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Earth Day 2023: Check out these best nature documentaries of all time

People these days tend to get the most insight into the environment by watching documentaries, which bring them closer to nature from the comfort of their living room couch. Thanks to some glorious and entertaining footage of the Earth’s creatures and territories, accompanied by soft-speaking narrators, people attain a deeper understanding of the world they inhabit.

As the world celebrates Earth Day once again, people can show their reverence for Mother Earth by watching these the best nature documentaries of all time.

Life (2009)

A mudskipper in the BBC's "Life."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Written and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, this BBC documentary gets up close and personal with its dramatic depiction of animals’ primordial battle for survival on Earth. This miniseries follows all manner of life in their natural habitats and how they adapt to survive. Such creatures that put on display in this show include plants, insects, primates, fish, birds, and many other organisms found on the land and in the sea.

Given how many people have grown accustomed to living healthy and comfortable lives in the modern world, it’s easy for them to forget the hardships countless creatures endure to assert their right to exist alongside humanity. Watching this riveting docuseries can help audiences better understand this struggle and, hopefully, help them appreciate these resilient organisms and how far humanity has evolved to live as it does in the present.

Life can be rented or purchased on Prime Video.

The Blue Planet (2001)

A group of hammerhead sharks in "Blue Planet."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Filmed over the course of five years, this acclaimed BBC docuseries features an in-depth look into the history and inhabitants of the world’s oceans. Again narrated by Attenborough, each episode paints a gorgeous and comprehensive picture of the ocean’s many marvels and seemingly endless mysteries.

The show follows such astounding sea creatures as sharks, whales, squids, dolphins, seals, penguins, and even some whose existence and activities had never been captured on film before. These discoveries made a splash upon the show’s release over two decades ago, making it the recipient of numerous awards. It even spawned a sequel series that aired in 2017 and raised people’s interest in marine biology and the plastic pollution crisis. For those looking to dive into the weird and wonderful world of the deep blue sea, this series is the best place to start.

The Blue Planet is streaming on Discovery+.

Planet Earth (2006)

Snowy mountains in the BBC's "Planet Earth."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Following the success of The Blue Planet, the BBC took its cameras out of the oceans and engaged in another five-year study of many creatures and their habitats around the globe. Also featuring Attenborough as the narrator, Planet Earth remains the BBC’s most expensive nature docuseries ever produced. In the end, all that time and money spent was worth it, as this series attracted an enormous amount of viewers, surpassing The Blue Planet’s status as the most-watched natural history show of all time. It also spawned a feature film adaptation and a sequel show, with a threequel due to premiere in 2023.

Being the first documentary to be filmed in high-definition, many audiences lauded this show’s bold and cinematic portrayal of the planet’s vast wonders, which include the lush forests of Madagascar, the snow-topped Alpine summits, the great plains of South Africa, and the dark depths of Mexico’s caves. Without a doubt, this miniseries is the perfect show for audiences wanting to immerse themselves in the true majesty of planet Earth.

Planet Earth is now streaming on Discovery+.

Our Planet (2019)

An animal in "Our Planet."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This series was Netflix’s breakout hit into the world of esteemed nature documentaries, and yes, Attenborough narrates this one too. Filmed in 50 countries, Our Planet captures many unique and beautiful animals and habitats on film to educate viewers about how human behavior negatively impacts them.

Presenting the melting polar ice caps, rising ocean temperatures, and all sorts of pollution, Our Planet paints a grim and poignant picture of how climate change has affected numerous creatures living on Earth, and it depicts their desperate struggle to survive in a rapidly changing world. This isn’t the kind of documentary people would watch for a calming escape, as it forces the audience to face the dark reality created by humanity’s mistreatment of their home planet.

Our Planet is streaming on Netflix.

My Octopus Teacher

Craig Foster swimming next to an octopus in "My Octopus Teacher."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This documentary stands out as a more personal experience between humanity and nature. This Netflix Original follows filmmaker Craig Foster as he forms an unexpected friendship with a wild octopus swimming in the waters of South Africa.

As he spends almost a year following the octopus’s life in the sea, he finds himself understanding more of humanity’s relationship with nature as he sees the beauty and vulnerability of his environment. This remarkable, moving film is not only about a person forming a deep connection with nature, but also about a man reconnecting with his own family thanks to a most unusual teacher.

My Octopus Teacher is now streaming on Netflix.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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