Adventure wilderness movies

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Wilderness Movies: 10 of the Best Ever Made

The wilderness can be one of man’s greatest allies or his biggest enemy. It can be a refuge for those seeking a greater purpose in life or a hellacious landscape that proves to be unconquerable for those unprepared for the rigors of the great beyond. That being said, it’s no surprise that wilderness themes have dominated the film industry landscape for the past several decades. 

No matter who you are or where you come from, tales of man versus nature or man attempting to coexist with it are relatable and perhaps ingrained deeply into the human soul and psyche. For those looking for a source of inspiration, a heartfelt story, or an escape from daily life, the following wilderness movies may provide you with a bit of proverbial shelter from the storm that has been the year 2020.

10. The Great Outdoors (1988)
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Starring: John Candy, Dan Aykroyd

Wilderness films don’t always have to be serious in nature or detail life-changing experiences — they can be downright hilarious. 

The Great Outdoors proves this in spades as a comedy-packed adventure depicting how family vacations with in-laws aren’t always the easiest to deal with and can be flat-out miserable. But that doesn’t stop Chet Ripley (Candy) and Roman Craig (Aykroyd) 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.

9. America Wild: National Parks Adventure (2016)
Directed by: Greg MacGillivray
Narrated by: Robert Redford

It didn’t win any acting awards, but America Wild: National Parks Adventure is a fantastic documentary that outlines the creation of America’s National Park System.

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. Roosevelt was so taken by this experience that upon returning to Washington, he decided to enact policy that would preserve the integrity and splendor of what he had seen. 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.

In addition to historical perspective, the film captures top-tier cinematography as it highlights the escapades of several wilderness explorers through some of the country’s most majestic parks, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, and Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Outdoor enthusiasts undoubtedly will be inspired by the film’s beauty and add a handful of bucket-list locations to explore. 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.

8. Wild (2014)
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski

For those readers grappling with whether or not 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 (Dern), 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 (Sadoski) and the promising future she once possessed. 

With absolutely no hiking or outdoor experience, Cheryl makes a life-changing decision and embarks on an arduous 1,100-mile solo hike through the Pacific Crest Trail. Can Strayed overcome and endure the trials of the trail while simultaneously battling the demons of her past? You’ll have to watch to find out.

7. The Way (2010)
Directed by: Emilio Estevez
Starring: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez

After hearing the tragic news of his son Daniel’s death while trekking the Pyrenees mountains on the Camino de Santiago, Dr. Thomas Avery (Sheen) travels to France to recover his son’s (Estevez) remains. Confounded with grief, Tom makes the hard choice to embark on the traditional Christian pilgrimage himself — vowing to complete it entirely to memorialize and honor his son.

Throughout his voyage, Tom is overridden with personal grief and struggles to open up to his fellow travelers, treating them with coldness and indifference. As their trek continues, though, Tom gradually opens up and shares the reason for his excursion. The group faces numerous struggles along the way, especially Tom, whose backpack containing his son’s ashes is stolen — leaving the purpose of his journey in absolute peril.

The Way is a profound teaching mechanism that underscores the healing opportunity nature provides us and how experiencing wholeness in nature can bring fulfillment to our lives. For those who are looking to take a deep journey inward, this film is a great place to begin.

6. The Call of the Wild (1972)
Directed by: Ken Annakin
Starring: Charlton Heston, Raimund Harmstorf, George Eastman

Modern movie fans will be familiar with the 2020 Harrison Ford-led version of Jack London’s 1903 American novel, but the 1972 version is an absolute classic.

During the Klondike Gold Rush, John Thornton (Heston) is struggling to get by in a meager existence in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Eventually he finds an Alsatian dog named Buck, who becomes the lead sled dog for Thornton and his partner Pete (Harmstorf), who make a living delivering mail and supplies to remote outposts and individuals in the region.

Existence in the Canadian wilderness is harsh enough, but it gets infinitely harder when Buck becomes a high-profile target for local scoundrels and malevolent prospectors with none worse than Black Burton (Eastman). The tale circles around the adventures and unbreakable bond of John and Buck that result in unthinkable tragedy.

The film is as rugged as the great outdoors itself but personifies the belief that the dog is truly man’s best friend.

5. The Lost City of Z (2016)
Directed by: James Gray
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Angus Macfadyen, Tom Holland

The Lost City of Z depicts the historical events of the life of famed British explorer Percy Fawcett (Hunnam), who undertook a series of adventures in South America attempting to find evidence of a long-lost city and civilization of the Amazon.

Fawcett’s prowess as an outdoorsman and marksman sparked the attention of London’s Royal Geographic Society, who recruited him to be the lead surveyor of disputed territories and valuable land between Bolivia and Brazil. After completing his initial analysis of the area, Fawcett is told by a local scout that deep in the jungle lies a city with immense treasure filled with people — an idea he originally scoffs at.

After he returns, his wife, Nina (Miller), stumbles across an ancient text that corroborates the evidence her husband had heard overseas — sparking the idea in Percy’s mind that the native scout’s tale wasn’t as far-fetched as he originally believed. This leads Fawcett on a second visit to the Amazon, but it is plagued with disaster and must be abandoned prematurely. Shortly after, World War I breaks out and Fawcett’s pursuit of the fabled city is delayed as he joins the war efforts in France.

When the war is over, word reaches the United States about Fawcett’s endeavors, which leads to an offer to fund another expedition in pursuit of “Z” by American businessman John D. Rockefeller Jr. Alongside his son Jack (Holland) and several friends, Percy hopes that the third time’s the charm. But they fall into tribulations of bewilderment and dread, leaving historians with more questions than answers to this day.

4. Alone in the Wilderness (2004)
Directed by: Richard Proenneke
Starring: Richard Proenneke

Ever wondered if you have the gumption to survive living in the wilderness? This documentary would be a good start to see whether or not your skills would cut the mustard.

Vastly different from the films mentioned thus far, Alone in the Wilderness is a self-made documentary that highlights the life of Richard Proenneke, who in the 1960s ventured into the Alaskan wilderness and carved a life for himself out in the Aleutian Peninsula for over three decades. The awe-inspiring flick chronicles Proenneke’s first year in the wilderness, showing everything from his day-to-day hunting adventures, planting and gathering food, demonstrations of bushcraft 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 outdoorsmen and conservationists.

3. Into the Wild (2007)
Directed by: Sean Penn
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt

Into the Wild is an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’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. Not all wilderness adventures have a happy conclusion, and Into the Wild is no exception. 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.

2. A River Runs Through It (1992)
Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Craig Sheffer

Based on the semiautobiographical novella by Norman Maclean that bears the same name, A River Runs Through It follows the story of the Maclean family, living in an idyllic Montana wilderness setting against the harsh historical backdrop of World War I and the Great Depression.

