Survival Cinema: 25 Thrilling Films That Grip You Tight and Never Let You Escape

True-life based or fiction, there is something about human versus nature conflicts that makes survival stories gripping. An online community debated this list, which tests the absolute limits of human grit.

1. 127 Hours (2010)

127 Hours James Franco
Image Credit: Warner Bros. and Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Based on Aron Ralston’s autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the adventure drama depicts the remarkable tale of his will and tenacity to live after being trapped by a rock inside a canyon. Ralston (James Franco), who is trapped, alone, and without any other chance of surviving, bravely decides to amputate his arm to escape his dangerous circumstances.

2. Adrift (2018)

Adrift Shailene Woodley
Image Credit: STX Entertainment.

What could go wrong if two young lovers agree to sail a yacht across the ocean to deliver it to a wealthy couple? A hurricane that leaves the boat stranded at sea is what could go wrong. What started as a sweet romance ended as a fight for survival as they faced the sea’s wrath on this sailing trip.

3. The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant Leonardo DiCaprio
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Revenant tells the tale of a frontiersman who survives after being left for dead and must find his way out of the bush while surviving various horrors. This earned Leonardo DiCaprio his first Grammy award for Best Actor.

4. Jungle (2017)

The Jungle Daniel Radcliffe
Image Credit: Umbrella Entertainment.

This 2017 biographical play is based on Yossi Ghinsberg’s real-life experiences. Yossi, an Israeli adventurer, narrowly avoided drowning when the improvised raft he was riding in the Amazon rainforest was damaged by rapids and washed away. That was the first of the many hardships he faced in the jungle.

5. Apollo 13 (1995)

Apollo 13 Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Apollo 13 is a dramatized account of the unsuccessful lunar mission from 1970. The movie is based on the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13. The film stars Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon as the characters of the Apollo flight crew members. It takes audiences on the suspenseful mission of getting stranded and the motivating effort to get the team home.

6. The Impossible (2012)

The Impossible Tom Holland
Image Credit: Warner Bros. and Entertainment España.

A family’s fantastic tale of grit, tenacity, and survival after a catastrophic tsunami separates them from hundreds of thousands of others is the central theme. It stars Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and a young Tom Holland in his feature film debut. Viewers relive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami’s destruction, see the family’s incredible story, and are moved to tears.

7. Into The Wild (2007)

Into the Wild, Emile Hirsch, Kristen Stewart
Image Credit: Paramount Vantage.

Into the Wild tells the tragic tale of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), who hitchhiked across America and ended up in the wilds of Alaska. The movie is based on a book by John Krakauer, an author and adventurer who scaled Mount Everest in 1996, the year of the Mount Everest disaster. Though it has a tragic ending, the theme of adventure and determination resonates with many viewers.

8. Alive (1993)

Alive Danny Nucci, Vincent Spano, Kevin Breznahan, Josh Hamilton, Bruce Ramsay
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Alive chronicles the terrifying events of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571’s crash into the Andes highlands in 1972 and the subsequent battle for survival. The terrible struggle lasted for 72 days when they were stranded in the Andes and entirely cut off from the outside world. The movie is a magnificent illustration of the miracle that happened that day and the lengths people will go to survive.

9. All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost Robert Redford
Image Credit: FilmNation Entertainment.

Robert Redford received a ton of praise for his single, nearly quiet performance in this film. He portrays a seaman who is lost at sea without communication or GPS devices after his boat collides with a shipping container. To locate assistance, he must improvise his technology.

10. Gravity (2013)

Gravity Sandra Bullock
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Engineer Ryan Stone and astronaut Matt Kowalski are struck by fast space debris while in space. Stone rises to the challenge of being a survivor when the situation becomes critical. Winning seven of the ten nominations, the movie encapsulated resilience.

11. The Grey (2011)

The Grey Liam Neeson
Image Credit: Open Road Films and Inferno Distribution.

Surviving a plane crash in the Alaskan tundra is difficult enough. But Liam Neeson’s character must deal with something scarier: a pack of wolves pursuing him. Weather and wild animals are the worst combination to test your guts. Add to that mortal injuries and dependents, and it’s a whole new level of testing.

