Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Best Nature Documentaries on Netflix Instant

If you have already watched every episode of Breaking Bad or the Office on Netflix instant and are running out of things to watch, try one (or all) of these nature documentaries.  There are many good documentaries to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites available on Netflix instant.  Here I will rate five recent films I have watched and let you know why you should watch them too.

The Life of Birds - 4.5/5

The Life of Birds is the gold standard when it comes to nature documentaries.  The ten episode series is written and narrated by David Attenborough, the man behind many great nature documentaries produced by the BBC and whose career spans 60 years.  The series gives an in depth look at every aspects of bird life; from different forms of flight to beak adaptations, from bird communication to the rearing of young.  Every episode is full of great examples of the divergence of bird adaptations and gives great insight into how and why these birds developed their specific traits.  The only reason this series doesn't get a 5/5 is because the filmography is a bit dated.  The series was recorded in 1998 so the quality isn't as good as some of the other series on the list.  That being said, the camera angles and up-close shots of bird behavior more than make up for the lack of high definition.  It would be great to see this series filmed again with today's technology.

Yellowstone: Battle for Life - 5/5

This three episode series by the BBC explores three seasons in Yellowstone National Park: summer, fall, and winter.  The series follows several different species through a year in the park and shows how they adapt to the extreme environments in Yellowstone.  We get to see all different kinds of interesting animal behavior, like American Dippers making their nests behind waterfalls and wolves hunting bison and fighting eagles over carrion.  Where this series really shines is the cinematography.  It is breathtaking.  In 1080p you get to see amazing details, so much so that you feel like you are experiencing it first hand.  Do yourself a favor and watch this amazing series.

Nature: Birds of the Gods - 4/5

Another David Attenborough narrated documentary, this film focuses on the Birds of Paradaise that live in the New Guinea rainforests.  Produced by PBS for its popular Nature series, this hour-long documentary investigates the many different species of Birds of Paradise and their amazing courtship displays.  We follow New Guinea researchers as they attempt to assess the bird populations and capture every species mating displays.  These secretive birds live amazing lives and are notoriously difficult to find and film.  This documentary does an amazing job at finding several species and gives great background information on their habits, evolution, and how females chose mates based on their intricate dances.

Ghost Bird - 3.5/5

This documentary is slightly different than the rest in that it looks at us, humans, and how we react emotionally and scientifically to the supposed rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  Do you can remember back to 2005 when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology claimed they had found evidence of a previously extinct bird the Ivory-billed Woodpecker?  The "rediscovery" was a worldwide story and brought hope that previously thought extinct animals could still be surviving under the radar and under our noses.  As we have come to know since then, the "rediscovery" may have been premature as no solid evidence since has been found and the original evidence has been called into question.  This documentary does a great job showing how different groups of people react to the news of the birds discovery and subsequent questioning of it.  This film could have easily warranted a 5/5 review, but in my opinion was much too long.  I felt like they wrapped up the story nicely and when I thought it was going to end it just kept on going.  A lot of the footage could have been left on the editing room floor and I feel they missed their chance to make a succinct, compelling documentary by letting it run too long.

Nature: Braving Iraq - 3/5

Another film by PBS's Nature series, this documentary looks at rebuilding wetlands in Iraq and the struggles the Iraqi people face in trying to rebuild the environment in the middle of a war zone.  A compelling subject to be sure, this documentary misses some opportunities to be better as they focus too much on their struggles of filming the documentary instead of the subject itself, Iraq's wetlands.  In an effort to eradicate Iraq's Marsh Arabs, Saddam Hussein drained much of Iraq's great wetlands that form at the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers as they enter the sea.  After Saddams' fall, an Iraqi-American engineer attempts to restore the wetlands, wildlife, and a way of life for the Marsh Arabs.  The scenes showing the difference between the drained deserts and restores wetlands are amazing, as are the scenes depicting the fragile government and human conflicts that make tackling such a large project so difficult in a country being torn apart.  Less interesting is the filmmakers filming of themselves and the hard time they had making the documentary.  If they had focused on the subject more, which is so interesting and compelling, and less on themselves, the film could have been much better.  That being said, it was still great to see a part of Iraq few people know about and how healing nature can help to heal a country.

Have you found any good nature documentaries on Netflix?  If so let us know in the comments.


Karen Bonsell said...

Thanks for that info Ryan, I will have to check Netflix & give them a look.

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