Best survival movies of all time

Survival Movies: 15 Stories That Outlive The Credits

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Survival stories are a guilty pleasure to us. To know how the odds are stacked against one human, left alone in the wilderness or strange lands, with nothing to guide them back. But those are the very stories that show just how deep the streak of hope runs through us.

With their pulse-pounding narratives that take the audience on journeys through the harshest terrains, testing the limits of human endurance, these films have the best tales of courage and bravado.

Buckle up as we embark on a thrilling ride through the best survival movies that have etched their tales into the fabric of cinematic history.

15 Best Survival Movies

1. Backcountry

  • Genre: Intense, Adventure, Humanity
  • IMDb Rating: 6
Backcountry survival movie

Inspired by a true story, Backcountry is touted as an extremely immaculate wilderness thriller. The story is loosely based on a real-life couple who get lost camping, which sounds fairly harmless. Perhaps it is annoying, especially when your partner refuses to accept the map and a guide. But, when a man-eating bear enters the picture, the plot of this movie rapidly goes from a slightly queasy game of finding your way back to a fight for survival.

What stood out to us in this movie was that, unlike your typical survival movies with a protagonist being thrown into situations they need to struggle out of with you rooting for them all along, this movie shows the consequences of a few less-than-smart decisions that ultimately lead to their fight.

2. 127 hours

  • Genre: Adventure, Drama, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 7.5

Found in most lists that start with the phrase “Best Survival Movies…,” 127 Hours has established itself as a survival movie for critics through and through. With great photography, beautiful landscapes, and exceptional cinematography, 127 Hours is a striking visual piece of filmmaking.

The film follows the story of a mountain climber, Aron Ralston, on an unassuming hiking adventure in the sunny land of Utah. The movie turns tables far from the left field when he gets trapped in a canyon. The next hour and a half has us clutching our seats as we see him take desperate measures and hold on for the longest 127 hours of his life.

3. Jungle

  • Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6.7

Survival movies based on a true story never fail to give you that underlying sense of horror because you, as the audience, know that the events that will unfold before have occurred. Jungle is one such movie that delivers on it, cataloging the journey of the main characters into the Amazon jungle with an enigmatic guide.

With a stellar performance delivered by Daniel Radcliffe, the story follows the guide and a couple of friends into the jungle where the unforgiving nature and the darkest elements of humanity vy for a battle of which is worst.

4. In the Heart of the Sea

  • Genre: Adventure, Drama, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6.9

Survival movies that make you pause for a moment due to their sheer eye-captivating visuals deserve special credit. Popular as a tremendously well-made movie with a script loosely based on facts, Into the Heart of the Sea is a movie worth watching.

With real-life rendering of the 1820 New England landscape, an awe-inspiring ship, realistic graphics, and a star-studded cast, it is the story of a crew that encounters a huge albino bull sperm whale and the heart-stopping battle for life in the middle of the ocean.

5. Life of Pi

  • Genre: Adventure, Drama
  • IMDb Rating: 7.9
The life of Pi

A movie hailed by story makers all around, Life of Pi bagged an astounding eleven Academy nominations, four of which it bagged. When a survival story leaves you with a lesson that even our admittedly less-than-life-threatening situations might call for, it is one to look out for.

With performances for a lifetime, this movie has time-defying 3D and visual effects and cinematography at its best. Following the life of young Pi Patel as he finds a way to survive in a lifeboat in the middle of nowhere with two wild animals, namely a hyena and a tiger, for company, it would have you hooked on more than just one aspect.

6. Nowhere

  • Genre: Adventure, Thriller, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6.3

Survival movies are known for showing a human stripped of every other emotion other than survival when the fight or flight response takes over. Nowhere does this up by several notches. It is worth a watch for its take on surviving against the odds in the middle of impossible conditions with a newborn clutched to your chest.

Starting with a pregnant Mia fleeing a totalitarian country in a container, she is knocked overboard during a violent storm. The movie follows the chilling journey of her baby and her fight for two lives.

7. Gerry

  • Genre: Indie, Drama, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6

A survival movie that not just explores the cruelty of nature but also that of humans. Gerry is a film filled with notable actors and delves into the redefinition of survival and companionship. 

