Whether the survival genre features works of fiction or real events, they always find a way to tell a story about humans versus nature. This conflict helps make these films not just enjoyable but also gripping. An online community debates which survival movies do the best job of testing the absolute limits of human grit.
1. 127 Hours (2010)
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)
What could go wrong if two young lovers agree to sail a 44-inch yacht across the ocean to deliver it to a wealthy couple? A hurricane that leaves the boat stranded at sea. 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)
It 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)
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)
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)
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)
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 having a tragic ending, the theme of adventure and determination resonates with many viewers.
8. Alive (1993)
It 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 seventy-two days when they were stranded in the Andes and entirely cut off from the outside world. A magnificent illustration of the miracle that happened that day and the lengths people will go to survive.
9. All is Lost (2013)
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)
Engineer Ryan Stone and astronaut Matt Kowalski are struck by fast space debris when they are 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)
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 weather are the worst combination for a test of your guts. Add to that mortal injuries and dependents, and it’s a whole new level of gut testing.
12. The Edge (1997)
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)
Based on the Yann Martell novel, it 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. His contention with his predicament is made complex by the presence of the tiger and hyena.
14. Deliverance (1972)
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)
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)
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 or dictates of their Victorian society.
17. The Shallows (2016)
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 (2013)
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)
Viewers experience the suspenseful voyage of the crew of the commercial swordfishing boat 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, 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 his one-man crew and endure long enough for a rescue team to arrive, perhaps forever.
21. Everest (2015)
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. Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks looks unrecognizable from his innocent persona when playing a FedEx employee whose plane crashes, leaving him abandoned on a lonely island. He must brave the weather and his isolation and harness survival skills to make his new environment a home.
23. The Omega Man (1971)
Adapted from the same book as I am Legend, It takes us to 1975, when biological weapons have wiped off most life on Earth. Neville (Charlton Heston) thinks he is the only remaining human. But he needs to stay on his toes because the gun has converted others into nocturnal mutants out for blood.
24. Lone Survivor (2013)
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 when the four merge into one, leaving Marcus as the only survivor.
25. Thirteen Lives (2013)
This movie is based on the true story when a boy's sports team that gets trapped in a cave and goes missing from their homes in Thailand. The movie looks into how these boys got here and the drama that happens as they try to rescue them.
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.