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Best Wilderness Films

author
Elaine Sutton
• Thursday, 21 January, 2021
• 7 min read

Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it's dammed and turned into a lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Wedlock takes his friends on a canoeing trip they'll never forget into the dangerous American back-country. After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

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Contents

Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life. A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

A FedEx executive undergoes a physical and emotional transformation after crash landing on a deserted island. The true story of two climbers and their perilous journey up the west face of Shula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face. A government researcher, sent to research the “menace” of wolves in the north, learns about the true beneficial and positive nature of the species.

Legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl's epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947, in an effort to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery.

While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger. A U.S. fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

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Siberian gulag escapees travel four thousand miles by foot to freedom in India. A chronicle of one woman's one thousand one hundred mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.

A group of friends joins a guide for a trek into the Bolivian jungle, searching for an Indian village. The men soon realize that the jungle is a difficult place to be.

A pilot and his passenger struggle for survival after crashing in the Arctic tundra. Martin Steel attempts to cover 3,375 miles of the Amazon River, the longest continuous swim in history.

The incredible story of amateur sailor Donald Crowbars and his solo attempt to circumnavigate the globe. The struggles he confronted on the journey while his family awaited his return is one of the most enduring mysteries of recent times.

A Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash. At the end of WW2, a German POW doing hard labor in the Soviet Gulag escapes from his Siberian camp to return to Germany, but he's pursued by a Soviet NKVD officer.

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Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness.

During a routine exercise, a team of National Guards are threatened by angry and violent locals. The story of New Zealand's Robert “Rob” Edwin Hall, who on May 10, 1996, together with Scott Fischer, teamed up on a joint expedition to ascend Mount Everest.

After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled huntsman to survival, but a pack of merciless wolves haunts their every step. If you close eyes on few things the movie can be enjoyable.

Based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark infested waters after their tour boat has left. An intellectual billionaire and two other men struggle to band together and survive after getting stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with a blood-thirsty Kodiak Bear hunting them down.

Norway, WWII: A group of British and German soldiers find themselves stranded in the wilderness after an aircraft battle. Finding shelter in the same cabin, they realize the only way to survive the winter is to place the rules of war aside.

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Based on the real-life event, when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days. A devastating and heart-rending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Tread well and Amie Huguenot, who were killed in October 2003 while living among grizzly bears in Alaska.

A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while cannoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. An urban couple go camping in the woods and find themselves lost in the territory of a predatory black bear.

A WWII pilot, bombardier, and radioman find themselves adrift on a lifeboat without food or water after being forced to ditch their plane during a scouting mission. A true story of survival, as a young couple's chance encounter leads them first to love, and then on the adventure of a lifetime as they face one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history.

The story of the deadliest day on the world's most dangerous mountain, when 11 climbers mysteriously perished on K2. The place is a polar research station on an island in the Arctic Ocean, inhabited now only by Sergei and Pavel.

One day when Sergei is out angling, Pavel picks up a radio message that he darn't communicate. A father and his thirteen-year-old daughter are living an ideal existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon when a small mistake derails their lives forever.

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A young woman goes on a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and her faithful dog. For those looking for a source of inspiration, a heartfelt story, or an escape from daily life, the following films may provide you with a bit of proverbial shelter from the storm that has been the year 2020.

But that doesn’t stop Chest Ripley (Candy) and Roman Craig (Abroad) from having their fair share of mischief and fun while the family tags along on a summer vacation in Wisconsin. A simple plot centered around campfire ghost stories about man-eating grizzly bears, enduring wild and crazy water-ski rides, and exploring abandoned mines filled with dynamite offers a distinct divergence from all other films on the list, but grants enough laughs to be a guaranteed night of fun for the entire family.

The story begins with President Theodore Roosevelt’s serendipitous three-day trip through the Yosemite wilderness of California alongside revered mountaineer and naturalist John Muir. By the end of his presidency, Roosevelt had established federal protections on over 230 million acres of land across the country and provided Americans with the ability to enjoy the outdoors for the next century and, hopefully, years to come.

Most important, the film conveys why the continued preservation of our most majestic nature sanctuaries is essential and how they can play a fundamental role in all our lives. For those readers grappling with whether to take a leap of faith toward an epic outdoor adventure of self-discovery, I highly encourage you to watch and be inspired by the 2014 film Wild.

The biographical adventure focuses on the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Witherspoon), a 22-year-old woman from Minnesota whose life turns into shambles after the sudden death of her mother, Bobbi Grey (Dean), from cancer. Her tragic loss becomes the catalyst for Cheryl’s descent into a downward spiral of self-destruction, eventually wrecking her marriage to Paul (Satoshi) and the promising future she once possessed.

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The awe-inspiring flick chronicles Proneness’s first year in the wilderness, showing everything from his day-to-day hunting adventures, planting and gathering food, demonstrations of bush craft skills, and how he built his off-the-grid cabin. Those interested in taking the road less traveled and who desire a self-sufficient, off-the-grid lifestyle will thoroughly enjoy the determination and ingenuity of one of modern history’s greatest outdoors men and conservationists.

Into the Wild is an adaptation of Jon Kramer’s nonfiction bestseller detailing the account of Christopher McCandless (Hirsch), a young man who became disillusioned with modern society. After disavowing a traditional lifestyle upon graduating from Emory University, McCandless donates his possessions and life savings and begins to hitchhike across the United States in pursuit of something greater than himself.

After a series of mishaps on his voyage through California, Arizona, and all the way up to South Dakota, McCandless winds up on the fringes of Alaska’s Denali National Park two years after his journey began. With minimal equipment and survival gear, McCandless is bullishly optimistic about his ability to thrive and coexist peacefully in one of the most beautiful but treacherous natural environments on earth.

Unfortunately, McCandless’ optimism is quickly vanquished after he realizes how hard it is to live in isolation, and his story turns into a dreadful struggle for survival. While the film’s ending will undoubtedly tug on your heartstrings, it’s beneficial in providing viewers with a cautionary tale of trekking into mysterious elements without proper knowledge, training, or experience.

The film focuses strongly on the personalities of and relationship between brothers Norman (Shaffer) and Paul (Pitt), alongside their father, John (Merritt), a Presbyterian minister. As the years go by the brothers drift apart, with Norman finding meaning in life through his educational endeavors, while Paul’s determination and grit as a muckraker bring him heaps of trouble.

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Eventually Norman comes back home to Missoula after college and attempts to understand his brother’s divergent path and way of life through their childhood bond of fly-fishing. The ’70s-era film follows the chronicle of real-life Mexican War veteran John “Liver-Eating” Johnson, whose outdoor escapades forever etched him in American history as one of the Old West’s most revered and legendary mountain men.

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