Elephants traversing the land in search of food.

11 Documentaries That Show Why Nature Conservation Is Essential for Survival

As humans, we have the power to shape our environment for better or for worse. Some of our actions have unintended consequences that can be devastating to the natural world. The documentaries we've chosen remind us we have the power to make a positive impact.

Conservation films highlight the importance of preserving our planet's natural resources and protecting wildlife. They display the beauty and diversity of our world's ecosystems, while also highlighting the many threats that they face. 

Conservation of our planet's natural resources is essential for our survival. These films inspire us to take action and make a difference in our own communities. They remind us that we must do everything in our power to protect the natural world for future generations.

The Cove (2009)

Dolphins trained to jump out of the water.
Image Credit: Oceanic Preservation Society.

“The Cove” is a gripping documentary that uncovers the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. The film sparks international outrage and shows the importance of marine conservation efforts to protect dolphins and other marine species.

Virunga (2014)

Caretaker to the mountain guerrilla
Image Credit: Violet Films.

“Virunga” exposes the threats faced by Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including illegal oil exploration and poaching. The documentary showcases the courageous efforts of park rangers and conservationists to protect the park's biodiversity against all odds.

The True Cost (2015)

Scene from The True Cost showing sustainable efforts for a better clothing business model.
Image Credit: Untold Creative.

While not a traditional conservation documentary, “The True Cost” investigates the environmental impact of the fashion industry. It brings out the ecological consequences of fast fashion, prompting viewers to consider sustainable choices and their role in protecting the environment.

The Ivory Game (2016)

Stacked up ivory tusks confiscated from illegal poaching
Image Credit: Terra Mater Factual Studios.

“The Ivory Game” exposes the illegal ivory trade that threatens the existence of elephants. Through undercover investigations, the documentary advocates for stronger conservation measures and international cooperation to save these majestic creatures from the brink of extinction.

Before the Flood (2016)

Leonardo is on site looking at ice caps melting.
Image Credit: RatPac Documentary Films.

“Before the Flood” follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he explores the impacts of climate change worldwide. The documentary not only raises awareness about environmental challenges but also emphasizes the urgent need for collective action to address the global climate crisis.

A Plastic Ocean (2016)

Beach covered in plastic and waste.
Image Credit: Brainstorm Media.

“A Plastic Ocean” is a powerful documentary that uncovers the devastating effects of plastic pollution on marine life. It challenges viewers to reconsider their plastic consumption habits and advocates for conservation efforts to protect the oceans from irreversible damage.

Chasing Coral (2017)

Photographer taking pictures underwater of coral.
Image Credit: Argent Pictures.

“Chasing Coral” documents the alarming decline of coral reefs worldwide due to climate change. With stunning underwater cinematography, the film captures beautiful coral ecosystems and urges audiences to take action to prevent the catastrophic loss of these vital marine habitats.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017)

Al Gore learning about living conditions in third world countries.
Image Credit: Actual Films.

A sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,” this documentary follows Al Gore's ongoing efforts to address the challenges of climate change. It emphasizes the importance of political will and grassroots movements in driving environmental conservation and climate action.

The Game Changers (2018)

Scene from film of vegan weight lifter performing.
Image Credit: ReFuel Productions.

“The Game Changers” explores the environmental benefits of adopting a plant-based diet. While primarily focused on health and athletic performance, the documentary also touches on the positive ecological impact of reducing reliance on animal agriculture, aligning with principles of conservation.

2040 (2019)

Soil sensor being used to determine vegetable growing conditions.
Image Credit: GoodThing Productions.

2040 is a documentary film that takes a unique approach to conservation and nature. Directed by Damon Gameau, it presents a persuasive vision of our potential future in 2040 and advocates for the adoption of existing solutions to improve the planet's well-being. The film is presented as a heartfelt letter to Gameau's 4-year-old daughter and blends traditional documentary elements with dramatized scenes and visual effects.

River (2021)

Ice cap melting into the ocean
Image Credit: Stranger Than Fiction Films.

Exploring the vitality of water ecosystems, the 2021 documentary “River” takes you on a profound journey through various river ecosystems, emphasizing the importance of these lifelines for the planet. From the delicate balance of aquatic life to the impact of human activities, this film serves as a poignant reminder of the need for sustainable practices to protect our rivers.

Gorgeous Adventure Documentaries

The Deepest Breadth showcases Alessia Zecchini as an Italian freediving champion aiming to break a world record.
Image Credit: A24 Productions.

Want more awe and wonder of the natural world? These adventure documentaries got our hearts racing and inspired us to get outdoors and explore more.

Author: Corey Turner

Title: Journalist

Expertise: Pets, Nature, Project Management

Corey Turner is a journalist, conservationist, outdoor enthusiast, and passionate pet owner. Corey founded FurBallFun in 2022. He's known for his honest pet product reviews and guidance for navigating pet behavior, health, and nutrition.