Best Ocean Themed Documentaries
Updated: Sep 11, 2021
Over here at the moment it is rainy season, which is the perfect excuse to stay in bed with a hot beverage and watch stunning underwater images...Here is our best picks!
BBC's Blue Planet
The most famous and loved documentary about the ocean. For the Blue Planet series 1, the BBC surpassed itself sending teams out for over five years to collect the most incredible, breath-taking and rare images from the seas around the world. The first episode had 12 million people in front of their screens listening to David Attenborough’s mesmerising voice. The series and its narrator have helped raise awareness on a massive scale about the issues surrounding our fragile marine ecosystems. BBC America came back with a great second series too so once you’ve devoured the first one you’ve still got a few to go. Unmissable.
Le Monde du Silence
The first ever underwater documentary. Though quite a lot has changed since it was made, in particular how we interact with certain animals like sharks, the film is fascinating. It shows the journey of Cousteau and the men (there was a lady on board too though she’s not in the film) who were the pioneers of underwater exploration. Captivating and compelling, though you catch yourself going ‘really?’ fairly often. Watch it like a historical document.
Sadly, the charismatic young maker of this documentary is no longer with us, yet his film endures as the best documentary on shark finning. After joining the Sea Shepherd team on several of their expeditions, Rob Stewart made an activist movie, showing the corruption and involvement of different countries in the shark fin trade. He went on to make two other films, delving deeper into the dirty little secrets of this horrific trade in true investigative journalism style. His untimely death is a great loss to the diver/ underwater film maker community, he was a true inspiration, activist and fighter for the ocean’s cause. See his films!
The End of the Line
A journalist from ‘the Guardian’ decides to go and investigate overfishing, quotas and fisheries management, a successful book is the result. The book became a film, which attracted a lot of attention and raised awareness to the wastefulness and destructive practices in industrial fishing, to overfishing and to how we are emptying our seas, our commons, by eating all the fish. Unfortunately, little has changed in terms of policy since it was made. A must see if depressing.
A Fishfull of Dollars
Made by a diving instructor turned filmmaker, this film shows how a market in Lombok, Indonesia, is selling all sorts of illegal fish, including sharks and manta rays. It also shows the economic difficulties of the local people affected by the depletion of sharks and the impacts on tourism and the environment. A thought-provoking film denouncing the illegal fish trade and its impact locally. A must see especially if you’re coming to Indonesia.
Guillaune Nery's short films (Freefall, Narcose…)
Freediving champion and marine protection advocate, Guillaume Nery and his wife Julie (who films) have made a series of spellbinding (short) films about freediving and the sea. Incredibly aesthetic and dreamy the ‘Films Engloutis’ films will leave you amazed and wanting more. Dive into the dream, see the shorts.
This film follows the relentless work of an ex-dolphin-trainer turned activist, in his investigation of the massacre of dolphins in a small cove in Japan. Government officials do not want anyone filming what goes on there, but the Ric O'Barry manages to put together an expedition involving infrared camera and stealth action and collects images of the slaughter. This is a hard documentary denouncing the corruption and local officials' involvement in this very illegal activity. Amazing investigative journalism. A must see.
Reoccurring bleaching events are killing the coral reefs around the world, in particular the great barrier reef. A team of scientists and underwater photographers set out to show the damage, explain its causes and make a plea for policy change to protect this essential and fragile ecosystem. A call to action.
Sylvia Earl, the world’s most famous underwater explorer (second only to Cousteau perhaps) has started a movement supported by this documentary to warn the world of the rapidly declining state of the oceans. Part biography of the extraordinary life of Sylvia Earle, part call to action, this film is an essential of your underwater culture.
A Plastic Ocean
Depicting a teams’ journey to stake stock of the amount of plastic in our oceans and its impact on marine fauna, this film looks below the surface at all the trash hidden beneath. It’s a progressive realisation of the enormity of our problem. A depressing but necessary film and call to action.
Atlantis, Planète Océan, Océans
These three French films are beautifully shot and show the great wonders of our oceans. Some feel-good viewing if you’re feeling like a break from activism and fighting after the last few documentaries. Enough to make you fall in love with our oceans all over again!