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100 Best (Free) Science Documentaries Online

by Staff Writers

No matter how much you know, there is always something new to learn about science. While your college courses may cover the basics, you can get a more in-depth look at a wide variety of topics from Internet resources such as these great documentaries. These selections will help you explore everything from the inner reaches of the human mind to the outer areas of our universe and just about everything else in between. Better yet, they’re all free to watch online so you can learn more without spending a dime.

Health and Medicine

These documentaries cover topics like health care, diseases, nutrition, nursing, and more so you can get great insights into health and medicine.

  1. Super Size Me: In this movie, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attempts to subsist on only a diet of McDonald’s for a full month. His discoveries will make you question your own food choices.
     
  2. The Age of AIDS: Here you’ll find a program done by Frontline that examines some of the worst pandemics the world has ever known, focusing on AIDS.
     
  3. How Does Your Memory Work?: Do you know how your brain really works? While there are still many mysteries to be unraveled about the brain, this film attempts to foster a better understanding of how we learn and remember.
     
  4. Sicko: Filmmaker Michael Moore exposes the ramifications of a lack of universal health care in America in this controversial documentary.
     
  5. The Origins of AIDS: Check out this film to learn how the AIDS virus moved into humans and the factors that led it to spread so rapidly.
     
  6. The Slow Poisoning of India: In the spirit of Silent Spring, this film exposes the serious health ramifications the use of pesticides has had on many Indian people.
     
  7. Body of War: What is life like after returning from war? What if you come back disabled? This heartbreaking film shows one man’s journey back home.
     
  8. Cryonics: Death in the Deep Freeze: This film shows the first woman to have her body cryogenically frozen after her death.
     
  9. The Half-Ton Man: Learn more about Patrick Deuel, weighing in at about 1100 pounds, and doctors’ battle to save him.
     
  10. Darkest Hour: This movie examines the lack of health care assistance for parents of children with psychological health problems.
     
  11. Swine Flu: The Science of Pandemics: Check out this show to see how pandemics like the swine flu spread and the impact they can have on populations.
     

Drugs

Learn how drugs impact the brain and the variety of legal restrictions imposed upon them from these documentaries.

  1. Ecstasy Rising: Watch this video from Primetime to learn more about ecstasy, its effects and more.
     
  2. Big Bucks, Big Pharma: This documentary attempts to expose the business behind medicine–often done at the expense of the health of consumers.
     
  3. Prescription for Disaster: Learn why the billions poured into medical treatments may not be helping people to live longer, healthier lives through this documentary.
     
  4. The World’s Most Dangerous Drug: This show will expose the true danger behind methamphetamines.
     
  5. In Pot We Trust: Here you’ll find a film that wants to show the medical benefits of marijuana.
     
  6. The Drugging of Our Children: More and more children these days take drugs for behavioral issues like ADD and ADHD, but this documentary points out that those drugs can have pretty serious side effects as well.
     

Genetics

From cloning to genetic disorders, these documentaries will shed some light on your DNA.

  1. Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita: Learn more about the research being done with stem cells as this neurologist seeks a cure for his paralyzed teenage daughter.
     
  2. The Science of Dwarfism: Here you’ll find an informative program that will teach you about the genetic causes of dwarfism.
     
  3. Panacea or Poison?: Check out this film to learn more about the battle between those who support and those who oppose genetically modified foods.
     
  4. The World According to Monsanto: Watch this film to learn more about Monsanto, the leader in genetically modified organisms as well as one of the most controversial and hated corporations of all time.
     
  5. Boy with the Incredible Brain: This documentary tells the story of David Tammet, one of the world’s true savants.
     
  6. Clone: This film will show you the amazing potential as well as some of the more negative aspects associated with human cloning.
     
  7. Designer Babies and Gene Robbery: If you could design your child, would you? As technology evolves, this documentary shows how this may soon be a reality.
     
  8. Strange Culture: Learn how one man’s work with genetically modified organisms nearly got him branded as a bio terrorist.
     
  9. Ghost in Your Genes: This film will show you how a mysterious second genome could also play a roll in determining our biology.
     
  10. Gorillas: 98.6% Human: Remind yourself of just how close we are to the natural world with this stunning movie about the endangered mountain gorilla.
     

Evolution and Biological History

Learn more about life on earth, from the earliest cells to the evolution of humans, from these documentaries.

  1. The Four-Winged Dinosaur: Watch this film to learn how one of the earliest ancestors of birds may have been able to fly.
     
