The best child-friendly documentary films you can stream

Ben Falk
These are the best documentaries you can watch as a family. (Disney/Netflix)

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You can’t watch Frozen 2 and Harry Potter every day, so how about sticking on one of these non-fiction efforts which will allow you to take a feature-length break while smugly messaging your school parents’ WhatsApp group about the informational titbits your child has learned under your tutelage.

Before the Flood (2016) Disney+

Yes, you have to watch Leonardo DiCaprio being very earnest, but you can’t fault his commitment. And the climate change message is one which all young people need to latch onto (and to be fair, they’re the ones who tend to drive the movement rather than old politicians) – we’re destroying the world and we need to start doing something about it.

Free Solo (2018) Disney+

Those without a head for heights might find themselves almost continually nauseous, but this Oscar-winner about one man’s attempt to climb El Capitan without safety equipment is brilliantly made and proof that free climbers are mad people.

The African Lion (1955) Disney+

Gorgeously rendered in Technicolour, this 65-year-old nature film serves as a reminder of how impressive nature filmmaking can be and why lions have always been cool.

Next Goal Wins (2014) Amazon Prime

A poster for Next Goal Wins. (Icon)

American Samoa are terrible at football, the worst team in the world in fact. We meet the tiny island squad as they attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, even though they can’t stop getting thrashed. A new coach and some new players hope to change all that. Funny, poignant and progressive (the team features a transgender player), it’s so good that Taika Waititi is turning it into a movie starring Michael Fassbender.

The Eagle Huntress (2016) Amazon Prime

Eagle Huntress, Ashol-Pan, center, poses with her father and an eagle to promote the film, "Eagle Huntress" during the Sundance Film Festival, 2016. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Girls just don’t get to be eagle hunters, not if you’re Kazakh. That is, until a 13-year-old called Aisholpan tries her hand at this ancient Mongolian tradition and proves to be very adept at it. With the encouragement of her father, very much against the protestations of the traditionalists who say eagle hunting is not for the ladies, she sets out to compete at the famous Golden Eagle Festival. A truly awesome film – and that’s just the hats.

Puppy Time (2019) Amazon Prime

Let’s face it, this is basically a meme come to life, as one of the pillars of online video’s very existence – that is watching cute animals jump about – gets the dog-umentary treatment (thank you, we’re here all week). Wish we could say there’s more to the story, but there isn’t. And you won’t care.

Apollo 11 (2019) Netflix

Astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins are welcomed aboard the USS Hornet by President Richard Nixon, 1969. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Jaw-dropping footage fuels this behind-the-scenes glimpse into the project that ended with Neil Armstrong becoming the first man on the Moon, including never-before-seen material that will make every youngster who says they want to be astronaut when they grow up study even harder to achieve it.

March of the Penguins 2 (2017) Netflix

A poster for March of the Penguins 2. (Hulu)

The 2005 original won the Best Documentary Oscar and director Luc Jacquet, as well as narrator Morgan Freeman, return for this sequel 12 years later. There are more penguins, more astonishing footage and we dare you not to start shouting at the screen to spur on our intrepid feathered hero.

Ladies First (2017) Netflix

India's Deepika Kumari releases her arrow during an elimination round of the individual archery competition at the Sambadrome venue during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

In a year when the Olympics have been cancelled, this sporting story is guaranteed to remind you how incredible it is being an Olympian. Deepika Kumari grows up in extreme poverty in India, in a culture few transcend, especially if you’re a girl. Through talent and sheer force of will, Deepika gets to represent her country in archery at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s a cathartic and inspirational journey.

All Aboard! The Great Reindeer Migration (2018) BBC iPlayer

Staggering vistas and state-of-the-art camerawork follow these reindeer as they traverse the 160 miles from their winter home to their summer digs where they’ll also give birth to some mini Rudolphs. Shots of weather and beautiful scenery, one of the best ways to wind your children down after a hard day in your kitchen classroom.