12. The Edge (1997)

The Edge Anthony Hopkins, Elle Macpherson
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Two guys who survived a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness are the stars of this movie, starring Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins. They have to endure the bitter weather and dangerous wildlife. It is added misery for one of them as he contemplates his survival companion's affair with his wife.

13. Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Based on the Yann Martell novel, the movie tells the tale of a shipwrecked man who winds up on a raft with other animals being taken to a zoo, including an adult Bengal tiger. In the hands of director Ang Lee, the survival film appears more beautiful than realistic. 

14. Deliverance (1972)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The movie muses us with a group of inexperienced campers who find themselves engaged in a conflict with the elements and a group of locals who are out to get them. They must paddle their canoes across rapids and face various perils to survive.

15. Lord of The Flies (1963)

Lord of the Flies
Image Credit: British Lion Film Corporation.

The movie Lord of the Flies is based on William Golding’s classic novel about a group of schoolboys who become stranded on an island without civilization or laws to keep them in check. They have to endure the weather as well as one another.

16. Blue Lagoon (1980)

The Blue Lagoon Brooke Shields
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

This one has Brooke Shields and Richard Atkins as two young people shipwrecked and abandoned on a deserted island. They are allowed to develop and establish a life on the island free from the restrictions of their Victorian society.

17. The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows Blake Lively
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

A medical student, played by Blake Lively, finds herself stranded on a rock with a shark surrounding her after a solo surfing expedition goes horribly wrong. To return to land, she must contend with the shark, heat, and dehydration.

18. Kon-Tiki (2012)

kon tiki 2012
Image Credit: Nordisk Film.

To demonstrate that prehistoric people from South America might have accomplished the same feat, a group led by a Norwegian adventurer attempted to sail the Pacific in 1947 on a thin, balsa-wood raft. They encounter sharks, hurricanes, and other aquatic dangers along the voyage. The raft is still on display in an Oslo museum because it is based on a genuine story.

19. The Perfect Storm (2000)

The Perfect Storm George Clooney
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Viewers experience a suspenseful voyage on a commercial sword fishing boat called the Andrea Gail. The crew fights dangerous weather and impassable seas, and their chances of surviving the tropical storm are dwindling quickly. Sadly, the team can do nothing more to stop the inevitable as a rogue wave appears out of nowhere and flips the vessel as they attempt to breach it. This disaster tragically left no survivors.

20. The Martian (2015)

The Martian Matt Damon
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Martian, based on a self-published book by Andy Weir, tells the tale of a botanist (Matt Damon) who ends up stranded on the Red Planet. He must devise a way to function as a one-man crew and endure long enough for a rescue team to arrive, perhaps forever.

21. Everest (2015)

Everest, Josh Brolin
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Everest is a real-life inspired narrative of courage, hope, love, and loss that follows two expedition parties as they attempt to climb and descend the world’s tallest peak. However, when the groups enter hazardous weather conditions while traveling downward, things quickly go wrong. The film offers an equal amount of grief and inspiration that will leave you reeling after the credits roll, from tragic loss to conquering the odds and coming out alive.

22. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Image Credit: Becker Entertainment.

This 2002 Australian movie tells the inspiring tale of three Aboriginal sisters who flee the Moore River Native Settlement. The twins set out on a problematic nine-week trek to return to their Aboriginal families. While doing so, white law enforcement officers tracked and pursued them.

23. Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away Tom Hanks
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

Tom Hanks looks unrecognizable from his innocent persona while playing a FedEx employee whose plane crashes, leaving him abandoned on a lonely island. He must brave the weather and isolation and harness survival skills to make his new environment a home.

24. The Omega Man (1971)

The Omega Man Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Adapted from the same book as I am Legend, this movie takes us to 1975, when biological weapons wiped off most life on Earth. Neville (Charlton Heston) thinks he is the only remaining human. But he needs to stay on his toes.

25. Lone Survivor (2013)

Lone Survivor, Ben Foster
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Based on the nonfiction book of the same name, this combat film chronicles the terrifying tale of Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), a lone survivor after the Operation Red Wings mission went wrong. In Afghanistan, a SEAL reconnaissance squad of four men is charged with finding a Taliban leader. Things go south leaving Marcus as the only survivor.

Source: Reddit

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.