The film focuses strongly on the personalities of and relationship between brothers Norman (Sheffer) and Paul (Pitt), alongside their father, John (Skerritt), a Presbyterian minister. While the brothers struggle to adapt to their father’s strict educational and religious upbringing, the three share a mutual love of the outdoors.

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. 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. Alas, Paul’s ruggedness leads to vexatious circumstances that put his own life and family at peril.

At its core, A River Runs Through It is a coming-of-age film. It’s a cinematic masterpiece and profoundly metaphorical and spiritual in nature. Moreover, it’s a must-view for anyone who feels the need to reflect on how they have gotten to where they are in life and, most importantly, where they are headed.

1. Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Directed by: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Robert Redford

No list of wilderness movies would be complete without this film starring Robert Redford. Without question, Jeremiah Johnson is the greatest wilderness adventure flick of all time.

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.

Known for its famous overture, intermission, and entr’acte film style that was popularized in its day, Jeremiah Johnson takes watchers on a profound and precipitous journey that pits Johnson (Redford) against the harshness of the Rocky Mountains, the nation in which he served, and unfamiliar enemies in an unfamiliar landscape.

Read Next:7 Underrated Wilderness Movies You Should Give a Chance


The most stressful question of my day arrives right at that time when I should be enjoying my post-dinner food coma: “What should we watch tonight?” Just typing it sends my cortisol level into the upper deck.

If you’re like me, you hate yourself for scrolling below row six or seven of Netflix, down to where the misbegotten, underfunded, and haphazardly marketed films dwell. But we’ve all been there—into the slurry of 1960s pulp films, Bollywood crossovers, and that particular brand of low-budget madness perpetrated by The Asylum—to that kaleidoscopic abyss where lay Badges of Fury, Cheerleader Ninjas, and Hidden Assassin. (Peace to Dolph Lundgren.) And yet you scroll on, hoping for a promising glint in the roughest rough.

It’s not hopeless, but when you’re pushing that depth, it’s helpful to have a guide to point out some under-the-radar landmarks. These are ten legitimately shiny gems—genuine portrayals of adventure, all of them—that you can feel good about excavating from the muck:

1. Into the Mind (2013)

Sherpas Cinema is popping up all over our radar these days for their bold conceptual approaches to extreme ski films. 

Into The Mind, sponsored by the North Face, marks the studio’s second feature-length film, following 2011’s film festival crusher All.I.Can. The film takes our affinity for helmet cams to an extreme: it’s largely comprised of first-person experiences on big-mountain slopes. Spliced together with awesome cinematography, the effect is an unparalleled cinematic examination of risk and reward.

2. Rescue Dawn (2007)

Documentary auteur Werner Herzog directs Christian Bale in a Vietnam movie about a P.O.W. escape. How did you miss this?

Rescue Dawn represents Herzog’s second swing at nailing the true story of Dieter Dengler, a German immigrant to the U.S. who joins the military and whose fighter plane is shot down over the Vietnam jungle, and who eventually escapes internment. Herzog took on Dengler’s story in the 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. His second attempt, produced on a mere $10 million budget from MGM, is a great survival flick.

3. All Is Lost (2013)

Robert Redford portraying a symbol of aging masculinity? Wow, talk about range!

But seriously, if Redford’s persona won’t budge, then a savvy filmmaker might tailor a setting that underscores the actor’s unflinching stoicism. That’s exactly the shape of All Is Lost, which spins a drama of epic proportions from the simple premise of a man sailing solo at sea. Redford isn’t just the centerpiece, he’s the only character in the film, and he utters fewer than five lines of dialogue. Around him the clouds above the Indian Ocean whip into a vicious hurricane that test not only his resolve but his stubborn-old-man survival instincts. Sure, the critics dug it. But a brief poll of staffers revealed that most people didn't watch it start to finish. That's a mistake.

4. The Hunter (2011)

A lone hunter wanders the misty highlands of Tasmania with a giant rifle in search of an animal long-thought extinct: the Tasmanian tiger. He’s hired by a biotech military contractor a continent away and instructed to fetch samples of the animal, whose DNA may be the key to a powerful new bio weapon.

The Hunter might have landed with viewers in the 90s, but in the current era of tent-pole mega-features, subtler, heady thrillers are often overlooked. Such was this movie, even with the rifle in Willem Dafoe’s capable hands.

5. The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

Val Kilmer (1990s svelte Kilmer) is a bridge engineer. Michael Douglas (1990s long-haired Douglas) is a snarky big-game hunter. They team up to hunt a pair of lions wreaking havoc on a village of African laborers who are building a transcontinental railway line in the late 19th century. The lions may or may not represent pissed-off ancient spirits, and their attacks may or may not represent a last-ditch lash-out against Western colonialism.

The film marks a career milestone for director Stephen Hopkins, who was coming off a hat trick of rock solid 1990s action flicks in Predator 2, Judgment Night, and Blown Away, and who would move on to the travesty 1997 film Lost In Space. Oh, and it was written by William Goldman, who crafted the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

6. Tracks (2014)

A young woman sets off alone into the wilderness on an existential journey, meets and overcomes challenges, then writes a book about her experience. Sound familiar?

Tracks was easy to lose track of because it was released three months before Wild, the Hollywood film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book that starred Reese Witherspoon. As in many of these dueling film releases (Deep Impact vs. Armageddon, White House Down vs. Olympus Has Fallen, etc.) there must a be a victor and a failure. Tracks wound up the latter, but there’s nothing obvious holding it back. The fundamentals of narrative, drama, solid acting, and gorgeous cinematography are all on display here. Give it a chance.

7. Alive (1993)

This movie is awesome by early 90s standards, and it's more awesome now that it's on Netflix. A team of Christian rugby players crashes its airplane in the Andes mountains in 1972 and suffer blizzards, avalanches, and other Donner Party-esque setbacks—for 72 days. Spoiler alert: the Donner Party parallels don’t end there. Eventually, a group of survivors begins a long hike out of the mountains, back to civilization.

It’s a classic survival tale that also happens to be based on a true story published by one of the survivors called Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors. Bonus: A young Ethan Hawke plays the survivors’ moral compass.

8. The Way Back (2010)

It’s tough being Colin Farrell. He’s a solid actor who just can’t carry a quality film as the leading man. There should be a curse named after him. Luckily for the spunky Irishman, director Peter Weir (Master and Commander, The Truman Show) slotted him in between relative newcomer Jim Sturgess and grizzled stalwart Ed Davis, who all help drag this minor epic to glory.

The film chronicles a small group of prisoners who escape a Siberian gulag during World War II and hike an unbelievable 4,000 miles to India. It’s a tale of endurance, survival, and Farrell’s Russian accent. It’s also loosely based on a true story as portrayed in the 1956 book The Long Walk.

9. Valhalla Rising (2009)

You probably IMDB’d Nicolas Winding Refn after the release of 2011’s violent indie crossover Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. Then you probably discovered that Refn had made a movie with Tom Hardy three years earlier called Bronson, about a mildly schitzophrenic convict. The dual triumph of those two films cast a shadow over a movie Refn made in-between them called Valhalla Rising.

