David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

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David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
David attenborough a life on our planet.jpg
Film poster
GenreNature documentary
Narrated byDavid Attenborough
ComposerSteven Price
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
ProducerJonnie Hughes
CinematographyGavin Thurston
EditorMartin Elsbury
Running time83 min
Production companies
Original networkNetflix
Picture formatUHDTV 2160p
Original release4 October 2020 (2020-10-04)
Preceded byLife in Cold Blood

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is a 2020 British documentary film[1] narrated by David Attenborough and produced and directed by Jonnie Hughes.[2] The film acts as a "witness statement",[3] through which Attenborough shares first-hand his concern for the current state of the planet due to humanity's impact on nature and his hopes for the future.[4] It was released on Netflix on 4 October 2020,[5] along with a companion book A Life on Our Planet.[6]


From Pripyat, a deserted area after the nuclear disaster, Attenborough gives an overview of his life. Interspersed with footage of his career and of a wide variety of ecosystems, he narrates key moments in his career and indicators of how the planet has changed since he was born in 1926. As a child, Attenborough enjoyed studying fossils. His documentary career began in the 1950s when he began working for the BBC, a British public service broadcaster. He visited places such as the African Serengeti, in which native animals require vast areas of land to maintain grazing patterns. Over time, he noticed a decline in wildlife when searching for fish or orangutans in Borneo or other animals which he was looking for as part of his documentaries. Areas of the Arctic or Antarctic were different to what the filming crew expected due to ice caps melting. The causes are anthropogenic climate change and biodiversity loss pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction event over a period of centuries rather than the hundreds of millennia that built up to previous mass extinctions.

Attenborough describes the film as his "witness statement" and gives an impression of what could happen to the planet over the course of a lifetime beginning in 2020 and lasting as long as his own, were human activity to continue unchanged. The Amazon rainforest could degrade into a savanna; the Arctic could lose all ice during summer; coral reefs could die; soil overuse could cause food crises. These irreversible events would cause mass extinction and exacerbate climate change further.

However, Attenborough describes actions which could prevent these effects and combat climate change and biodiversity loss. He asserts that the solution has been "staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we've removed." He proposes re-wilding; moreover, he says that bringing countries out of poverty, providing universal healthcare and improving girls' education would make the growing human population stabilise sooner and at a lower level. Renewable energy such as solar, wind, water and geothermal could sustainably power all human energy usage. Protecting a third of coastal areas from fishing could allow fish populations to thrive and the remaining area would be sufficient for human consumption. Humans changing their diet to eliminate or reduce meat in favour of plant-based foods could allow land to be used far more efficiently. Attenborough cites government intervention in Costa Rica causing deforestation to reverse, Palau's fishing regulations and improved use of land in the Netherlands as good examples.


Initially scheduled for cinematic release on 16 April 2020, the film was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7][8] The film premiered on 28 September 2020 in cinemas and debuted on the online streaming platform Netflix on 4 October.[8][9] The day prior, a promotional video was released showing Attenborough answer questions from celebrities.[10]

A companion book, A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, was released in October 2020.[6][11]


The film received positive critical reception. Patrick Cremona of Radio Times gave it five out of five stars, finding it "quite unlike" Attenborough's previous works and lauding its "blending" of a "terrifying condemnation" of humans' treatment of the natural world, and a "hopeful and inspirational manifesto" of how to address the climate crisis.[12] Rating it four out of five stars, Ed Potton of The Times approved of the depiction of animals and Attenborough's "intimacy" and "authority" in his narration, but suggested that more of Attenborough's personal life could have been shown.[9] Emma Clarke of the Evening Standard called the film "an essential watch".[8] Natalia Winkelman of The New York Times praised the "astonishing nature photography" and juxtaposition between thriving and dying ecosystems.[3]


In 2021, the film was nominated for five Emmy Awards.[13]

Awards and nominations received by A Life On Our Planet
Year Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2021 BAFTA Film Awards Best Documentary Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes & Keith Scholey Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program Gavin Thurston Won [13]
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program Charles Dyer and Martin Elsbury Nominated
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Paul Ackerman, Gareth Cousins, Kate Hopkins, Tom Mercer and Tim Owens Nominated
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Graham Wild Won
Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Steven Price Won
British Documentary Awards (Griersons) Best Single Documentary Jonnie Hughes, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey & Colin Butfield Won
Best Natural History or Environmental Documentary Jonnie Hughes, Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey & Colin Butfield Nominated
PGA Awards Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Jonnie Hughes Nominated
Televisiual Bulldog Awards Best Specialist Factual Silverback Films & WWF Won
Best in Show Silverback Films & WWF Won
ASCAP Filme and Television Music Awards Documentary Score of the Year Steven Price Nominated
Cinema Audio Society USA Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures - Documentary Graham Wild, Gareth Cousins Nominated
Pongo Environmental Awards Environmental Award Jonnie Hughes & Silverback Films Won
International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA) Best Original Score for a Documentary Steven Price Won
Online Film & Television Association Best Cinematography in a Variety, Sketch, Nonfiction, or Reality Program David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet Won
Best Sound Mixing in a Non-Serial Program David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet Nominated
Best Sound Editing in a Non-Serial Program David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet Nominated
Society of Composers and Lyricists Awards Outstanding Original Score for an Independent Film Steven Price Nominated
2020 Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards Best Documentary David Attenborough A Life on Our Planet Won
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Best Narration David Attenborough Won


  1. ^ "David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet". David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  2. ^ "David Attenborough – A Life On Our Planet". WWF. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  3. ^ a b Winkelman, Natalia (4 October 2020). "'David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet' Review: Ruin and Regrowth". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Everything you need to know about Netflix's A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  5. ^ "David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b Bradley, James (6 November 2020). "Faced with catastrophe, David Attenborough and Tim Flannery search for a cure". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  7. ^ "When is David Attenborough's new film A Life On Our Planet released?". Radio Times.
  8. ^ a b c "David Attenborough's A Life On Our Planet leaves viewers in tears as Netflix doc reveals devastation of natural world". Evening Standard.
  9. ^ a b "David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet review — a pre-emptive eulogy for the Earth". The Times.
  10. ^ "Game of Thrones and Sex Education stars quiz David Attenborough on his new Netflix documentary. Digital Spy.
  11. ^ Haysom, Sam (28 May 2020). "David Attenborough's new book and Netflix film tackles climate crisis with a 'vision for the future'". Mashable. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  12. ^ "David Attenborough delivers poignant mission statement in powerful Netflix doc A Life on Our Planet". Radio Times.
  13. ^ a b "David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 13 July 2021.

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