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305 voters

The Best Documentaries About Animals

Updated April 7, 2021 1.6k votes 305 voters 26.2k views53 items

List RulesDocumentaries 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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    9

    Oceans

    Pierce Brosnan, Rie Miyazawa

    Released2009

    Directed byJacques 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 of...  more
  • 2
    73
    7

    Life

  • 3
    85
    17

    Planet Earth

    David Attenborough, Sigourney Weaver

    Released2006

    Directed byAlastair Fothergill

    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 BBC...  more

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  • 4
    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 of...  more
  • 5
    69
    11

    The Cove

    Richard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos

    Released2009

    Directed byLouie 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 action...  more
  • 6
    47
    6

    An Apology to Elephants

    Lily Tomlin, Pat Derby

    Released2013

    Directed byAmy 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 damage...  more
  • 7
    49
    8

    Earthlings

    Joaquin Phoenix

    Released2005

    Directed byShaun 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
  • 8
    47
    9

    Winged Migration

    Jacques Perrin, Philippe Labro

    Released2003

    Directed byJacques Perrin

    Winged Migration, is a 2003 documentary film directed by Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats and Jacques Perrin, who was also one of the writers and narrators, showcasing the immense journeys routinely...  more
  • 9
    42
    5

    The Tiger Next Door

    The Tiger Next Door is a feature length 2009 documentary film directed and produced by Camilla Calamandrei....  more
  • 10
    39
    8

    Arctic Tale

    Queen Latifah, Christina Robinson

    Released2007

    Directed byAdam 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 production...  more
  • 11
    44
    17

    March of the Penguins

    Romane Bohringer, Charles Berling

    Released2005

    Directed byLuc 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 depicts the...  more

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  • 12
    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, Soco...  more
  • 13
    27
    5

    Galapagos: IMAX

    Kenneth Branagh, Carole Baldwin

    Released1999

    Directed byDavid Clark, Al Giddings

    Galapagos: IMAX is a short documentary film directed by David Clark and Al Giddings....
  • 14
    25
    3

    Penguins

    Ed Helms

    Released2019

    Directed byAlastair 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 fellow males...  more
  • 15
    24
    4

    Jane's Journey

    Jane's Journey is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Lorenz Knauer....
  • 16
    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 cat...  more
  • 17
    22
    5

    The Loneliest Whale

    The Loneliest Whale (aka Finding 52: The Search for the Loneliest Whale in the World) is a 2021 American documentary film directed by Joshua Zeman. A journey to find the forgotten "52 Hertz Whale."...  more
  • 18
    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 International...  more
  • 19
    15
    4

    Shelter Dogs

    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 animal...  more
  • 20
    82
    89

    Blackfish

    Tilikum, Dave Duffus

    Released2013

    Directed byGabriela Cowperthwaite

    Blackfish is a 2013 Documentary film written by Eli B. Despres and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both...  more

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    The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a 2003 documentary film directed, produced, and edited by Judy Irving. It chronicles the relationship between Mark Bittner, an unemployed musician who is living...  more
  • 22
    16
    8

    Microcosmos

    Kristin Scott Thomas, Jacques Perrin

    Released1996

    Directed byClaude 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 detailed...  more
  • 23
    11
    5

    A Cow at My Table

    A Cow at My Table is a 1998 documentary film examining Western attitudes towards farm animals and meat. It covers the conflict between animal rights advocates and the meat industry, and their...  more
  • 24
    The Eyes of Thailand is a 2012 documentary film directed and produced by Windy Borman and produced by Tim VandeSteeg. The film chronicles the work of Soraida Salwala, who opened the world's first...  more
  • 25
    The Story of the Weeping Camel is a 2003 German docudrama distributed by ThinkFilm. It was released internationally in 2004. The movie was directed and written by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni....  more