10 Best Nature Documentaries

You're with your buddies and an argument breaks out about the 10 best nature documentaries. One friend thinks it must include nudity. Another thinks the best include gory animal deaths. You, of course, think they're stupid, but since the last nature-related show you watched was "Flipper," you really can't say much. We present the 10 best nature documentaries to give you ammunition the next time this drunken debate pops up.

  1. Planet Earth – If you could only watch one nature documentary, this is hands down, the definitive winner. It is filmed as a series, narrated by David Attenborough. The BBC series examines constantly changing ecosystems that may collapse in the near future. This one pulls no punches: it illustrates how man's influence on the environment is wreaking havoc on its inhabitants.
  2. Blue Planet – Another BBC series with David Attenborough narrating. Comprised of eight 50-minute episodes, the series examines life under the sea and includes shots of animals that had never been seen before. The producers were thorough: the series took five years to film and documents previously unknown migration habits of the blue whale. This is a must-see, that is, if you can handle listening to Attenborough discuss sperm whales without snickering.
  3. Koyaanisqatsi – No, that is not a typo, it's a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance." Don't let that fool you into thinking it's all about the Hopi Indians. This top ten documentary was shot around the world. The lack of dialogue is what makes this one of the best nature documentaries. It doesn't preach at you, it doesn't try to tell you what to think.  Plus, the camera work is awesome.
  4. The Cove – This won an Academy Award for best documentary of 2009 and for good reason. It's about covert dolphin hunts in the Japanese town of Tajii. It's not just all about killing the dolphins. You'll see abuse and torture of hundreds of dolphins in the name of greed. The expedition is led by Ric O'Barry: yes, the same guy who trained the original "Flipper."
  5. Cosmos – No list is complete without Carl Sagan. True, this is more astronomical, but this 13-part series was ground-breaking in its detail about our planet and the universe. You'll get a kick out of the primitive special effects that were innovative for its time. Plus you'll get to see Sagan pretending to pilot a space ship while displaying his make-believe super powers.
  6. Collapse – This pertains to one of nature's most valuable resources: oil. Chris Smith presents controversial blogger Michael Ruppert's fact-based belief that we are beyond the peak of oil discovery and what we have left available to drill will last no longer than the year 2050. Whether you believe this or not, it's worth watching.
  7. Wild China -The film's team shot remote and exotic places around China with incredible results. They filmed a pair of pandas mating, something that no one had ever gotten on film before. While 80 percent of the documentary is about the wildlife, the other 20 percent focuses on the bizarre way in which Chinese villagers utilize their natural resources.
  8. Ocean's Deadliest – Steve Irwin's final, and perhaps best, nature documentary showcases the ocean's most dangerous creatures. He teamed up with Phillipe Cousteau to film ocean predators and sea life. This is the documentary Irwin was filming at the time of his death. Filming was completed just a few weeks later.
  9. Life in the Undergrowth – The BBC nails it once again with the five-part series about insects: some are so large they eat cave bats. Predictably satisfying, David Attenborough delivers on this bug bonanza that will either leave you fascinated or feeling like you don't have enough insecticide.
  10. Natural Disasters – If you've ever wanted to see a nature documentary about the world's most devastating disasters, this is it. Beginning in 1935 up to the present day, you'll see the results of earth-shredding tornados, land-splitting earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires and volcanic eruptions.
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