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10 Best Documentaries About Whales To Watch

Documentaries about whales have long been a source of fascination and wonder, offering you a captivating glimpse into the world of these majestic marine creatures.

These are some of the most compelling and enlightening documentaries about whales that have shed light on the enigmatic lives of whales, delving into their biology, behaviours, and the pressing conservation issues that surround them.


Documentaries About Whales

Whether you’re a seasoned marine enthusiast or a casual nature lover, these documentaries about whales offer an opportunity to connect with these gentle giants and gain a deeper understanding of the crucial role they play in our planet’s ecosystem.


Ocean Giants (2011)

Ocean Giants is a three-part BBC television documentary series about whales that is narrated by actor Stephen Fry and provides you with an in-depth look into the world of the ocean’s largest creatures, particularly focusing on whales.

The series is divided into three episodes, each exploring a different aspect of these remarkable marine mammals.

Giant Lives: This episode delves into the biology, evolution, and the incredible size of some of the ocean’s giants, including the blue whale, the largest animal to have ever existed on Earth.

You gain insight into the feeding habits, migratory patterns, and unique adaptations that allow these creatures to thrive in the world’s oceans.

Deep Thinkers: The second episode examines the complex and intelligent behaviour of whales, such as their communication, social structures, and problem-solving abilities.

It particularly highlights the remarkable intelligence of the sperm whale, which has the largest brain of any animal on the planet.

Voices of the Sea: The final episode of Ocean Giants focuses on the communication and vocalizations of whales. It explores how these magnificent creatures use sound to navigate, locate prey, and communicate with one another, shedding light on the mystery of whale songs.

Throughout the series, you are treated to stunning underwater footage and breathtaking visuals, showcasing the awe-inspiring nature of these ocean giants.

Clip from the show:

Secrets of the Whales (2021)

Secrets of the Whales is a documentary series produced by National Geographic and is narrated by actress and environmental activist Sigourney Weaver.

It offers a captivating and in-depth exploration of the lives and behaviours of different whale species. Secrets of the Whales is comprised of four episodes, each focusing on a specific aspect of whale life.

Orca Dynasty: This episode delves into the social and familial dynamics of orcas (killer whales) and the unique cultures they develop within their pods.

Humpback Songs: The episode is centred around humpback whales and their complex and mesmerizing songs, exploring how these songs are used for communication and the role they play in the lives of these whales.

Beluga Kingdom: Beluga Kingdom provides insights into the lives of beluga whales in the Arctic and the remarkable ways they adapt to their harsh environment.

Ocean Giants: The final episode looks at the extraordinary physical adaptations of the largest whales, such as blue whales and sperm whales, and their roles in ocean ecosystems.

Throughout the series, you are treated to breathtaking underwater footage, cutting-edge technology, and the work of scientists and researchers who are dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of whale behaviour.

This is easily one of the best documentary series about whales you can watch.

Humpback Whales (2015)

Humpback Whales is an IMAX documentary narrated by actor Ewan McGregor and the film takes you on a captivating journey into the world of humpback whales, exploring their incredible behaviours, migrations, and the challenges they face in their marine environment.

The documentary features breathtaking footage of humpback whales in their natural habitat, including their acrobatic displays, songs, and interactions.

Humpback Whales showcases the epic migrations of these marine giants. It follows their journey from their feeding grounds in the cold waters of Alaska to their breeding and calving grounds in the warm waters of Hawaii.

The film explores the complex behaviours of humpback whales, such as breaching, tail slapping, and bubble net feeding. It also delves into the fascinating world of their intricate songs and the role of these vocalizations in their social lives.

Humpback Whales addresses the conservation challenges faced by these magnificent creatures, including threats like habitat degradation, entanglement in fishing gear, and collisions with ships.

The Whale (2011)

The Whale is a heartwarming and inspirational film that tells the remarkable story of a young orca whale named Luna, also known as L98, who became separated from his family and formed an unexpected and unique bond with humans in Nootka Sound, Canada.

Luna’s separation from his family and his decision to seek companionship with humans captured the hearts and attention of local residents and the world. The film follows Luna’s interactions with people, boats, and other marine life.

The Whale explores the emotional and ethical dilemmas faced by the people of Gold River as they grapple with the desire to protect Luna and his growing bond with the community while acknowledging the need for his reintegration into the wild.

The film raises important questions about the ethics of human intervention in the lives of wild animals and the challenges of balancing conservation efforts with the best interests of the animal and human communities involved.

Whale Wars (2008-2015)

Whale Wars is a documentary series that follows the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international non-profit organization dedicated to marine wildlife conservation and the protection of ocean ecosystems.

Whale Wars focuses on their daring and often dangerous missions to confront and intervene against illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

The series is known for its high-stakes, dramatic, and often confrontational confrontations between the Sea Shepherd crew and the whaling vessels, primarily those of the Japanese whaling fleet.