  2. Neanderthal: Learn more about this close human relative, what it was like, and some of the factors that caused it to go extinct while we flourished in this film.
     
  3. The Ape That Took Over the World: This film will help you to better understand the steps and even leaps in evolution that brought human beings to where they are today.
     
  4. Why are We Here?: In this film, you’ll get a scientific examination of the origins of life from author Richard Dawkins.
     
  5. A War on Science: This documentary shows the longstanding battle between proponents of evolution and those of intelligent design.
     
  6. From Butterflies to Humans: Try out this documentary to learn what forces cause animals to evolve and how the process works over time.
     
  7. Ape to Man: Here you’ll find the story of the quest for human origins, one that has already spanned 150 years.
     
  8. Dinosaur Hunters: Secrets of the Gobi Desert: This film brings some of the latest dinosaur finds to life in stunningly realistic animations.
     
  9. The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs: This BBC documentary explores how some of the fiercest dinosaurs lived, ate, got around and more.
     
  10. Dinosaur Planet: Follow along with this documentary as it shows you the story of a young velociraptor named White Tip.
     
  11. Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia: This movie will allow you to see some of the biggest dinosaurs brought to life as well as learn what the most important dinosaur discoveries have been.
     
  12. Origins of Life: Check out this movie to learn more about how scientists think life arose from single-celled organisms.
     

Physics

Even if you don’t know a ton about physics, these great movies will show you how the universe works from the smallest particles to the biggest galaxies.

  1. The Quantum Revolution: Dr. Michio Kaku explores the cutting edge of quantum science in this short documentary.
     
  2. Pythagoras: While not really a physicist, Pythagoras did come up with some of the most important mathematical and philosophical issues, or so we think, as this documentary will show.
     
  3. Cold Fusion: Fire from Water: This documentary offers a chance to learn more about a potentially cleaner and better source of energy.
     
  4. Uncertainty Principle: This short film will explain the history and fundamentals of quantum mechanics.
     
  5. Illusion of Reality: Professor Jim Al-Khalili explores how studying the atom forced us to rethink the nature of reality itself in this engaging documentary.
     
  6. Albert Einstein: Check out this documentary to learn more about this renowned physicist and thinker.
     
  7. The Atom Smashers: This documentary follows researchers at Fermilab as they attempt to find the Higgs-Boson particle.
     
  8. Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything: Learn more about the work of cosmologist Stephen Hawking in this film.
     
  9. The Universe: Beyond the Big Bang: This movie shows how different cultures think the universe began and how it will end, including information from leading scientists.
     
  10. Absolute Zero: Here you’ll follow a team of scientists as they attempt to reach absolute zero.
     

Environment

These documentaries focus on technologies and conservation efforts meant to preserve the environment.

  1. Car of the Future: From hydrogen fuel cells to cars you can plug in, this film takes a look at where the automobile is headed in the next decades.
     
  2. The 11th Hour: This documentary narrated by Leonardo Di Caprio shows the truly perilous state our planet is in.
     
  3. Who Killed the Electric Car?: Plans for electric cars have been around for awhile, and this film examines the reasons why they’ve never come to fruition.
     
  4. Here Comes the Sun: Learn about what a big role solar energy may play in the future of our planet.
     
  5. An Inconvenient Truth: This famous documentary shows the true impact of global warming through a talk given by former Vice President Gore.
     
  6. The Great Global Warming Swindle: This film takes the opposite stance, claiming that global warming is just propaganda, not reality.
     
  7. Global Dimming: Find out more about the phenomenon known as global dimming in this film, as well as the impact it may have on our climate, our planet and, ultimately, us.
     
  8. Darwin’s Nightmare: Take a look at this film to see some of the unexpectedly negative effects of introducing a foreign species into an environment.
     
  9. It Runs on Water: Think things can’t run on water? This 1995 film shows otherwise, with a technology that never came to be.
     
  10. Robinson Crusader: Keith Robinson is fighting to keep his home in Hawaii free from corporate development in this film.
     

Geology

In these movies, you’ll be able to learn about the regions of the world, how Earth’s processes work, and much more.

  1. Africa: The Serengeti: Check out this film to see the world of the Serengeti in detail.
     
  2. Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance: This film will show you just how interconnected the world truly is.
     
  3. Ocean Oasis: In this film you’ll get to take a look at Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and Baja California.
     
  4. Australia: Land Beyond Time: The wilds of Australia seem at first like a pretty inhospitable place, but this film will show you the amazing ways life has found to survive.
     
  5. The Bermuda Triangle: What is it about the Bermuda Triangle that makes it so dangerous to travel through? This film takes a scientific look at the phenomenon.
     
