Best Wilderness Movies Of All Time

Bob Roberts
• Friday, 30 October, 2020
• 10 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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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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Robert Redford earned tons of acclaim for his solo, nearly silent performance in this movie. He plays a sailor who, after his boat collides with a shipping container, is lost at sea with no communication or GPS equipment.

Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut who's almost entirely on her own and must figure out how to return to Earth safely after her shuttle is destroyed by space debris. This movie has elements of a throwback adventure film: A crew led by a Norwegian explorer in 1947 tries to sail the Pacific on a light, balsa-wood raft in order to prove that ancient people from South America could have done the same.

And while that sounds like a fantastical premise, it's based on a true story, and the raft is still on display in a museum in Oslo. This movie, from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, recounts the harrowing true-life story of outdoor enthusiast Aron Alston.

When hiking alone through Utah's caverns, Alston was pinned under a boulder, and he has to figure out how to stay alive while unable to move. Will Smith plays a virologist living on his own in New York City; after a virus that was supposed to cure cancer gets out and wipes out most mankind, he has to endure the isolation and dodge the vampire-like mutants that the disease created.

Tom Hanks shucks off his nice-guy persona when he plays a FedEx employee whose plane crashes, leaving him deserted on an uninhabited island. Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins star in a film about two men who survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness.

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They have to survive the cold, the wild animals, and the suspicion that one of the men slept with the other's wife and deserves a comeuppance. This movie tells the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed high in the Andes mountains, and the extraordinary (and sometimes disgusting) lengths they had to endure to survive.

After the direction the rest of the franchise took, it's easy to forget that the first Rambo movie isn't a big, shoot-'em-up action film. Instead, it's the story of John Rambo, a highly trained and troubled veteran who has to survive an unexpected run-in with law enforcement.

In this one, two young people, played by Brooke Shields and Richard Atkins, are shipwrecked and left alone on a deserted island. The movie that made “Dueling Banjos” iconic, Deliverance tells the tale of inexperienced campers who wind up in a struggle against nature and a band of backwoods locals who are out to get them.

Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox play the campers. Based on the lit-class-staple novel by William Golding, Lord of the Flies follows a group of schoolboys who are marooned on an island, without rules or society to keep them in line.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. One of the more compelling sub-categories of the action-drama genre is the survival movie; films that examine human beings torn from civilization and forced to keep moving forward in dire, extraordinary circumstances.

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Still, the concept allows filmmakers to explore interesting philosophical ideas that don’t often arise in typical action movies. Seeing characters go to such extreme lengths to stay alive naturally lends itself to an exploration of what, exactly, they are surviving for.

The Grey is one of the most relentlessly bleak films on the list, but it’s not just an action movie; it features deep philosophical themes about humanity, spirituality, and why life is worth living. At the beginning of the film, Ottawa is contemplating suicide, but when he and the crew crash-land in the middle of wolf territory, they must band together and act to survive.

Each of the crew reacts to their dire circumstances differently, allowing the film to explore the human condition and the way survival instincts manifest. The novel had been regarded as “unfindable” due to its wild subject and symbolic content, but the adaptation was widely lauded for its technical achievements and faithfulness to the source alike.

Forced to perform painful self-surgery to prevent his wounds from killing him, Glass then sets off through the wilderness on a painstaking journey in search of vengeance. The iconic film stars Tom Hanks as Chuck Poland, a FedEx employee whose plane crashes in the middle of the Pacific.

Cast Away is a powerful film with deep themes and a bittersweet dénouement once Poland returns to civilization. Based on the acclaimed 2011 sci-fi novel by Andy Weir, Matt Damon stars as astronaut Mark Wanna, who gets stranded on Mars after being caught in a storm and presumed dead during an aborted NASA mission in 2035.

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Relying on ingenuity and his experience as a botanist, Wanna is able to augment his food supply, but he still has to make a 2,000-mile journey from the crew’s surface habitat to the landing site for the next Mars mission. A moving film filled with equal parts hope and despair, Alive is the true story of the Uruguayan Rugby team plane crash in the Andes in 1972.

Starring an ensemble cast led by Ethan Hawks, Alive is a jarring tale of pain, resilience, and the strength of the human will. With nothing to hunt or forage in the frozen Andean landscape and supplies already exhausted, the passengers are forced to make an impossible choice: to survive, they must eat the flesh of their deceased comrades.

The Edge is an epic starring Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Harold Perinea, and legendary animal actor Bart the Bear. The men crash-land in the Alaskan wilderness and have to survive the elements, a stalking Kodiak bear, and their own treachery.

A riveting tale wherein survival is always in view but just out of reach, The Shallows stars Blake Lively as Nancy Adams, a medical student stranded on an isolated rock just a few hundred yards from shore following a shark attack. Noticing the carcass of a humpback whale, Adams decides to explore it, when she’s suddenly attacked by a great white shark.

She manages to escape to a large rock above the surface, but her leg is badly wounded and the shark blocks her path back to shore. The Shallows stand out from other shark movies for choosing not to feature much gore, focusing rather on the human drive for survival.

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Gravity is a survival story of a first- time astronaut who has to brave a series of catastrophes after debris from a destroyed satellite wreaks havoc on her shuttle and surrounding space stations. But when her shuttle and Hubble are both destroyed by debris from a satellite, Stone must go to a never-ending sequence of extremes if she hopes to get back to Earth.

While Gravity is often referred to as a sci-fi movie, the film’s own director Alfonso Charon sees it as a survival drama, using the overwhelming isolation of space to explore themes of adversity, psychological stress, and persistence. One of the most conceptually unique films on the list, Flight of the Phoenix begins where many others do: with a plane crash in the wilderness.

Two pilots (Dennis Quiet and Tyree Gibson) are sent to pick up a crew of an oil rig and transport them from the Gobi Desert to Beijing. The pilots, crew, and a stowaway named Eliot (Giovanni Ribs) crash in an uncharted part of the desert.

But Eliot comes up with an outside-the-box solution: he claims to be an aeronautical engineer and believes the group can build a functioning aircraft out of the wreckage of the old plane. Flight of the Phoenix is a remake of a 1965 film based on a 1964 novel; it’s full of classic action tropes, excitement, and resourcefulness.

Another biographical survival drama based on a real-life figure, Jungle tells the story of Israeli adventurer Rossi Ginsburg’s 1981 journey into the Amazon rainforest. Daniel Radcliffe delivers an impressive performance as Ginsburg who, on a quest for unique experience, becomes lost alone deep in the rainforest.

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While the film does fall into survival clichés at times, the acting and cinematography make Jungle an incredibly tense, gripping experience throughout While most of the boys make it out of the crash with only minor injuries, the lone adult on the plane, the pilot, is badly wounded and delirious.

But as time goes by, Jack grows increasingly erratic and leaves the initial group to start his own faction of “savages.” While the above list features a diverse array of movies, they are all tied together by their exploration of human nature when the comforts of civilization are stripped away.

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