The show captures the Sea Shepherd’s direct-action tactics, which involve approaches like obstructing whaling vessels, using non-lethal methods to disrupt whaling operations, and documenting their activities.

The show raises important ethical and legal questions about the pursuit of conservation goals through direct action and the clashes between environmental activism and the interests of whaling nations.

Throughout the series, you are taken on a journey through multiple campaigns over the years, including confrontations with Japanese whalers, documenting their practices, and striving to disrupt their operations.

Whale Wars is not only an exciting and action-packed series but also serves as a platform for raising awareness about the critical issue of whaling and the broader challenges faced by marine wildlife and their conservation.

There are several seasons of this to watch and you can find some of the episodes on YouTube. Here’s a trailer for season 4:

Blackfish (2013)

Blackfish is a critically acclaimed documentary about whales that primarily focuses on the controversial practice of keeping orcas (killer whales) in captivity and tells the story of Tilikum, a captive orca involved in several tragic incidents.

The documentary traces the life of Tilikum, an orca captured in the wild and later held in captivity at SeaWorld, a popular marine theme park.

It highlights his involvement in a series of attacks on trainers, including the death of experienced trainer Dawn Brancheau.

Blackfish delves into the physical and psychological toll of captivity on orcas, raising questions about the ethics of keeping such intelligent and social animals in confined spaces for human entertainment.

The film explores the complexities of orca behaviour in the wild and how captivity can lead to aggression and stress in these animals.

Blackfish features interviews with former SeaWorld trainers, experts, and activists who provide insight into the issues surrounding captive orcas and the dangers faced by trainers.

Blackfish had a significant impact on public perception and awareness of the ethics and safety of keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment purposes.

It also led to increased scrutiny of marine theme parks, particularly SeaWorld, and contributed to changes in the way these facilities house and manage their marine animals.

A Life Among Whales (2005)

A Life Among Whales follows the life and work of marine biologist and conservationist Roger Payne.

Roger Payne is known for his pioneering research on the vocalizations of whales, particularly his groundbreaking work on the songs of humpback whales.

The film delves into the world of humpback whales, showcasing their remarkable songs and the ongoing efforts to understand their purpose and significance in the lives of these marine mammals.

A Life Among Whales explores Roger Payne’s dedication to whale conservation and his advocacy for the protection of these creatures. It touches on issues related to whaling, habitat preservation, and the importance of raising awareness about the conservation of marine life.

The film serves as a tribute to Roger Payne’s lifelong passion for whales and his tireless efforts to protect these majestic creatures.

It also sheds light on the critical role that scientific research and advocacy play in preserving the world’s oceans and the incredible life they contain.

You can watch A Life Among Whales on Amazon.

Sonic Sea (2016)

Sonic Sea is a unique one out of these documentaries about whales as it focuses on the issue of ocean noise pollution and its impact on marine life, particularly on marine mammals like whales and dolphins.

It’s not exclusively about whales but they are predominant throughout the documentary.

The documentary explores how human activities, such as shipping, naval exercises, and underwater construction, generate loud and pervasive underwater noise.

This noise can disrupt the communication and navigation abilities of marine animals, leading to various negative consequences, including strandings and even death.

Sonic Sea features interviews with scientists, environmental activists, and experts in the field, as well as stunning underwater footage.

The film also highlights efforts to mitigate the impact of underwater noise and protect marine life, such as the implementation of quieter shipping technologies and the establishment of marine protected areas.

Sperm Whales – Titans of the Deep

This is a great documentary about whales that focuses on sperm whales in the North Sea.

It sheds new light on the behaviours of sperm whales and how the possibility of man-made noises in the ocean is driving sperm whales out of their natural habitat.

It explores how in the 1990s the number of sperm whales stranded in the North Sea increased by 1000% while at the same time, oil exploration in the North Sea was going on.

Killer Whales: Up Close and Personal

This documentary is set in the cool waters that surround the volcanic archipelago of the Crozet Islands (between Africa and Antarctica), which follows the trials of Delphine, a young female adolescent killer whale.

It shows her living and growing within her group of killer whales as she gradually learns how to find her bearings, how to hunt king penguins or Minke rorquals and how to get stranded in order to catch sea elephants.

A fascinating documentary about killer whales.


Whales

These documentaries about whales not only showcase the beauty and wonder of these giants but also shed light on the challenges they face due to environmental changes and human activities.

They serve as a call to action for the conservation of these incredible creatures and the preservation of our oceans.

There are many other documentaries about whales that you can watch but these are 10 of the best, so choose a few that appeal to you and see these majestic giants.

For more wildlife from the seas take a look at the 10 best documentaries about dolphins.


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