If you’re looking for ideal background content for your work from home set up, nature b-roll is the new lofi. Netflix has become the home planet of planetary content, though some great nature shows are available on Hulu and HBO Max. What may be news to you—and was certainly news to this writer—is that almost all streaming platforms have a dedicated “nature” subgenre, complete with hundreds of hours dedicated to the mating patterns of arctic birds or various food chains.
There are a few criteria a series must meet to enter the Nature Content Hall of Fame – crisp b-roll, hauntingly dramatic intro music, and narration from a beloved voice. We’ve sifted through the dense ecosystem that is nature content and pulled out the best. Read on for some of the best nature documentary series streaming right now, and give us some props for finding a way to differentiate all of these series which, spoiler alert, are basically the same.
Life On Our Planet
Remember what I said about the beloved voices? Life On Our Planet is narrated by Morgan Freeman and focuses on evolution. The series eight episodes feature both CGI and live videography and was produced by Steven Spielberg.
Our Planet II
A stunning follow-up to the series Our Planet, which clocked more than 570 million hours viewed according to Netflix stats, Our Planet II focuses largely on migration patterns. See, the subheading of this article wasn’t just a cheeky joke. Narrated by David Attenborough, the series follows species of animals as they migrate across the globe, and unlike the previously mentioned series, Our Planet II features no CGI.
Down to Earth with Zac Efron
If migratory mammals aren’t exactly stimulating to you, this series features Zac Efron. Down to Earth with Zac Efron follows the actor as he travels across the world to learn about nature, sustainable living, green energy, and more. The highlighted destinations include Iceland and its renewable energy programs, Costa Rican eco-villages, and Sardinia, where residents tend to live forever (at least, that's how it seems).
This star-studded nature series (lol) is narrated by Anthony Mackie and features such voices as Pedro Pascal, Rashida Jones, and Bryan Cranston. Animal is a bit more generic, focusing on, well, animals. Episodes are dedicated by species, with specials dedicated to big cats, marsupials, dogs, apes, and beyond. If your focus is more singular (animals), and less global (ecosystems), then Animal is for you.
Our Great National Parks
Narrated by the one and only Barack Obama, Our Great National Parks highlights, you guessed it, the world’s national parks and the wildlife which inhabit them. If you think history class taught you everything you need to know about the parks, think again. Only one episode is dedicated to U.S. parks in California. Other episodes highlight the national parks of Japan, Chile, Indonesia, and Kenya.
“It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.” Netflix’s Predators focuses on just that, the predators of the world, following them in their hunts. The series is narrated by Tom Hardy of The Dark Knight Rises, the perfect voice to overlay the villains of ecosystem.
Netflix missed an opportunity to name this series “Chimpire,” but we’ll still give it its flowers. Narrated by Mahershala Ali, the series follows the relationships between competing groups of chimpanzees in Uganda's Ngogo rainforest.
We’ve got predators, chimps, parks, and beyond. What do we need now? Babies. Wild Babies features eight episodes following newborn animals through their early days on earth. The babies standing in the spotlight include a fur seal, a litter of lion cubs, a baby elephant, a tiny orangutan, and more.
Another nature hit narrated by Morgan Freeman, Our Universe zooms out a bit and focuses on the science of space over six episodes and billions of years. The series’ first episode analyzes the power of the sun as an energy source, going on to explore the cosmic clock, the Earth’s seasonal cycles, and more.
Life in Color with David Attenborough
Streaming on Netflix but not made for Netflix, this 2021 miniseries is narrated by David Attenborough and features just three episodes. Each of the three episodes focuses on color, highlighting the ways animals use color to survive in the wild.
A World of Calm
The cure to insomnia (at least, HBO wants us to think that). A World of Calm is narrated by various soothing voices from Nicole Kidman to Zoë Kravitz, spotlighting various nature-esque stories with a vibe designed to help you relax. We’d talk more about the content, but really the goal here is to fall asleep instantly.
BBC Planet Earth
An ongoing BBC series, Planet Earth is a crowd pleasing casserole of everything we’ve just discussed. It’s been on the air for decades, highlighting various ecosystems and nature-focused stories, narrated by none other than David Attenborough.
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