The tale follows two best friends who get lost without supplies in a desert with an extreme climate. What drew us to this movie is a review that said, “The movie takes its time to really explore what it feels like to suddenly have no idea where you are.” The visuals will cast a spell like no other and you will feel like you’re slaves to what unfolds before you.

8. All is Lost

  • Genre: Adventure, Action, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6.9
All is lost movie

Well, the title pretty much gives you a rundown of what to expect before clicking on the thumbnail. However, hold on, for it is reviewed as a glorious piece of cinema that revels in the core values of silent film and an ending that lingers on much after the credits roll.

The movie is about a man on a solo voyage whose yacht collides with a shipping container. With dwindling supplies and the sharks circling, the sailor is forced to face his mortality. This tale of man versus wild is known for its intense plot and brilliant acting.

9. Open Water

  • Genre: Adventure, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 5.8
Open water movie

With a plot that revolves around surviving in shark-infested waters, this movie doesn’t hold back in the horrors of a person being prey in a scenario where they are not on top of the food chain. Susan and Daniel, the main characters, are accidentally left behind, thanks to an inaccurate headcount on their scuba diving trip, turning their fun day out into a life-altering struggle.

10. Alive

  • Genre: Drama, Adventure, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 7.1

An adaptation of Jack London’s novel, this movie is based on “Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors” and is a must-watch if you’re bingeing films from this genre.

After crash-landing their fight into the Andes mountain range, the movie follows the Uruguayan rugby team forced to take desperate measures to survive. Gritty and bleak, the movie captures the extreme conditions in perfect detail.

11. The Mountain Between Us

  • Genre: Romance, Adventure, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 6.4
The mountain between us movie

If you can look at survival movies with a hue of rainbow and love, then this movie would be a good pick. Showing the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to form bonds through thick and thin, this film intriguingly blends romance and survival genres.

The plot revolves around Ben and Alex, stranded in the Utah mountains after a plane crash. Together, they must overcome the challenges of living in snow-covered mountains. With a beautiful, picturesque, and terrifying background, this movie stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba.

12. The Snow Walker

  • Genre: Drama, Adventure, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 7.3

Titled as a modern classic, the Snow Walker blends different components into a survival movie, making it one to add on to your lists. Leaving a macho pilot – Charlie, and an ill Inuit woman stranded in the wilderness after their flight over the Canadian Arctic region runs into trouble, the story is carried forward by their mutual dependence. 

13. Captain Phillips 

  • Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama
  • IMDb Rating: 7.8
Captain Phillips movie

Acknowledged as a masterfully crafted movie, “Captain Phillips” weaves a tale based on true events, delving into the harrowing experiences faced by Captain Richard Phillips and his crew. 

The movie is set in a container ship on its way to Kenya. When attacked by Somali pirates, the captain of the ship, Richard Phillips, needs to use his wits and diplomacy to save himself and his crew. It is a terrifically tense thriller with veteran actor Tom Hanks delivering a stellar performance; It is thought-provoking. 

14. Kon-Tiki

  • Genre: Action, Drama
  • IMDb Rating: 7.1

Original, different, and not your typical Hollywood adventure flick- these are the words and phrases used to describe Kon-Tiki. A delight to watch, with a satisfyingly complex plot, it is a subtle art in the making.

Thor Heyerdahl embarks on an ambitious 4,300-mile expedition across the Pacific Ocean, utilizing a balsawood raft to substantiate his theory about Polynesian ancestry. Along his epic journey, he confronts perilous obstacles that add a gripping dimension to this daring adventure.

15. 12 Years a Slave

  • Genre: Historical Drama, Survival
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1
12 years a slave - a survival movie

Now, this is a movie everyone’s heard about. On the list of movies you have to watch in a lifetime, 12 Years a Slave is survival at its darkest, where your foe isn’t Mother Nature but a fellow human, and that makes it all the more terrible.

The story follows Solomon Northup, who is sold into slavery by tricking him into a job offer. He understands that he is sent to a slave prison and is the unflinching portrayal of life in his shoes. 

That’s a wrap on our top survival. Stay tuned for more, and be sure to comment on which one was your favorite!

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