Nature documentaries - top picks
In the era of Netflix and Chill, there is nothing better to do than sit back with a cup of tea or a bowl of popcorn and a (large) glass of wine and enjoy some quality feature film documentaries. Here is a list of our favourite nature documentaries to not only educate and inform, but also entertain. The documentary industry has really evolved, so sit back, relax, and enjoy these amazing mini features. All of these nature and wildlife films also have growing communities and more information if you would like to get involved so also please check out their websites as well and join their communities.
1. Cowspiracy (Netflix)
For me this was the most eye opening look into the impact the agricultural industry has on the world. Cowspiracy focuses on cows (spoiler alert), presenting the scientific data that shows how raising cattle produces more carbon dioxide and methane (which is also a carbon-based gas that is worse than CO2) than the entire transportation (planes, trains and automobiles) sector. We follow filmmaker Trip Anderson on his journey of discovery, uncovering what seems to be a rather disturbing conspiracy - that even environmental organisations are also behind. Trip does not shame and criticise carnivores, he refreshingly exposes and presents very damning evidence against big corporate America, focusing on oil, water, land, waste, the rainforest, the oceans, wildlife and the human race - all this for a bit of steak...
2. Sharkwater (Netflix)
Sharkwater exposed the shark finning industry to the world in 2006. The whole feature feels like a spy thriller. The pace is fast and exciting, yet evokes so much emotional despair for sharks, a species persecuted and feared for centuries. Producer and star, Rob Stewart along with the crew of the infamous Sea Shepherd really give James Bond a run for his money, as they chase down illegal fishing boats and have a run in with the law in Central America. Sharkwater will convert even the most shark-fearing into save-the-sharks activists. Rob takes us on a journey to show us the pivotal role these creatures play in the ecosystem and how they are being decimated by the millions every year.
3. A Plastic Ocean (Netflix)
Unless you live under a rock you will have noticed the huge societal and media focus on plastic. Watching this hard-hitting adventure documentary explains from multiple perspectives how plastic is killing the ocean, wildlife and ultimately human beings. Four years in the making, A Plastic Ocean enables us to understand the interconnectivity between the ocean and us, and fully appreciate that there is not a "them" and "us" when it comes to the fight against plastic, the issue is a global phenomenon and requires collective action. A delicate balance is struck between emotive shocking content, such as counting 276 pieces of plastic inside a 90 day old chick, and the scientific health implications, like showing that if plastic is inside the food chain for dolphins then it is in our food chain. I challenge you to not feel angry and inspired after watching this.
4. Planet Earth (Netflix)/Blue Planet I (Netflix)/Blue Planet II (BBC)/Frozen Planet (Netflix)
An absolute classic - narrated by British national treasure and life long documentary film maker/conservationist David Attenborough. None of these series will disappoint. The gentle and soothing narration pulls you into all the beauty and spectacles that our natural world has to offer. One of the few nature documentaries that makes you feel like you are truly there. Each episode is shot with beautiful cinematic quality along with a witty and captivating narrative. As a viewer you are also granted a rare insight into how the crew were able to film and capture the footage. The behind-the-scenes clips are just as entertaining (sometimes more so) as the animals, particularly on Frozen Planet when the crew go a bit crazy after two months isolation filming penguins. If you ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling, stop and put on one of these epic series.
5. What the Health (Netflix)
What the Health is the follow up project from Cowspiracy. This documentary goes one step further and examines the link between diet and disease, and how some of the biggest health organisations, apparently "fighting" to make us fitter, are actually in bed with pharmaceutical companies, who ultimately profit from us being sick. If you write off these theories as the raving conspiracies of a madman, I urge you to watch this show. One scene is particularly damning, where Chief Scientific and Medical Officer Robert Ratner of the ADA (American Diabetes Association - one of the good guys right..?) flat out refuses to discuss diet and diabetes, and even walks out of the interview! Comical and incriminating - prepare to be shocked and outraged when you find out who sponsors these health organisations, such as the ADA and the American Cancer Society.
6. Fat, sick and nearly dead (Netflix)
Hilarious and endearing - follow the story of Joe Cross, an overweight Australian on a mission. Joe comes to America, the land of free(dom) fries to drink juice and only juice for 60 days to try and combat his weight and health issues. On his journey Joe meets a truck driver, Phil who in some serendipitous twist of fate has the exact same autoimmune disease as him. The show takes a pretty emotional twist as Phil reaches out to Joe for help, when he was on the brink of suicide. Joe hops on a place back to the US to give Phil all the help he needs to turn his life around, all with a little juice. Phil's (and Joe's) transformation is astounding, most shocking of all is the fact they no longer require their meds.Whilst Joe's diet was extreme and perhaps not one I would recommend for a "typical healthy" person, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead highlights how much the power is truly in our hands (and our stomachs) when it comes to our health. Inspirational and uplifting, this film has changed the lives of millions of people worldwide.
7. Before the Flood (Youtube)
In the true spirit of activism and democratising science and information, you can watch Before the Flood for FREE. We have all heard about climate change and how we are destroying the planet to the point of disillusionment, but had not yet been presented with the science. Until now. Thank you Leonardo DiCaprio. This film features some incredible people including former US president Barack Obama, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and even the Pope! To the skeptics out there, these appearances may seem like a publicity stunt, but when we hear from the experts including: environmental authors and activists, climate scientists, energy experts, polar climatologists and even NASA - it 's hard to deny the true devastation we are causing and the need for extreme collective action globally. A (voluntary) carbon tax was also paid to offset the carbon emissions of producing the film - practising what you preach - well done team. The Take Action page is well worth a visit to "fight the flood", giving you tangible and real actions for change.
8. Chasing Coral (Netflix)
As a true ocean lover, I found Chasing Coral harrowing and frightening. Through a lot of patience and commitment the crew capture reefs dying, literally dying. Throughout the film you follow the team as they photograph reefs, every day, for months on end. Filmed over three years, after this long and arduous process the before and after images are shocking. What was equally as shocking was finding out coral is both plant and animal! I'm hoping I was not the only one in the dark about this...
What documentaries have you watched the made you a better person? Share any recommendations using #wilde4theworld so we can all be better humans :)