Top 10 Documentary Films Every Conservationist Should Watch

Documentary films are not only entertaining to watch, they can also be eye opening and a great reminder of why it is that we should care about conservation, by showcasing the life around us and the threats it faces. Here, Conservation Careers blogger Hannah De Frond has whittled down a list of top 10 documentary films every conservationist should watch (in no particular order!)…

The End of the Line[youtube]

The End of the Line explores the detrimental effects that overfishing has had on global fish populations, stating that most commercial fish species will be extinct by 2048 if fishing continues at its present rate. The film explores the most well-known and serious stories of Cod and Blue Fin Tuna decline. It also explains how hi-tech fishing vessels have worsened the problem, and demonstrates the theory on how fish farming provides an unrealistic solution.


Packed full of facts and statistics, Home paints a clear image of how earth’s problems are interlinked. The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of over 50 countries and their ecosystems, accompanied by narration which explores the evolution of earth and life on our planet, agricultural practises, habitat destruction, energy depletion, climate change, environmental degradation and more.

Mission Blue

Mission Blue is a film based around the career of legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, environmentalist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and her part in the global initiative ‘Mission Blue’, a campaign to create a global network of protected marine sanctuaries. This film has proved very successful in its aims to elevate public awareness of critical ocean issues, and has inspired support for organisations, projects and scientific expeditions that make a positive difference for the ocean.

Call of Life

If current trends continue, scientists warn that half or more of all plant and animal species on Earth will become extinct within the next few decades. Call of Life was the first feature length film of its kind to investigate the scope, threats, causes and the effects of the loss of global biodiversity and the impending sixth mass extinction event. Through interviews with leading scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers and indigenous and religious leaders, the film explores the causes, scope, the potential effects and possible responses to this loss of life.


Whilst not necessarily a film directly about conservation, Blackfish is an eye opening documentary that exposes the treatment of orcas in captivity at Sea World, and the causes of their aggressive behaviour towards their trainers. The documentary tells the story of Tilikum, a performing orca that killed several people whilst in captivity. This story challenges us to consider our relationship with nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.


Virguna is a powerful mixture of investigative journalism and nature documentary, following the ongoing civil war, violence and wildlife poaching in the African Congo. The film tells the story of the brave and dedicated people who have risked their lives to protect the bio-diverse Virunga national park and the wildlife it supports, including the last population of mountain gorillas.

An Inconvenient Truth

Released in 2006, an inconvenient truth documents former United States vice president, Al Gore, giving a presentation as part of his campaign to educate the public on climate change. This was one of the first and most effective films to address the serious and imposing threats of climate change, and has received much credit for raising awareness of this issue and reenergising the environmental movement worldwide.

The Cove

The Cove follows a team of activists, film makers and free divers led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, as they struggle to expose the horrific dolphin hunting practises that occur in a remote and hidden cove in Japan. The Cove was created as a call for action to halt mass dolphin kills, to alter Japanese fishing practises and to educate the public on the risks and impacts of mass dolphin kills on wildlife and human health.

Chasing Ice

This documentary follows the journey of photographer James Balog, and his discovery of the evidence of climate change through his Extreme Ice Survey across the Antarctic. The documentary showcases images recorded by time-lapse cameras, capturing the multi-year record of the shocking disappearance of the world’s glaciers.


Life is a 10 part BBC documentary series, narrated by the transfixing voice of David Attenborough. The series took a dedicated four years to make and manages to capture some rare, intimate and dramatic moments in the lives of selected species. 10 minutes at the end of each episode is also dedicated to showcase the making-of and behind the scenes work that goes into filming such moments.

Careers Advice, Top Tips