5 Documentary Series About Disasters Around The World

Sometimes we can become fascinated by the mistakes and atrocities of the past. This article lists several shows that document known and unknown disasters.

Disaster is something that can be fascinating, whether for education or to simply watch what had taken place in the past. There are a number of shows out there that showcase a variety of disasters. Some shows are short-lived but still interesting to watch. Disasters are part of our lives and our history, watching shows on what has happened can help us to learn about the future. It is also entertaining to see how each show goes about detailing each disaster. 

1. Mayday Air Crash Investigation

image by NTSBgov

This series has been popular for quite some time. It has already reached its 20th season. Though, each season has a varying amount of episodes, ranging from only two to almost thirty depending on the season. 

It was originally known as Mayday and is Canadian-made. The show is examining numerous air crashes, near-crashes, hijackings, bombings, and other aircraft-related disasters. Mayday uses re-enactments and computer-generated imagery to reconstruct the sequence of events leading up to each disaster. There are a number of people interviewed for each episode such as survivors, aviation experts, retired pilots, and crash investigators are interviewed. They help to explain how the disasters and near-disasters came about, how they were investigated, the survival in some cases and the grief felt in others and how they might have been prevented.

The acting in the dramatic reenactments is quite good and seems very real. As of June 6, 2021, there are 21 seasons with varying amounts of episodes in each. 

2. Seconds from Disaster

seconds from disaster
seconds from disaster

Another series based on several natural and man-made disasters. Each episode details the disaster, and interviews witnesses, survivors, and experts. Then the episode details nearly second by second what caused the disaster. It is recreated using CGI. There is very little acting involved with this series, instead of having a focus on the engineering and/or psychology behind the disasters. 

Produced and created by a combined Americana and British team, there are seven seasons of this show that aired from 2004 until 2018. 

3. Forensic Files

Forensic files
forensic files

Each episode showcases a point in which forensic history was made. Police continue to utilize various forms of forensic science to solve crimes. This series reviews and reenacts dramatic cases worldwide in which forensic scientists find and examine previously undetectable evidence. It is shown that through their hard work, criminals are brought to justice and the innocent are set free. 

This is a show that went on originally for fourteen seasons with a sole narrator, Peter Thomas. That series ran from 1996 until 2011. This run of the series balanced out the science and the acting in each episode. 

Then the series got a reboot of sorts in 2020 titled Forensic Files 2. This iteration of the series chose to focus more on science and forensics and has very minimal acting. 

4. Zero Hour

Zero Hour
Photo Credit: IMBD

These episodes reenact several man-made disasters. Its first episode showcases the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, which was filmed at the surviving locations at Chernobyl.

This show can be rather intense and can be highly sensitive with violence accurately depicted and a high amount of swearing depending on which disaster is reenacted. The episode depicting the mass shooting at Columbine High School has two versions as one was deemed too inappropriate for some networks. 

The series has a way of creating the sensation that you are in the middle of the action. This show has a lot of mature content based on the amount of violence and gore it will show.

A Canadian/British style narrative and production, the series only showed three short seasons but each episode is detailed in its report and reenactments.

5. Disasters of the Century

The show is produced and created by Regina, Saskatchewan-based Partners in Motion. Each episode documents two different disasters from Canada and around the world, using a mixture of re-enactments, photographs, and interviews with survivors and family members of victims.

This series is offered in two formats: 65 half-hour episodes and 42 hour-long episodes. As a result, to make the 42 hour-long episodes, 19 of the half-hour shows are used twice. Each episode depicts various natural disasters, most of which take place in Canada prior to the 21rst century. 

It aired from 2002 until 2005. Bad Day HQ on YouTube uploads a number of episodes from the series. 

Even with the world in its current pandemic state, we find many of these documentary series intriguing and they can serve to educate us. There are always more series to be found, these are just the ones I enjoy watching. 

An avid writer, who likes to write in many different styles. Right now Ronnie goes by they/them pronouns and identify as Two-Spirit.

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