The 12 Best Octopus Documentaries (Ranked)

Grab your snorkel. It’s time to see the 8-armed MVP of the sea’s toughest arenas: the octopus!

The best Octopus docs I found explain the octo’s uniquness.

How smart is it (smarter than a cat or dog)? How does it interact with humans (does it recognize people).

How does it hunt (including above water)? How does it defend against a shark? (spoiler: in one case, it RIDES on a shark!).

And how does it procreate (100,000 to 500,000 eggs!).

Below are the 12 best octo docs I found.

Enjoy!

1) My Octopus Teacher (2020)

It’s an underater bromance!

In My Octopus Teacher, Craig Foster takes us on a year-long deep dive with a curious octopus in a South African kelp forest in False Bay, South Africa, near Cape Town.

Initially, this octo is skittish — I guess I’d be too if a giant (Foster) in googles stalked me very day.

That’s right, Foster visits an octo…same octo…every day!

But through trust and snacks of crabs, this octo eventually daps up Foster in an epic interspecies fist bump.

Foster plays with her…even hypnotizes her (I know, I said this was a “bromance” and now I’m saying she’s a she).

But beneath the tranquil tide lurk Great White sharks and human threats to the octo’s home turf.

Clearly, Foster loves animals. He’s seen holding injured squirrels, raccoons, and more on camera.

So these dramatic creature showdowns are intense for Foster.

Some cool things I learned from the doc:

  • An octopus grows to trust a person and interacts with them.
  • If a shark bites an octopus’s arm, the octopus manages to return home and regrow the arm.
  • An octopus’s intelligence compares to that of a house cat or dog. I thought it might be smarter but, still, that’s smart.
  • Once, the octopus escapes a shark by leaving the water for land. Another time, it rode on the shark’s back, jumping off to safety.
  • As a defense, an octopus can gather 100 shells to shield itself from sharks.
  • Craig co-founded the Sea Change Project, committed to preserving kelp forests.

Watch My Octopus Teacher on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81045007 .

2) Natural World: The Octopus in My House (2019)

BBC’s “Natural World: The Octopus in My House” throws a curveball that’s both bizarre and mesmerizing.

Imagine inviting an octopus into your living room – sounds like the setup to a sitcom, right?

But here’s where it gets real: marine biologist David Scheel does just that.

The star of this show is Heidi, the octopus, who’s not just a guest but a member of the family.

She’s solving puzzles, recognizing faces, and even chilling with the fam in front of the TV.

The narrative intertwines David’s first-person account with global octopus antics, from the color-shifting day octopus to the coconut-carrying smarty of the sea.

It’s a globe-trotting adventure, minus the jet lag.

The film is a dive into the psyche of a creature that’s more alien than your average extraterrestrial in sci-fi flicks.

With nine brains and three hearts, Heidi’s not just another pet; she’s a testament to the complexity and wonder of nature.

You’ll find yourself rooting for Heidi, marveling at her intelligence, and maybe, just maybe, questioning the boundaries between human and animal intellect.

In a world where nature often feels distant, “The Octopus in My House” brings it into the living room, making the alien familiar, the strange, endearing.

It’s a story of connection, wonder, and the kind of deep understanding that only comes when we step out of our comfort zones.

So, grab your popcorn (or maybe sushi, for thematic consistency) — but no grilled octopus! — and dive into this underwater saga.

Watch Natural World on Discovery+ (S38.E3) on Daiily Motion at https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7ie2h4. Check https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/natural-world for full streaming options.

3) Animal: Octopus (2021)

Below is the trailer for the entire series (The Octopus episode is Season 1, Episode 4).

Cephalopod Savants Dazzle in Animal’s Octo Odyssey

In Netflix’s nature docuseries Animal, Pedro Pascal lends an understated majesty to the deep-sea saga of these evolutionary marvels.

Directed by Anuschka Schofield, the episode eschews imposed human narratives, simply allowing octopuses’ alien allure to shine.

Pascal’s steady narration matches the hypnotic rippling of octopus limbs, which proves visually stunning in underwater caves and crevices.

He notes their daily battles for survival, needing to snatch at least five crabs daily to nourish their endless appetite. We’re talking life or death claw machine battles.

The kaleidoscopic creatures camouflage and glow, blending into surroundings with chameleon finesse.

