Best survival movies can be some of the most inspiring films to watch especially in the post-pandemic mood. Of course, the best sports movies can inspire the bejesus out of us too.
However, movies like Cast Away fill our spirit with a gratitude kind of inspiration. While the Arctic just has us living with the character due to its realistically lifelike acting.
Apart from some of the best survival movies that can inspire and give you all kinds of emotions.
This survival movies list is full of directors and writers whose work we all enjoy. From first time director Joe Penna to the OGs of filmmaking like Alfonso Cuaron and Ridley Scott.
Take a moment to sip the taste and cost of freedom with Into the Wild. Enjoy the beauty of earth from space with Gravity.
Now let us dive into the best survival movies piece and find one that you will enjoy watching.
Survivors Movies: 127 hours
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Aron Ralston
Stars: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Slumdog Millionaires Director David Boyle directed 127 hours and wrote it with Simon Beaufoy. The cast includes people like James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara. This is one of the best wilderness movies that feature a man who struggles to survive after a hiking accident.
The story is based on the real event that happened with Aron Ralston when he was mountain climbing in Utah.
This movie has one of the most immersive cinematic experiences any thriller movies can hope for. The way it works so well as a movie not as a documentary is how it’s shot.
If you are as an audience not invested in the story and in how it happens. You wouldn’t find it worth watching.
By how I mean that its structure already tells you something unthinkable is going to happen. But it doesn’t tell you how. Even though you could find that information out easily, watching it on the big screen makes you live it. And that is what the best survival movies should be.
Part of what makes you live is of course the acting. It is so believable. In fact, believable is not as grandiose of a word to describe it. I just couldn’t find anything else that could convey the same thing.
However, the movie is not for the weak. The unthinkable I talked about is something that not everyone would be able to do. Even though you probably know by now what it is, I will not spoil it for those who don’t.
Easily one of the best wilderness survival movies that make you go through hell together with the actor on screen. This is probably why it won an Oscar for its acting.
The Best Survival Movies: Into the wild
Director: Sean Penn
Writers: Sean Penn, Jon Krakauer
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt
Into the Wild comes from writer, director Sean Penn. It is an adventure drama movie with stars like Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener. The movie tries best to synthesize wilderness movies into the survival movies genre.
A young graduate athlete renounces all his savings and possessions and sets off on a journey of his lifetime. Along the way encounters people that have a big influence on him.
Sean Penn’s version of the hero’s journey doesn’t miss a single detail from Joseph Campbells’. But what makes this one better is its poignant story and study-worth character. Throughout the runtime, if you understand the structure you know his coming back home. But what is home for him?
This is one of a kind wilderness survival movie with picturesque frontiers and excellent capture of that beautiful scenery. Although it is a character-driven movie they don’t forget about its plot and the theme it represents. In that, they are able to ask you some deep questions, answers to which you will be searching for weeks after this viewing experience.
For example, the character believes in the wilderness versus society story. Such, when escaping society he will get to experience total freedom. But even when he is in the remotest parts of the society, he still sees airplanes flying by–the symbolism of big society. He runs away but doesn’t go far.
The contrast of ideologies with a perfect theme and one of a kind acting is what makes this one of the best survival movies.
If there were one movie that would befit the category of wilderness survival movies, it would be this one. Because embodying the best survival movies, it ventures out into the best wilderness movies with ease.
Movies About Survival: Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Gravity is a sci-fi/thriller movie both directed and written by Alfonso Cuaron. The stars include people like Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris.
It’s about two astronauts–Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski(George Clooney). They struggle to survive after an incident leaves them alone in space.
Breathtakingly astonishing visuals and the CGI and basically everything related to the lighting, mise-en-scene well everything image related is flawless.
Although it may seem like two astronauts struggling to survive in space, for me it wasn’t just that. It felt as if they were talking about the human spirit. And how it is hard and lonely but we have to keep moving on.
That aspect makes this movie one of the best survival movies. Plus, it is inspiring as heck. Albeit the lack of character development and a strong plot is absent. The movie makes up for it with an incredible music score and sound design and shooting style.
It is one heck of a thriller ride from start to finish. Especially if you watch it in 3d or with a better monitor, it makes your eyes gauge out and leave your brain.
A few mistakes worth mentioning are the futile endeavor to make it emotional. If you don’t have proper character development, there is no need to try to be emotional. Because people won’t be able to feel for the undeveloped character.
However, it wasn’t in vain that they tried to be emotional. It gave the audience some breathing time for when the tense moments were over. And the movie is full of tense and suspenseful scenes. This could be one of those stranded movies, except not on an island or so, but in space.
Survivors Movies: Cast Away
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: William Broyles Jr.
