Calling all fans of wildlife, amazing natural phenomena and unmissable TV: we’re living in a golden age. With the rise of streaming services from Netflix, to Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, there are thousands of natural history films and TV series are available to watch online this very second.That’s the good news. However, with all this choice, digging out the titles is no easy task. That’s why we’ve sifted through the many available options, picking out the five-star gems worthy of a slot in your next TV binge.
Plus, if you want a deeper dive into titles streaming on specific services, be sure to check out our guides to the best documentaries on Netflix, the best documentaries on BBC iPlayer and the best National Geographic documentaries to watch on Disney+.
And while those BBC documentaries touched their toes into the topic of conservation, Our Planet takes a gigantic dive into humans’ impact on animal environments – from the Arctic wilderness to the jungles of South America.
Crammed with beautiful cinematography throughout, the eight-part series also lays out a striking plan how our planet can be saved.
- Watch Our Planet on Netflix now.
Night on Earth
While the show can occasionally focus too heavily on the technology itself over the animals on display, liquid narration from Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black) keeps this six-part exploration of nocturnal wildlife on track.
- Watch Night on Earth now on Netflix
One Strange Rock
Using their accounts and footage filmed aboard the International Space Station, viewers are given a unique overview of natural phenomenon from dust storms and hot springs – and how they formed.
The best advice we can give: make sure you watch this on the biggest screen possible with the highest resolution. This visually-stunning nature feast deserves nothing less.
- Watch One Strange Rock on Disney+ now
The Ivory Game
While packed with plenty of clips of elephants in their natural habitat, the hard-hitting movie does a noble job highlighting how poachers now kill an African elephant every 15 minutes. With their population plummeting a whole 97 per cent in the past 100 years, the animals could face complete extinction within the next 15 years.
While hard-hitting throughout, the most interesting part of The Ivory Game is the undercover footage earned by spending 16 months infiltrating the global ivory trafficking industry. Truly eye-opening.
- Watch The Ivory Game on Netflix now
But we’d be lying: the main reason you should watch this series is for the hours of baby animals on display. From tiny rhinos and lions to zebras and gorillas: this uplifting show has them all. What more convincing do you need?
- Watch Baby Planet on Amazon Prime Video now
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge
In fact, as a boy, Cameron dreamed that he’d journey to the deepest part of the ocean – a task he sets out to achieve in this captivating film.
And, as you might have guessed, he succeeded. But he didn’t only reach the Mariana Trench seven miles below the surface. As this 90-minute documentary shows, Cameron also discovered a plethora of deep-sea species including a new giant single-celled amoeba.
- Watch James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge now on Amazon Prime Video
Seven Worlds, One Planet
From frozen wildernesses of the far North Americas, to dense jungle canopies, the seven-part show seeks to explain that life has evolved in incredible ways in some truly remarkable habitats.
Narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, the series also packs a crucial environmental message: the climate crisis doesn’t only impact a few animals in extreme environments, but all wildlife around the globe. And urgent change is needed.
- Watch Seven Worlds, One Planet on BBC iPlayer now
If you needed more proof how remarkable lynxes, lions and leopards are, look no further.
This three-part series shows how new technologies and approaches have demonstrated just how extraordinary large cats are. For instance, as host Professor Alan Wilson shows viewers, high-tech collars fitted to cheetahs reveal it’s not just the animals’ speed that make them such a successful predator – it’s also their ability to brake and change direction.
Combining such insights with stunning cinematography makes Big Cats a show you should get your claws into.
- Watch Big Cats on BBC iPlayer now
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