We witness an octopus mother vigilantly guarding thousands of eggs like they’re fragile Fabergé treasures.

Rather than box these invertebrates into human motives, the episode takes care to portray the octopus on its own uncanny terms.

Pascal’s subtle reverence lets the animals take center stage, from flashing chromatophores to unearthly linguine-like movement. We’re talking more alien than Alf chowing on a cat sandwich!

Free of hyperbole, Animal is a transfixing glimpse into the uncracked code of an animal existence so different yet so sophisticated.

Watch Animal: Octopus on Netflix (Season 1, Episode 4) at https://www.netflix.com/it-en/title/81145024

4) Octopus: Making Contact (2019)

This 2019 documentary focuses on the bond between Dr. David Scheel and Heidi the octopus.

Dr. Scheel, the marine biologist, is like a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Jacques Cousteau. He’s got Holmes’ keen observational skills and Cousteau’s deep love for marine life.

Watching him interact with Heidi is like seeing Sherlock solve a mystery or Cousteau discovering a new underwater species.

Heidi the octopus? She’s the Marilyn Monroe of the sea – enigmatic, captivating, and full of surprises.

Her intelligence shines through every scene, whether she’s solving puzzles or communicating through color changes. It’s like watching Monroe light up the screen – you can’t take your eyes off her.

The documentary itself is like a Beethoven symphony. It’s beautifully composed, with each moment building on the last, creating a story that’s both emotional and intellectually stimulating.

The doc combines the intrigue of a detective novel with the awe of exploring uncharted territories. It’s a must-watch for anyone who appreciates the magic of nature and the art of storytelling.

Watch Octopus: Making Contact on PBS Nature. It’s Season 38, Episode 1. See full streaming options at https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/nature

5) Jacque Cousteau: Octopus, Octopus (1971)

This episode aired Dec 21, 1971 as Episode 20 of the classic The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.

This Cousteau episode may lack modern filmmaking technology but makes up for it with pioneering spirit.

We join Cousteau’s crew as they dive headfirst into unraveling the mysteries of the legendary eight-armed octopus in the Mediterranean and Pacific.

These suction-cup ballers are straight savage – the giant Pacific octopus spans 20 feet and weighs a whopping 125 pounds!

At first, the octo keeps it elusive like Carmen Sandiego. But soon he’s flashing more bling than Liberace, turning his brown skin reddish, and getting his tentacle freak on to mate with the ladies.

We learn male octos are real Casanovas – they smooch their girls by turning on the charm and flashing their pimped out peepers.

When an octo mama goes on #eggwatch, she’s more protective than Gollum with his “precious”/.

Octo momma safeguards up to 200,000 eggs and spits water on them for oxygen! Even as she starves herself, she attacks the divers like a scuba-diving Karen.

Don’t mess with octo moms!

In clever experiments at the Oceanographic Museum, we discover octos are smarter than anyone realizes.

After training, they can unlock puzzles and learn to avoid electric shocks.

Cousteau reveals the truth – octopuses aren’t devils but misunderstood brainiacs. These aliens of the deep, with three hearts and blue blood, leave your jaw on the seabed!

6) The Nature of Things: Aliens of the Deep Sea (2010)

“The Nature of Things” is a long-running and respected Canadian television series. This doc aired September 23, 2010,

It covers the octo globally from Spain to Vancouver Island to Capri, Italy.

The documentary highlights abilities like camouflage, limb regeneration, and the cephalopods’ alien-like qualities

Watch The Nature of Things: Aliens of the Deep Sea on Fubo. It should be Episode 1 of Season 50 (that’s right, 50 seasons!). Check here for full details: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/the-nature-of-things

7) Nature: The Octopus Show (2000)

“Nature: The Octopus Show,” aired in 2000, provides a detailed look at octopuses. Some things covered are:

  • Intelligence: The documentary highlights the significant intelligence of octopuses, showcasing their problem-solving abilities and adaptability.
  • Camouflage Skills: It explores their advanced camouflage capabilities, demonstrating how octopuses can change color and texture to blend into their surroundings.
  • Hunting Strategies: The show delves into the complex hunting methods of octopuses, illustrating their predatory skills in the ocean.
  • Environmental Adaptation: The documentary covers how octopuses adapt to different marine environments, showcasing their versatility in various ocean habitats.
  • Visuals and Cinematography: The documentary features impressive underwater cinematography (for the year 2000), providing up-close visuals of octopus behavior and habitats.