Stars: Paul Sanchez, Lari White, Leonid Citer
The director Robert Zemeckis directed Cast Away and William Broyls Jr. wrote it. The cast includes stars like Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez. It is one of the best survival movies that is also one of the stranded movies.
An executive crash-lands on a remote island and goes through an emotional transformation full of obstacles and difficulties all alone.
Cast Away is that movie that a lot of people have heard about and what happens but never really cared for it seemed too simple. “A man crash lands and survives”. However, this story is deep and touching and far more than simple.
It is a one-man show. If you don’t like Tom Hanks (very unlikely) you might find it a bit slow-paced. But even then Tom Hanks delivers one of the best performances of his life.
Its script along with writing is praiseworthy as well. Because it is hard to keep this movie going when you only have one actor playing it. His acting could be phenomenal, but without the proper words and script to follow, that excellence can often be wasted.
Cast Away does have its flaws. But it makes it up for them with elements like its message and exploration of human nature. And the study that, we as humans need companionship and communion. Without which it can be not just psychologically hard to survive, but physically impossible.
Among the survival movies list Cast Away may not come first in all but should be present yet in all of them. It’s a movie whose nature is about survival thus one of the best survival movies.
Movies About Survival: Martian
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir
Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
Ridley Scott’s Martian had quite the success at the box office, and with the audience as well.
Based on the novel by Andy Weir, the writer Drew Goddard wrote the screenplay. It features people like Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig.
When a group of astronauts leaves the red planet due to a storm coming. They have to leave a member of the crew behind assuming he is dead.
It has been a while since we last had a good movie from Ridley Scott. Martian was a movie of his talent and level. And that is one of the best survival movies.
It was certain without much debate that his visual story-telling style is uniquely brilliant, one of a kind. But he had a few mishaps with the writing and the story of a few movies before.
Martian has great writing, it’s almost like redemption for the director. And it is funny. Of course, the acting of Matt should not be left behind, which was on another level as well.
He was so charming and funny that although he was in a dire situation, we could share in his optimism.
The cinematography synthesized with a sound design and music were two good additions that together made the movie a classic. Although Martian has a lot of references and even the writing seems a bit too similar to another space movie. Like the aspect where the hero was stuck far far away from Jessica Chastain might ring a bell?. But it can easily be overlooked when you are high in cinematography and music.
It is not stranded movies type but one of the top survival movies without much of a wilderness movies aspect to it.
The Best Survival Movies: Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Billy Ray, Richard Phillips, Stephan Talty
Stars: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
As it is almost impossible to picture the best revenge movies without the face of Robert De Niro. It is the same with the best survival movies without the face of Tom Hanks.
Paul Greengrass who is known for his documentaries directed this movie with Billy Ray as the lead writer. The stars include people like Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman.
Paul Greengrass’s even-handed approach and the global story carry the movie. Obviously, it may seem like another one of the marketing tricks to approach a wider audience thus by choosing a ubiquitous appeal.
Engaging and a thrilling Captain Phillips is about a boy who is caught by pirates, according to the main actor. However, according to the director, it is about the causes of globalization.
I don’t intend to spoil anything if you haven’t watched it. But the director’s depiction of the movie comes real close too.
Regardless of the message, the theme of two captions with neither in control is a great one. It goes to obviously say there is more to them than their current missions and intentions. Also, pirates are not just pirating because they love it but because they have no other choice.
Honestly, sometimes, I hate polished and mainstream focused material. But when presented with intricacies of their small world crashing into the wider one makes it that much more realistic.
Now that is a great piece of narrative cinema that fans can enjoy. And surely one of the best survival movies. Well, it could be a lost at sea movie with some stranded movies aspects. But then it follows the general good survival movies genre.
It is based on true events which make one a bit sad after the movie is over.
Movies About Survival: Touching The Void
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writers: Joe Simpson
Stars: Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron, Richard Hawking
Kevin Mcdonald’s docudrama Touching The Void was written based on the book of the same name by Joe Simpson. The cast includes people like Simon Yates, Joe Simpson, Brandan Mackey.
It is about two mountain climbers who face a perilous journey downward. After becoming the first men to be on the summit of Suila Grande. This is one of the best survival movies, period.
The ultimate tale of survival against all odds. Touching the void brings the ultimate drama in a documentary style and succeeds better than some big-budget drama movies.
It is the most successful cinema in British history. The movie speaks of human perseverance and courage into existence with flawless performances and sound effects.
Although, it is not a full-fledged movie where actors take their roles as if they are the people who faced the events. Their performance was on the same level as with any big-screen movie.
Upon descending when Joe breaks his leg, Yates lowers the rope to have him safely land somewhere. However when things go south, quite literally😉. Yates is faced with the most difficult decision he has ever made in his entire life.
Joe now has to make a decision whether to cut the rope and risk his partner’s possible death or wait until the death will loom over both.
Because it is a documentary and you see both men talking you probably know no matter what they survived.