Despite the name and the fact that it takes place in 1000 AD, Valhalla Rising isn’t overtly about the Norse god. In fact, it’s not overtly about anything. It’s essentially a 93-minute display of primal masculinity, which should come as a comfort: that’s Refn’s stock and trade. This one is placed squarely on the bare, scarred shoulders of Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (known for the award-winning “Hannibal” series on NBC), who plays a mute warrior named One Eye on a bloody quest through muddy mountains and foggy seas. Did we mention the main character doesn’t speak?

10. A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

A rock climbing film masquerading as a conventional thriller (or vice versa), A Lonely Place To Die is essentially Scotland’s answer to Cliffhanger. But instead of chasing cases of cash, the bad guys are in pursuit of a small kidnapped child who falls into the wholesome hands of a group of unsuspecting trad climbers.

The “survival” element of this movie is mostly encapsulated in a cat-and-mouse game between the armed kidnapper thugs and the puffy-jacketed climbers, although there are some pretty gnarly-looking rope falls. Bonus: Close-ups of the actors placing cams (like real climbers!).

  1. Bagged 55 chevy truck
  2. Homemade wax smoking device
  3. Find truck stops

20 Best Outdoor Movies Ever: Trail Movies, Adventure Documentaries & More

If the best thing in the world is getting out into nature, the next best thing is curling up with a bag of chips and watching a movie about nature, right? Well, today I thought I’d put together a hiking movies list – only I didn’t stop there. I added adventure documentaries and outdoor movies too, bringing you 22 outdoor films you’re sure to enjoy.

Some are iconic backpacking movies, meanwhile, others are shorter independent documentaries. But don’t worry – there are plenty of recommendations for movies like Into the Wild.

For the most part, I’ve embedded the trailer for all of the trail movies / adventure documentaries listed below. I’ve also done my best to specify where the movie can be watched (though with licensing changes with the streaming services, this is subject to change).

Okay, without further ago, here are the best outdoor movies ever!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is much appreciated! You can learn more by reading my full disclosure.

Best Trail Movies

Below you will find, what I believe to be, the best hiking movies (like Wild and A Walk in the Woods) and the best backpacking movies (Tracks and The Way). Together I’ve loosely categorized this section as Best Trail Movies.

These outdoor movies are often inspired by true events or based on true stories, though they are not backpacking documentaries (that’s the next section).

Into the Wild

I’m going to start with Into the Wild, as it’s easily one of the best backpacking movies on Netflix. Into the Wild is based on the true story of Chris McCandless, a man in his earlier twenties who throws away all his possessions, abandons his family and hitchhikes to Alaskan wilderness. It’s a remarkable story and demonstrates the challenge that comes with setting off on your own and leaving behind the material world; Chris works odd jobs just long enough to give him the funds to make the next leg of his trip.

The movie culminates in the remote Alaska bush where Chris is faced with survival challenges beyond his skills and ultimately learns the true meaning of a life worth living. Trust me, this is easily one of the top backpacking moviesand will leave shivers down your spine when you finish it. (It doesn’t help that it’s one of the only hiking movies on Netflix, meaning almost everyone has seen it.)

Where to Watch: Netflix


Wild is inspired by the life of Cheryl Strayed who hiked the 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone in the 1990s. Cheryl’s book Wild, and then later the movie by the same name, have contributed to the explosive popularity of the Pacific Crest Trail.

What I love about Wild is that it’s not just a backpacking movie. This is a movie about overcoming personal challenges to accomplish more than you thought you were capable of. It’s about facing your demons – most notably your past – head on. Sometimes the best way to heal is to pack our pain into our backpack, through it on our shoulders and walk until things make sense. I don’t know whether it’s the amazing hike or the relatable heroine, but Wild has easily become one of the most well known trail movies ever made.

But whatever it is, Wild is one of my personal favourite hiking movies, so I strongly recommend it.

Where to Watch: Disney+


To be honest, Wildlike was nothing like what I thought it would be, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. In Wildlike, a 14 year old girl named MacKenzie is sent to live with her uncle in rural Alaska, following the death of her father and the hospitalization of her mother. Her uncle proceeds to sexually abuse her and MacKenzie runs away. She meets an older widowed backpacker and embarks on a journey through Alaska.

The contrast in this movie is striking: teen angst with Denali National Park as a backdrop. And with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%, this would easily be one of the top hiking films.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Way Back

This movie is based on another true story: in 1941, four men flee communist Russia after imprisonment in a Siberian gulag. In search of freedom, the men trek 4,000 miles across desert and mountains to reach India.

Where to Watch: YouTube (Rent) or Google Play (Rent)

A Walk in the Woods

Based on a true story, A Walk in the Woods tells of Bill Bryson (my favourite travel writer) and his experience on the Appalachian Trail. But this hiking movieis nothing like Wild – the farthest thing from it. I read the book, A Walk in the Woods, and loved it as Bill is a hilarious writer and both he and his companion make for an entertaining journey (hint: neither of them is good at hiking).

Bill Bryson’s humour doesn’t translate as well on the big screen, so the movie isn’t nearly as good as the book in my opinion. That said, unlike the movies above, this is a lighthearted movie that laughs at the challenges all of us face when getting outside for the first time. So for that reason, I’m keeping A Walk in the Woods on my list of best hiking movies.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video


Tracks is an incredible adventure movie and unlike most of the other outdoor films on this list. Based on a true story, Tracks brings us into Robyn Davidson’s incredible journey in the Australian outback – a journey that covered more than 1,700 miles over 9 months. But don’t worry, she has company – four camels and a dog to be exact.

As is the case with Wild, Tracks emphasizes the emotional and spiritual development of its heroine. Robyn is forced to overcome some brutal conditions – sand storms and snakes are the least of them. But it has a really uplifting energy, making it one of the best backpacking movies. You know what, I think Tracks is one of my favourite trail movies that doesn’t actually have a trail to follow. Hiking 2,000 miles on a beaten path is very different than forging your own.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Way

Here is another hiking movie not set in the US. The Way is about the Camino de Santiago, one of the most popular backpacking trails in Europe. Technically it’s the site of a Christian pilgrimage, as the ending point is supposedly where saints are buried. However many non-Christians do the hike as well, simply to take in the beauty and rich history.

In The Way, we follow a father who travels to the Camino to recover the body of his estranged son, who died on the trail. The father, who never understood why his son couldn’t just live a conventional life, takes up the pilgrimage himself. While the film doesn’t have the same calibre of filming and dramatic landscape scenes as many of the backpacking movies above, it offers a wider breadth of emotion.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video

Best Backpacking Documentaries

Here are the Best Backpacking Documentaries. All of them take place in the US, so if you’re aware of any backpacking documentaries that take place outside the US, please let me know! I’d like to geographically diversify this list.

