The Best Science Documentaries on Netflix, Ranked

Knowledge is power and Netflix is our professor. 

Flickr / NIAID

Sure, Netflix has a cadre of cheesy rom-coms, sexy capers, and superhero content. But don’t discount Netflix for beautifully shot science documentaries on everything from microbes to food to the mysteries of space. Whether you need some fun facts for a cocktail party or have a dire need to debate with people on Facebook, these Netflix documentaries are sure to give you a solid dose of trivia, and then some.

6. Dinosaur 13

If “archaeologist” is the biggest word you knew as a kid, this documentary is for you. Dinosaur 13 tells the story of a group of geologists, led by Peter Larson, who dug up the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found. Sweetly named “Sue,” the T-rex became a very bitter discovery when Larson and his team were challenged by the U.S. government, Native American tribes, and museums all trying to stake a claim on the skeleton. The documentary won an Emmy for Outstanding Science and Technology Programming in 2015.

5. Resistance

This grimy documentary traverses the history of antibiotics from the discovery of penicillin in 1928 to now, when antibiotic-resistant infections seem to be growing and superbugs are surfacing across the globe. The documentary, albeit terrifying, casts these tiny microbes in a pretty adorable light, with black and white footage and microscopic images, sending an optimistic note that with the right resources we can keep up with the ever-evolving germs.

4. Sustainable

If you found the 2008 documentary Food Inc. about genetically modified foods an eye-opening experience, you’ll want to watch this one too, releasing on Netflix on March 1. Sustainable investigates the most secretive agricultural operations in the U.S. and defends the small town farmer in an uplifting and educational tone. It won the 2016 Accolade Global Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Achievement.

3. Chasing Ice

In this cinematic masterpiece, photographer James Balog offers up undeniable visual evidence of climate change. Featuring expert advice from Tad Pfeffer, a glaciologist from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, who explains how the polar ice caps are melting at an accelerated rate and what that means for the fate of humanity. The doc scored prestigious awards, including an Excellence in Cinematography Award from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

2. Pandora’s Promise

This radical doc is all about the controversy surrounding nuclear power. The filmmakers talk to physicists, engineers, historians, activists and life-long opponents of nuclear energy, about the fear and distrust of this very clean resource that man can’t seem to accept. With jaw-dropping scenes of Chernobyl, Fukushima, and other believed “hotspots” for radioactivity, this film might just shift your entire way of thinking about where we get our power.

1. Terra

This nature documentary will have you cooing at adorable, fluffy animals for a solid 90 minutes. With a beautiful narrative and stunning visuals, Terra looks at the wonders of the environment and how disconnected humans have become from nature. But, it sends a hopeful message that we can change our future with a little more love for our roots.

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