However, this is a piece of a documentary that grips you regardless of all spoilers. And that is the true cinematic art to keep people engaged even when they know what to expect next. Therefore, this is one of the best survival movies.
Top Survival Movies: The Revenant
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Writers: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Michael Punke
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson
The Revenant is a movie that I keep coming back to over and over again. For it’s one of the best wilderness survival movies. Directed and written by Alejandro G. Inarritu, its cast includes stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter.
The story is about a man who is left for dead after a grizzly bear attacked him. It is definitely one of the best survival movies worth a story.
I have written a Revenant Movie Review on our site where I went as far as saying it is one of the best revenge movies. It surely is about revenge. But it is also about how a man survives in the wilderness and goes about that revenge.
So, it is one of the best revenge movies that come from the survival movies list. And occupies its spot among the top survival movies easily.
The breathtaking cinematography and realistic and passionate acting make up for an incredible viewing experience. Its witty dialogue and writing make for one heck of an engaging watch.
Overall all elements of the film combine together to give the audience a time of their life. The revenant deserves to be called by all names. Be it a wilderness movie, or wilderness survival movie, perhaps a revenge movie, even an adventure western with Leo.
Because no matter how you name it, it is going to be at the top of every kind of list. So, go ahead, read the full review and watch the movie a few more times. Because it is not possible to get enough of that cinematography and how beautiful it all looks even on screen.
The Best Survival Movies: Life of PI
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Yann Martel, David Magee
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Ayush Tandon
Life of Pi is directed by Ang Lee and written by David Magee based on the novel of Yann Martel. The cast includes people like Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain. It is one of the best survival movies where a human and tiger find a compromise to survive on a boat.
Pi Patel(Suraj Sharma) needs to find a way to tell his story of how he managed to share a lifeboat with a Tiger after a deadly storm destroyed the ship they were in.
This movie is a visual masterpiece, it is a spectacle of a lifetime. Of course, the idea of man and animal sharing a lifeboat might seem absurd. But in the hands of the right director, even the most absurd ideas make for an incredible cinematic experience.
The use of CGI is flawless. Did you know that tiger was a CGI?. The fact that they were able to bring a totally new living animal into the big screen from the computer screen is mind-boggling. I know how CGI works, but never knew how well it can work.
In short, this is a story about storytelling. And like in storytelling you need to believe the story before telling it yourself. Ang Lee makes the story of a boy and a tiger surviving together so much more believable.
I like how this is a lost at sea movie yet one of the new survival movies that have a unique and original story. I don’t remember there being any other movie where the boy is stuck with a tiger.
The beginning seems a bit drawn out. However, you quickly dive into the situation the characters are in that you forget you had watched already 30mins of runtime.
Good Survival Movies: Arctic
Director: Joe Penna
Writers: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk
Youtubers turned filmmaker Joe Penna directed and wrote the movie the Arctic. It features stars like Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smaradottir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk. This is one of the best survival movies in the truest sense possible.
The story centers around a lone survivor of a plane crash in the arctic expecting someone will come to his rescue. Things change when some does come, except not for his rescue.
What this movie achieved without much dialogue is something that many of Hollywood’s top-level filmmakers find hard to achieve. And the acting on the other hand is on an equal footing with any of the top Hollywood-level actors for he is one.
There is so much conveyed only through the eyes and the facial expressions only that you actually don’t need speech to explain it.
It was obvious that they stayed to the number one rule of filmmaking. “Show, Don’t Tell”. And this movie shows it all. Shows us how the best survival movies are made. Survival is the core tone of the movie.
It is incredible how this talented young man was able to achieve with his shoestring budget. This is not just the best survival movie but a testament to what true talent can produce.
I will certainly be looking for more from Joe Penna in the future. If he was able to turn a good survival movies genre into one that is engaging and full of tense and suspenseful moments. Can’t wait to see what he is going to do with other genres, should he ever film.
There is a small drawback in the writing, the backstory of the main character or the pilot is not explored. And that is something he will have to keep in mind in the future.
All Things Considered
Inspiration can come from all genres of movies. But again as we said in the beginning the type that comes from the best survival movies is different. If well shot and acted, they pierce your heart with every showcase of human endeavor and install eternal sunshine to accompany our spirit. For human spirit is what drives these movies and their core values.
I personally have two takeaways from this piece. One is that the human spirit always overcomes, even the most insurmountable of obstacles, or so they show.
And that a talent coupled with hard work beats all odds as proven by Joe Penna.
I hope you took something away from this piece as well, be it the understanding that best survival movies have no equal when it comes to showcasing the human spirit and inspiration or that perhaps this isn’t your cup of tea.
Either way, watching any of the movies won’t be a waste of your time. Because those movies are definitely going to leave their mark on even though this piece may not have.