Mile… Mile and a Half

This was one of the first adventure documentaries on Netflix (at least in Canada) and my first introduction to the John Muir Trail (which now sits at the top of my bucket list). In this film, a group of creatives hike the 210-mile length of the John Muir Trail.

This is an amazing backpacking documentary simply for the footage alone. Fun fact: The film was funded through a Kickstarter campaign! Filmed by the hikers themselves, the California scenery is striking – the mountains, the valleys, the rivers – and the adventures had along the way are entertaining too.

One caveat I will call out is that this isn’t among the particularly thrilling adventure documentaries. It’s beautiful and nice to watch, but I wouldn’t exactly call it exciting.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Do More With Less

If you’re considering hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, this will be one of the most helpful hiking documentaries you watch. In Do More With Less, the filmmakers interview over 100 thru-hikers on the 2,660 mile trail that connect the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders.

The hikers discuss the trail and its wonders (and challenges), and what it takes to be off the grid and live a life of adventure.

Where to Watch: Do More With Less (Free)

Do More With Less | A Conversation About The Pacific Crest Trail from Do More With Less on Vimeo.

The Long Start to the Journey

This is a documentary about hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’ve included it in the list to try to balance out how many trail movies I’ve included about the Pacific Crest Trail, but I haven’t actually seen this one yet. It looks like it’s tricky to find online. Man, I’m really selling it, aren’t I? The film gets great reviews for beautiful scenery and an entertaining narrator.

Where to Watch: Theat Movie (Rent)

Best Outdoor Movies

The Best Outdoor Movies category is for any outdoor movies that aren’t specifically about hiking / backpacking, and thus left out of the Trail Movies category. Here you’ll find stories of mountain climbers, surfers, bikers and paddlers.

Touching the Void

If you’ve read my list of the best outdoor adventure books, you’ll already know that Touching the Void is my favourite outdoor book. This outdoor movie is a serious cliffhanger (pun intended). Touching the Void tells the story of Joe Simpson and his climbing partner who attempt a first ascent of a mountain face in the Southern Andes. Running low on fuel and with a storm on the horizon, the two climbers attempt a speedy descent down the mountain. But then Joe breaks his leg, gets lost in a depths of a crevasse and his partner is forced to leave him.

This movie will have you going “This is the end. No way he survives this.” But then you remember that Joe wrote the book, so he obviously survived. But HOW does he survive? Now that’s a story.

While it may not be one of the best outdoor moviesin terms of cinematography, I think it’s easily one of the best in terms of story.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video (Only in the US)

127 Hours

Do you subscribe to my weekly outdoor education email? If you do, you’ll know I am constantly referencing 127 Hours, as I regularly remind my readers to always leave a route card for their trips so they can avoid running into an experience like that of Aron Ralston.

Based on a true story, 127 Hours is the story of how Aron Ralston finds himself trapped in a canyon in the middle of Utah. With no food, no water and an arm pinned by a rock, Aron survives 127 hours before he is found (more or less of him, that is). One of the best outdoor movies for the lesson it embarks (and the frequent “oh my god I can’t believe this is real” disbelief): always leave a note with where you’re going and when you’ll be back!

Where to Watch: Disney+


I’ve tried hard to keep this list free of Hollywood blockbuster-type movies, but I felt I had to include Revenant. This movie takes place in the 1820s follows a trapping party, guided by Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), through the territory of present-day North & South Dakota. The trapping party is attacked by Arikana (a Native American tribe); many die and a few escape by boat. Here’s where things get interesting. Leo’s character is mauled by a bear and is badly injured, sparking debate among the group about whether they should mercy kill him. Ultimately he is left for dead. But Leo doesn’t give up that easily. From here the film follows Leo’s brutal self-rescue.

One of the reasons I’m including it on the list is that Revenant has gotten some surprisingly positive reviews about its portrayal of Native Americans – something of which Hollywood has always done a terribly racist job. It’s not a Native story, of course, and there is some controversy about the portrayal. That said, I think it’s worth watching.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video (Rent)


Final Hollywood movie I promise. I actually haven’t seen Deliverance and I have no plans to. I already get anxious hiking / paddling alone – I don’t need the story of a canoe group getting attacked in my subconscious. But if you like both thrillers and outdoor movies, this is right up your alley.

In Deliverance, four friends set out to paddle the Cahulawassee River in Georgia, before it gets dammed. The trip starts well but soon takes a turn for the worse – due to a set of unforgiving rapids and some… unfriendly locals.

And that’s all the summary I’m going to offer. If someone would like to watch the movie and let me know if it’s actually that scary, I would appreciate it. Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion….

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video (Rent)

Best Adventure Documentaries

Finally, we have the category for the Best Adventure Documentaries. While hiking and backpacking are definitely adventures, this category is for the adventure documentaries that aren’t about hiking and backpacking. We’ve got skiing and surfing and climbing and more on this list.

180 Degrees South

This is easily one of my favourite adventure documentaries on Netflix. In 180 Degree South, Jeff Johnson follows in the footsteps of his heroes Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, and Doug Thompson and retraces their journey to Patagonia, South America. There are a few mishaps along the way (say, getting shipwrecked on Easter Island) and some unexpected encounters (“‘Sup Yvon?”).

In addition to being a great story, 180 Degree South has incredible cinematography and an amazing soundtrack (I’m actually listening to the soundtrack on Spotify as I write this).

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video (Only in the US)

North of the Sun

You know I’ll try any outdoor movie with the word “north” in the title, and this one was no exception. In North of the Sun, two friends stay nine months in a remote cabin in Norway surfing the chilly, arctic waters. They build the cabin from driftwood and other washed-up materials, which in and of itself is impressive.

While they have virtually no possessions, they do have their surfboards – and the little nook in the high arctic has secretly incredible waves. I don’t like surfing movies all that much, but I do think this one was impressively shot and was an interesting alternative to the usual mountainous thru-hiking movies I watch.

Where to Watch: North of the Sun (Rent)

Free Solo

Despite the controversy, of course, I was going to put Free Solo on this list – I believe this is the only adventure documentary on the list to have an Oscar win. Free Solo follows Alex Honnold as he prepares to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park – a 3,000 ft sheer granite cliff – without the use of ropes.

The controversy comes around Alex’s degree of risk-taking. Some of his sponsors dropped him ahead of the climb, as they deemed it an example of reckless and unnecessary risk-taking. I don’t disagree. I also think Alex Honnold is a bit of a narcissist, but I think that’s part of the reason he’s achieved what he has.

Almost equally as impressive as Alex’s climb is the filming of the movie. Filmed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, the shots are absolutely stunning (and nerve-racking). Seriously, if you’re afraid of heights I don’t recommend watching Free Solo – even if it is one of the best outdoor documentaries – it’ll make you sick.

