There are few natural historians and documentary presenters who have such a rich body of work as Sir David Attenborough, the English broadcaster who has directed and narrated projects like Earth, The blue planet, and dozens of other critically acclaimed and substantial films and series spanning almost every square inch of the known natural world. There is something in Attenborough’s voice; something so welcoming and friendly that you can’t help but lose yourself in its different specialties for hours.
If you’ve seen a couple of David Attenborough’s spellbinding documentaries but want to see more, I have good news for you as I’ve put together a list of some of his most important work to date and how you can watch them on services like Paramount +, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.
Planet Earth / Planet Earth II (Discovery +)
The BBC’s nature documentary series, Earth, was one of the best reasons to invest in a HDTV and Blu-ray player when it was released in 2006. This beautifully (and painstakingly) shot program explores 10 different ecosystems around the world, showcasing the natural wonders of Earth with stunning visuals and poignant storytelling from David Attenborough.
The 2016 follow-up, Planet Earth II, which has quickly become a must-watch for people with 4K TVs, takes a look at six different environments, but also delves into the fragility of the natural world and what we stand to lose if left unprotected.
The Blue Planet / Blue Planet II (Discovery +)
It is often said that humans know more about space than the depths of Earth’s oceans, but the 2001 documentary series, The blue planet, helps us better understand the underwater world. Over the course of eight episodes, David Attenborough takes viewers on an informative and revealing excursion into the mysteries of the Blue Planet.
The 2018 follow-up, Blue planet II, follows a similar path to its predecessor, but with cutting-edge technology and a better understanding of how climate change is affecting some of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet.
Frozen Planet (Discovery +)
As the name suggests, the 2011 BBC documentary series, Frozen planet, focuses on the polar regions of the Earth and the various flora and fauna that inhabit the top and bottom of the planet. Over the course of seven episodes, all narrated by David Attenborough, the series dives deep under the ice of the North and South Poles, explores volcanoes, and comes close to animals of all shapes and sizes.
Stream Frozen Planet on Discovery +.
Buy Frozen Planet on Amazon.
A perfect planet (Discovery +)
The 2021 five-part documentary series, A perfect planet, focuses less on the wild animals and plants on the Earth’s surface and more on things like volcanoes, weather, sun, oceans, and humans. Each of the episodes focuses on a different factor and how it impacts the natural world for better or worse. With absolutely stunning visuals and warning narration from David Attenborough, the series examines how the natural world works together and how even the smallest of changes can snowball into something much bigger.
Stream A Perfect Planet on Discovery +.
Buy A Perfect Planet on Amazon.
Ant Mountain by David Attenborough (Curiosity Stream)
There are plenty of reasons to check out Curiosity Stream and the 2019 documentary David Attenborough’s Ant Mountain should be at the top of this list. Located in the Jura Mountains along the Franco-Swiss border, Attenborough takes a close look at various ant colonies that inhabit the territory. I know, an ant documentary doesn’t sound very interesting, but this documentary is exhilarating and educational. From scenes of colonies fighting for more ground (viciously attacking enemies and melting their innards with acid) to footage from inside massive mounds, there’s a lot going on here.
Stream Ant Mountain by David Attenborough on Curiosity Stream.
Our Planet (Netflix)
The 2019 Netflix documentary series, Our planet, is more of an uplifting narrative than some of David Attenborough’s other documentaries and focuses on the impact of climate change on every living creature on the planet (both above and below the surface). That’s not to say that the eight-part series doesn’t have some spectacular shots of the natural world, as these stunning visuals of animals in their natural habitat are all there and looking better than ever.
Attenborough and the sea monster
The 2019 PBS Documentary Attenborough and the sea monster is less of a special nature and more an investigation into the discovery of a fossil of Ichthyosaurus, a huge aquatic dinosaur that swam the oceans of the Jurassic Period. During this investigative documentary, David Attenborough attempts to learn more about the mysterious sea monster and how it became extinct long before the dinosaurs were wiped out from the planet.
Light on Earth by David Attenborough (HBO Max)
The BBC documentary 2016, Light on Earth by David Attenborough, follows the famous naturalist as he explores the wild world of bioluminescence and the various organisms around the world that use it for a myriad of reasons. Fireflies using their ability to generate light for bacterial mating rituals creating dazzling light shows underwater, and several places in between, this exploration of the natural wonders of bioluminescent animals, plants and bacteria is a stunning and enchanting addition to the list of best HBO Max documentaries.
Stream David Attenborough’s Light On Earth on HBO Max.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (Netflix)
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the life of David Attenborough and how he became such an important voice in nature documentaries, the 2020 Netflix documentary David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is the best way forward. This feature length documentary jumps between Attenborough and talks about his personal life and professional experiences, and the evolution of the natural world. Sometimes a bearer of hope for the future, sometimes a love letter to places and species lost in time, this beautiful and very personal journey examines what thrills the naturalist and why he is fighting for tomorrow.
The Year the Earth Changed (Apple TV +)
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to force civilization to take shelter in place and slow down like never before, the world around us also began to undergo a significant change. The original 2021 Apple TV + documentary The year the earth changed shows that although humanity has been forced to stay indoors and put an end to life, the natural world has thrived on fewer people and cars on the streets and less pollution than in recent memory. With the combination of images taken in major metropolitan areas around the world and narration by David Attenborough, the 48-minute film examines how something good can come from such a dark time.
Natural Curiosities of David Attenborough (Discovery +)
You don’t become a decorated nature documentary maker without being curious, and if David Attenborough is one thing (well, besides being a respected naturalist), it’s curious. The 2013 BBC Documentary Series David Attenborough’s natural curiosities takes the iconic presenter out of the storytelling booth and into a treasure trove of natural wonders as he explores how they work.
The series, which consists of four seasons, follows Attenborough as he examines animals with hard-to-believe stretching abilities, the mysterious narwhal, patterns in the natural world, and more. Here you see a more curious and humorous side of Attenborough as he comes face to face with some of the most curious organisms the world has ever seen.
Stream David Attenborough’s natural sights on Discovery +.
Shop David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities (Seasons 1 & 2) on Amazon.
The Great Barrier Reef by David Attenborough (Paramount +)
Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, lies one of the richest and most important ecosystems on the planet’s surface, the Great Barrier Reef. Home to thousands of species of animals and vegetation (more being discovered all the time), this natural wonder has been the subject of numerous documentaries over the years, and the 2015 Smithsonian Channel series, David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef, is one of the best and most insightful. Shot 60 years after his first visit to the reef, the three-part documentary uses modern technology to unravel the mysteries and riches of the phenomenon, in addition to evoking its fragility and bleak prospects for the future. Love letter to nature and to those who dedicate their lives to its preservation, this series is a must.
These are just a dozen great and wonderful documentaries featuring the words, voice and enthusiasm of David Attenborough, and there is a whole world of great specials to explore. And, while waiting for the arrival of Planet Earth III and Frozen Planet II, now is the perfect time to check out all of the 2022 TV premiere dates.