Each month, I’m going to bring you my list of the top 50 documentaries available on Disney+, which include both movies and series from across the many brands available including Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar. This month I’ve added a few of the latest Disney+ Originals on the list to offer some variety.
Note: Not all of these titles may be available in all countries.
Here are the Top 50 Documentaries on Disney+:
50) Light & Magic
Granted unparalleled access, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan takes viewers on an adventure behind the curtains of Industrial Light & Magic, the special visual effects, animation and virtual production division of Lucasfilm. Learn what inspired some of the most legendary filmmakers in Hollywood history, and follow their stories from their earliest personal films to bringing George Lucas’ vision to life. If you love movies and have an interest in how they are made, this is a very good series about how special effects are made.
49) The Real Right Stuff
“The Real Right Stuff” tells the remarkable true story of the nation’s first astronauts, the original Mercury 7, and pulls from hundreds of hours of archival film and radio broadcasts, interviews, home movies and other rare and never-before-seen material to catapult viewers back to the late 1950s. If you enjoyed the Disney+ Original series “The Right Stuff”, this is a must-watch, since it gives you the real details on what went on behind this amazing story.
48) Expedition Amelia
This documentary sees explorer Robert Ballard sets out to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance as he and a team of experts travel to the remote Pacific atoll named Nikumaroro in search of her final resting place.
47) Meet The Chimps
“Meet the Chimps” takes viewers into the secret life of one of the largest and most unique wildlife sanctuaries in the world – Chimp Haven—a 200-acre refuge tucked deep in the forested heart of Louisiana, which is home to more than 300 chimpanzees. Narrated by Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, this six-part series, from National Geographic, tracks the ups and downs of this extraordinary group of chimps that are given a second chance at life by a staff whose dedication, compassion and commitment knows no bounds. Through a seamless blend of natural history and observational-documentary filmmaking, “Meet the Chimps” puts the chimps – the heart and soul of the series – at front and center. A real-life drama with a full emotional range, the series gives unparalleled access to everything happening at Chimp Haven, including food squabbles, alliances, romances, ‘bromances’, tears, tantrums, high jinxes and heartbreaks.
46) Limitless With Chris Hemsworth
Global movie star Chris Hemsworth, despite being in peak superhero-condition, is on a personal mission to learn how to stay young, healthy, strong, and resilient. Undergoing a series of epic trials and extraordinary challenges, he’ll learn firsthand how we can live better for longer by discovering ways to regenerate damage, maximize strength, build resilience, supercharge memory and confront mortality. A great new addition to Disney+ this year.
Utilizing the latest scientific innovations and leading-edge filmmaking technology, this documentary reveals the secret powers and super-senses of the world’s most extraordinary animals, and invites viewers to see and hear beyond normal human perception to experience the natural world as a specific species does — from seeing flowers in bee-vision to eavesdropping on a conversation between elephant seals to soaring the length of a football field with glow-in-the-dark squirrels.
As a teenager in Austria, Wolfgang Puck harnessed his love of cooking to escape the harsh rule of his stepfather. A local apprenticeship forged his path to train at a revered French restaurant before landing in America at age 24. In 70s Hollywood, Puck began working at Ma Maison, crafting an original menu around fresh ingredients, making the once-tacky eatery a popular, acclaimed darling. Still, the lack of acknowledgement from Ma Maison’s owner pushed Puck to take the biggest risk of his career and open his first restaurant, Spago, an instant hit where famous clientele dote equally on Puck’s new American cuisine and personality. Almost by accident, Puck created the concept of a “celebrity chef” with his decades-spanning television appearances, building a staggering global empire of restaurants, cafes and products for home cooks. But at home, the frenetic professional demands disrupted his family life. Wolfgang is a candid, inspiring and emotional documentary that follows a legend as he reckons with the price of his dreams. If you’ve ever been interested in learning more about Wolfgang Puck, this documentary is for you.
43) Running Wild With Bear Grylls
The famed survivalist takes A-list celebrities on journeys into the wildest locations around the world, forcing the stars to push their bodies and minds to the limit to successfully complete the adventure of a lifetime.