Where to Watch: Disney+

Pretty Faces

This adventure documentary is super different than the others on my list, but I feel the need to include it for two reasons: 1. It’s amazing to watch, and 2. This is one of the few documentaries that feature a woman-dominated cast. Pretty Faces is a stunning compilation of professional skiers and snowboarders tackling the most insane mountains. It’s beautifully shot – one of the most beautiful skiing films ever produced, though admittedly I haven’t watched that many skiing movies.

Where to Watch: Vimeo (Rent)


This is a super cool adventure documentary about whitewater paddlers in New Zealand. They talk about the rivers of New Zealand, whitewater paddling, risk-taking, the river lifestyle and more. An independently produced firm, this one doesn’t have the cinematic quality of the other documentaries on this list – but considering they aren’t professional filmmakers, I was really impressed with the quality.

Where to Watch: Vimeo (Free)



Bill Mason is the father of modern canoeing; a canoeing god, you might say. During his life he paddled more of Canada than just about anyone else, producing art, books and films about the land. A naturalist by training, Bill Mason takes us through the beautiful province of Ontario in Waterwalker. He talks about the land, its history, our relationship with it. He also has a really soothing voice; even when he tipped his canoe in huge swells in Lake Superior, I felt calm.

I may take a moment to get used to the film quality and format – this was produced in 1984 – but push through it. You will not regret it!

Where to Watch: Youtube (Free)

What’s your favourite Trail Movie / Outdoor Movie / Adventure Documentary?

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and know what backpacking movies on Netflix to watch this evening. If I could make a quick recommendation, it would be either Tracks or 180 Degrees South – those are less popular than some of the classics, but still very good movies.

Did I leave your favourite outdoor movie off the list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put aside some time to watch it and update the list.

Mikaela | Voyageur Tripper

Mikaela has been canoeing, hiking and camping for over ten years. She previously worked as a canoeing guide in Canada, and spent a season guiding hiking and kayaking tours in the high Arctic. Mikaela is a Wilderness First Responder and Whitewater Rescue Technician.


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. 

Some are directly about surviving the elements (starting a fire, making shelter, etc.), while others are about surviving people (suspicious strangers, bands of robbers, etc.) or animals. 

In all of these movies, though, we see the perseverance of the human spirit. Ultimately, whether we survive–or not–is up to us. Somewhat, anyway. 

So let’s get right to it, with a list of wilderness survival movies presented in no particular order. 

A Cry in the Wild (1990) (n/a)

A boy swims from the wreckage of a plane

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. It’s definitely aimed at children, but that’s not a bad thing. I loved this movie as a child, and it can be a great discussion piece for a family. It’s also made countless children excited about wilderness survival.

The movie chronicles the struggles (nothing too bad) of a young boy lost and stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. He becomes quite good at surviving, though. For a family movie night, A Cry in the Wild will be a hit. 

Purchase it here.

Arctic (2019) (88%)

Man cooks food indoors

Arctic stars Mads Mikkelson as a man stranded in the Arctic, after his place goes down (airplane crashes are a common way to get stranded, it seems). 

The plot is straightforward: man is stranded, needs rescue, tries to survive. What sets this movie apart is Mads’ grounded performance. 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.” 

Purchase ithere.

The Survivalist (2015) (98%)

man points a rifle toward an off-screen foe

Some movies are fun and enjoyable to watch. The Survivalist is not one of them. 

What it does well, though, is create a very tense, believable atmosphere. If there is a post-apocalypse, the Survivalist gives a good idea of what that might look like. 

There are no zombies, no viruses, no high stakes. Just people trying to survive starvation and avoid being robbed of what little they have. 

In that regard, the Survivalist is a great film. It’s also shot well and wonderfully acted. Watch it, but don’t expect a feel-good experience. 

Purchase it here

The Revenant (2015) (78%)

Leonardo DeCaprio, isolated in the snowy wilderness, stares off screen

On the subject of depressing movies, it seems like a great time to bring up the movie that finally won Leo his Oscar. 

Based on the real-life story of Hugh Glass, the Revenant is an exercise in brutal, single-minded survival. In this movie, nature is not your friend, but an indifferent force to overcome. 

Ultimately, the Revenant is a testament to the will to live–not only from the elements, but from the worst in humanity. 

Purchase ithere.

The Mountain Between Us (2017) (39%)

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba walk throgh deep snow, lost in the mountains

The Mountain Between Us is a story of survival wrapped in a love story. Make no mistake; it’s primarily a story of how these two people come to love and rely on each other. 

But all that is indeed set on a backdrop of survival. After all, when their place goes down in the frigid wilderness, they have no choice but to struggle to make it. The story is gripping and emotional, and it certainly bears watching. 

Plus, it’s definitely less depressing than some others on this list. 

Purchase it here

The Grey (2011) (79%)

Liam Neeson amongst the wreckage of a plane

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. 

As each man either succumbs or overcomes their circumstances, you see a narrative steeped in metaphor. It definitely bears discussion once the movie ends. 

And of course, watching Liam Neeson fighting wolves is always good. 

Purchase it here

Everest (2015) (73%)

Man climbs the side of an ice-covered cliff

Movies based on true events can be much more meaningful–especially when it involves a tragedy. Based on Beck Weathers’ memoir, Everest is the true story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which left 12 people dead. 

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. 

Purchase it here.

The Edge (1997) (63%)

Anthony Hopkins stares off screen

So far in our list, four movies have used a plane crash to start the characters on their journey of survival. The Edge is no exception. 

It’s a certainly a movie of survival, but more psychological–especially when it comes to the tension between its two protagonists. Bottom line: The Edge is a great thriller with two great actors, and it’s definitely worth a watch. 

Purchase it here

Adrift (2018) (70%)

man and woman look concerned in a small boat, tossed in raging water

Like The Mountain Between Us, Adrift is a love story with wilderness survival elements. But that’s their only similarity. For one, Adrift is based on a true story. In 1983, a woman and her fiance were lost at sea in the middle of a hurricane. It doesn’t get a whole lot worse than that. 

Where the movie really shines in how the woman (Tami Ashcraft) fights to survive in the harshest of circumstances. It’s ultimately a very emotional thing to watch. 

Plus, since there is indeed a love story, it could make for a great date night!

Purchase it here

How it Ends (2018) (20%)

Two men lean back against the side of a car, covered in soot

I hesitated to put this on this list, because, well, it’s not a very good movie. But it’s definitely a movie about the end of the world, and what things could look like after such an event. It’s kind of like the Road, but less sad. Unfortunately, the story itself isn’t great. After a cataclysmic event, a man and his future son-in-law set off across the country to find their daughter/fiance.

Despite its poor reviews, if you enjoy this kind of movie (like I do), it may be worth a watch.  

(Only available on Netflix)

Cast Away (2000) (89%)

Tom Hanks in this classic wilderness survival movie

No list of movies about survival would be complete without Cast Away. 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. 