Watch The Octopus Show for free here: https://archive.org/details/TheOctopusShow

8) The Love Life of the Octopus (1965)

Cool learnings from this doc include:

  • Octopuses have 2000 suction cups – a 60cm octopus can hold 250kg.
  • Octopuses can camouflage themselves by covering their bodies with rocks, sand, shell debris etc.
  • The octopus eye is complex like those of higher animals, with eyelid-like folds.
  • Octopuses reproduce by the male inserting spermatophores (packages of sperm) into the female’s respiratory opening using a specialized tentacle.
  • Octopus eggs take about 3 weeks to develop, going through stages like accelerating growth 1400x normal speed, twisting, heart formation, then hatching explosively within minutes.

Watch The Love Life of the Octopus for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Puwf5sjQ8Jg

9) Extraordinary Octopus Takes to Land to Hunt

This short BBC Earth clip (24 million views on YouTube) is so good I had to include it.

It shows an octopus hunting in Northern Australia.

While Octopuses are marine animals (live and breathe underwater).

At low tide, they are “improsoned” in their rocky pools.

But this octo is the only one adapted to walk on land (using the 100s of suckers on its arms).

It hunts for crabs, going from pool to pool.

Watch it eat a crab — just amazing!

Watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebeNeQFUMa0&pp=ygUpbmV0ZmxpeCBhbmltYWwgZG9jdXNlcmllcyBvY3RvcHVzIGVwaXNvZGU%3D

10) Deadly 60: Australia, Part 1 (2012)

The “Deadly 60” series, hosted by Steve Backshall, is known for its adventurous and informative approach, bringing viewers face-to-face with some of the world’s most dangerous animals.

This 2012 episode has some coverage of the blue-ringed octopus found in Sydney.

Highlights:

  • Highly Venomous: The blue-ringed octopus is known for its potent venom, which is highly toxic and can be lethal to humans.
  • Distinctive Appearance: The episode highlights the octopus’s distinctive blue rings that become more prominent and vibrant when it feels threatened.
  • Small Size: Despite its dangerous nature, the blue-ringed octopus is relatively small, fitting comfortably in the palm of a hand.
  • Habitat and Behavior: The documentary explores its natural habitat around Sydney’s coastal waters and its behaviors, including hunting and camouflage.
  • Risk to Humans: The episode discusses the risks associated with the blue-ringed octopus, emphasizing the importance of caution when encountering them in the wild.

Deadly 60 streams on BBC but not in the U.S. right now. Check https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/deadly-60 for the latest.

11) The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012)

“Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus” unravels the story of the world’s most enigmatic cephalopod.

Paul, an octopus whose spot-on predictions in the 2010 Football (Soccer for us Americans) World Cup rocketed him to fame, remains an enigma.

Was he a true 21st-century oracle or just a clever illusion? This debate still simmers.

The doc delves into our fascination with the improbable, how Paul’s perfect guesses influenced us, sparked dreams, and rippled through pop culture.

“The Life and Times of Paul the Octopus” is not streaming anywhere right now. The closest thing I could find is this William Shatner video. The first part of it covers Paul the Octopus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXSbcfJIZk8

12) The Octopus (1928)

“The Octopus” (La Pieuvre), a 1928 silent documentary by Jean Painlevé, presents a captivating short film of 13 minutes.

This French production intriguingly captures an octopus’s journey from land to sea.

You see close-up visuals of the octopus interacting with various objects on land, including a doll and a skull, before it gracefully moves to the shoreline and into the ocean depths.

This doc offers an early glimpse into underwater life, focusing on the everyday activities of an octopus like swimming, feeding, and the cycle of life and death.

It showcases the octopus in its natural habitat, highlighting its movements, ink secretion, and breathing process. This

For the version of the doc above, someone added eerie background music from https://badtracking.bandcamp.com/. Parts of the doc (the skull scene) feels like a horror film

Watch The Octopus for free by clicking the video above or going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QeknT_BcwA.

It’s also on Criterion Channel at https://www.criterionchannel.com/the-octopus-1.

Check out https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/the-octopus for more options.

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly