Best Animal Documentaries - Best Documentary Films About Animals

Whether they track tigers or tail whales, or simply tell the truth about cats and dogs, documentaries about animals are favorites with audiences of all ages. Here's a list of outstanding animal documentaries that are sure to please you.

Arctic Tale gives you close up, personal and unforgettable profiles of Nanu, a polar bear cub, and Seelu, a seal pup, as they struggle to survive changing environmental conditions that threaten their habitat and their lives. With these lovable animal tykes leading the way, the film swims directly and deeply into disturbing environmental issues-- like global warming, pollution, and, most especially, the shrinking arctic ice.

Born To Be Wild

Born To Be Wild - Poster Art. IMAX/Warnr Bros.

IMAX 3D gives you a thrilling up close and personal cinematic safari to two wildlife orphanages, one in Borneo that cares for baby orangutans, and one in Kenya, where baby elephants are raised.

The Cove

Filming in infra red for 'The Cove'. Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions
Richard O'Barry, the animal trainer behind the phenomenal success of the television show, Flipper and animal rights activist Louis Psihoyos recruit an A Team-like crew of filmmakers and environmentalists to expose Taiji, Japan's fishermen's annual dolphin roundup and slaughter of thousands of dolphins.
Directors John and Brad Hennegan follow six thoroughbred horses--including the fabulous and tragic Barbaro--and their human trainers and handlers as they go through the preparatory paces leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the annual race that’s known as "the most exciting two minutes in sports."

Great Migrations

The habitual behavior of the creatures -- red land crabs on Christmas Island, butterflies in Mexico, zebras and wildebeests in Africa, penguins in Antarctica and Sperm whales in the seas are among the animals that cover vast distances as they follow the annual habitual migratory routes that seem to be imprinted in their DNA. National Geographics' wonderful series tracks these creatures in their treks for survival. Fascinating!

In October 2003, grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were killed by the Alaskan bears they'd been following and studying. Famed director Werner Herzog uses the pair's archival footage plus interviews with their friends, family, colleagues and bear experts to examine their lifestyle, motivation and experiences. The film is a fascinating study of human interaction with wild animals, and the footage of the bears is absolutely phenomenal.

Dr. Jane Goodall is world famous for her ongoing research about the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, and for her ongoing nonprofit Roots and Shoots programs that bring education and eco friendly enterprise to people in need around the world. This remakable biodoc tells the story of Goodall's relationship with the chimpanzees and presents up close and personal footage of their interactions over the years. More »

The Last Lions

The Last Lions Poster Art. National Geographics Entertainment
A lone lioness and her two cubs are the stars of this dramatic documentary about survival in the wild. The film has remarkable footage of the likoness as she fights off other animals -- lions and other wildlife -- who are competing for her hunting territory and threaten to harm her young.

March of the Penguins

A pair of penguins in March Of The Penguins. Jerome Maison, Bonne Pioche Productions
March of the Penguins takes you into the harsh environment of Antarctica, where Emperor penguins gather annually to go through their fascinating rituals of building their nests, finding mates and propagating their species. They endure amazing hardships. And, as this film shows, they may be cute, but penguins are truly tough birds.


Filmmakers Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor follow Montana sheep herders as they drive 3,000 sheep through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana during the summer of 2003. This challenging and dangerous journey was the final annual sheep drive along a trail that has been followed since the early 1900s. The film chronicles the end of a tradition, and marks the beginning of a new relationship between men and the beasts they shepherd.

Filmmaker Judy Irving looks in on the life of down-and-out musician Mark Bittner who lives on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill, where he enters into communication and communion with a flock of some 50 wild cherry-headed parrots, who have wonderfully distinctive personalities and eventually change his outlook on life. You will love this heartwarming film.

Winged Migration

A bird in flight over the desert in Winged Migration. Sony Pictures Classics
Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud and their crew of 500 people spent four years and spanned the globe to capture the startlingly beautiful images of various species of migrating birds as they fly thousands of miles twice annually in search of food. An amazing cinematic achievement.

Wolves: A Legend Returns To Yellowstone

Wolves: A Legend Returns To Yellowstone. National Wildlife Federation
Wolves, so often maligned in lore and legend, have been hunted and slaughtered almost to the point of extinction. They are still on the endangered species list, but these fascinating creatures, who display an amazingly complex, intelligent and deeply rooted social structure in their pack behavior, are making a comeback in Yellowstone. This is their story, and it's a great one!
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Merin, Jennifer. "Best Animal Documentaries - Best Documentary Films About Animals." ThoughtCo, Nov. 24, 2014, Merin, Jennifer. (2014, November 24). Best Animal Documentaries - Best Documentary Films About Animals. Retrieved from Merin, Jennifer. "Best Animal Documentaries - Best Documentary Films About Animals." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 13, 2017).