You don’t have to be a marine biologist or a seasoned scuba diver to find the ocean fascinating.
With technological advances, home viewers have more opportunity than ever to plunge into the depths of this vast expanse of Earth’s final frontier.
We’ve curated a list of some of the best ocean documentaries that will fascinate anyone who is even a bit curious about the wonders of the undersea world.
From stunning discoveries about deep-sea species to heartbreaking stories about the need for conservation, these exciting films will send you on a submarine adventure without leaving the comfort of your couch.
Table of Contents
The Blue Planet & The Blue Planet II
Where to watch: Discovery+
The groundbreaking BBC docuseries “The Blue Planet” and “The Blue Planet II” guides viewers beneath the waves to explore Earth’s final frontier. The series takes you on an unprecedented journey beneath the waves to study Earth’s last great frontier with Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, as your guide.
This captivating series is a veritable symphony of stunning visuals and engaging storytelling, weaving together the lives of great and small creatures to present a vivid portrait of the marine world.
Along the way, they document not only the natural wonders of the ocean but the unique challenges faced by the ecosystems and species that dwell in its depths.
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge
Where to Watch: Peacock, VUDU, Tubi, Freevee
The compelling ocean documentary “James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge” chronicles the celebrated filmmaker’s daring, record-breaking solo dive to the Mariana Trench’s deepest depths.
Filmed on location, the documentary features the custom-built DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible, enabling Cameron to venture where humankind had never gone before.
A testament to human curiosity and ambition, Deepsea Challenge captures the spirit of deep sea exploration, offering a fascinating glimpse into the oceans’ mysteries, all driven by Cameron’s passion for discovery.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Seaspiracy is a documentary film made in 2021 that looks at the environmental impact of fishing on marine life.
The film, directed by Ali Tabrizi, has sparked worldwide controversy and debate. Overfishing, plastic pollution, and the fishing industry’s impact on the world’s oceans are all highlighted in the documentary.
It also advocates for the abolition of fish consumption. Some have praised the film’s powerful message, while others have criticized its accuracy and portrayal of the fishing industry.
Regardless of the controversy, Seaspiracy has raised awareness about the critical need to protect our oceans and the creatures that live in them.
Where to Watch: Hulu, PlutoTV, Tubi
The award-winning documentary “The Cove” combines investigative journalism with environmental activism to unveil the annual dolphin hunt’s dark underbelly in Taiji, Japan’s picturesque coastal town.
The film is led by Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer turned activist whose intimate knowledge of the industry and personal journey drives the narrative.
Director Louie Psihoyos and his team of covert operatives, including world-class free divers and tech specialists, work together to uncover the brutal reality at the heart of this small fishing town.
Aliens of the Deep
Where to Watch: Disney+
In the visually spectacular and thought-provoking documentary “Aliens of the Deep,” director James Cameron and marine biologist Dr. Dijanna Figueroa take viewers on an immersive journey to the ocean floor’s depths where bizarre and alien-like creatures thrive in extreme environments.
Filmed at various deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, this mesmerizing film explores otherworldly ecosystems, illuminating the astonishing resilience of life and providing a fresh perspective on the search for extraterrestrial life.
“Aliens of the Deep” combines cinematic prowess with scientific expertise, guiding viewers through awe-inspiring environments and introducing them to the extraordinary organisms that inhabit these depths.
Where to Watch: Vimeo
Set in the picturesque British Virgin Islands, “Kodiak Queen,” directed by Rob Sorrenti, focuses on the ship’s metamorphosis from a rusting relic to a thriving underwater ecosystem.
The documentary captures the beauty of the Caribbean seascape and the incredible process of sinking the vessel and transforming it into a stunning, oceanic work of art.
The film features a passionate group of individuals, including Sir Richard Branson, artist Owen Buggy, and marine biologist Dr. Dominique Rissolo. Each brings their unique expertise and vision to the project, working together to breathe new life into the ship.
