Mick Jackson, 1978

Watch on YouTube

If you’ve been around the scientific side of YouTube, or the internet in general, you’ve probably seen the below clip, dubbed “the most perfectly timed shot in the history of television.” Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that it perfectly showcases the main secret of this BBC series’ lasting popularity: the unbridled passion for science exhibited by the host James Burke

Over the course of the original 10 episodes, the viewer is taken on a journey through all of human history to discover the complicated web of inventions that has formed our modern civilization.

What connects plastics and 16th-century Dutch shipbuilding techniques? How has climate affected our concept of privacy? And how did the first thermos lead to human spaceflight?

These are the kinds of questions that, unbelievably, have concrete answers.

Even 45 years since its release, Connections continues to astound viewers. Its staying power and influence on the genre are undeniable – so much so that a new, fourth series has actually just been released earlier this month!

Fantastic Fungi

Louie Schwartzberg, 2019

Streaming options

Mushrooms are not just something that Russians really love picking – they are also members of a biological kingdom that is quite unlike anything else on our planet. In this documentary, a cast of mycologists, writers, psychologists, and others dig into the nature of fungi, their critical role in supporting life on Earth, and even what us humans can learn from these symbiotic, resilient organisms.

While you can choose to watch the film at your own convenience, we strongly recommend paying a visit to ITMO’s Art & Science Center, where a new mushroom-themed program launches on November 22 and ends on December 17, 2023. That includes a screening of Fantastic Fungi in English, followed by a Q&A with experts in cell biology and environmental science. The exact date of the screening will be announced in the near future on the center’s social media.

Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds

Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer, 2020

Watch on Apple TV+

In one of his most recent science documentaries, the iconic German filmmaker (Herzog) is rejoined by a frequent collaborator (Oppenheimer) to once again ponder the secrets of the universe. Having explored the South Pole and volcanoes, they now set their sights to the sky – examining the impact (pun intended) of meteorites on culture, religion, and life in general.

Fireball is, as one would expect from a Werner Herzog film, a deeply philosophical, curious, and heartfelt look at not just meteorites themselves, but the human condition, the stories we tell, and our place in the cosmos.

Spaceship Earth

Matt Wolf, 2020

Streaming options

In 1991, eight people entered a farm-sized replica of “Earth," complete with actual jungles, deserts, and forests, to spend two years within the enclosed system as part of an experiment on human cohabitation in a space colony. 30 years later, participants of the project look back on the many twists and turns that followed – both inside and outside the notorious Biosphere 2.

Spaceship Earth is a fascinating, and at times heartwarming, story about group psychology, aspirations, and the spirit of exploration.

For more watchlist recommendations, check out our list of underrated films about scientists and the best pop-sci movies and series worth seeing.