The best science documentaries to watch on Netflix
Space flight? Natural history? Cute babies? Whatever you're interested in, there's a Netflix documentary there for you.
Netflix isn’t all The Crown and Star Trek. Between your favourite dramas and reality TV guilty pleasures (we’re not judging) lays a gigantic bedrock of the best science documentaries ever put on screen. Exploring everything from space flight to the natural world, baby biology to social media psychology, and astronomy to geology, there’s something for every science fan to stream.
In short: there's a lot of choice. Perhaps too much. You see, with hundreds of titles at hand, it can be difficult to really tell what’s worthy of your watch list. That’s why we’ve rounded up a collection of the most interesting science documentaries on Netflix available right now. Because it doesn’t truly count as a TV binge if you actually you learn something, right?
Fifty countries. Three and a half thousand days of filming. Countless species of animals. One David Attenborough. Combine all these and you get Our Planet, a visually-stunning exploration of nature across the globe. Over eight episodes, this ambitious docu-series takes you across vastly different landscapes, from the remote Arctic wilderness to South African jungles and the mysterious depths of the oceans.
While showcasing awe-inspiring habitats and mesmerising landscapes, the series also does its part highlighting how they are all under threat due to rapid climate change. And, crucially, it makes the point that our planet can be saved. We just have to act now.
- Watch Our Planet on Netflix now.
The Social Dilemma
Admit it: you’re addicted to your phone. Specifically, you’re probably somebody who routinely checks their social media accounts. But what exactly makes them so addictive in the first place? And is there a way to make them less so?
It's these crucial questions The Social Dilemma looks to answer. Featuring various Silicon Valley veterans – including Justin Rosenstein, the inventor of the ‘like’ button – this compelling film exhibits the AI and phycology behind compulsive smartphone use. And better still, it does it in clear language that anyone can understand (similar to our article on the secret ways social media is built to be addictive).
- Watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix now.
Into The Inferno
Volcanoes: this film features a lot of them. Volcanoes in Indonesia. Volcanoes in Iceland. Volcanoes in Ethiopia. Even Volcanoes in North Korea. And all of these violent natural wonders look absolutely in mesmerising in this beautifully-shot film.
However, it’s not only the breath-taking visuals that make Into The Inferno worth watching. Interviewed by presenter (and German cinema darling) Werner Herzog, the world’s leading volcanologists explain the science of eruptions – and the calamitous damage they can cause. Terrifying and eye-opening.
- Watch Into The Inferno on Netflix now.
Is it possible future humans could live forever? Why is it music can make us feel certain ways? And how do we really know just how intelligent animals are? These are just some of the questions tackled by Explained, the Netflix show that gives a beginner’s guide to an intriguing topic across each 20-minute episode.
Not only is the show packed with leading scientific experts, but each instalment is also brilliantly narrated by acting talent including JK Simmons, Kristen Bell and Hilary Swank. Well-researched, often funny and always interesting.
- Watch Explained on Netflix now.
Evolution is truly an extraordinary, delicate and downright beautiful process. However, it’s also extremely slow. But maybe not for much longer, thanks to new gene-editing technology.
That’s the argument put forward in this Netflix documentary examining designer DNA and the capabilities of newly-developed CRISPR technology. With analysis from top scientists and biohackers, the four-part series guides viewers through the ethical dilemmas prompted by new genetic discoveries – and their potential to change humanity as we know it.
- Watch Unnatural Selection on Netflix now.
Before you ask, yes this is a documentary packed with plenty of cute babies. Extremely cute babies, if you must know. But it’s also much more than that.
This informative infant docuseries takes a deep dive into how a child develops during the first year of its life. This means investigating everything from how toddlers’ sleep differ from adults, to how babies develop motor skills and language. Overall, the series delivers a heart-warming reminder just how adaptable, complex and downright amazing humans beings really are.
More like this
- Watch Babies on Netflix now.
Behind the Curve
Yes, this is a Flat Earth documentary. But not the sort your strange cousin keeps watching on YouTube. Quickly establishing that the Earth is actually round, this film then asks why Flat Earthers believe such a perplexing conspiracy theory.
Behind the Curve isn’t intent on ridiculing these science deniers, instead offering a level-headed and humanist explanation of their thinking. In particular, the film expertly explains the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people convince themselves they know everything about something while actually knowing very little.
And sure, there’s entertainment value in witnessing Flat Earthers tie themselves into logical knots, but Behind the Curve does a fantastic job in presenting believers as, dare we say, well-rounded people.
- Watch Behind the Curve on Netflix now.
Challenger: The Final Flight
Using interviews with astronauts and NASA officials, this four-part documentary delves into one of the worst moments of human spaceflight: the 1986 Challenger disaster, a tragedy which saw the titular space shuttle tragically explode after only 73 seconds after lift-off, killing all seven crew members.
What actually caused this disaster? And what allowed these mistakes to be left undetected? Challenger: The Final Flight not only ponders these issues, but also tells the story of each crew member, including Christa McAuliffe, the school teacher who was set to become the first private citizen in space.
- Watch Challenger: The Final Flight on Netflix now.
Kiss the Ground
Kiss the Ground hails an unlikely saviour of climate change: dirt. This short film puts forward the intriguing argument that regenerating the planet’s soils will replenish water supplies, encourage bigger and more plants to grow, and overall save humanity from extinction.
Although dense in content, Kiss the Ground lays out the complex science with understandable graphics and animation. Combine that with narration from the terrific Woody Harrelson and the result is an engaging and thought-provoking watch.
- Watch Kiss The Ground on Netflix now.
Just in case you weren’t convinced the world is becoming ever-more connected, science journalist Latif Nasser is here to convince you otherwise with this captivating six-part series.
Taking one topic each episode, Nasser draws links between unlikely animals, events, natural phenomena and even poop across the globe. Along with a slew of interesting facts, you’ll learn exactly how integrated the Earth’s ecosystem is.
- Watch Connected on Netflix now.
72 dangerous animals
Do you like animals? Dangerous animals? And you wouldn’t turn down seeing 72 of them in one show? Then do we have a recommendation for you.
Essentially the wildlife version of Ninja Warrior, 72 Dangerous Animals sees a swarm of competitors – you guessed it, 72 of them – fighting for the title of “Most Dangerous Animal”. Fortunately not literally: with the help of animal experts, each episode takes at a handful of predators and explores how they’ve perfectly adapted to their chosen habitat.
After this examination, a panel of zoologists then decides which animal is most deserving to advance to the final, where the ultimate dangerous animal is crowned.
As you might be able to tell, it’s an extremely silly show. But fortunately, it’s also staggeringly interesting too.
- Watch 72 Dangerous Animals on Netflix now.
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Thomas is Digital editor at BBC Science Focus. Writing about everything from cosmology to anthropology, he specialises in the latest psychology, health 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. Also working in academia, Thomas has lectured on the topic of journalism to undergraduate and postgraduate students at The University of Sheffield.
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