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Best BBC nature documentaries — all the must-see shows on iPlayer

Killer Whales in Frozen Planet
Frozen Planet is just one of the great nature documentaries you can watch on iPlayer. (Image credit: BBC)

Here are the best BBC nature documentaries you can enjoy right now!

There's plenty of great nature documentaries to watch on BBC iPlayer, many narrated by celebrated broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough. From the depths of the ocean to frozen tundras, there's plenty of fascinating topics to explore as we follow an array of animals and plants in their natural habitats.

Here's our recommendations for the best nature documentaries to watch on BBC iPlayer right now...

What are the best BBC nature documentaries to stream right now?

Frozen Planet

Frozen Planet is a remarkable series that chronicles the ecosystems and animals of the Arctic and Antarctic. There are episodes dedicated to all four seasons of the year, and we learn more about how the animals living there survive in these harsh climates.

The series focuses on animals such as polar bears, killer whales, Adelie penguins, Emperor penguins, Weddell seals and more. To bring the documentary to life, filmmakers spent more than 2,300 days in the field and 18 months at sea.

Episodes: 7

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: The Hollywood Reporter said: "The camerawork here is phenomenal. On the ground, in the air, underwater — the viewer consistently gets the sense that a very dedicated group of people made this come together."

Flamingos

(Image credit: Darren Williams/Silverback Films 2019)

A Perfect Planet

In A Perfect Planet we see how the various natural processes of the planet that work in tandem to ensure that every corner of Earth can sustain life. Each episode focuses on a different elements: volcanoes, the sun, weather, oceans and finally, humans. Filming took place over four years, across 31 countries, so there's plenty of incredible footage to enjoy.

The first week of 2021 saw A Perfect Planet becoming one of BBC iPlayer's most popular programmes, keeping the nation entertained during lockdown and beyond.

Episodes: 5

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say:  New Scientist said: "A Perfect Planet is a great blend of natural history and earth science, making it one of Attenborough’s best projects. This unique experience is sure to make us think more about how natural forces have shaped the planet to allow life to flourish and to make us question the scale of human impact on it."

Stingray

(Image credit: BBC)

The Blue Planet

Go exploring under the ocean thanks to The Blue Planet, a series that travels from various coasts to the poles examining the depths of the water. Although two-thirds of the world's surface is covered with water, scientists know less about the oceans than they do about the surface of the moon, so it's a fascinating place to research and learn more about.

Each episode of the documentary focuses on a different area from the deep ocean to frozen seas, where David Attenborough provides insight into the fascinating creatures who call it home. There's also a sequel to the documentary called Blue Planet II for even more footage.

Episodes: 8

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say:  UCL PI Media said: "These documentaries do an incredible amount to elevate public interest in the natural world, as well as to raise awareness of our relationship with it. They are a credit to the BBC, and almost worth the TV licence alone; may they continue for many years to come."

Brown bear

(Image credit: BBC)

Seven Worlds, One Planet

This series explores the continents of the world with episodes focusing on Antarctica, Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Over 1,500 people worked on the series, which was filmed over 1,794 days, with 92 shoots across 41 countries, and features music from celebrated composer Hans Zimmer.

In Seven Worlds, One Planet you'll see an array of animals such as penguins, pumas,  lizards, sharks, fish, polar bears, and more.

Episodes: 8

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: NY Times said: "Seven Worlds is full of the usual beauty and spectacle: a forest full of fireflies that could have been painted by Seurat; a thrillingly close shot of an anaconda thundering along a riverbed; a dingo in relentless pursuit of a kangaroo that can’t afford a single stumble."

Life On Earth

Life On Earth was originally broadcast in 1979, but it's still available to watch on-demand via iPlayer. In this classic series, David Attenborough travels the globe in order to trace the story of the evolution of life on the planet. The series was a huge international success.

Episodes: 13

Average episode length: 55 minutes 

What the critics say: The Atlantic praised the 12th episode in particular, saying: "The gorilla sequence has become synonymous with Attenborough’s name, and an icon of British television. It speaks to our deep connection with other animals, and the joy we can find among them."

Lucy Buglass

Lucy is a digital writer with WhatToWatch.com, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2016 with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.


She is also a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema, setting up her own website Lucy Goes to Hollywood in 2017 to review films in her spare time. Her favourite genres are horror, thriller and anything crime related. When she's not writing about film and TV, you'll likely find her playing video games, reading, and trying her hand at podcasting.