  6. White Sands: White Wilderness: This film gives a detailed account of the plants, animals and geologic formations of New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument.
     
  7. Volcano: Nature’s Inferno: This documentary will let you take a closer look at the volcanoes and the volcanic processes that shape our planet.
     
  8. Hunt for the Supertwister: Follow along with this team of storm chasers as they attempt to find the biggest and baddest tornadoes out there.
     
  9. Crude: The Incredible Journey of Oil: Here you’ll be able to learn where oil comes from and how it gets from there into your car.
     

Space

Explore the solar system and beyond with these great space-focused documentaries.

  1. Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery: Take a look back at some of the awe-inspiring images captured by the Hubble telescope in this film.
     
  2. Supermassive Black Holes: While black holes are still largely mysterious bodies, you can increase your knowledge of them by watching this great documentary.
     
  3. Asteroids: Deadly Impact: Learn what (literal) impact asteroids may have on Earth and what we may be able to do to protect ourselves.
     
  4. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Series: Though made several years ago, this series has stood the test of time and still offers one of the best and most accurate looks at the universe.
     
  5. 3D Sun: This documentary uses stunning 3D images of the sun to explain its history and phenomena.
     
  6. Revealing Mars: Take a look at the Mars orbiter in this film and some of the images of Mars that have been captured.
     
  7. Colonizing Space: This documentary will present some of the plans already in motion to take the first steps into the final frontier.
     
  8. Secrets of the Sun: Learn more about the star central to our own solar system in this film.
     
  9. International Space Station: This film will explain how the space station was built and is maintained and operated.
     
  10. Alien Galaxies: Give this documentary a try to better understand the galaxies that lie elsewhere in the universe.
     
  11. Saturn: Lord of the Rings: This documentary will allow you to learn more about this beautiful and mysterious ringed planet.
     
  12. The Life and Death of a Star: Take a look at how stars form, live, and ultimately die in this great documentary.
     

Technology

These documentaries will help you learn about computers, robots and even the beginnings of electricity.

  1. Nikola Tesla: The Genius Who Lit the World: Check out this film to learn more about the inventions of this man and how they shaped the modern world.
     
  2. Big Brother, Big Business: Learn about the myriad of technologies that watch your every move from this Orwellian documentary.
     
  3. New York City Hackers: This documentary film will introduce you to the first hackers, a group of students from MIT, and what the name originally meant.
     
  4. Building Gods: Watch this film to learn more about the development of AI technology.
     
  5. Welcome to Macintosh: Here you can delve into the history and development of one of the largest technology companies in the world.
     

Nature

Study the natural world and the fauna that calls it home through these free documentaries.

  1. The Ultimate Predators: Here you can watch the life and death battle between predators and their prey first-hand with cameras strapped to the animals themselves.
     
  2. Life After People: Learn what would happen to Earth should the human race somehow become extinct in this interesting hypothetical documentary.
     
  3. The Private Life of Plants: Take a look at the inner world of a variety of plant species in this film.
     
  4. Ants: Nature’s Secret Power: Ants may be tiny, but they are strong and play a valuable role in ecosystems around the world, as this film shows.
     
  5. Cassowaries: Learn more about these giant and little known birds in this informative film.
     
  6. Life in the Freezer: Want to find out more about Antarctica? This film will introduce you to the land and the animals who call it home.
     
  7. Microcosmos: Get tiny and explore the creatures that live all around us, but very often, out of our sight.
     
  8. Africa: Wilds of Madagascar: This film lets you see some of the truly unique and beautiful creatures that call this island nation home.
     
  9. Search for the Great Sharks: Travel the world to learn about the whale shark, the blue shark and the white shark.
     
  10. Whales in Crisis: Whales may be the largest creatures on Earth, but this film shows how they are struggling to survive.
     
  11. The Great Barrier Reef: The Great Barrier Reef is large enough to be seen from space, comprising miles upon miles of complex, beautiful ecosystems, as this film shows.
     
  12. Amazing Journeys: If you thought your last flight was bad, consider the long journeys these migratory animals make each year.
     

Miscellaneous

Watch these films to fill in the gaps in your scientific knowledge.

  1. Dangerous Knowledge: Here you’ll find a great biographical film that addresses some of the eccentric, depressed, and often volatile men who helped foster modern science and mathematics.
     
  2. Earthlings: Gain a greater respect for the creatures and the world around you through this documentary.
     
  3. This Is Coffee: Learn more about the history, biology and social role of coffee through this film.