Puff: Wonders of the Reef
Where to Watch: Netflix
If you’re looking for a family-friendly foray into the ocean, “Puff: Wonders of the Reef” dives into the whimsical world of pufferfish and their elaborate courtship rituals.
Filmed amidst the pristine coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region, this charming film reveals the hidden beauty and magic of marine life by capturing the astonishing artistry of the diminutive pufferfish as they navigate the bustling, kaleidoscopic realm of the reef.
Narrated by the delightful Cate Blanchett, “Puff” offers an enchanting perspective on the wonders of aquatic organisms while highlighting the importance of conservation and the delicate balance that sustains these diverse ecosystems.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Directed by Fisher Stevens and Robert Nixon, “Mission Blue” is an Emmy-winning documentary chronicling the life and work of renowned oceanographer and marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle.
This powerful and inspiring film transports viewers across the globe, from the vibrant coral reefs of the Bahamas to the pristine waters of the Galápagos Islands, showcasing the beauty and fragility of the ocean’s diverse ecosystems.
As Dr. Earle narrates the film, sharing her personal experiences and unwavering dedication to ocean conservation, “Mission Blue” is a call to action urging viewers to join the fight against the devastating impacts of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change on marine ecosystems.
A Plastic Ocean
Where to Watch: Netflix
In the thought-provoking “A Plastic Ocean” documentary, director Craig Leeson and world-record free-diver Tanya Streeter explain the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and the inhabitants that call them home.
Filmed over four years in more than 20 locations around the globe, A Plastic Ocean captures the extent of plastic pollution in various marine environments, from the remote shores of the Chagos Archipelago to the bustling waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
However, “A Plastic Ocean” not only highlights the gravity of the issue but also offers solutions for marine conservation efforts.
Where to Watch: Discovery+
Directed by actor and activist Eli Roth, “Fin” is a powerful film that uncovers the often hidden and brutal practices associated with the multi-billion-dollar shark finning industry, which poses a significant threat to the survival of these magnificent predators.
Featuring interviews with marine biologists, conservationists, and frontline activists, “Fin” sheds light on the immense ecological importance of sharks and the devastating consequences of their use in shark fin soup.
The documentary also reveals the complex web of corruption, organized crime, and legal loopholes perpetuating the unsustainable and cruel shark finning trade.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Directed by Jeff Orlowski, “Chasing Coral” follows a team of divers, scientists, and photographers on a mission to document the devastating effects of ocean degradation on these fragile underwater ecosystems.
Using time-lapse photography and cutting-edge underwater technology, “Chasing Coral” captures the tragic process of coral bleaching, a phenomenon triggered by rising ocean temperatures that cause corals to expel their symbiotic algae and ultimately lead to their death.
The film emphasizes the vital role of coral reefs in supporting marine biodiversity and the millions of people who depend on them for food, marine parks tourism, and coastal protection.
End of the Line
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
Based on the book by Charles Clover and directed by Rupert Murphy, “End of the Line” takes a hard look at the consequences of unsustainable fishing practices, from the depletion of fish stocks to the destruction of fragile marine ecosystems.
“End of the Line” explores the complex factors contributing to this global crisis, including consumer demand, government policies, and the role of the fishing industry.
The documentary is an important wake-up call for anyone who cares about the future of our blue planet and the countless lives that depend on its rich bounty.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s surface for a moment and explore some frequently asked questions about the ocean:
What is the best deep sea documentary?
The best deep-sea documentary is a matter of personal preference. Still, BBC’s “Blue Planet” series, particularly the episodes delving into the deep sea, stands out for its stunning visuals, scientific insights, and Sir David Attenborough’s unparalleled narration, making it a must-watch for ocean enthusiasts.
Are there any documentaries on the Mariana Trench?
There are indeed documentaries on the Mariana Trench, such as “James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge,” which chronicles Cameron’s daring solo dive to the deepest point on Earth, offering a rare glimpse into the mysteries and wonders of this extreme underwater environment.
How much of the ocean has been explored?
Scientists have studied only 5-10% of the ocean, a surprisingly small amount considering its vastness.