You might be laboring under the misapprehension that all nature documentaries are boring. This is anything but true. Although it’s easy enough to see why kids raised on the production value of Hollywood movies might have trouble sitting still through an educational documentary, there are plenty of offerings in terms of nature docs that are so visually enticing as to grab the interest of even skeptical viewers. Here are a few of the best on the market.
- An Inconvenient Truth (2006). Okay, so pretty much everyone in the free world has already seen Al Gore’s Power Point presentation pertaining to the climate change being caused by greenhouse gas emissions. But a list of must-see nature documentaries that didn’t include this pivotal film would be incomplete. Despite the fact that some of the numbers cited in the film have been called into question since it was released, it’s still provides a powerful lesson in why we should be paying closer attention to the chemicals we’re pumping into the atmosphere.
- Baraka (1992). This gorgeous film has been around for a while, and despite its advanced age it is still just as relevant as it was 20 years ago. This could be because there is no dialogue, only scenery set to music. You might not always know where in the world the footage is being shot, but you’ll get a glimpse of people involved in work, play, and prayer, a wide variety of animal species and natural settings, and a commentary on the power of man to decimate it all through logging, strip mining, and so on. Of course, nature has her own form of destruction, and one of the most powerful sequences in the film revolves around a forest fire.
- The Cove (2009). You might know this movie best for the highly publicized appearance of actress Hayden Panettiere. Or perhaps you are actually aware that it took home an Academy Award. Whatever you’ve heard about it, it’s definitely a must-see. The film follows a group of activists led by former animal trainer (of Flipper fame) Richard “Ric” O’Barry as they attempt to infiltrate the titular cove, an area in Taiji, Japan where dolphins are captured and held for sale to a number of interested parties (aquariums, meat packers, etc.). It’s truly disturbing the way these animals are treated, and by the end you’ll almost certainly want to take action on behalf of these poor creatures.
- Microcosmos (1996). Not all of nature is at our eye level. In fact, a large portion of the natural world often escapes our attention entirely because it is so small. But their diminutive size doesn’t make insects any less worthy of notice, and this documentary aims to prove it. Slow-motion and time-lapse photography are used extensively to show these industrious members of the animal kingdom hard at work trying to eat, mate, and basically fulfill their biological imperative. It’s an up-close and personal look at the little critters that we rarely see.
- Planet Earth (2006). Pop some corn and settle into your ultra-comfy Palliser Blade theater seating because this is one nature documentary that will keep you glued to the screen. You’ve no doubt heard the term “stunning visuals” bandied about before, but this BBC entry to the nature doc arena actually deserves the descriptor. With incredible HD footage of animals engaging in never-before-seen behavior, super-slow-motions sequences of predator attacks (like a shark snapping it’s jaws closed around a leaping seal mid-air), and cool time-lapse photography sequences, you won’t be able to turn away. And narration by the authoritative and compelling Sigourney Weaver adds to the experience exponentially.