Netflix: The Best Documentaries About the Great Outdoors

Netflix has been bulking up on its collection of documentaries in recent months, and with so many options to choose from, it may be hard figuring out which to watch first. Along with various documentaries on everything from the finance industry to the music world, the streaming service has a compelling set of films centered on the exploration of the wild. Here are seven films currently streaming on Netflix that will make you want to head into the great outdoors.

1. Touching the Void


The 2003 documentary, based on the book of the same name, follows Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ disastrous and near fatal attempt to climb Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. The film combines documentary footage of interviews conducted with Simpson, Yates, and Richard Hawking with re-enacted scenes. It has earned high critical acclaim, with critics calling it “breathtaking stuff that freezes the toes [and] harrows the soul.” The movie currently holds a 93% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

2. Deeper


This 2010 documentary is the first in the Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy that follows snowboarder Jeremy Jones and other top freeriders as they travel around the world to explore untouched realms. The crew heads to major snowboarding meccas while venturing past the lifts to face challenges in the wild. The team camps in 20-below temperatures, ventures out in giant storms, and faces the highs and lows of the extreme sport.

If you love Deeper, check out the subsequent Further and Higher, which are both currently on Netflix.

3. 180° South


The 2010 documentary, directed by Chris Malloy, covers the journey of Jeff Johnson as he travels from Ventura, California to Patagonia, Chile, emulating the 1968 trip taken by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins (who went on to found brands Patag­o­nia and The North Face, respectively).

After finding footage of the original expedition, Johnson decided to make climbing the Corcovado Volcano in Patagonia his life goal and, after consulting with Chouinard and Tompkins, planned his own journey. The documentary delivers some significant commentary on the environmental issues in South America, as well as some truly stunning visuals.

4. The Endless Summer


You’ve seen the poster for the 1966 film hanging in countless dorm rooms, but the movie has continued to have a lasting legacy long beyond that. In the movie, filmmaker and narrator Bruce Brown follows two surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August, as they chase summer on a surfing trip around the world.

The visually fascinating film, which holds a 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, is considered a classic of the genre and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

5. Finding Traction


This inspirational documentary chronicles the remarkable quest of ultra-marathoner Nikki Kimball, who seeks to become the fastest person to ever run the 273-mile Long Trail through Vermont. Filled with beautiful vistas of Vermont’s picturesque Green Mountains, Finding Traction follows Kimball from her brutal training regimen, through her ultimately triumphant race to the finish line.

Finding Traction earned mostly positive reviews from users on Netflix, who praised the gorgeous cinematography and gripping story.

6. Chasing Ice


The 2012 documentary follows acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog as he heads to Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska in order to capture images that will help to convey the effects of global warming.

Balog, initially a skeptic about climate change, changed his mind after his first trip north and is determined to highlight the impact that humans have on the planet. The documentary is chock full of beautiful, if heartbreaking, images and has earned high critical acclaim, currently holding a 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It won the Satellite Award for Best Documentary Film in 2012, as well as the 2014 News and Documentary Emmy award for Outstanding Nature Programming.

7. How to Change the World

The 2015 documentary film tells a story decades old. Using archived footage, How to Change the World follows a determined group of activists who set sail for Alaska in order to stop the bomb-testing being conducted there under President Nixon’s orders.

The story focuses on Robert Hunter, and how this journey evolved into his creation of Greenpeace. Writer and director Jerry Rothwell took him a number of awards for the film, including the 2015 Sundance Candescent Award.

Additional reporting by Becca Bleznak.

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