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The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

The best nature documentaries to stream online now

Published: 16th December, 2020 at 11:29
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The top docs you can catch on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney+.

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+.

Our Planet 

The best documentaries on BBC iPlayer to watch right now © Getty

Furnished with narration from David Attenborough, this wildlife series is produced by many of the folks behind seminal shows Planet Earth and Planet Earth II.

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.

Night on Earth

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

Filmed with ultra-sensitive night-time cameras and thermal photography, Night on Earth gifts viewers an illuminating look at animal life after sunset. This includes footage of moonlight-reflecting flowers attracting pollen-spreading bats, a post-dusk polar bear hunt and even bizarre scorpion mating rituals.

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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.

One Strange Rock 

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

One Strange Rock delves into the much-told 4.5 billion-year-old tale of how life first flourished on Earth. But here’s the twist: hosted by Will Smith (yes, the Will Smith), the 10-part series relies on the insights from eight astronauts, including Chris Hadfield and Nicole Stott.

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.

The Ivory Game 

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

As the name suggests, this Netflix documentary film investigates the global ivory trade and the poaching of African elephants.

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.

Baby Planet

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

We could say the main draw of this Amazon Prime Video series is learning about the ingenious breeding programmes saving endangered species. We could even point to the impeccable narration from James Nesbitt.

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?

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

Avatar. Aliens. Titanic. The Terminator. Chances are you’re a big fan of one of James Cameron’s blockbusters. However, the acclaimed filmmaker isn’t only a director, but a passionate deep-sea explorer too.

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.

Seven Worlds, One Planet

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

Staggeringly ambitious. That’s the best way to describe this expansive wildlife series seeking to document animal life across all of Earth’s seven continents.

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.

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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.

Big Cats

The best nature documentaries to stream online now © Getty

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.

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Thomas Ling
Thomas LingStaff Writer, BBC Science Focus

Thomas is a Staff Writer at BBC Science Focus and looks after all things Q&A. Writing about everything from cosmology to anthropology, he specialises in the latest psychology and neuroscience discoveries. Thomas has a Masters degree (distinction) in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield and has written for Men’s Health, Vice and Radio Times. He has been shortlisted as the New Digital Talent of the Year at the national magazine Professional Publishers Association (PPA) awards.


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