The Best Nature Documentaries, According To You

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With National Marine Week approaching, U.K.-based global training company The Knowledge Academy complied a list of the world’s top nature documentaries. These films have been ranked highly by fans on rating and review platforms like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

People love Sir David Attenborough

According to Google Trends Worldwide, searches for ‘nature documentary’ have soared by 400% globally in the past week alone.

Fans top favourite documentary is David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet with an average rating of 9.35 out of a possible 10, with IMDb at 9 and Rotten Tomatoes at 9.70. In the documentary, legend Sir David Attenborough urges the world to shift to a plant-based diet as the earth “can’t support billions of meat-eaters” and this could be a way to not only negate the effects of climate change but also avoid complete environmental breakdown.

He said in the documentary: “We must radically reduce the way we farm. We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.”

The documentary is co-produced by WWF and Silverback Films and is available to watch on Netflix.

Again narrated by Sir Attenborough, Netflix’s first nature documentary series Our Planet and Africa occupy second and third place, with an average rating of 9.25 and 9.15, respectively. Both series highlight the different habitats and wildlife that exists on our earth, and at the same time draw attention to how climate change is affecting these ecosystems.

Narrated by Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground secured the fourth spot with an average rating of 9.10. The documentary takes viewers on a journey of how industrial agriculture practices have leeched the soil’s nutrients due to the constant use of chemicals. To help address this issue, activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians explore a “new, old approach” to farming called regenerative agriculture and how it can be key to ensuring food security.

Love for animals

Obtaining an average rating of 8.70 with a fifth place on the list, the 2014 documentary Virunga follows the story of people risking their lives to protect the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park that lies inside eastern Congo. It is directed by Orlando von Einsiedel with actor Leonardo DiCaprio as executive producer.

My Octopus Teacher secures seventh place with an average rating of 8.65 and explores the friendship between experienced diver and filmmaker Craig Foster and a wild cephalopod. The documentary explores the beauty of the marine ecosystem, the species that thrive there, and our changing relationship with this natural world.

Protect wildlife, protect the earth

The award-winning Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret that helped raise awareness about how animal agriculture is directly responsible for climate change is in eighth place with another contender Chasing Coral with average ratings of 8.50.

The producers behind Cowspiracy released Seaspiracy to highlight the massive environmental impact the fishing industry has on the planet, how it is making the plastic crisis worse and whether there is anything sustainable in “sustainable fishing”. It sits at tenth place with an average 8.30 rating.

Read: Seaspiracy Response: Here’s What NGOs & Other Organizations Are Saying About The Documentary, Plus Our Take

Award-winning journalist and filmmaker Craig Leeson’s A Plastic Ocean is in 11th place with an 8.20 rating. The documentary dives deep into the world’s oceans and uncovers the millions of plastics that reside there and the impact of this on the planet.

In an exclusive interview with Green Queen, Leeson shared that especially while filming, the issue became more important to cover and initially just discovering the crisis in North Pacific Gyre, they ended up in 21 different locations knowing that it could be equally bad. “We found out that the problem was far worse, more than we could ever imagine. Instead of getting the answers, we hoped to find, we were getting more questions. That’s why the documentary became one that was based on the ocean into one that also focused on land and human health. We discovered so much as we went along with the film. It was a surprise to me in terms of the content we had. But I knew what we had was extremely powerful and had to be told. Even today, I am almost speechless about the effect it has had.”

One of the notable mentions in this list includes There’s Something In The Water directed by Elliot Page and Ian Daniel that sits in 14th place with an average rating of 6.45. It highlights the environmental racism faced by the Black Canadian and First Nations communities in Nova Scotia.

And on 15th place with an average rating of 6.40, the 2017 documentary RiverBlue takes viewers on paddler and conservationist Mark Angelo’s river journey around the globe uncovering the disastrous impacts the fashion industry has on the earth.


The Knowledge Academy analyzed multiple articles listing the must-watch documentaries and picked out the ones with the top ones in the environment and nature categories.

Subsequently, the average rating index of the 20 most listed documentaries for each category was calculated by combining film ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. The ones that didn’t have any ratings on these platforms were excluded from the list.

Lead image courtesy of Virunga.


  • Tanuvi Joe

    Born and bred in India and dedicated to the cause of sustainability, Tanuvi Joe believes in the power of storytelling. Through her travels and conversations with people, she raises awareness and provides her readers with innovative ways to align themselves towards a kinder way of living that does more good than harm to the planet. Tanuvi has a background in Journalism, Tourism, and Sustainability, and in her free time, this plant parent surrounds herself with books and rants away on her blog Ruffling Wings.

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