Did you know seeing animals in the wild can boost your mood and lower stress? The challenge, of course, is that we don’t all have access to conservation sites and reservoirs—and though seeing a deer on our morning run is pretty magical, actively seeking out large animals in their wild habitats is unethical and often unsafe.
Enter animal movies, which allow us to learn more about incredible creatures while sprawled on our own adapted habitat: the couch. Here are the favorite animal movies of the Wild Elements team. Got your own? DM us and let us know what to screen during our next movie night.
An orphaned cub creates his own family in this French classic shot in the mountains of Italy and Austria. With long shots featuring the natural habitats of the forest, The Bear captures the heartbreak of nature thrown off-balance, along with the beauty that comes with protecting all creatures.
THE EAGLE HUNTRESS
Get a rare view of the Kazakhstan wilderness in this female-focused documentary, which follows 13-year-old Aisholplan as she becomes the first girl “Eagle Hunter”—a traditional tribeswoman who trains and protects her territory’s birds of prey—in remote Mongolia.
THE ELEPHANT QUEEN
After 4 years filming elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble created this intimate look at a herd matriarch named Athena, who must guide her community on a 200-mile trek to a life-saving watering hole. With incredible access to elephants—plus the frogs, turtles, lizards, and snakes that occupy their ecosystem—this movie shows the bravery and natural problem-solving skills of Africa’s largest mammals.
FINDING NEMO and FINDING DORY
The Pixar classics are like (vegan) ice cream sundaes for the soul, and their mix of goofy character moments and lifelike oceanography backgrounds—plus themes of wildlife captivity, reef ecosystems, and ocean regeneration—makes it more than just a beloved kids’ movie. (Hot take: the whale scene is even better than the turtles.)
Fans of My Octopus Teacher should tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s award-winning YouTube channel, which features close encounters with octopods, fascinating facts from marine biologists, and some very good ocean jokes. (Trust us, we were surprised, too…)
Can making space for a bird cure a broken heart? This delicate drama endeavors to find out. It stars Melissa McCarthy as a grieving mother who becomes obsessed, and then amazed, by a stubborn starling trying to make a nest on her front porch.
Join the Maori people of New Zealand and they resurrect an ancient ritual of “whale riding”—literally initiating a new tribal leader by riding a Southern Wright Whale—but this time with a teen girl paying tribute to the ocean.
WILD HORSE, WILD RIDE
Due to ongoing draughts, the wild mustang population of the American Southwest often grows too big for its water supply. Wild Horse, Wild Ride spotlights the horse lovers who rehabilitate and train distressed horses nationwide, with jaw-dropping results.
“Wild wonder” is real in this awe-inspiring documentary set in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe, and featuring brown bears in their natural habitat. With compassion and knowledge, documentarian Tom Barton-Humphreys gets close to these apex predators and their ecosystems without disturbing their natural habitat, and the footage is epic.
Our favorite animated film of 2021 is Wolfwalkers, which follows a Celtic demi-goddess and a stubborn Irish peasant girl as they team up to proctect their country’s forests and wolves against an arrogant colonial invasion. With songs by Florence Welch, Wolfwalkers is part folktale, part nature parable, and a brand new take on the cartoon princess genre.