42) Into the Okavango
A passionate conservation biologist brings together a river bushman fearful of losing his past and a young scientist uncertain of her future on an epic, four-month expedition across three countries, through unexplored and dangerous landscapes, in order to save the Okavango Delta, one of our planet’s last pristine wildernesses.
41) Pick of the Litter
A docu-series based on the film of the same name, featuring the stories of service animals, their trainers, and their human companions. Follow the six loveable dogs ; Paco, Pacino, Tulane, Raffi, Amara, and Tartan as they embark on a fascinating and suspenseful quest to become Guide Dogs For the Blind, the ultimate canine career.
40) Ice Road Rescue (S1-5)
On Ice Road Rescue, an elite force of rescue workers battles round-the-clock to keep these roads open. In this season, the men face a new enemy: the extreme weather. Unpredictable changes in temperature, heavy rain and sudden blizzards make this winter the roughest one yet in the ultimate battle of man versus nature. Disney recently added the fifth season to Disney+ in the United States.
With his signature blend of scientific acumen, candor and integrity, Dr. Anthony Fauci became America’s most unlikely cultural icon during the COVID-19 pandemic. A world-renowned infectious disease specialist and the longest-serving public health leader in Washington, D.C., he has overseen the U.S. response to 40 years’ worth of outbreaks, including HIV/AIDS, SARS and Ebola. Crafted around unprecedented access to Dr. Fauci, National Geographic Documentary Films’ “FAUCI” is a revealing portrait of one of our most dedicated public servants. This controversial documentary is well worth checking out if you want to find out more about Dr Fauci and his career.
38) Fire Of Love
Intrepid scientists and lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded. A very powerful documentary that is worth your time.
This is a fascinating documentary about the life of Jane Goodall, who’s chimpanzee research revolutionized our understanding of the natural world. The film uses never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives.
36) Dr Oakley Yukon Vet
Spanning thousands of acres and incorporating hundreds of species of animals; Michelle Oakley’s veterinary practice is Yukon tough. There is no such thing as a typical day in Michelle’s practice. House calls can range from expelling dogs anal glands to getting chased down by the very large Arctic musk-ox. Accompanied by her teenage daughters and armed with humor as sharp as scalpel, Michelle deftly juggles being a full time Veterinarian, wife and doctor; taking us into unexplored and unexamined regions of the Yukon.
35) The Incredible Dr Pol
Set in Central Michigan’s farm country, this reality series follows the work done at Pol Veterinary Services. Specializing in large farm animals, Dr. Pol treats horses, pigs, cows, sheep, alpacas, goats, chickens and even an occasional reindeer. The program also features Dr. Brenda Grettenberger, who has worked with Dr. Pol since 1992. There are also multiple special episodes available to watch as well.
34) We Feed People
Ron Howard’s We Feed People spotlights chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s evolution over a 12-year period, from being a scrappy group of volunteers to becoming one of the most highly-regarded humanitarian aid organizations in the disaster relief sector. Due to the unprecedented spike in natural disasters catalyzed by climate change, this story is more important than ever. A great documentary, showcasing a important charity that most people will have never heard of.
33) Paris To Pittsburgh
This fantastic documentary brings to life the impassioned efforts of individuals who are battling the most severe threats of climate change in their own backyards. Set against the national debate over the United States’ energy future – and the Trump administration’s explosive decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement – the film captures what’s at stake for communities around the country and the inspiring ways Americans are responding. Everyone should watch this, since we only have one planet.
When world renowned climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost in a deadly avalanche, his best friend and climbing partner went on to marry his widow and help raise his three sons. This profoundly intimate film from eldest son Max, captures the family’s intense personal journey toward understanding as they finally lay him to rest.
31) Atlantis Rising
James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici go on an adventure to find the lost city of Atlantis by using Greek philosopher Plato as a virtual treasure map. If you love the idea of going into the deep to discover the past, then check this one out. There is also a Titanic documentary available from James Cameron.
