If sheltering in place means you’ve exhausted all of your go-to streaming services maybe it’s time to switch things up a bit. Wolf movies offer a nice break from the usual fray of content while you’re honoring local stay at home orders.
With interest in nature programming at an all-time high, wolf-based programming is as varied as they come, letting viewers crisscross the globe to learn about this top predator. You can start close to home by exploring the unique cultural relevance of wolves here in our own backyard with Wolves in Wisconsin or maybe you’re looking to peek inside the realm of wolves from afar. The BBC series Seven Worlds, One Planet would be a great option for that.
Whatever strikes your fancy, one thing is for sure, with an internet connection, the world of wolves is literally at your fingertips. With this in mind, I’ve listed my top 11 wolf movies below that are all ready to watch, mostly for free.
This series rarely disappoints. And this episode on the dynamics between predator and prey in Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park is a true gem. Here, filmmaker Jeff Turner gives us a front row seat to life inside the Delta pack. Their home is an 11 million acre park that is five times the size of Yellowstone. Here we get to see the ancient dance for survival between wolves and buffalo play out as it has for centuries.
2. Wolves in Wisconsin – Wisconsin Public Television
This documentary first aired almost a decade ago but the story of the wolves in the state never gets old. Divided into three parts, the program tracks the history of wolves in the region, from their cultural significance to Native Americans, to their extirpation, and finally to their return. In the one hour film the narrator tracks the unique challenges of wolves in Wisconsin. Toward the second half, premiere wolf biologist, David Mech, offers insightful interviews on how the return of wolves is impacting the local communities.
This movie by filmmaker Colin Monda weaves the conflicts and challenges of wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park. While the slew of ranchers, biologists, and park visitors offer perspectives from opposing ends of the spectrum, the film feels cohesive and balanced. Appearances by legendary wolf biologist Doug Smith really make this film standout. His in depth knowledge on wolf recovery is unsurpassed. In addition, interviews with Fish and Game officials and ranchers lend stories that are often untold in the saga of wolf conservation in and around the park.
4. Seven Worlds One Planet – European episode – available on Amazon
The BBC is an icon when it comes to nature documentaries. They are arguably the standard-bearer of what the genre should be – clear, insightful, and breathtaking. This series documents the unique ecosystems and species of each continent. I think the real treat is the European episode. In it a wolf family is filmed hunting throughout the night. This is thrilling because 1) I didn’t know Italy was such a wolf hotspot and 2) because the wolves are living literally in villagers’ backyards. To know that wildlife exist in such a densely populated area is uplifting and inspiring. If they can live here, surely they can live anywhere.
5. Kingdom of the White Wolf – National Geographic / available on Amazon
Another master of wildlife filmmaking, National Geographic offers an intimate portrait of wolves living in the Arctic in this three part series. These wolves are special because their remote location means they are one of the last wolf populations to live mostly free from human persecution. In this series National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan sets out to document the trials and tribulations of a single wolf pack as they eke out a living in this hostile environment.
6. Searching for Coastal Wolves – available on Amazon
Elusive and shy, coastal wolves prove hard to find for field biologist Gudrun Pflüger. It takes her nearly two weeks to locate a pack. But once found, they offer her, and us, a look into their secret world among the conifers in this rugged terrain.
This hour and a half long film follows the life of husband and wife duo Jim and Jaime Dutcher as they live among a pack of wolves in Idaho’s Sawtooth Region. The documentary is filmed over a period of several years, tracking the Dutcher’s own life history. Instead of looking at wolves as vicious villains, the film paints an exquisite picture of kind, nurturing, and caring creatures whose family ties and emotional intelligence rivals our own.
One of the most recent of the features listed, the Yellowstone Facebook Live events aren’t what you would traditionally think of as wolf documentaries, but they are no less informative and entertaining. The series consist of four 30 minute live tapping’s with biologist from the Yellowstone Wolf program. As the name suggest, they are recorded in real time, but fear not if you’ve missed out. The recordings are saved on Yellowstone’s Facebook page. Here, you’ll be able to hear firsthand from wolf experts throughout the wolf program. One of them is Dan San. His knowledge of wolf genetics and morphology is outstanding. I enjoyed listening to him dispel the common myth that the wrong species was reintroduced. This series is a testament to how much easier it is to connect in 2020. A bonus Facebook Live feed to watch for is the Voyageurs Wolf Project’s videos page.
9. Resilience: Story of the American Red Wolf – International Wildlife Film Festival
The iconic image of wolf reintroduction is often that of the gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. But eight years before that, the red wolf reintroduction program in North Carolina was paving the way for this hands-on-approach to species recovery. Once thriving, the current wild red wolf population hovers around 30. This short documentary follows members of the US Fish and Wildlife’s Red Wolf Recovery program as they try to keep this most endangered of wolf species afloat.
10. Takaya: Lone Wolf – International Wildlife Film Festival
Told by Sheryl Alexander, photographer and environmentalist, this documentary traces the remarkable journey of Takaya, a lone wolf that made the islands off of Victoria, on Vancouver Island, his home. Last year, it was hoped that a female wolf in the area would end Takaya’s loneliness. And that’s where this documentary ends, on a hopeful note in 2019. Last month, however, Takaya was killed by a hunter. While Takaya’s end is tragic, his near decade life is one of overcoming the odds and thriving in the unlikeliest of places. As an honorable mention to Takaya’s story, I also recommend Takaya: The Wolf That Waits, available on YouTube.
Narrated by ecologist Chris Morgan, this documentary explores the race to save another unique wolf population in the Southwestern US. Mexican gray wolves were nearly extinct before a team of US Fish and Wildlife biologists started a captive breeding program. This film follows scientists as they work to restore this iconic symbol of the southwest.
These are just a few of my favorites, but there are so many more wolf films and movies that I could have added to this list. There just isn’t enough room for them all. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.