Best documentaries 2023: 12 science documentaries from Netflix, BBC, Apple and more


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Michael J. Fox in Still, his documentary about living with Parkinson’s disease

Wild Isles (BBC iPlayer)

This big-budget series from David Attenborough and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit takes a closer look at the flora and fauna of the UK and Ireland. Warring capercaillie and the sex lives of ash-black slugs are two highlights.

Take Care of Maya (Netflix)

In 2016, 10-year-old Maya Kowalski was admitted to hospital with severe pain. The tragedy that ensued lays bare the failings of a US hospital.

Earth (BBC iPlayer)

Each episode of Earth delves deep into the history of our planet, from the worst-ever mass extinction to the rise of humans, and is replete with cutting-edge scientific research.

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A still from Earth of an 8-metre tall fungus, Prototaxities, that towered over plants 430 million years ago.

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Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)

Michael J. Fox, best known as the star of the Back to the Future films, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at just 29 years old. His documentary about living with the condition is moving but never mawkish.

The Secret Genius of Modern Life (BBC iPlayer)

Mathematician Hannah Fry presents this addictively interesting series, which returned in 2023 to teach us all about the innovations underpinning everyday life, from passports to vacuum cleaners.

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Hannah Fry in her “addictively interesting “The Secret Genius of Modern Life”

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Emergency NYC (Netflix)

It can be difficult to look the world of emergency medicine straight in the eye, but this unflinching documentary about New York’s frontline healthcare workers is must-see viewing.

Prehistoric Planet II (Apple TV+)

Another entry from David Attenborough, this beautifully animated series explores the weirder, wilder side of dinosaurs and their contemporaries. With its emphasis on recreating the feel of a classic nature documentary, you will feel like you are really inhabiting the prehistoric world.

Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food (Netflix)

Foodborne illnesses affect 48 million people in the US every year. This documentary takes aim at the industries fuelling these outbreaks, with shocking revelations.

Is There Anybody Out There? (BFI Player)

Ella Glendining, who was born with no hip joints and short femurs, had never met anyone with the same rare condition she has. The community she finds throws the discrimination she faces elsewhere in life into sharp relief.

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Ella Glendining in the documentary Is There Anybody Out There?

Our Planet II (Netflix) 

When it comes to mainstream nature documentaries, too few are bold enough to explicitly connect Earth’s natural beauty to the threats it faces from climate change. Our Planet II is a refreshing deviation.

The Color of Space (NASA+ and YouTube)

Only one episode of The Color of Space, NASA’s seven-part series about Black astronauts at the agency, has been released, but it is already a highlight of the new streaming service NASA+. Episode one is about Charlie Bolden, who became NASA’s first Black administrator.

Unknown (Netflix)

This eclectic four-part series tackles drone warfare, the James Webb Space Telescope, Homo naledi and an ancient necropolis – perfect for mystery fans who are seeking variety.


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