attenborough which will be exclusive to the platform. The series is called Planet Earth and is currently due out on Netflix in April 2019.

Here are the best nature documentaries on Netflix in 2019:

15. Life Story

Seasons Available: 1
Distributor: BBC

Get set for plenty of mentions of David Attenborough here and we’re starting off strong here with Life Story. The main series consists of six episodes although there are an additional six episodes that take you behind the scenes of the series.

The goal of this series is to document the life from the start to finish of a variety of different wild animals including tigers, chimpanzees, and elephants among many more.


14. 72 Cutest Animals

Seasons Available: 1 

Showrunner Productions have several titles on Netflix and while they’re mostly known for documenting the most dangerous and deadliest animals in the world, they also took some time out in 2016 to show us the other side of the spectrum.

The first season is split up into 12 episodes and ranges from looking at baby polar bears, tiger cubs, monkeys and most importantly, Koalas.


13. NATURE PBS Collection

Distributor: PBS
Seasons Available: 4

PBS partly produced a series of different nature docu-series that takes a look at various creatures around the world. Here’s a rundown of each series currently available on Netflix:

  • NATURE: Natural Born Hustlers – takes a look at naughty and hard grafting animals across four episodes
  • NATURE: Raising the Dinosaur – this one will tickle the fancy of any dinosaur lovers as a team looks at new discoveries of dinosaur fossils. Be warned, this was badly reviewed.
  • NATURE: Animals with Cameras – many nature documentaries employ cameras in weird ways including where the animals wear them. This three-part series is comprised completely of this technique.
  • Nature’s Great Race – epic footage captures three of the world’s most significant land migrations, following elephants, caribou, and zebras on their treacherous journeys.

12. Nature’s Great Events: Diaries

Distributor: BBC
Seasons Available: 1

BBC is the king of nature documentaries as you’ll discover below. This series is slightly different from the others as it focuses on the natural phenomenon of where animals migrate due to changes in climate or breeding.

The series is comprised of six episodes which differ from the great artic melt to the great salmon run to the great flood. It’s not quite on the same level as some of the BBC’s best work but it doesn’t fall too short.


11. Mission Blue (Documentary)

Distributor: Netflix
Released: 2014

Mission Blue

Film industry veteran James Cameron had involvement with Mission Blue, Netflix’s 2014 documentary looking into the dire conditions that some of the ocean is living in. It’s an eye-opener, that’s for sure. It explores the causes of the problem, the effects of the problem, and most importantly the solutions. It’s a stunning looking documentary which spans 94 minutes long.


10. 72 Dangerous Animals (Collection)

Seasons Available: 3
Distributor: Netflix

There are multiple seasons of 72 Dangerous Animals, with Netflix distributing some of the more recent series. Each season takes us to a different region of the world to document and catalog the most dangerous animals in the world both big and small.

The first season takes us to Australia with 12 episodes covering everything from snakes to spiders. The second season was added in 2017 (and the first to be carried as a Netflix Original) and flies us to Latin America, covering sea life and stealth hunters across 12 episodes. The most recent series came out in 2018 traveling to the broad continent of Asia.


9. Disneynature: Wings of Life

Distributor: Disney
Release Date: 2013

Disney is mainly known for their animated and live-action family titles but one division that doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit is the DisneyNature department. They’ve produced some stunning documentaries over the years and have top talent to present.

Sadly, Wings of Life is the only DisneyNature title still available on Netflix, although we can probably expect it to leave in late 2019. The series takes a look at flying critters from butterflies to a multitude of different birds. It’s presented beautifully, but more impressively is narrated by Meryl Streep.


8 Africa

Seasons Available: 1 
Distributor: BBC

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.


7. Life Below Zero

Seasons Available: 4
Distributor: BBC/National Geographic

This fascinating series takes you to the coldest depths of planet Earth to not only give you an insight into the life of those that live there, but also the eco-systems that operate in the coldest regions too. It’s sometimes scary the lengths to which people will go to live in the worlds harshest environments. This his well-produced series documents that tremendously.

Netflix is quite behind on the show, though, with only four of the nine total seasons currently streaming.


6. MeatEater

Seasons Available: 3
Distributor: Netflix

 

The only unfortunate thing about Meateater on Netflix is that not all seasons are currently available. Only seasons five through to seven are available, although you could argue that it’s when the show hit its stride.

The past season was also the first to be carried under the Netflix Original banner around the world from Zero Point Zero Productions. The series is about hunting and takes you around the world to do so. It touches on the ethics of hunting but is more about the hobby itself so this series won’t be for everyone, be warned.

We don’t know if the show will be getting a season 8 as of yet.


5. 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.”


4. Frozen Planet (Collection)

Distributor: BBC Earth
Titles in Collection: Frozen Planet, Frozen Planet: On Thin Ice, The Making of Frozen Planet, Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey

From the BBC, Frozen Planet follows the ultimate portrait of the Earth’s polar regions. Co-produced by the Discovery Channel, the seven-part series focuses on the 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.


3. Virunga

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.


2. Blue Planet I & II

Seasons Available: 2
Distributor: BBC

To round out this list with the two best nature documentaries we’re once again heading to the United Kingdom. The BBC’s arc-de-triumph of nature documentaries comes in the form of these next two docuseries. This first one focuses on the oceans and the life that lives beneath them. Expertly crafted and beautifully narrated, it proves why the BBC is the best-in-class.

Blue Planet II  was just released on Netflix recently and had a significant impact across the world when it aired on the BBC back in 2017. Specifically, it drew attention to the issue of plastic in the oceans and has been behind a public movement and change to act on it.


1. Planet Earth I & II

Seasons Available: 2
Distributor: BBC

This series is an absolute masterclass in film-making and a significant achievement in documenting different animal species and locations around the world. As with Blue Planet, Planet Earth is absolutely stunning, particularly the second season which was added to Netflix in Ultra 4K definition.

Each episode takes you to a different region of the world discovering the creatures that live there, their interactions with the environment, and it contains some of the best commentary from Sir David Attenborough.

 

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