We've been spending a lot of time indoors lately, but today is Earth Day. We recommend stretching your legs, taking a quick walk outside, and getting some clean, fresh air. And then, once you're back, take in any of these nine best nature docs that celebrate the wonders of our natural world.
The fifteenth nature documentary from the Disneynature label is a larger-than-life adventure. The doc tracks the movements of a herd of elephants as they travel on an epic journey that retraces the steps of their ancestors. The main focus is Shani, her young son Jomo and her sister/herd matriarch, Gaia, Bonus: a warm narrative audio track from Meghan Markle, the former Duchess of Sussex.
2March of the Penguins
Morgan Freeman lends his smooth voice to this Oscar-winning nature doc that took the world by storm in 2005. Luc Jacquet and his film crew document a year in the life of a group of emperor penguins. Facing Antarctica's harsh winds and below-freezing temperatures, these penguins go through a lot to survive. But, to them, it's second nature. A follow-up was made in 2017, "March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step," which is streaming on Hulu.
Famed anthropologist, primatologist, and ethologist Jane Goodall is the subject of this amazing pic that draws from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage. The National Geographic film, complete with a musical score from the incredible Philip Glass, tales the story of Goodall's legacy researching the world of chimpanzees, and her incredible discoveries.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos ("The Cove") teams with scientists, reporters, and activists to document the human activities that have contributed to the ongoing mass extinction of other species. Global warming, overpopulation, animal agriculture, globalization – this is our mess, and there's no time like the present to do something about it.
Water comes in many forms. And filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky travels the world to uncover its many different versions, visions, formats, formations, and manifestations in this awe-inspiring documentary. "Aquarela" looks at how water affects all of us and the planet, plus how we have affected it. It is an awesome spectacle, with lessons that only mother nature can teach us.
6Flight of the Butterflies
Filmmaker Mike Slee sets his focus on one of nature's biggest mysteries. Dr. Fred Urquhart has spent four decades investigating the circumstances behind one of nature's longest insect migrations. Slee and Urquhart follow the majestic monarch butterflies as they fly from Central Mexico to the United States and Canada and back.
Filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin follow rock climber Alex Honnold as he prepares a free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The dizzying heights of the 3,000-foot vertical rock face are enough to make anyone queasy, but Honnold is up for the challenge. Equally interesting is seeing how Vasarhelyi and Chin solve the complex problems of filming the incredible feat.
Our most recent entry was just released in the past week, in time for Earth Day, no doubt. Filmmaker Kosakovskiy ("Aquarela") does more than just document the life of a pig family on a farm. He deconstructs the nature documentary genre and the filmmaking process. This is a completely voiceless doc. The only language heard are the oinks, clucks, and moos of the farm's denizens. The only soundtrack is the chirps of the birds and the buzzing of the bees.
Documentary / 2020
9My Octopus Teacher
Even more transformative is this Oscar-nominated entry from filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. "My Octopus Teacher" follows nature photographer Craig Foster as he reconnects with his love and passion via an unlikely muse. The beautiful cinematography and ethereal score combine to showcase the grace and beauty of the mollusk and its submarine habitat.
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.