Wild Thing: Animal documentaries to go ape for
We felt as though we’d been left out in the cold, icy wilderness waiting for March of the Penguins 2: The Next Step to arrive last year. It’s the animal documentary sequel we never knew we needed (but we definitely did.)
March of the Penguins 2 offers some devastating insight regarding the effects of warming on the Antarctic and on the lives of the Emperor penguins. Expect to catch a lot of unexpected feelings when you watch the Luc Jacquet sequel to the 2005 hit documentary. Should this second movie give you a taste for more animal magic, here are ten of the most essential animal documentaries to bingewatch next.
Making audiences across America realize SeaWorld might not be the nicest or most ethical place for a killer whale to be held captive, Blackfish explores humanity’s occasionally-troubled relationship with nature. Following Tikum – a SeaWorld Orca Whale that caused the deaths of several people while in confinement – Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary is emotional, passionate, and devastatingly disturbing.
Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception) in collaboration with Netflix, Orlando Von Einsiedel’s feature is about a team of people risking their lives within Africa’s oldest national park to save the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. As you might imagine, it packs a huge emotional punch, which is likely why it was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar in 2015.
Narrated by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) & Jacques Perrin (Cinema Paradiso), this documentary may have a diminutive focus on the insect kingdom, but it shares colossal insights into an unseen world. The documentary features more sex & violence than an Eli Roth movie (albeit a little more tastefully presented) while focusing on the beauty, adventure, and rhythms of the everyday lives of insects. As a result, it still holds up over 20 years later.
If you simply can’t get enough of your local feline community (us neither), then you’ll love Kedi – a documentary following the lives of seven captivating street cats as they roam the streets of Istanbul along with hundreds of other wild kitties. The movie is packed with personality and originality and offers feelgood vibes from start to finish. What more could you possibly want?
The Last Lions (2011)
From small kitties to big cats, Dereck Joubert’s documentary profiles a resilient lioness as she encounters a number of extreme challenges in the fight to save her brood. Underscoring the tension of the movie is the dwindling number of lions worldwide, making the lioness’s struggle all the more urgent & desperate.
Grizzly Man (2005)
Werner Herzog’s jaw-dropping documentary centering around the life and grizzly death of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell (at the hands of one of his bear buddies) is as bleak as it fascinating.
Project Nim (2011)
Centering around a unique 70s research project in which a baby chimpanzee was raised as a human child, the film explores the landmark experiment devised to break the language barrier between people & animals in meticulous, fascinating detail. Director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) won the Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Directing Award for the movie.
The Cove (2009)
Part heist movie, part nature documentary, Louie Psihoyos’s Oscar-winning film plays out like a taut thriller with a deeply emotional core. Acting as a call to action to halt mass dolphin slaughter in Japan, the movie sees a team of activists uniting to expose the hidden animal abuses taking place in a remote cove. As such, this documentary is as action-packed as it is relentlessly gruesome.
Though the movie focuses more on the shepherds than the sheep, Sweetgrass still details the relationship between man & nature with an inquisitive eye and an enthralling attention to detail, making the animals as pivotal as their human counterparts. Set in the stunning but challenging rocky landscape of the Montana wilderness, Sweetgrass explores numerous terse threats and is as close to a Western as a nature documentary could ever get.
Arctic Tale (2007)
Featuring narration from Queen Latifah (Chicago), Arctic Tale follows a polar bear called Nanu and a walrus called Seela as they grow up from cub to adult in the challenging realm of the Arctic. This family-friendly movie is essentially what a Disney-animated flick would look like if it were a documentary. Overall, it is full of adorable moments offset by the encroaching perils of the effects of global warming on the Arctic landscape Nanu & Seela call home.