Photo: Dimension Films
One of the most popular sub-genres of cinema alongside heist films is the survival movie. It’s the movies that celebrate the strength of the human spirit, the will to live and therefore serve as inspiration for the more common struggles than the ones depicted in these emotional films. The very best survival movies are far more than entertainment, even though they serve that purpose very well too with high suspense and the highest stakes. They offer the most welcomed encouragement.
Best Survival Movies
127 hours (2010)
Probably the most known of the best survival movies, the true story of a hiker and adventurer Aron Ralston became a cultural phenomenon thanks to this movie. A very static movie, but one that manages not to be pinned down by that as it delivers on the suspense and the thrill thanks to the direction by Danny Boyle and the best performance of James Franco’s career. 127 Hours is a true ode to the human spirit, the very thing we enjoy in survival movies, seeking inspiration for our everyday hardships.
Into the Wild (2007)
A long film (2h 28min) that is much more than a survival movie, as the philosophical themes are even more important seeing how possibly every man in history had the thought of leaving everything and living in isolation. Based on a true story of Christopher McCandless, a man with a promising future who hitchhiked to Alaska in order to live in the wilderness, it is a beautiful and deep cinematic experience. A movie that humanity had to make at one point, and the fact the movie was based on real events gives it that much weight.
The Road (2009)
One of the darkest, most hard to watch movies ever made and surely one of the best movies set in a post-apocalyptic setting that was pretty popular at the time of its release. An ill father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son travel through the destroyed, dirty gray country trying to reach the seashore. It’s perhaps the most difficult setting for survival in any of these best survival movies as the world truly seems dead, and it’s surely a movie with the most hauntingly gripping surroundings.
Another film based on a true story, a very popular aspect of the best survival movies, telling the horrific story of an Uruguayan Rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972. The search party was issued and after failing to find the survivors they were thought dead, but the men on the freezing mountains had to resort to terrifying actions for a very long time in order to survive. Etan Hawke stars in this somewhat overlooked film, that should be seen by anyone trying to explore the human will.
The Impossible (2012)
The essence of the movie is captured in its title, as an American family gets itself in the middle of the infamous 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami during their vacation. The unexpectedness of the hit is portrayed brilliantly in the movie, and the struggle of the real-life characters is hard to watch. It’s a rare, perhaps the only movie that seriously deals with cataclysmic events, unlike the movies Roland Emmerich makes.
Cast Away (2000)
A classic and one of the very best survival movies ever, Cast Away is a modern Robinson Crusoe story of a FedEx worker who lands on a deserted island after a plane crash. Proven filmmaker Robert Zemeckis gives Tom Hanks the playground to shine as his character is tested in all ways possible – physically, mentally, and emotionally. A movie that is a part of the global pop culture due to the warmth of the lead and the some truly unforgettable parts and characters.
A very different take on the sub-genre, but surely one of the best survival movies, or movies in general as it was such an ambitious project. The personal historic epic Mel Gibson created really raised the bar on the authenticity of movies, as it was done completely in the Yucatec Maya language and is one of the most brutal movies ever. The main character Jaguar Paw is tested throughout this 16th century bloody, filthy epic, showing the viewer complete cruelty of past times.
Are there any other movies that you consider as the best survival movies?