The 10 best nature documentaries and docuseries on Netflix in July 2024

The streamer runs the gamut from Oscar-winning films to soulful shorts.



Sometimes, all you want to do is visit places you’ve never been before — the Indian Ocean, Kruger National Park, the North Pole. But if extreme IRL adventures are not in your cards, why not set aside the latest hit series and instead cozy up with a nature documentary? Here are 10 excellent options streaming on Netflix, including Oscar-winning features, heartfelt shorts, and wide-ranging series. All share a love of nature and a deep concern for the future of our planet, and several are narrated by Hollywood names who put their fame to good use.

Read on for Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 10 best nature documentaries and docuseries on Netflix right now.

Virunga (2014)



Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, this Oscar-nominated documentary is both a breathtaking thriller of the highest, most anxiety-inducing order and a political interrogation of greed’s environmental consequences. The title refers to a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel set out to capture the fight against mountain gorilla extinction. But upon the M23 Rebellion ensuing during filming, not to mention the collateral dangers of oil extraction, the narrative shifts towards how brave park rangers dodge many bullets — sometimes literally — in the name of conservation. A searing action film and an urgent scream, Virunga fiercely elevates its heroes and stares down its villains with clear-eyed vitality.

Where to watch Virunga: Netflix

Director: Orlando von Einsiedel

Related content: The 30 best documentaries on Netflix

Blackfish (2013)

<p>Netflix</p> Still from Blackfish


Still from Blackfish

If you don’t know anything else about Blackfish — the scorching tearjerker about the tragedies surrounding SeaWorld’s captive Orca, Tilikum — you may recall that it prompted major changes at the infamous theme park. For starters, they no longer breed killer whales, and trainers stopped riding dolphins during acrobatic shows. That’s what a great doc does every once in a blue moon: opens the public’s eyes to normalized atrocities and turns the tides toward a better future. Edited with a stern sense of clarity and suspense, and with true affection for the animals’ best interests, Blackfish is one of the most consequential nature documentaries of our time.

Where to watch Blackfish: Netflix

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Cast: John Hargrove, Samantha Berg, Jeffrey Ventre, John Jett, Mark Simmons, Dean Gomersall

Fantastic Fungi (2019)



They aren’t just pizza toppers, burger substitutes, or psychedelic edibles. As time-lapse trailblazer Louie Schwartzberg’s enchanting Fantastic Fungi shows, mushrooms are also intelligent and diverse substances with the distinct ability to defend themselves and enrich natural ecosystems. Armed with Brie Larson’s delightful narration, input from fungi experts and enthusiasts, and a keen sense of humor, Schwartzberg’s documentary is a crash course on how mushrooms are imperative to our future survival. But the cherry on top is seeing these fungi grow and die in gloriously photographed detail.

Where to watch Fantastic Fungi: Netflix

Director: Louie Schwartzberg

Cast: Brie Larson, Paul Stamets, Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, Andrew Weil, Giuliana Furci

Related content: The 20 best trippy movies and TV shows on Netflix right now

My Octopus Teacher (2020)



The disarming sweetness of My Octopus Teacher (a quality that undoubtedly sealed its Best Documentary Oscar win) is front and center as filmmaker and free-diver Craig Foster forges an unexpected friendship with an octopus in a remote kelp forest near Cape Town. The narrative progresses with plenty of pathos, capturing how the aquatic animal invites Foster into her daily routine and even influences his relationship with his son. With lovely underwater footage and philosophical yet accessible themes, this gentle marine escapade is a celebration of our bonds with wildlife.

Where to watch My Octopus Teacher: Netflix

Director: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed

Cast: Craig Foster, Tom Foster

Related content: The Boys cast explain the bizarre influence of My Octopus Teacher on season 3

Chasing Coral (2017)

<p>Netflix</p> Still from Chasing Coral


Still from Chasing Coral

If cinema made you care about coral reefs and raised your awareness about the brutal destruction they face (a.k.a. coral bleaching), Jeff Orlowski’s Emmy-winning documentary probably played a part in your awakening. Much of the film’s stunning underwater cinematography owes its panache to the sophisticated technology Orlowski has at his disposal. The rest of the beauty comes from the ocean’s adorable creatures, which are enthusiastically studied by a group of lovable coral nerds with an infectious passion. Don’t be surprised if the survival of coral reefs becomes your next political priority upon seeing this.

Where to watch Chasing Coral: Netflix

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Cast: Richard Vevers, Zackery Rago, John “Charlie” Vernon

Related content: Frozen star Kristen Bell sings a song about climate change for Netflix doc

The Ivory Game (2016)



An ecological thriller in the style of Virunga (also with Leonardo DiCaprio as an executive producer), The Ivory Game is a heartbreaking and heart-thumping look at the maze of issues that threaten African elephants with mass extinction. According to the film’s shocking numbers, one elephant is murdered every 15 minutes, mostly to sell their ivory tusks for big sums in Chinese black markets. Co-directors Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani depict the animals’ urgent plight from various angles with suspense and precision, capturing expansive vistas and shady nighttime dealings. This documentary is a wake-up call, but not without a dose of hope.

Where to watch The Ivory Game: Netflix

Director: Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani

Our Living World (2024)



Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of our ecological codependencies by maestro Cate Blanchett? In this stunning four-episode miniseries, interconnectedness is the keyword as each chapter beautifully outlines how every living being — whether animal or plant — serves a purpose beyond its own survival by helping and propelling one another. But what’s most powerful about Our Living World is its actionable prompts that contextualize our planet’s urgent climate crisis, encouraging us humans to chip in with whatever conservation efforts we can muster.

Where to watch Our Living World: Netflix

Cast: Cate Blanchett

Our Planet / Our Planet II (2019, 2023)



Across the scope of two seasons and 12 episodes, Emmy and BAFTA-winning legend Sir David Attenborough hypnotically guides the viewer through the Earth’s many natural beauties. It’s a majestic undertaking that traces a solo elephant or a flock of penguins in one moment and lays bare how climate change affects these vulnerable animals in the next. Long, epic, and ambitious in scale, the series turns living rooms into coral reefs, arctic circles, and mountaintops. Our Planet is undoubtedly one of the most splendid projects Attenborough, among the most dedicated voices in the environmental fight, has done in his over 70-year-long career.

Where to watch Our Planet/Our Planet II: Netflix

Cast: David Attenborough

Related content: The 15 best nature documentaries and docuseries

Our Great National Parks (2022)



“Wild spaces are where we can connect with ourselves, our families, and something greater than us,” says former President Barack Obama as this program’s presenter. Our Great National Parks spreads its wings over five gorgeous episodes, taking the viewer through some of the world’s most heart-stopping sights. The first entry covers everything from beaches in Africa to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, while later stops explore the Chilean Patagonia, Tsavo in Kenya, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park. It’s hard to imagine a more fulfilling binge-watch.

Where to watch Our Great National Parks: Netflix

Cast: Barack Obama

The Elephant Whisperers (2022)



A deservedly Oscar-winning short, this lovely documentary traces a big-hearted couple, Bomman and Bellie, as they care for and form a makeshift family with an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu in South India. The film’s openhanded humanity is boundless, even contagious, as director Kartiki Gonsalves follows the caregivers who make a tradition out of raising the animals, and in Bellie’s case, as a means to survive grief. The Elephant Whisperers reminds us that these creatures can love, empathize, and remember just like us humans.

Where to watch The Elephant Whisperers: Netflix

Director: Kartiki Gonsalves

Cast: Bellie, Bomman

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.