8 of the best David Attenborough documentaries and where to watch them
Explore the wonders of the natural world through the lens of a master storyteller, with these documentaries.
With a career spanning over six decades, Sir David Attenborough has produced and presented some of the most captivating and informative documentaries about the natural world. From his early work on the Zoo Quest to his new groundbreaking series, Wild Isles, Attenborough has inspired generations of viewers to appreciate and care for the planet we call home.
His documentaries are not only educational, but visually stunning, and filled with edge-of-your-seat action (anyone remember the baby iguana being chased by racer snakes?). All of this is delivered with his trademark soothing voiceover.
Combining his extensive knowledge of the natural world with a captivating on-screen presence, his work has been celebrated and recognised with numerous awards, including multiple BAFTA and Emmy awards, and his documentaries are watched and admired by audiences around the world.
So, if you're in the mood to have your mind blown by the extraordinary species that live on our planet, read on to find out where you can watch some of Attenborough's most incredible documentaries. So, sit back, relax, and let's dive into the fascinating world of a natural treasure.
8 of the best Sir David Attenborough documentaries
Whether exploring the depths of the ocean or the jungles of the Amazon, Attenborough's documentaries transport viewers to some of the most fascinating and remote parts of the world, showcasing the beauty and wonder of the natural world. But this time, the focus is a little closer to home.
Wild Isles celebrates the rich variety of habitats that exist on our doorstep, proving that wildlife in the British Isles is every bit as dramatic and spectacular as anywhere else on the planet. Filmed in extraordinary detail, the first episode followed killer whales as they hunt for seals, golden eagles as they scavenge in the snow-covered Scottish mountains, and sinister woodland plants as they take pollinating insects hostage.
But among these nature hot spots, is an undeniable truth: we're one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, so what can we do to restore our islands for future generations?
The first episode of Wild Isles was broadcast Sunday 12 March at 7pm on BBC 1, with the episode, 'Our Precious Isles'. But if you missed it, it's available to watch on iPlayer, with new episodes added in the coming weeks.
Wild Isles will make you fall in love with these islands we call home, so if you only watch one nature documentary - make it this one.
- Watch now on BBC iPlayer
- Wild Isles: How to see an orca in the UK
Dinosaurs: The Final Day with David Attenborough
One day, 66 million years ago, an asteroid struck the Yucatán Peninsula and changed the course of life on Earth. The impact all but wiped out the dinosaurs, leaving room for the mammals to rise, and eventually leading to the evolution of humans.
Palaeontologists have long studied the period after the asteroid hit – think millions of years – but one remarkable archaeological site shows something incredible: the very day of the impact.
A top-secret site at Tanis, North Dakota, contains creatures that were entombed by falling ejecta, including a fossilised egg containing the bones of a baby pterosaur, a turtle skewered by a wooden stake, and an entire leg from a Thescelosaurus dinosaur.
In this documentary, Sir David Attenborough reveals, in never-seen-before detail, what happened on that final day.
Attenborough's Life in Colour
In the animal kingdom, colour plays a vital role, whether that's a flamingo's pink colour helping to prove its worth as a mate or a tiger's orange and black stripes letting it blend into the jungle. But hold on – jungles are green. So how do tigers camouflage?
The answer is that not all animals see colour in the same way as we do. Take the mantis shrimp: with 12 photoreceptors, compared to humans' three, they can see ultraviolet and even polarised light.
For Life in Colour, the team created brand new cameras that allow us to see the world as other animals might, giving a previously unseen perspective on the natural world.
- See photos of some of the incredible animals in the show
- Watch on BBC iPlayer, Google Play or Netflix
Planet Earth II
Ten years after Planet Earth, Attenborough and co. returned with brand new camera technology, taking us closer than ever before to stunning wildlife from all around the world. On its release in 2016, Planet Earth II spawned several instantly iconic moments, including baby iguanas chased by hungry snakes, a fox diving headfirst into the snow, and bears dropping it like it's hot in the forest.
Each episode explores a different type of habitat, from islands to jungles to cities, and the cast array of species that call them home.
If you loved Planet Earth and Planet Earth II, you've not got long to wait: Planet Earth III is set to be released in 2022.
- A producer on the show tells us about the years he spent filming wildlife in cities
- Watch on BBC iPlayer, Google Play or Amazon Prime
Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard
When you think mammoths, you probably imagine Arctic tundras and not, well, Swindon. But the UK was in fact home to many Ice Age mammals: not just mammoths, but cave lions, lynxes, aurochs and more.
In 2017, amateur fossil hunters found a mass mammoth graveyard in a gravel quarry in Swindon. Alongside the remains, they found stone axes made by Neanderthals.
In Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, you can watch the team excavate the site and try to work out what happened there: was it Neanderthals that killed the mammoths?
A Perfect Planet
Our planet is truly unique: we don't know of anywhere else in the Universe with the exact set of features that would allow life even to exist, let alone thrive. Thanks to this one-in-a-billion combination of sunlight, volcanoes, oceans and weather, every habitat on Earth is teeming with life.
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Each episode takes one of these factors and explains how life on Earth couldn't exist without it.
Seven Worlds, One Planet
Planet Earth is split into seven continents, and life exists on each one – even Antarctica, despite its inhospitable environment. But why are the species so different in the different areas of the world?
In Seven Worlds, One Planet, Attenborough and team explore the life unique to each continent – and none of them escapes the impact of human activity.
Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet
Attenborough's documentaries are known for their stunning view into the lives of animals around the world, but that's not all he's passionate about. The climate crisis is a threat to our entire planet, and every species that calls it home.
In Breaking Boundaries, Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström examine the science of the climate crisis, including the planetary thresholds we must not exceed if we want the Earth to remain hospitable not just to the animals, but also to us.
- Watch on Netflix
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