The Best Documentaries About Animals 

Ranker Film
Updated April 8, 2020 977 votes 289 voters 24.8k views 44 items

List Rules Documentaries about animals, migration, animal cruelty, and wildlife on Earth.

This is a list or the best documentaries about animals includes popular and recognizable titles, along with a lot of independent films about animals, ranked by the community, with videos and trailers. What is the best documentary about animals? Vote on the list below to find out, or add your favorite animal-related documentary, if it isn't already included. 

With every vote, the order of the list will be changed to see which animal documentaries comes out on top. If you do not see your favorite on the list, add it along with the titles below so others may vote on it as well. This list currently includes titles such as Grizzly Man, about a man who lived with bears for 13 summers in Alaska and March of the Penguins, about the arctic bird's trek during its breeding season.

Documentaries are nonfiction and made with the intention of displaying reality for historical purposes and to educate those watching the film. Most documentaries are driven by independent filmmakers and those passionate about the topics they are portraying.

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Released: 2006

Planet Earth is a 2006 British television series produced by the BBC Natural History Unit. Five years in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the ...more

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Released: 2013

Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Blackfish is a 2013 Documentary film written by Eli B. Despres and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
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Pierce Brosnan, Rie Miyazawa, Pedro Armendáriz

Released: 2009

Directed by: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud

Oceans is a 2009 French-American nature documentary film directed, produced, co-written, and narrated by Jacques Perrin, with Jacques Cluzaud as co-director. The film explores the marine species ...more
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Romane Bohringer, Charles Berling, Jules Sitruk

Released: 2005

Directed by: Luc Jacquet

March of the Penguins is a 2005 French nature documentary film directed and co-written by Luc Jacquet, and co-produced by Bonne Pioche and the National Geographic Society. The documentary ...more

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#197 of 322 The Best Movies for Kids #5 of 364 The Greatest Documentaries of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Released: 2005

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Grizzly Man is a 2005 documentary film by German director Werner Herzog. It chronicles the life and death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell. The film includes some of Treadwell's own footage ...more

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Released: 2009

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Released: 2009

Directed by: Louie Psihoyos

The Cove is a 2009 documentary film that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. The film is a call to ...more
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An Apology to Elephants

Released: 2013

Directed by: Amy Schatz

An Apology to Elephants is a 2013 documentary that explores purported abuse and brutal treatment of elephants. It showcases elephant training and the alleged psychological trauma and physical ...more
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Joaquin Phoenix

Released: 2005

Directed by: Shaun Monson

Earthlings is a 2005 American documentary film about humanity's use of other animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research. The film is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, ...more
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Released: 2011

Directed by: Dereck Joubert

The Last Lions is a 2011 African nature documentary film by National Geographic Society, videotaped and directed by Dereck and Beverly Joubert. The film premiered at the Palm Springs ...more
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Jacques Perrin, Philippe Labro

Released: 2001

Directed by: Jacques Perrin

Winged Migration, is a 2001 documentary film directed by Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats and Jacques Perrin, who was also one of the writers and narrators, showcasing the immense journeys ...more

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The Tiger Next Door

Released: 2009

Directed by: Camilla Calamandrei

The Tiger Next Door is a feature length 2009 documentary film directed and produced by Camilla Calamandrei.
In the Valley of the Wol... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentaries About Animals
In the Valley of the Wolves

Released: 2007

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Queen Latifah, Christina Robinson, Preston Bailey

Released: 2007

Directed by: Adam Ravetch, Sarah Robertson

Arctic Tale is a 2007 documentary film from the National Geographic Society about the life cycle of a walrus and her calf, and a polar bear and her cubs, in a similar vein to the 2005 hit ...more
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Kristin Scott Thomas, Jacques Perrin

Released: 1996

Directed by: Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou

Microcosmos is a 1996 documentary film by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou and produced by Jacques Perrin. Set to the music of Bruno Coulais, this film is primarily a record of ...more
Virunga is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentaries About Animals
Myke Clarkson added

Released: 2014

Directed by: Orlando von Einsiedel

Virunga is a 2014 British documentary film directed by Orlando von Einsiedel; it focuses on the conservation work of rangers within Virunga National Park, and the activity of a British company, ...more
Penguins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentaries About Animals
Ed Helms

Released: 2019

Directed by: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson

Penguins is a 2019 American nature documentary film directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson. The coming-of-age story follows an Adélie penguin named Steve who joins millions of ...more
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Galapagos: IMAX Kenneth Branagh, Carole Baldwin

Released: 1999

Directed by: David Clark, Al Giddings

Galapagos: IMAX is a short documentary film directed by David Clark and Al Giddings.
Best Friend Forgotten is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries About Animals

Released: 2004

Directed by: Julie Friedman

Best Friend Forgotten is a 2004 American documentary film that sheds light on the difficult issue of pet overpopulation. The documentary, hosted by David Duchovny, tells the stories of Oreo the ...more
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Jane's Journey

Released: 2010

Directed by: Lorenz Knauer

Jane's Journey is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Lorenz Knauer.
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Sharkwater Paul Watson, Rob Stewart

Released: 2007

Directed by: Rob Stewart

Sharkwater is a 2006 Canadian documentary film written and directed by Rob Stewart. Credited as igniting the movement to protect sharks, changing government policy, and inspiring the creation of ...more
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Released: 2018

Directed by: Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman

Pick of the Litter is a 2018 documentary film directed by Don Hardy Jr. and Dana Nachman. Cameras follow a litter of puppies from the moment they're born and begin their quest to become Guide ...more
The Bear is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries About Animals
bahar-kılıç added Tchéky Karyo, Bart the Bear, Jack Wallace

Released: 1988

Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud

The Bear is a 1988 French film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Adapted from the novel The Grizzly King by American author James Oliver Curwood, the screenplay was written by Gérard ...more

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Cat Dancers Joy Holiday, Ron Holiday, Chuck Lizza

Released: 2007

Directed by: Harris Fishman

Cat Dancers (HBO, 2008) is an American documentary film directed by Harris Fishman. The film follows how Ron Holiday, Joy Holiday and Chuck Lizza, aka the "Cat Dancers", became one of ...more
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Shelter Dogs

Released: 2003

Directed by: Cynthia Wade

Shelter Dogs is a 2003 documentary film directed and produced by Cynthia Wade about animal welfare in the United States and the ethics of animal euthanasia. Following a particular New York ...more