The beauty of sitting down to watch a documentary is that it can often be a life changing experience. Like many of you who read this blog, I have a passion for documentaries and continue to be awestruck by how much my views on the world can be completely altered during an hour and a half of sitting on my sofa. The effectiveness of these films is achieved through educating the viewers in a way that can often instigate such profound emotional shifts in people that they could potentially help change the world for the better. Films that examine the natural world (specifically marine life) and the impact of human activity on the environment are my preferred genre and below I have compiled my top 5 essential educational films relating to marine life, each with a short synopsis, for those interested. There is a vast range of marine related docs that could have been included in this list, however I have chose to include those that have had the biggest impact on me personally and that have found the highest critical acclaim for their eye-opening subject matter. If there are any other documentaries that you feel should be included in this list please feel free to leave a comment below.
5. Sharkwater (2006) IMDB score: 8.0/10
For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth. Driven by passion fed from a life-long fascination with sharks, Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas, as well as exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the world’s shark populations in the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
4. Mission Blue (2014) IMDB score: 8.0/10
Feature documentary about legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, environmentalist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and her campaign to create a global network of protected marine sanctuaries
3. End of the Line (2009) IMDB score: 7.5/10
The End of the Line is the first major documentary about the imminent peril facing the world’s oceans. Narrated by Ted Danson and based on the book by Charles Clover, the film explores the devastating effect that over-fishing is having on fish stocks and the health of our oceans. Scientists predict that if we continue fishing at the current rate, the planet will completely run out of fish by 2048. More than just a doomsday warning, “The End of the Line:” offers real, practical solutions that are simple and doable, including advocating for controlled fishing of engendered species, protecting networks of marine reserves off-limits to fishing, and educating consumers that they have a choice by purchasing fish from sustainable fisheries.
2. Blackfish (2014) IMDB score: 8.1/10
A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales. The documentary focuses on the captivity of Tilikum, an orca involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity. The coverage of Tilikum includes his capture in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, and purported harassment by fellow captive orcas at Sealand of the Pacific, incidents that director Cowperthwaite argues contributed to the orca’s aggression and includes testimonial from Lori Marino, Director of Science with Nonhuman Rights Project.
1. The Cove (2009) IMDB score: 8.5/10
The Cove is a 2009 documentary film that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. The film is a call to action to halt mass dolphin kills, change Japanese fishing practices, and to inform and educate the public about the risks, and increasing hazard, of mercury poisoning from dolphin meat. The film is told from an ocean conservationist’s point of view. Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.