I love nature. And I love documentaries. And I LOVE nature documentaries. Not only are they gorgeous and educational, nature documentaries illuminate the importance of environmentalism, the gravitas of space exploration, and the critical role of science in society. So, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I present to you my top recommendations of nature documentaries to stream during (and after!) quarantine. In no particular order, for whatever your mood:

If you need some perspective: One Strange Rock (2018)

Will Smith, of the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation (also Fresh Prince), hosts this wonderful series. Told through the eyes of eight astronauts, One Strange Rock is sure to humble and delight. These astronauts inspired me so much that I’ve started saving for a trip to outer space. (At the rate Bezos and Musk are going, the price of a ticket to high earth orbit will definitely be reasonable by the time I’m ready to cash out my 401k, right?)


To watch: Disney+

If you want the greatest hits: Our Planet (2019), Planet Earth (2006), Planet Earth II (2017)

These three are the crown jewels of nature documentaries and are not to be missed. Glorious, “how’d they get that shot?!” footage and beautiful storytelling. What’s not to like?

To watch: Our Planet on Netflix; Planet Earth and Planet Earth II for purchase on Amazon.

If you’re itching to travel the globe: Wildest: Islands

It’s not just about the Galapagos, people. This series will take you to Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, the Philippines, Japan and more. I love this location-based genre because I feel like I really get to know a place, almost as if I’d been there. For round two, check out Wildest: Indochina to visit Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and more.

To watch: Amazon Prime

If you haven’t gotten around to seeing ALL of America’s National Parks: America’s National Parks (2015)

Just like President Bartlett of the West Wing (which I am also rewatching), I am a huge fan of our National Parks system. These places are treasures beyond measure, and this series certainly does them justice.  Yellowstone as you’ve never seen it before, of course, but you’ll also bask in the glory of the Great Smoky Mountains, Arches, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, and 52 others. Choose your own adventure!

To watch: Amazon Prime; Disney+

If you’re up for something unexpected – Magic of Mushrooms

No, this is not about psychedelics, much as the title might suggest. But yes, it is one of the most interesting documentaries I’ve ever seen, despite what the title might suggest. Did you know that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants? Neither did I! This doc will blow your mind AND leave you with fun facts for your next hike. I’ve forced this one on several friends and they’ve all been grateful for it.


To watch: I originally found this on Netflix, but it’s unfortunately now gone. Thankfully, you can stream it for free HERE.

If you just need to relax: Water Life (2009) – Amazon

This is a deep cut, but it’s not just for hard-core nature documentary lovers. The beautiful water scenery, paired with dulcet tones will soothe the savage beast within. You’ll also learn about ecosystems the big guys often neglect, including lakes, caves, tide pools, and mangroves.

To watch: Amazon Prime

If you have a few bucks to spare: Wild China (2008)

Travel deep into the jungles of the south, go beyond the Great Wall into the harsh conditions of the north, ooo and ahh at the Great Pandas of the heartland. I’ve never seen these sides of China and each episode was a juicy treat.

To watch: Buy episodes ($2.99) or the series ($7.99) on Amazon Prime

If you want to keep up with the virtual watercooler talk: Elephant (2020)

I haven’t seen it yet, but this is today’s hot ticket. Narrated by Megan Markle, it follows a herd of elephants across the Kalahari Desert to the Zambezi River. (Note for the tender-hearted: I’ve read it’s not as sad as it sounds.)

To watch: Disney+