Nerd alert: I love documentaries! Love them. I’m always looking for a new one to watch and am so excited whenever I get a good recommendation (or when I happen to overhear a recommendation.. which was the case for the first one on my list!). I keep the Netflix queue for our house interesting by throwing in a documentary for every few movies we get. It’s nice to switch things up every now and then, to take a break from the blockbusters and take a trip somewhere new.
Nature is the theme of the week, and so it’s obviously the theme of the list below. And these are not the VHS tapes of your 8th grade science class about birds chirping in some jungle while you prop your eyes open with a pencil for 50 excruciating minutes. The films below are awe-inspiring, beautifully filmed, and truly interesting. As each one ended, I felt as though I actually learned something, and walked away with a different perspective. There were many moments in each that left me speechless, and many that left me wanting more out of life. Blind children climbing Everest? What have you done today?!
Aside from Nature as the backdrop, each of these also speaks to the Nature of people. (What kind of person voluntarily heads to Alaska to live with Grizzly Bears? And what about those who risk their lives to expose inhumane practices?)
I hope you find at least one of these documentaries interesting. And even more, I hope you walk away truly inspired.
180 Degrees South
Inspired by pioneering outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard’s freewheeling 1968 van trip to Patagonia, South America, a band of bliss-seeking surfer-mountaineers sets out — in 2007, by boat — to remake the journey in this adventure documentary. Jeff Johnson and his buddies hug the coast, stopping at the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island before arriving in Patagonia — a region that’s still breathtaking but is now besieged by environmental threats.
Six blind Tibetan teenagers set off on a gripping adventure as they attempt to climb the 23,000-foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest. Considered cursed in Tibetan culture, blind children are often hidden away to live as pariahs. Determined to challenge that perception, the kids gear up for a demanding expedition led by climber Erik Weihenmayer — the first blind man to scale Everest — and learn some lessons about life along the way.
Daring animal activists arrive with surveillance equipment at a scenic cove in Taijii, Japan, to capture footage of a secretive and heavily guarded operation run by the world’s largest supplier of dolphins. As the group sets out to expose the horrifying truths behind the capture of dolphins for the lucrative tourist industry, they also uncover an environmental catastrophe. Louie Psihoyos directs this riveting, Oscar-winning documentary.
Renowned nonfiction director Werner Herzog chronicles the tragic and untimely death of outdoorsman Timothy Treadwell, who devoted his life to studying grizzly bears living in the Alaskan wilderness — only to have one of them maul him to death.
March of the Penguins
Award-winning photographer Luc Jacquet takes documentary film to new heights — and depths — with his first feature film, a stunning insider’s look at the life of emperor penguins living in one of the cruelest climates on the planet. The product of more than a year of filming on the Antarctic ice, this Oscar-winning documentary reveals never-before-captured footage of the penguins’ underwater life and explores their steadfast quest for monogamy.