Oceans are responsible for an incredible 97% of our water, it’s fascinating just how little people know. In many ways, the world’s oceans are often seen as being part of a completely different planet.
As much of what happens seems to occur under the water and out of the way, it’s much easier for people to give little thought to the plight of the rich and diverse life that calls the planet’s oceans home.
That’s why documentaries and films exploring the world beneath the watery surface are so important, not just to enable us to marvel at the creatures but to understand issues affecting marine conservation. There are so many great aquatic documentary films out there.
Top 10 Must-Watch Ocean Documentaries
If you are wondering which to watch, we would wholeheartedly suggest any of the following ocean documentaries we’ve highlighted 10 of the most important to help you make a more informed decision.
It is important to note that many of these, as well as being beautiful, are incredibly moving.
Chasing Coral is a as astonishing as it is a pertinent piece of work. In light of coral reefs across the globe disappearing, the film documents scientists, photographers and divers investigating why it is happening and what, if anything could be done to stop it from happening. It was directed by Jeff Orlowski and produced Orlowski and Larissa Rhodes.
Blackfish is a heartbreaking documentary that looks at devastating problems that arise when orcas are kept in captivity. Focusing on Tilikum, an orca that was involved in killing three people. It is directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and attracted a lot of acclaim.
It is not an easy watch and features footage of Tilikum, and others being captured, and attacks made by Tilikum and other whales on trainers and lots of witness interviews.
Narrated by David Attenborough, The Blue Planet is an award-winning and groundbreaking BBC natural history documentary series. It has been described as the first of its kind and features some creatures and behaviors that have not been captured on film before. Consisting of 8 x 50-minute episodes, this is a must for all fans of sea life.
Sharkwater Extinction released in 2018, is an inspiring and very thrilling documentary that follows Rob Stewart, a renowned filmmaker as he lifts the lid on the hugely illegal and lucrative shark fin industry and the corruption on a political level that is behind it all. Corruption and activity that is pushing sharks towards extinction.
It takes in USA, France, Costa Rica, Panama, Spain and West Africa. It is a courageous effort to bring to light these horrendous acts and one that Stewart has suffered because of the enemies he’s made.
The extent of the plastic problem we all face as inhabitants of this planet is no secret. Along with various studies, the film directed and featuring Craig Leeson, called A Plastic Ocean, provides conclusive proof of this issue. While searching for the blue whale, he finds a disgusting and worrying amount of plastic pollution in our oceans.
6. The Cove
The Cove is a documentary film by Louie Psihoyos in 2009 that looks at the Japanese practice of killing dolphins. It went onto win the Best Documentary Feature at the 2010 Oscars. As well as bringing to light the plight of dolphins and why it’s wrong to kill them en masse, it also highlights the issue of humans suffering mercury poison from eating dolphin meat.
7. Mission Blue
A Netflix exclusive, this is a documentary charting the life and work of famed and respected marine biologist Sylvia Alice Earle. It covers her work with Mission Blue that campaigns for a worldwide network of protected marine areas.
Not known for someone who minces his words Gordon Ramsay, in an hour-long documentary directed by Helen Simpson, looks at the controversial shark fishing industry, looking at the history and culture surrounding it.
Annually, around 100 million sharks are killed for just their fins for a traditional Chinese delicacy. It also sees the award-winning chef and tv personality get up close and personal with the magnificent beasts as he tries to understand them better.
The End of the Line is the hugely inspirational and acclaimed documentary film that looks at the effects of the unregulated, unchecked fishing that carries on around the world. Rather than being a warning message about things that could happen, it is all about what has already happened.
Some of the sobering statistics discovered by the film include the fact it takes around 5kg of anchovies to produce just one salmon in farms, that the bluefin variety of tuna is being fished to extinction and the cod population’s devastation that has cost somewhere in the region of 40,000 jobs. It was directed by Rupert Murray and produced by Claire Lewis and George Duffield and is narrated by Ted Danson.
Directed by Nick Stringer and narrated by British actress Miranda Richardson, Turtle: The Incredible Journey is a documentary that was released in 2009. It focuses on a female loggerhead turtle who takes the same path as her ancestors in one of the most incredible journeys undertaken in the animal kingdom.
Her journey starts on a Floridian beach and takes her along the Gulf Stream, across the frozen North across the North Atlantic through to Africa and to the same beach she was born on. It is no easy feat and you’ll be on the edge of your seat with your heart in your mouth for a large percentage of it.
We hope you enjoy our selection and hope you have a lot of tissues close to hand. We certainly needed them! There are lots of others out there, but of the films we have recently watched, those 10 are among the very best.