The 8 Best BBC Documentaries to Watch on Netflix
We know it’s hard to pull yourself away from the endless stream of Netflix Originals, but the best BBC documentaries on Netflix are well worth watching. The British network has a reputation for creating stunning shows covering topics such as war, nature, and celebrity.
So, what are the best BBC documentaries you can watch on Netflix?
1. Wild Alaska
Wild Alaska is a three-part documentary that first aired in 2015. It features three 50-minute long episodes, each of which focuses on a different season of the year—Spring, Summer, and Winter.
As you watch, you will learn about how the local wildlife deals with coming out of hibernation, the competition between the species for the landscape’s resources, and the dramatic change in life and scenery that occurs when the coldest months return to Alaska.
2. Nature’s Weirdest Events
Nature’s Weirdest Events has run for five seasons since 2012, but only the second, third, and fourth seasons are available on Netflix. Like Wild Alaska, each season has three parts, and each of the three episodes runs for 50 minutes.
Narrated by the English naturalist, Chris Packham, the show explores some of the natural world’s oddest phenomena. They include a ball of worms rolling down a road, frozen frogs, and fish that attack birds on the land. Trust us; it’s all very bizarre, making the title a fitting one.
If you think this one is fascinating, also check out the best nature documentaries on Netflix .
3. Monkey Planet
2014’s Monkey Planet was an immediate hit when it first aired in the UK, and this BBC documentary has remained just as popular since making the leap to Netflix.
Filmed in South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, Congo, Thailand, and Japan, the show aims to explore the diversity of primates, their social behavior, their intelligence, and their self-awareness.
The British entomologist, George McGavin, presents the documentary. Each of the three parts lasts for one hour. Unfortunately, a second season was never made.
4. Hiroshima: The Real History
Hiroshima: The Real History brings a new sense of understanding to one of the 20th century’s greatest tragedies.
The documentary uses never-seen-before footage, new interviews with eyewitnesses and survivors, and tales of human suffering to add a personal element that is perhaps missing in many of the other documentaries on the subject.
One of the most jaw-dropping claims made during the 90-minute documentary is that Japan knew about the bombs at least five hours before they hit but refused to warn the city or its residents. Give it a watch to learn more.
This is one of the only World War II documentaries by the BBC you will find on Netflix. Many of the BBC’s best documentaries about that period were removed at the end of 2019.
Weird Wonders of the World is the second BBC documentary on Netflix narrated by Chris Packham. The first and second seasons are available on the platform, and each has eight episodes lasting 50 minutes for you to enjoy.
Some of the weirder events you can look forward to seeing in the multi-part documentary include a silk-producing goat, an Antarctic glacier that emits red water, and a drought which causes rocks to explode.
Louis Theroux is a famed documentary maker on both sides of the pond. Some of his most famous early works include Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends and When Louis Met… However, it was his 2015 documentary about The Church of Scientology that really catapulted him into the mainstream. It was his first full-length feature film and was shown in movie theaters around the world.
The uniqueness of My Scientology Movie comes from the way it is filmed. The church repeatedly refused to give Theroux inside access for a true documentary, so he joined forces with some of the church’s former senior officials to reconstruct some of the events described by witnesses. Of particular focus is alleged unseemly behavior by the group’s leader, David Miscavige.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the church does not react well and puts Theroux under constant surveillance. It predictably leads to fireworks, and the events are captured on film for our entertainment.
The first (and only) BBC sports documentary on our list is Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story. Armstrong, of course, went from being one of the most acclaimed cyclists on the planet to a world-renowned cheat after he admitted to doping offenses in 2012.
At the time, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said the fallen star was a leader of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that [cycling] has ever seen.”
This BBC documentary was filmed after Armstrong was exposed. It paints a portrait of a man who would stop at nothing for money, fame, and success. The show tells the story of how he conned fellow riders, blackmailed friends and team owners, and eventually came to his downfall.
Wallace and Gromit will never be forgotten. The stop motion clay animation (which is split into four short films and one feature-length movie), was widely acclaimed by critics. The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave both won Oscars for Best Short Film (Animated), while The Curse of the Were-Rabbit won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman explores how Aardman Animations came to make some of the most famous animated films of all time. Narrated by Julie Walters and featuring interviews with David Tennant, Hugh Grant, and Martin Freeman, the documentary shines a light on the creative processes behind these brilliant films.
More BBC Shows to Watch on Netflix
Sadly, the BBC has pulled many of its best documentaries off of Netflix, presumably due to the popularity of BBC iPlayer and BritBox, its increasingly successful joint streaming venture with ITV.
However, there are still lots of other BBC shows beyond documentaries you can watch on Netflix, including these, the best BBC shows on Netflix that Americans will enjoy .
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