The poor man has a pretty hard time of it. But in a way, his experience is a time of growth, and that’s certainly interesting to watch. Plus, Tom Hanks is always great. 

Purchase it here

The Martian (2015) (91%)

Matt Damon in a spacesuit

Matt Damon is stranded on Mars. That pretty much 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. He’s a smart guy, and he’s someone to root for. 

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. 

Purchase it here

The Road (2009) (73%)

Man and boy push a shopping cart filled with survival items down a deserted road

Apparently, the world after the apocalypse will be very depressing. That’s not a stretch, I suppose. 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. 

They run into hard situation after hard situation. There are good moments, but those serve only to break up the moments that are depressing and hard to watch. 

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t see the movie. It’s powerful and certainly leaves an impact. It’s no feel-good movie, but that isn’t a bad thing. 

Purchase it here

Jungle (2017) (60%)

Danielle Ratcliffe looks haggard as he struggles to survive in the jungle wilderness

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, Yossi Ghinsberg gets lost in the jungle, after traveling with his friends and a guide to find a promised stash of hidden gold. 

Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, and the rest of the movie deals with how things fell apart. 

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.

Purchase it here

127 Hours (2010) (93%)

Man stuck in a canyon

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 Ralston, a hiker whose hand became trapped by a rock in a canyon in the desert. 

As you probably know, how Ralston got out of his predicament involved a Swiss Army knife and a very high tolerance for pain. 

You may not think that a movie about a single person stuck for 127 hours could be very interesting. But you’d be wrong. A movie about resilience and the will to live, 127 Hours is definitely worth your time. 

Purchase it here

Open Water (2003) (71%)

couple drifts in open water, surrounded by sharks

If you fear deep, open water (like I do), then this may not be the movie for you. Open Water honestly taps into a primal fear of being adrift in the open sea–where anything could be lurking in the deep. 

That’s not to say that this movie sensationalizes anything. In fact, it’s based on a true story; two people left behind, in open water, when their scuba boat mistakenly leaves them. And if the freezing water and rain, lack of water, and exhaustion weren’t enough, they’re being circled by sharks. 

When it comes the psychology of survival, this movie cuts deep. Check it out, but know that you may not look at the ocean the same way again. 

Purchase it here

All is Lost (2013) (94%)

Robert Redford steers a boat through a raging storm: A different kind of wilderness survival

Minimalism at its best, All is Lost takes place almost entirely on a single boat, with a single protagonist (Robert Redford), and almost no dialogue. It’s man versus nature at its best–no backstory, no complicated relationships, only “Our Man” and the sea. 

Watching Redford act in this film is a thing of beauty, and the film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, too. If you’re making your own list, this movie should be on it. 

Purchase it here

Backcountry (2015) (89%)

woman hides from a black bear

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. As you might have guessed, things only get worse from there. 

The movie succeeds in creating a very tense atmosphere, and it sticks with you for a long while after the movie ends. 

One thing is for sure: if you go camping in the wilderness, bring bear spray. 

Purchase it here


Movies adventure wilderness

There's something so incredibly satisfying about a great, man-vs.-nature film. The best survival movies pare everything down to the most essential elements: There are very few characters, they have just their wits and some limited tools at their disposal, and they only have one objective in mind: stay alive. And yet, with so few ingredients, these movies are still able to get our heart rates up, and give us a twinge of the existential terror that is the vastness of nature. Survival films are a study in how to do the most with the least. (Sometimes, the characters don't even talk.)

What they're surviving, though, varies — and gives us a look at what we most truly fear. Mostly, these movies involve staying alive through the harsh conditions of a vast wilderness. (Especially the ocean. So. Many. Boats.) Sometimes, a more aggressive threat is added in, be it an untamed animal (to remind us of our own beastly instincts, perhaps?) or a human competing for the few resources available. The unknown — aka outer space — is a theme in many of them, too. The biggest threat in them, though, is the isolation, and keeping spirits up and mind sharp in the face of vast challenges. Check out these survival movies below, and try to figure if you'd have the chops to outlast their challenges.

Adrift (2018)

Two young people in love agree to sail a 44' yacht across the ocean to deliver it to a rich couple — what could go wrong? Well, a hurricane, for one. After the storm hits, the boat gets lost at sea and the movie goes from a romance to a story of survival.


The Martian (2015)

Based on a self-published novel by Andy Weir, The Martian follows the story of a botanist (played by Matt Damon) who gets marooned on the Red Planet. He has to figure out how he can be his own one-man crew and survive long enough for a rescue party to return — or possibly forever.


The Revenant (2015)

All Is Lost (2013)

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. He has to improvise his own technology (like making a sextant!) in order to find help.


Gravity (2013)

In outer space, no one can come to your aid. 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 was nominated for 10 Academy Awards when it came out, including Best Actress and Best Picture, and it won seven of them, including Best Director.


Kon-Tiki (2012)

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. They face sharks, storms, and the dangers of the open sea along the way. 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.


The Grey (2011)

It's hard enough out there surviving the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. But Liam Neeson's character in The Grey has something even scarier to content with — a pack of wolves that are following him.


127 Hours (2010)

This movie, from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, recounts the harrowing true-life story of outdoor enthusiast Aron Ralston. When hiking alone through Utah's caverns, Ralston was pinned under a boulder, and he has to figure out how to stay alive while unable to move.


I Am Legend (2007)

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 of mankind, he has to endure the isolation and dodge the vampire-like mutants that the disease created. But is he really the only human survivor?


Cast Away (2000)

Tom Hanks shucks off his nice-guy persona when he plays a Fed Ex employee whose plane crashes, leaving him deserted on an uninhabited island. He has to brave the elements — and the isolation. Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for his ability to get audiences to empathize with his volleyball best friend.


The Edge (1997)

Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins star in a film about two men who survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wildnerness. 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.


Alive (1993)

This movie tells the true story of an Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed high in the Andes mountains, and the extraordinary (and sometimes disgusting) lengths they had to endure to survive. It features a stacked cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Josh Lucas, and Ileana Douglas.


Rambo: First Blood (1982)

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.


The Blue Lagoon (1980)

Who says a survival movie can't also be kind of steamy? In this one, two young people, played by Brooke Shields and Richard Atkins, are shipwrecked and left alone on a deserted island. They're left there to grow up and make a home on the island without the constraints of their Victorian society.


Deliverance (1972)

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. In order to survive, they have to take to their canoes and brave rapids, among other dangers. Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox play the campers.


The Omega Man (1971)

The year is 1975. A biological weapon has killed most life on Earth. Neville (Charlton Heston) believes he's the sole human survivor. He has to keep his wits about him, though, because the weapon has turned others into nocturnal mutants out for blood. This movie is actually adapted from the same novel as I Am Legend.


Lord of the Flies (1963)

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. They have to survive the elements — and each other. In addition to the 1963 version, there's a 1990 remake that stars Balthazar Getty.


Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

This adventure tale has everything: shipwrecks, pirates, a tiger, and one envy-inducing island treehouse. It's also one of the least grisly survival tales, so you can watch it with the whole family.


Marisa LaScalaParenting & Relationships EditorMarisa LaScala covers all things parenting, from the postpartum period through empty nests, for; she previously wrote about motherhood for Parents and Working Mother.

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The Forbidden Valley - Action Movie Full Movie

34 Awesome—and Awesomely Bad—Outdoor Movies You Can Stream Right Now

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Invite the outdoors to movie night. This list features some of our favorite movies, from a chilling horror flick set in the forests of Sweden to a ground-breaking climbing documentary, as well as a few so-bad-they’re-good pulp masterpieces. Grab your popcorn and settle in.

When you make a purchase through our site, we may earn a commission.

180° South

best outdoor movies 180 south

If this modern-day retracing of Doug Tompkins and Yvon Chouinard’s iconic 1968 journey through Patagonia doesn’t inspire you, you may be dead inside. Rent on Amazon

The Ritual

the ritual

We watched this horror flick right before a backpacking trip—don’t make our same mistake. Five college buddies reunite for a hiking trip in Sweden, but something in the forest is watching them. Stream on Netflix

Free Solo


This palm-sweating documentary, which documents Alex Honnold’s ropeless climb of El Capitan, isn’t just a record of one of history’s great athletic feats, it’s a triumph of on-location filmmaking that sent its crew up the side of America’s largest cliff. Stream on Disney+

Touching the Void

best outdoor movies touching the void

This bracing adaptation of Joe Simpson’s memoir is arguably the greatest mountaineering movie of all time. Rent on Amazon

A Walk in the Woods

best outdoor movies a walk in the woods

Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are an odd couple on the Appalachian Trail in this adaptation of Bill Bryson’s bestselling book. Rent on Amazon


best outdoor movies maidentrip

When Laura Dekker was 14, she took to the sea in her two-masted ketch in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo. Compiled mostly from her own footage, this movie tells the story of what turned out to be an incredible journey. Stream on Amazon

Leave No Trace


No, it isn’t a documentary about environmentally-friendly camping. This drama, about an Iraq War veteran and his daughter who live in an Oregon park until an incident forces them to emerge into society, became a critical darling after its premiere at Sundance in 2018. Stream on Amazon

Jeremiah Johnson

Robert Redford = quintessential mountain man.

Robert Redford = quintessential mountain man. Rent on Amazon

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey


How are these for unlikely hiking buddies? Two dogs and a cat (voiced by Michael J. Fox, Don Ameche, and Sally Field, no less) cross the Sierra Nevadas in search of their departed owners. Whether you grew up with the original or this remake, their journey is sure to bring back childhood memories. Stream on Disney+

The Way

best outdoor movies the way

Far and away the top pick of BACKPACKER’s Facebook audience, The Way follows Martin Sheen’s grieving father on a soul-searching hike along Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Rent on Amazon

Into the Wild

best outdoor movies into the wild

This handsomely directed adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s classic bestseller features a star-making turn from Emile Hirsch and a haunting score by Eddie Vedder. Rent on Amazon

Grizzly Man

best outdoor mvoies grizzly man

The life and death of grizzly bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, as captured by director Werner Herzog. This powerful documentary is as gut-wrenching as it is beautiful. Rent on Amazon


best outdoor movies moana

“See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes.” Stream on Disney+ Plus


best outdoor movies alive

A survival classic, Alive chronicles the tale of an Uruguayan rugby team struggling to escape the wilderness after a plane crash. Rent on Amazon

127 Hours

In arguably his best role ever, James Franco stars in this gruesome, gripping adaptation of Aron Ralston's survival memoir.

In arguably his best role ever, James Franco stars in this gruesome, gripping adaptation of Aron Ralston’s survival memoir. Stream on Amazon

Mile Mile and a Half

Five friends hike the John Muir Trail and capture the stunning landscape of the High Sierra. Gift it to any aspiring thru-hiker.

Five friends hike the John Muir Trail and capture the stunning landscape of the High Sierra. Gift it to any aspiring thru-hiker. Steam on Amazon

The Edge

Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins battle a predatory grizzly—and each other—in this pulpy drama.

Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins battle a predatory grizzly—and each other—in this pulpy drama. Rent on Amazon

The Grey

Liam Neeson is as badass as ever, but his bloodthirsty wolf foes are a little over-the-top.

Liam Neeson is as badass as ever, but his bloodthirsty wolf foes are a little over-the-top. Stream on Starz / Rent on Amazon

A River Runs Through It

Spectacular Montana scenery and a young Brad Pitt provide eye candy galore.

Spectacular Montana scenery and a young Brad Pitt provide eye candy galore. Rent on Amazon

Cast Away


WILLLLLSSSONNNNNNN! Stream on Cinemax / Rent on Amazon

Chasing Ice

See glaciers melt before your eyes as James Balog travels to Iceland and beyond in order to document the Earth's changing landscape.

See glaciers melt before your eyes as James Balog travels to Iceland and beyond in order to document the Earth’s changing landscape. Rent from YouTube


A guilty pleasure if we've ever seen one, this action flick set in the Dolomites features vintage Sly and a nasty villain turn from John Lithgow.

“If you’re looking for Qualen, try about 4,000 feet south of here. He’ll be the one wearing the helicopter.”Rent on Amazon


Warning: may invoke an irrational fear of banjos.

Warning: may invoke an irrational fear of banjos. Rent on Amazon

Happy People

How is it possible that the residents of one of the most inhospitable places on Earth also happen to be the happiest? This Siberian documentary…

How is it possible that the residents of one of the most inhospitable places on Earth also happen to be the happiest? This Siberian documentary (directed by Werner Herzog) is a quiet stunner. Stream on Amazon

K2: The Ultimate High

A dramatized account of two friends' near-disastrous ascent of the world's second-tallest peak.

A dramatized account of two friends’ near-disastrous ascent of the world’s second-tallest peak. Stream on Hoopla

Lawrence of Arabia

“Sweeping” hardly does this singular epic justice. It’s probably the best desert film of all time (and certainly the longest). Rent on Amazon

March of the Penguins

Admit it: These little guys melted your heart. Also, Morgan Freeman should narrate everything ever.

Admit it: These little guys melted your heart. Also, Morgan Freeman should narrate everything ever. Rent on Amazon

Never Cry Wolf

A young biologist investigates whether wolves are really as bad as they're made out to be in this adaptation of Farley Mowat's landmark book.

A young biologist investigates whether wolves are really as bad as they’re made out to be in this adaptation of Farley Mowat’s landmark book. Rent on Amazon

The River Wild

Meryl Streep and David Strathairn are terrorized by a villainous Kevin Bacon during a rapids trip down Idaho's Salmon River.

