A good dino doc is hard to find: Many are made more for entertainment than informative purposes (because if there’s one science topic that consistently sells, it’s dinosaurs); many, especially those that use CGI renderings of dinosaurs, involve wildly unfounded speculation about the way these creatures looked and acted; and many are out-of-date or just plain inaccurate.
Of course, it’s hard to make an “accurate” dinosaur documentary. In fact, dinosaur research is known for being controversial, in part because of the notorious “Bone Wars” era fraught with roughly-handled specimen, and in part because it’s really darn difficult to come to conclusions about animals that lived millions of years ago using only a fossil record — and a limited one, at that.
With all of that said, there are still engaging and educational documentaries out there. Despite some smaller flaws, these films are definitely worth checking out. Here are the 10 best dinosaur docs you can stream online right now.
10. The Day the Dinosaurs Died, YouTube
This BBC film — the newest on the list — provides an innovative look at the Alvarez hypothesis, the idea that the dinosaur extinction was caused by an asteroid impact. The documentary argues that the most important factor enabling the asteroid’s widespread obliteration wasn’t time, scale, or global reach, but place.
9. Last Day of the Dinosaurs, YouTube
Another peek into the extinction through the Alvarez perspective, this Discovery Channel feature imagines how that fateful day might’ve transpired in various spots across the world; it’s a sad story, and this portrayal is actually really moving.
8. Nature: Raising the Dinosaur Giant, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video
We all love to love the Tyrannosaurus rex, but there were plenty of other compelling and enormous dinos, too. This PBS film follows the discovery of the largest species we’ve ever discovered (of any terrestrial animal, not just dinosaurs): a plant-eating titanosaur that hasn’t yet received a scientific name.
7. Dinosaurs Decoded, YouTube
This National Geographic documentary explores a recent watershed realization: that researchers have been over-classifying dinosaur species. Archaeologists have often decided that bones that looked distinct belonged to different kinds of dinos, when in fact they belonged to the same kind of dino at different stages of development. Because of mistakes like these, it’s possible that there were actually far fewer species of dinosaurs than we’d once imagined. This doc gets an added bonus because it stars the esteemed Jack Horner, one of the main paleontologists behind the “Dinosaur Renaissance.”
6. Planet Dinosaur, YouTube
This BBC six-part series is really entertaining and tells the stories of a wide variety of dinos (over 50 species). It sensationalizes the T. Rex to the point of exaggeration, but it engagingly covers a lot of information.
5. The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs, YouTube
This BBC documentary pits the strength of dinosaurs against each other using biomechanics. Part one determines whether the T. rex or Triceratops would win in a fight; part two (above) decides the victor of a Velociraptor and ankylosaur battle. We won’t tell you who wins. You should probably set up some bets.
4. Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates, Netflix and YouTube
This British documentary from David Attenborough looks at the evolution of vertebrates (animals with backbones), of which dinosaurs are one group. Part two is mammal-focused, but check out part one to learn about how dinosaurs evolved from primitive fish.
3. T-Rex Autopsy, YouTube
Obviously, we can’t actually dissect a Tyrannosaurus rex. When archaeologists are really lucky, they find a T. Rex fossil with a bit of soft tissue preserved, or maybe even some blood, but there’s no way they will ever uncover a dinosaur that’s as well-preserved as the fake one in this National Geographic documentary. But that’s why a film like this is so great: It transcends the limits of the fossil record by creatively recreating what it might be like to dig into the body of a T. Rex, gore and all.
2. NOVA: Bigger Than T. Rex, Amazon Video and YouTube
This National Geographic doc examines the Spinosaurus, which is the biggest predatory dinosaur yet discovered. Besides all the awesome nerding out on paleontology, it also covers the thrilling, Indiana Jones-like history of the Spinosaurus findings.
1. Dinosaur 13, Netflix
Similar to the last doc, this exciting film from Todd Douglas Miller not only gets into the paleontological details of the famous “Sue” T. Rex skeleton, but also the politics and history contextualizing its discovery. Like the rest of the films on this list, this one inevitably has its critics, but it’s also one of the most popular dino docs out there.