The 5 best animal documentaries you need to watch

Fortunately, Nature and animal documentaries have existed on the small screen since the beginning of television itself; these shows help instil feelings of wonder and awe in their audiences, with many of us using this medium to explore lands and creatures that seem so foreign compared to our corner of the world. These shows gift us the opportunity to be amazed by terrains we might never get to see with our own eyes.

Animal documentaries have the potential to make people think about their place in the world while also providing astonishing spectacles of sorrow and joy. Nature documentaries are required to remain objective in their message and share the world’s emotional beauty.

This factor is more critical than ever before; in the modern age, we need to be aware of the types of media we consume and how they can have an effect on our minds because everything we choose to consume will have a subsequent impact on our emotions, feelings, and our overall perspectives in some way.

Planet Earth II

David Attenborough returns with Planet Earth II, ten years after the phenomenal international success of Planet Earth. Planet Earth II, like its predecessor, breaks further ground for its high-definition representations of the natural world, with the clarity of visuals in the six-part series becoming utterly awe-inspiring at times.

The documentary’s final episode reveals how our species urban sprawl has had a horrific hand in destroying the Earth’s natural ecosystems, reinforcing Attenborough’s lifelong dedication to conservation in an ever-modernising world. Unfortunately, Planet Earth II isn’t as long as its predecessor, but if you loved the original, it’s an incredible visual treat to sink a few hours into.


The sight of Lar gibbons soaring through the treetops at breakneck speed, somersaulting off branches and leaping great distances can leave you speechless, not just because of the animals themselves but also because of the professional camerawork necessary to capture such fantastic footage.

The Lars gibbon is only one of the many unique primates featured in this three-part series; with hundreds of species around the world, we are introduced to a wide range of animal personalities. Primates travels around the world, stopping in Brazil, China, Madagascar, and an array of other locations, focusing on everything from little-known drills to wide-eyed lemurs.

Primates offers its audience a snapshot, into the lives of our genetic cousins, with each episode featuring intriguing behaviour and group dynamics, as well as new findings and fascinating biology.



The scandalous portrayal of orcas and their assaults on humans in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 documentary film shocked the public at its initial release. The 83-minute documentary is about a killer whale called Tilikum, a showcased performer at the Orlando Sea World from the age of two after being captured in Iceland in 1983.

The film focuses on the unfortunate mistreatment of orcas’ and their inevitable violent responses to life in closed captivity. Blackfish describes how whales are remarkably intelligent and highly emotional animals that have been known to strike out of anger rather than simple provocation. The audience will come to learn this through the unfortunate tale of Tilikum in this deeply saddening documentary; Blackfish can be watched today on Netflix, but I warn you, it isn’t an easy watch.


Meerkat Manor

Meerkat Manor is a tale about a family’s dependence on one another to survive the dangers of their environment, a description more apt for Game of Thrones than a show about one foot-tall, two-pound meerkats.

Meerkat Manor chronicles the trials and tribulations of the “Whiskers family,” who were the subject of a 10-year Cambridge University study. The Whiskers are led by Flower, a strong matriarch who wears a radio collar that allows Cambridge researchers to monitor the clan’s every move as they journey through their territory, protecting their borders from other Meerkat groups. Flower retains her supremacy over the group, using coercion and force to pressure her family, the majority of whom are her direct descendants, to submit to her leadership.

The Whiskers, a gang of about 30 members, fight for survival in Africa’s Kalahari Desert, where they are forced to deal with frequent conflicts with neighbouring clans and issue of discipline within their own. Meerkat Manor allows viewers to immerse themselves in a world rife with conflict, not dissimilar from our own.


Our Planet

In 2019, Netflix debuted its first nature documentary series, which had been in the works for four years. The series, narrated by none other than Sir David Attenborough, examines Earth’s vast ecosystems. Each of the eight episodes transports viewers to more than 50 countries worldwide, focusing broadly on the planet’s diverse ecosystems.

Our Planet is shot entirely in ultra-high definition and at times looks more like a Hollywood film than a nature documentary. Similarly to the BBC’s Blue Planet, the show investigates the most tropical jungles, the deepest of seas, and the densest of forests. Our World inspires audiences to take action and responsibility for the planet we all inhabit by encouraging them to take a closer look at the incredible place we are fortunate to call home.


All beings on Earth live in symbiosis with one another and share our amazing planet, but the world we live in is transforming right before our eyes. I hope the five animal documentaries showcased Mother Nature’s wonders and how humans have changed life on the planet forever. Do you have any other favourite animal documentaries you love to watch?


Sean Barrett
Sean Barrett

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