30) On Pointe
“On Pointe” is a six-part docu-series that captures a season in the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City. Featuring unprecedented access to the famous ballet institution, the series follows the lives of the students ages 8 to 18 pursuing their dreams to become ballet dancers. While older students from all over the country rigorously train for professional careers, younger students from New York City are put through their paces as they rehearse and perform in New York City Ballet’s holiday classic “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” onstage at Lincoln Center. If you’ve got an interest in Ballet, this one is an easy recommendation.
29) Mickey: The Story Of A Mouse
Disney is a permanent fixture in the entertainment industry and has been for nearly a century. And to think that the storied history of this cultural instutition begain with a little cartoon mouse is remarkable. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a chronicling of that very history and details the beginning of the world’s most famous and beloved mouse. If you love Disney, you’ll wanna check this one out.
28) Taylor Swift – Folklore – The Long Pond Studio Sessions
Taylor Swift, accompanied by co-producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff along with a guest appearance by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), performs each song in order of her critically adored, five-star album, “folklore” and for the very first time, reveals the stories and secrets behind all 17 songs. If you’re a fan of Taylor Swift’s “Folklore”, this is a great way of learning more about the creative process.
27) Into The Grand Canyon
If you’ve ever wanted to get to know more about one of America’s most stunning natural wonders, this could be one for you. Two journalists traverse the Grand Canyon by foot, hoping this 750-mile walk will help them better understand one of America’s most revered landscapes and the threats poised to alter it forever.
An intimate instructional documentary series, Sketchbook takes us onto the desks and into the lives of talented artists and animators. Each episode focuses on a single artist teaching us how to draw a single iconic character from a Walt Disney Animation Studios film. As we learn the steps to drawing these characters, we also discover that the artists themselves each have a unique story to tell about how they made their way to Disney and their chosen character. From the creators of Chef’s Table, this exclusive experience will give viewers of all ages a new understanding of how these beloved characters come to life on screen while introducing them to a new cast of real-life characters along the way.
25) Behind The Attraction
Peek beyond the magic of Disney Parks to discover what’s Behind the Attraction! From Executive Producers Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and Brian Volk-Weiss, explore how Imagineers filled the Haunted Mansion with 999 happy haunts, how the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (while defying gravity in the process) and why Space Mountain took so long to launch. From the 1950s to today, from Jungle Cruise to “it’s a small world” to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney Parks attractions have amazed millions. And this is the story of how they did it. If you enjoyed “The Imagineering Story”, try this one out.
24) Frankie and Ollie
If you ever wanted to know more details about they made the animated Disney classics like Bambi, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp and others, this documentary from 1995 tells the story of two of the greatest animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. It was their creative genius that helped make Disney synonymous with brilliant animation, magnificent music, and emotional storytelling. Take a journey with these extraordinary artists as they share secrets, insights, and the inspiration behind some of the greatest animated movies the world has ever known! For Disney fans, this should be one to check out.
23) Kingdom of the White Wolf
Journey to the Arctic with National Geographic Explorer Ronan Donovan to witness a gorgeous and desolate world where wolves hunt, howl and raise their families. As we embed with the pack, experience unprecedented intimacy with a species steeped in legend, rumor and fear. This one-of-a-kind special blends classic blue-chip wildlife filmmaking with immersive, raw and breathless reality to showcase these wolves in their natural habitat. Highly recommended.
22) Great Migrations
Great Migrations is an epic nature documentary that features the great migrations of animals across the globe. The seven-part show is the largest programming events in the history of National Geographic If you love animal documentaries, this is one of the best and well worth checking out.
21) Drain The Oceans
Maritime mysteries — old and new — come to life in this series, which combines scientific data and digital re-creations to reveal shipwrecks, treasures, and sunken cities on the bottom of lakes, seas and oceans around the world. Another National Geographic series perfect for adults to enjoy. There are also multiple specials available from within the “Drains” franchise including one based on the Titanic and much more.
20) Becoming Cousteau
In “Becoming Cousteau,” two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus takes an inside look at Cousteau and his life, his iconic films and inventions, and the experiences that made him the 20th century’s most unique and renowned environmental voice — and the man who inspired generations to protect the Earth. If you love scuba-diving, this is a must watch.