Meryl Streep and David Strathairn are terrorized by a villainous Kevin Bacon during a rapids trip down Idaho’s Salmon River. Stream on Starz / Rent on YouTube

The Great Outdoors

Dan Aykroyd and John Candy go family camping with disastrous, hilarious results.

Dan Aykroyd and John Candy go family camping with disastrous, hilarious results. Stream on Starz

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Famous for its

Famous for its “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” line, Bogie’s gold prospecting classic is a sly and insightful examination of human greed. Stream on Turner Classic Movies / Rent on Amazon

Vertical Limit

Preposterous in almost every way, this mountaineering action flick makes Cliffhanger look highbrow by comparison, but still works fine as pure…

Preposterous in almost every way, this mountaineering action flick makes Cliffhanger look highbrow by comparison, but still works fine as pure popcorn entertainment. Stream on Amazon


A brother and sister stranded in the Australian outback enlist the help of a young Aborigine in Nicholas Roeg's hallucinatory avant-garde classic.

A brother and sister stranded in the outback enlist the help of a young Aboriginal Australian in Nicholas Roeg’s hallucinatory avant-garde classic. Stream on Criterion / Rent on Amazon


best outdoor movies wild

Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of self-discovery on the Pacific Crest Trail was an instant best-seller, and Reese Witherspoon brings it to life on the big screen. Rent on Amazon

Need more ideas? Check out 14 More Awesome (and Awesomely Bad) Outdoor Movies You Can Stream Right Now


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9 of the Best Wilderness Movies

Big screen films can evoke many emotions, such as excitement, anticipation, poignancy and longing, or a mix of all of these. But we think some of the best movies are the ones that inspire you to go out and do something different. Here we reveal 9 of the best films to motivate you to get into the wilderness – or think about going to wilder places.

The Way

The Camino is an inspiration for many walkers to discover more wild places.

This film pays tribute to the power of the popular long-distance walk, the Camino de Santiago. When a father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son, who died during a storm while travelling the El Camino de Santiago, he decides to take the pilgrimage himself. As he walks the father meets other people to form a mini group of pilgrims who travel the way to the end at Santiago de Compostela. Although a sad story the film is ultimately uplifting and showcases why many people come to hike this famous pilgrimage route. See our choice of Camino walking tours.


Trail runs through wild scenery

Part of the Pacific Crest Trail which goes from Mexico to Canada.

Again sparked by personal tragedy and troubles, this film tells the story of a woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike. The woman is played by Reese Witherspoon, who sets out to walk the Pacific Crest Trail in America. The tale is of self-discovery and healing while also revealing the benefits of being surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the PCT.

A Walk in the Woods

Appalachian trail passes through a dark forest

The Appalachian Trail passes through a wide range of wild landscapes.

Acclaimed America travel writer Bill Bryson (played by Robert Redford) sets off with a long-lost friend to hike the Appalachian Trail, which extends more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine in America. The film is part meandering travelogue about his middle-aged attempt to hike this notoriously tough trail, part an examination of the relationship of the two friends and how their lives have developed and part a showcase for the natural beauty of this American trail. The movie is funny, up lifting and motivating. If these two guys, who appear to be such newcomers to long-distance walking, can take on an epic overland hike, why can’t everyone?

Into the Wild

Snow capped Mountains, blue lake in Alaska

The wide open beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

Although this film is ultimately tragic it still offers a powerful wilderness attraction. The movie is based on the book of the same title, written by Jon Krakauer, about a successful American college student, Christopher McCandless, who turns his back on a high-earning career, gets rid of all his possessions and walks in the wilds of Alaska. At first, McCandless seems content with his basic life, living and surviving alone from the land and surrounded by nature. But while the wilderness can be stunningly beautiful it can also be cruel at times. We won’t spoil the ending of this film but suffice to say it makes many people cry.

Finding Traction 

tree covered hills on the Long Trail

Never ending wilderness on the Long Trail.

Finding Traction tells the inspirational story of ultra runner Nikki Kimball and her bid to become the fastest person to run America’s oldest hiking trail, the 273-mile Long Trail. The film asks what drives her to attempt the feat and follows her journey through training and racing in the Rocky mountains and her record attempt through Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Captain Fantastic

river runs through washington state

The wilds of Washington state.

Ben Cash (played by Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen), his wife Leslie and their six children live deep in the wilderness of America’s Washington state. The parents have chosen to become isolated from society and are content to devote their lives to raising their children. The payback is kids who are brilliantly educated, physically fit and incredibly able at surviving in the wilderness. The film makes the audience think about what life would be like without the modern trappings of highly absorbing an distracting technology and how much better we might all be if we lived closer to nature. The family face one of their biggest challenges when they are forced to leave their wild home to spend time in an unfamiliar modern world. It’s a superb story that is funny, challenging and spirit-lifting. It leaves many people with a desire to spend at least a little more time in the outdoors, if not a great deal more time.

127 Hours

view over canyonlands national park

Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

The movie plot centers on a climber, Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) who ends up trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone in Utah. Over the next five days, Ralston examines his life and considers his options, which lead to him making the agonizing and excruciating choice to amputate his arm so that he can extricate himself and try to make his way back to civilization. The true story, based on Ralston's book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is emotionally painful but also reveals why many people are attracted to the other-worldly landscapes of the canyons of Utah and asks what the audience might have done if faced with the same situation. Would you fight for your life?

Touching the void

Mountains in Peru reflected in a lake

Siula Grande looms overhead.

The movies tells the gritty and challenging story of two young climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who take on the challenge of reaching the summit of Siula Grande in Peru via the previously unclimbed West Face. The attempt is successful but on the return a near-tragic incident sees Joe Simpson falling down an ice cliff and breaking his leg. To help Simpson back to base, Yates takes on the arduous and dangerous challenge of lowering his friend down the mountain by rope. At one point in awful weather and both almost hypothermic, the pair become stuck, neither able to move on the end of the rope. Yates has to take the decision to cut the rope or risk both of them dying. Simpson falls into a crevasse and Yates assumes him to be dead. Yet incredibly Simpson is not. He spends three days without food and with almost no water, crawling and hopping five miles back to their base camp with his mangled leg. Although a difficult movie to watch, it reveals the enormity of what Simpson achieved surrounded by the stark but magnificent landscape of the Andes and his survival is often hailed mountaineers as one of the most amazing stories of all time. The film might not make you want to climb tough mountain routes but it will surely encourage you to seek out fabulous wilderness locations to enjoy you own more comfortable hikes or simply to stare in wonder.

The Barkley Marathons

Trees fade into the distance in Frozen Head State Park

Frozen Head State Park

Subtitled, The Race that Eats its Young, this film reveals the race that attracts people who want to test their limits of physical and mental endurance in what is claimed to be one of the world's toughest events. In its first 25 years, only 10 people have finished The Barkley Marathons. The ultra marathon trail race is held in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee. Amid the madness of the runners, you will glimpse a parkland area of wonderful beauty in southeastern America.


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