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5 Streaming Documentaries the Whole Family Can Enjoy

With a wide variety of streaming services, there seem to be a plethora of movie options for the family. This is great for family nights, keeping kiddos entertained in the car, quiet Saturday afternoons, and so on. But there are some hidden gems you might not have thought of that can make for excellent family entertainment and education.

Documentaries. Now don't rear back in horror. I know, I know. It seems the list of documentaries on most streaming channels tend toward crime, hauntings, serial killers, prison time, and more. But really, there are a lot of documentaries out there that are not only family-friendly but can captivate the entire family with the beautiful cinematography and interesting content that is not only mind-boggling for some but utterly thrilling for others.

Let's look at a sampling of documentaries available on various streaming services that you can watch right now with your families.

1. Blue Planet II – Rated G – BBC – available on Discovery+

The Blue Planet was a popular documentary years ago, but did you know they made a sequel? They did. With time, of course, comes the expansion of science, technology, and new discoveries. This means updating the Blue Planet was essential, and the BBC did just that. 

Explore the deep of the ocean, and by "deep," we mean deep. You will dive to depths that are rarely, if ever, seen. Take a tour of the intricate ecosystem of the coral reefs—which my kids were astonished to realize are living creatures, not just rocks. Then, for the daring and wild among you, journey into the study of sharp-toothed sharks and the giant whales that dwarf us in their presence.

 A caveat to note, there are evolutionary references interspersed in the documentary. If you're holding fast to a Creationist viewpoint, you will want to be aware and point out these moments to your kids.

2. Weird But True – Rated G – available on Disney+

My family stumbled across this documentary series quite by accident. It was, as a famous artist often said, "a happy little accident." Weird But True is definitely created specifically for the younger mind, and I would say elementary to middle school-aged kids. Although, I can't say that I didn't enjoy it myself.

In this show, you join two young scientists who explore places like the Petrified Forest, dig for dinosaur fossils, and more! They uncover the weird science info, and it's filmed creatively and entertainingly. In fact, it reminded me of the science shows we used to watch in school or on PBS that featured kids not far from our own ages exploring the world around us. 

Again, it is not coming from a Creationist perspective, so "millions of years" and "evolution" are referenced. Overall, it's very educational, very entertaining, and garnered a two-thumbs up from my children.

3. Free Solo – Rated PG – available on Disney+ 

This documentary highlights climber Alex Honnold as he sets out to scale the 3200-foot El Cap in Yosemite with no ropes. Yes. This is free soloing at its finest, and you will catch your breath and hold it until the very end.

You'll journey through the entire process, hearing interviews from fellow climbers, Honnold's girlfriend, and more. You will learn what it means to free solo versus the typical ascent of El Cap using ropes, anchors, and carabiners.

The entire documentary is a lesson in either bravery or sheer idiocy. You can determine which category Honnold falls into as he begins his ascent, which may cost him his life. With a film crew documenting every lunge and hook and grab, this is not a documentary for the faint of heart regarding heights or dare devilish activities. 

It's good to be aware there is a bit of harsh language during some of the interviews, so if you have youngsters, don't be shocked at the occasional four-letter-word; instead, use your parental judgment. This will be a documentary middle school on up will enjoy.

4. Pompeii – Secrets of the Dead ­– Rated PG – available on Disney+

Let's be honest, has the mysterious last moments of the people in Pompeii ever not intrigued us? This documentary takes us into the archaeological world of Pompeii and specifically focuses on the remains of the largest group of volcanic victims. It asks the question, "why didn't they escape?" and it surmises what their last moments may have been based on the study of their final resting forms and the body language therein.

Tastefully done, this documentary is not riddled with terror, even though the reality of the volcanic eruption that decimated the city had to have been horrific. Your family can safely watch this from a purely historical and archaeological perspective without worry that it will dramatize the gory last moments of their lives in Pompeii. 

Kids 10+ will enjoy this documentary, and bonus points for it not being long and drawn out. If you hear "I'm bored," it will simply prove your child doesn't have a fascination for the bits of unknown history, as the producers do all they can to make this an entertaining and family-friendly visit to the ashen graves of Pompeii.

5. Our Planet – Rated PG – available on Netflix

If you haven't taken the time to watch this episodic documentary, you will be thrilled at the cinematography and the unique sights you will see as they explore our planet. There are multiple episodes, and many ecosystems are explored, including the deserts, frozen worlds, jungles, freshwater, forests, and high seas. 

I think what impressed us the most was the vivid and colorful videography and the ability to see places, animals, plants, and even weather that we know we will likely never see with our own eyes. Though coming from an evolutionary perspective, there is no denying the amazing creation splayed on the screen. It is well worth the time for the family to invest in watching this beautiful documentary series.

Perhaps you want to try something new with your family during the remaining weeks of summer and delve into documentaries such as these. In researching, I found that the bulk of the best family-friendly documentaries were on Disney+, with Discovery+ being a good second. Netflix and Hulu both have some documentaries that are all right, but they lean more toward the sensational and crime-filled.

After introducing my children to documentaries, I have been pleased to find them seeking them out on their own. Especially with the protection of kid profiles on many streaming services, you can be assured they won't be accessing the gruesome or the horror and instead can zero in on the historical, the archaeological, the scientific, and the explorative.

Education is important for all ages, and when shared with the family, it can lead to some fabulous discussions on history and even on the differences in the evolutionary/creationist points of view. So pop some popcorn, open the juice boxes, and snuggle in for an evening of exploration! There is always something new to learn and to see, and streaming services make that possible now more than ever.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.



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