Film, TV + Theatre

6 Ocean documentaries to stream online to inspire and educate yourself


By Natalie Khoo

6 Ocean documentaries to stream online to inspire and educate yourself

It’s 2021 and more than 80 per cent of our ocean remains unmapped and unexplored. This goes to show how vast and magnificent the ocean is, spanning more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and accounting for half of its oxygen supply.

Indeed, there’s so much to learn and discover about our oceans and more importantly, how our lifestyle choices may be harming its ecology and occupants. After all, it’s hard to protect what we don’t know. To learn more about one of the last unknown frontiers on the planet, check out these six ocean documentaries to stream online now.

For curious explorers: Mission Blue (2014)

This Emmy-award winning documentary details the life and work of oceanographer, marine biologist and environmentalist Dr Sylvia Earle, who travels the globe on a mission to shed light on the critical condition of Earth’s oceans. Codenamed Mission Blue, her campaign to create a network of marine sanctuaries (aka ‘Hope Spots’) and raise public awareness on the threats to the ocean has earned her the moniker of “Her Deepness”. Rightfully so, as the chronicles of her work will dazzle you with the most awe-inspiring oceanic wonders—from the Gulf of Mexico where she grew up to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Watch it on: Netflix

For family-friendly edutainment: Dolphin Reef (2018)

If you’re looking for a documentary that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together, Disneynature’s Dolphin Reef is it. The film follows the story of Echo, a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin, who is watched over by its mother, Kumu. Narrated by Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress Natalie Portman, the film provides a glimpse into the majestic natural habitat of these dazzling creatures and their interconnected relationship with the marine community, including a peacock mantis shrimp, broadclub cuttlefish, and shark. It sends the message that no matter how big or small, cute or dangerous, each creature has a pivotal role in the marine ecosystem.

Watch it on: Disney+

For environmental edification: A Plastic Ocean (2016)

You might have guessed from the title that this breakout documentary highlights the gravity of which plastic pollution harms our oceans. Even so, get ready for shocking revelations that will raise uncomfortable questions on your lifestyle habits and how you may be part of the problem. Covering over 20 locations documented over four years, A Plastic Ocean combines data and efforts from researchers, scientists, organisations like WWF, and world champion freediver Tanya Streeter to ensure a thorough perspective on this issue. The resulting film has made a huge impact towards the movement to eradicate single-use plastics and provided pioneering solutions to prevent further pollution.

Watch it on: Netflix

For eye-opening discoveries: The Blue Planet (2001) & The Blue Planet II (2017)

The Blue Planet docu-series is touted as the forerunner for more recent ocean documentaries, with the first episode airing back in 2001. It took five years of filming in over 200 locations around the world to bring you the most astonishing discoveries spanning frozen poles, tropical coral reefs, seasonal seas, and the deep, dark abyss.

For those who have already watched the first season, you’ll want to catch the 2017 sequel to continue your deep sea exploration for more fascinating insights—this time with more high-definition footage (thanks to better technology) to capture the finer details of underwater life. Of course, the fact that the legendary David Attenborough is the voice behind the narrations in both seasons is a welcome bonus.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

For diving enthusiasts: Chasing Coral (2017)

Described as the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs play an essential role in providing the ecosystem for marine life. Sadly, coral reefs around the world—from Hawaii to Australia—have been vanishing at an unprecedented rate. Recognising this, a group of divers, scientists, and photographers embarked on a mission to document the disappearance of the world’s coral reefs. Chasing Coral is the result of their three-year effort involving time-lapse cameras to demonstrate the alarming extent of worldwide coral bleaching and how climate change and human activity contribute to the problem.

Watch it on: Netflix

For plant-based advocacy: Seaspiracy (2021)

Despite the disputes surrounding this provocative documentary—including its alleged misrepresentation of the seafood industry—Seaspiracy raises many valid, thought-provoking questions with regards to our fish consumption. Directed by British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi, the film explores the impact of industrial fishing and ethical concerns over working conditions and “sustainable” labels. Whether you’re considering a plant-based lifestyle or have already transitioned to veganism for years, this documentary offers some valuable takeaways to spur you on your journey. Just bear in mind to take its claims with a pinch of salt and when in doubt, do your own research.

Watch it on: Netflix

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