Best Wilderness Survival Movies

Maria Johnson
• Saturday, 14 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Sometimes it’s nice to sit back, relax, and watch someone else fight for their lives in a survival situation. For this list, I picked a few movies that really convey that sense of survival in one way or another.

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Based on the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (a true classic), A Cry in the Wild is different from the other movies on this list. I loved this movie as a child, and it can be a great discussion piece for a family.

The movie chronicles the struggles (nothing too bad) of a young boy lost and stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. The plot is straightforward: man is stranded, needs rescue, tries to survive.

Between that and the stark imagery of a lone body in the white tundra, after you’ve seen it, you likely won’t wonder why IndieWire called it “one of the best films ever made about survival.” Based on the real-life story of Hugh Glass, the Relevant is an exercise in brutal, single-minded survival.

Ultimately, the Relevant is a testament to the will to live–not only from the elements, but from the worst in humanity. Make no mistake; it’s primarily a story of how these two people come to love and rely on each other.

A personal favorite, the Grey centers on a group of men struggling to make it in a vast Arctic wilderness after their plane crashes. Not only do they have to brave the elements, there’s also a pack of wolves intent on hunting them.

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As each man either succumbs or overcomes their circumstances, you see a narrative steeped in metaphor. And of course, watching Liam Neeson fighting wolves is always good.

Everest features an ensemble cast, and the actors do a fantastic job of emulating their characters’ fear, frustration, and bravery. After you watch this movie, you’ll come away with a much greater appreciation for what the members of the 1996 Everest teams went through.

So far in our list, four movies have used a plane crash to start the characters on their journey of survival. Where the movie really shines in how the woman (Tami Ashcroft) fights to survive in the harshest of circumstances.

After a cataclysmic event, a man and his future son-in-law set off across the country to find their daughter/fiancé. Despite its poor reviews, if you enjoy this kind of movie (like I do), it may be worth a watch.

It’s not gritty, per se, but it tells the tale of a volleyball whose only friend is a man left stranded after his plane goes down in the middle of the ocean. But in a way, his experience is a time of growth, and that’s certainly interesting to watch.

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That pretty many sums this movie up, but what makes the Martian a fun and interesting to watch is how his character comes up with ways to fix his situation. Based on the book by Andy Weir, the Martian is a great movie about survival, and how the world could come together if it really wanted to.

Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Road follows a man and his child as they traverse the wasteland that is America after some kind of extinction event. Jungle is basically Harry Potter set in the rainforest.

Actually, it’s nothing like that, but it does star Daniel Radcliffe, and like Harry Potter, it’s based on a true story (right? In 1981, Rossi Ginsberg gets lost in the jungle, after traveling with his friends and a guide to find a promised stash of hidden gold.

What’s interesting about Jungle isn’t only the protagonist’s struggles to live, but also how he gets rescued. One thing this movie drives home: when you go hiking, wear good shoes.

One of the best films of 2010 and one of the hardest to watch (in parts–you’ll know what I mean), 127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Alston, a hiker whose hand became trapped by a rock in a canyon in the desert. As you probably know, how Alston got out of his predicament involved a Swiss Army knife and a very high tolerance for pain.

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In fact, it’s based on a true story ; two people left behind, in open water, when their scuba boat mistakenly leaves them. Another movie loosely based on true events, Backcountry tells the story of a couple lost in the remote wilderness.

After a number of questionable decisions, the couple are attacked and pursued by a bear. 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. 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.

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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. 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.

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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. 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.

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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. 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.

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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. A young woman goes on a 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of West Australia with four camels and her faithful dog.

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