Big cats have been the subject of a huge amount of documentary films over the years. They are without a doubt one of the most popular subjects in nature docos. Whether it be programs specifically created about these top of the food chain predators, or unique footage as part of a more broad wildlife documentary; big cats have been heavily researched and featured in nature films for decades, and that is still continuing today.
It’s easy to see why: they are spectacular to look at, fascinating in their habits, powerful, mysterious and well.. how can you not be fascinated by them?
Whilst big cats often feature in films that aren’t specifically about them (eg Planet Earth etc), this list contains films that are specifically about lions, leopards, tigers, jaguars and other big cats.
Our guide to the very best big cat documentaries is updated regularly. We also strive to find lesser known documentary films on big cats so you don’t miss out on anything.
Big Cat Diary
The classic big cat series from BBC which gained a huge following. Set in the Masai Mara in Kenya, viewers got to know individual lions, leopards and cheetahs on a personal basis with popular presenters spending weeks monitoring and filming prides and family groups. View one of the most memorable scenes from this remarkable series:
Big Cat Diary is available on Amazon Video
Tiger: Spy in the Jungle
The BBC “Spy” series was hugely successful and popular as it gave a whole new view of some of the species that have been well covered in previous documentaries.
Thankfully they chose to make a special film dedicated specifically to tigers in this series, with spectacular results and views of this big cat like we’d never seen before.
Including a wild tiger cub in the den, which would be difficult to record using normal camera techniques.
Using the Spycam however brought this rare footage into living rooms in a very special way.
This film can be bought as part of the BBC Wildlife Specials Spy collection
Eye of the Leopard
Another beautiful film by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Eye of the Leopard is one of those documentaries that is so mesmerizing and special that you’ll be thinking about it long after you’ve watched it. And you’ll want to come back to it again and again.
This pair of extraordinary filmmakers bring something special to every film they’ve created, and Eye of the Leopard is arguably their best.
Don’t miss this one.
There is also a stunning book that accompanies this film. Beverly Joubert is a world renowned photographer and her images of leopards and all African wildlife will take your breath away. Check out the Eye of the Leopard book at Amazon.
Hunt for the Shadow Cat
This National Geographic focuses on one of the least filmed and difficult to track big cats – the jaguar.
You get a good idea throughout the film at just how difficult it is even for the foremost Jaguar experts and scientists to track and locate these spectacular cats in the dense jungles and swamps in Belize and Brazil.
But it’s their elusiveness that’s one of the things that makes them so fascinating.
It’s human nature to love a challenge, and the thrill of the chase in just finding the jaguars is something you quickly become immersed in throughout this documentary.
The excitement of catching sight of one in the wild is palpable, and it’s something most of us are unlikely to ever have the fortune to do in real life.
You’ll learn a lot about the biology and behavior of Jaguars in this Nat Geo film as you follow along with the scientists who are undertaking important research into a species that, like so many others in South America, are increasingly under threat from habitat loss and other factors.
The Last Lions
PBS Nature – Big Cats
PBS only ever publish top quality nature films and these are no exception, with each of these films a part of the highly respected and loved PBS Nature series of nature and wildlife documentaries.
Lions, leopards and tigers are featured throughout the four films in this collection.
Other big cat documenaries:
Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth
Lions spy in the den
Wild Lion Army: Battle to Survive
Lions Behaving Badly
Cheetah: The deadly race
In search of the Jaguar