19) The World According To Jeff Goldblum
Through the prism of Jeff Goldblum’s always inquisitive and highly entertaining mind, nothing is as it seems. Each episode is centered around something we all love — like sneakers or ice cream — as Jeff pulls the thread on these deceptively familiar objects and unravels a wonderful world of astonishing connections, fascinating science and history, amazing people, and a whole lot of surprising big ideas and insights. You will only find this show on Disney+.
18) Race To The Center Of The Earth
Four teams of adventurers embark on a quest to sprint around the world on a challenging course in the hopes of beating the others to a buoy in the middle of the ocean on which is stashed a $1 million prize. If you enjoyed “The Amazing Race”, this is very similar to that and I’m really enjoying it!
17) Life Below Zero
This National Geographic series allows viewers go deep into an Alaskan winter to meet six tough and resilient residents as they try to stay one step ahead of storms and man-eating beasts to make it through to spring. The closest neighbour to Sue Aikens is more than 300 miles away. Eric Salitan subsists solely on what he hunts and forages. Chip and Agnes Hailstone catch fish for currency in bartering for supplies, and Andy and Kate Bassich use their pack of sledge dogs for transportation. Disney recently added episodes from spin-off series “Next Generation”.
16) Shark Beach With Chris Hemsworth
Chris Hemsworth is on a mission to uncover the science of shark behavior and discover how humans and sharks can safely coexist. After an increase in local shark attacks along the east coast of Australia, Hemsworth seeks to understand different species of sharks and their behaviors while also exploring new preventative measures and the latest technology to help stave off shark-human encounters. With dozens of shark documentaries available on Disney+ as part of SharkFest, this is the one I’d recommend first.
15) Wicked Tuna
Fishing is a hard life, and harder with bluefin stocks depleted. In Gloucester, Massachusetts, there’s a special breed of fishermen. For generations, they’ve used rod and reel to catch the elusive bluefin tuna. They depend on these fish for their livelihood, and the competition is brutal. Over the next 10 weeks, the most skilled fishermen will set out in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic in hopes of catching the valuable bluefin tuna. When one bluefin can bring in as much as $20,000—they’ll do whatever it takes to hook up.
Directed by Don Hahn (“Beauty and the Beast”), “Howard” is the untold story of Howard Ashman, the brilliant lyricist behind Disney classics like “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and creator of musicals including “Little Shop of Horrors.” Featuring never-before-seen archival footage, personal films and photographs, as well as interviews with Howard’s friends and family, the film is an intimate look at the Disney Legend’s life, his creative drive, and the process behind the music. Spanning his childhood in Baltimore, to his formative years in New York, and his untimely death due to AIDS, “Howard” goes in-depth to explore his journey to become the lyricist behind some of the most beloved and well-known classic family films in the world.
13) One Strange Rock
This series takes viewers on a mind-bending, thrilling journey exploring the fragility and wonder of planet Earth, one of the most peculiar, unique places in the entire universe, brought to life by the only people to have left it behind – the world’s most well known and leading astronauts. The show is hosted by Will Smith and is a very polished documentary series that will get you thinking.
12) Welcome To Earth
It might seem humans have mapped every inch of our planet’s surface, but look closer and you’ll discover that there is still so much more to uncover — the age of exploration is far from over! Welcome to Earth, a Disney+ original series from National Geographic, follows two-time Academy Award nominee Will Smith on an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime adventure around the world to explore Earth’s greatest wonders and reveal its most hidden secrets. Throughout the six-part limited series produced by visionary Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, Protozoa Pictures, Jane Root’s Nutopia and Westbrook Studios, Will is guided by elite explorers on an awe-inspiring journey, getting up close and personal with some of the most thrilling spectacles on the planet — from volcanoes that roar in silence to deserts that move beyond our perception to animal swarms with minds of their own. Combining breathtaking cinematography with Will’s boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, the blockbuster series is an exciting, multisensory ride through Earth’s most mind-bending portals. This is a great documentary for anyone who loves adventure, travel and Will Smith.
11) Waking Sleeping Beauty
This documentary tells the story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits – “Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and moreover a 10-year period. After the studio hit hard times in the mid-1980s with a series of box office flops. For animation fans, who want to know a little more behind the scenes details into that period of Disney movies, this is an easy recommendation.
10) Among The Stars
A six-part docuseries with fly on the wall access into the wider world of NASA, with cameras on Earth and in space. NASA astronaut Captain Chris Cassidy is on a quest to get back in his spacesuit for one last mission. This series follows Chris and the wider team who take on missions that risk life, limb and reputation for the greater good of humankind. Join them as their missions unfold. This space documentary is extremely well made and there are not too many Disney+ Originals made in space!
9) Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney+’s “Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,” from National Geographic and narrated by the award-winning, fan-favourite Josh Gad, gives viewers a backstage pass to explore the magic of nature within Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and The Seas with Nemo & Friends at EPCOT. Each of the eight episodes dives into the details, unveiling the multifaceted aspects of animal care, conservation and Disney Imagineering and showcases the parks’ magnificent array of more than 300 species and 5,000-plus animals and the herculean tasks their animal care experts undertake to keep things running day and night. If you love the Animal Kingdom theme park, this is a must-watch!
8) The Beatles: Get Back
The Beatles: Get Back” takes audiences back in time to the band’s January 1969 recording sessions, which became a pivotal moment in music history. The docuseries showcases The Beatles’ creative process as they attempt to write 14 new songs in preparation for their first live concert in over two years. Faced with a nearly impossible deadline, the strong bonds of friendship shared by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are put to the test. The docuseries is compiled from nearly 60 hours of unseen footage shot over 21 days. It’s a must for Beatles fans.
7) Hostile Planet
This six-part documentary draws attention to the most extraordinary — almost supernatural — accounts of animals that have adapted to the cruellest evolutionary curveballs. Easily one of my favourite series available on Disney+ right now, if you’re only going to watch one animal documentary, make it this one.
6) Gordon Ramsay Uncharted
Globetrotting celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay serves up an epic adventure in “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted.” He travels around the world meeting with indigenous people to learn about their foods and cultures. In each location, he harvests new ingredients and samples new dishes. He also teams up with local legends to cook feasts to present to the native peoples. The second season is also available in some regions.
5) The Rescue
“The Rescue” chronicles the against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand. “The Rescue” shines a light on the high-risk world of cave diving, the astounding courage and compassion of the rescuers, and the shared humanity of the international community that united to save the boys. One of the best documentaries of 2021.
4) Prop Culture
This Disney+ Original series takes a look at behind the scenes of the movie-making world, with film historian and prop collector Dan Lanigan reuniting iconic Disney movie props with the filmmakers, actors, and crew who created and used them in some of Disney’s most beloved films. Throughout this journey, Dan will recover lost artefacts, visit private collections, and help restore pieces from the Walt Disney Archives to their original glory. Among the films featured this season are Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mary Poppins, The Muppet Movie, Tron and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? If you are interested in learning more about making movies, this is a must-watch.
3) Free Solo
Quite possibly one of the most scariest movies available on Disney+, this Oscar-winning documentary tells follows Alex Honnold as he attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000 foot high El Capitan wall. This one will have you watching through your hands as he climbs with no ropes or safety gear, in what would arguably be the greatest feat in rock climbing history.
2) Secrets Of The Whales
This latest series from National Geographic plunges viewers deep within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales. Filmed over three years in 24 locations, throughout this epic journey, we learn that whales are far more complex and more like us than ever imagined. This is an incredible series, especially if you love whales.
1) The Imagineering Story
Easily my favourite series right now on Disney+. Explore the past, present and future of Walt Disney Imagineering with noted filmmaker Leslie Iwerks. Ms. Iwerks comes from a family with deep Disney history — her grandfather was an early Disney animator and her father is a former Imagineer — and her previous work includes profiles of Pixar Animation Studios and visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic. For theme park fans, this is a must-watch.
What documentary are you going to watch this month on Disney+?
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.