Best Survival Movies and Documentaries: Trailers & Where To Watch

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Why do we love to experience survival stories so much? Is it because we’re in awe of the human spirit and will to survive, or because we want to experience the enormity of survival situations from the comfort of our own homes? Movies and documentaries about survival in extreme situations are popular thrills that rock us to the core. Here’s our selection of the best survival movies and documentaries. Whether you want a true story or a work of fiction, we’ve got you covered.

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Narrative Dramas | Nature Survival | Wasteland Survival | War Survival | Space Survival | Documentaries

 

Narrative Dramas

While some of these movies are based on true stories, each has elements that push them into the realm of fiction. Some of these movies are speculative fiction, inviting us to wonder “what if?” while others are more realistic or are historical fiction. No matter what genre you prefer, these survival movies will all have you on the edge of your seat.

 

Nature Survival Movies

Ever hear the phrase “nature is red in tooth and claw”? These survival tales show us exactly how dangerous nature can be. Many of these feature extreme weather conditions in addition to remote, dangerous locations. In these movies, the heroes have to learn quickly that the only things they can trust are their instincts and themselves.

 

Against The Ice

Exploring Greenland’s vast landscape for a lost map, two men must fight to survive. Based on the true story of Denmark’s 1909 polar expedition, this movie features the harsh beauty of the polar landscape and the harsh fury of the polar bears.

 

Big Miracle

Most of the movies on this list are tales of human survival. But Big Miracle is based on the true story of three gray whales and the efforts that humans made to save them from entrapment in ice. It’s a heartwarming story about people coming together in one of the harshest environments in the world to help those who can’t help themselves.

 

Everest

Everest is based on the true story of the disastrous 1996 Hall/Fischer Everest expedition. Even with experienced guides, Mt. Everest claims many lives due to the rapidly changing weather conditions. The movie tells the story of a group of climbers as their summit attempt goes wrong and they must struggle to survive against the brunt of nature’s piercing cold temperatures and blizzard conditions.

 

Flight of the Phoenix

In this movie, a group of plane crash survivors must stay alive in the heat of a Gobi Desert summer as they build a new plane from wreckage and spare parts. They must survive bandits, the heat, and most challenging of all, each other.

 

The Grey

After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled sharpshooter as they try to make their way to safety. But if the Alaskan wilderness wasn’t daunting enough, a pack of relentless wolves hounds their every step. The Grey is both a meditation on the human condition and our relationship with nature and a movie in which a man punches a wolf in the face.

 

The Revenant

The Revenant is both a tale of survival and revenge. After being mauled by a bear, witnessing the murder of his son, and being left for dead by members of his own hunting team, a frontiersman in the 1820s fights for survival.

 

The Snow Walker

An intimate tale of survival and interdependence, The Snow Walker tells the story of a pilot and his passenger as they struggle for survival in the Arctic tundra after their plane crashes.

 

Wasteland Survival Movies

Survival movies set in post-apocalyptic wastelands are a popular genre these days. This selection of survival films pits people against the worst that nature has to offer and even more dangerous hazards like radiation, zombies, and the worst that humanity has to offer.

 

I Am Legend

Years after a man-made plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the last man in New York City struggles to find a cure. But he knows he is badly outnumbered and the odds are against him, and all the while, the infected are waiting and watching for him to make a mistake.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

The fourth movie in the Mad Max series, and widely considered the best, Mad Max: Fury Road tells the story of how hope and grit can overcome impossible odds in the post-nuclear war Australian outback. This movie is also notable for having used very little CGI– virtually all of the stunts are real, making it even more exciting to watch.

 

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic tale in which a blind man fights his way alone across the former United States of America to protect the key that holds the secrets to saving humankind… if there’s anything worth saving.

 

The Girl With All The Gifts

After one of the last remaining safe havens for humanity is destroyed, a small group– two soldiers, two scientists, and one very special little girl– must try to make their way to a surviving human colony. Their fight for survival against both monsters both biological and psychological is a gripping adventure.

 

The Road

In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea. The world may have ended, but the hazards here aren’t just environmental; the worst the two have to face comes from other people.

 

War Survival Movies

At their core, all war movies are about survival. Whether you’re fighting for a just cause or fighting for your life between factions that have nothing to do with you, it’s always a challenge to survive a warzone.

 

Dunkirk

The evacuation of Dunkirk was one of the most harrowing maneuvers of WWII. Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Commonwealth and Empire, and France were surrounded by the German Army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II by ordinary people who mobilized their fishing and pleasure boats in one of the most important civilian actions during the war.

 

Hacksaw Ridge

The Medal of Honor is one of the most prestigious awards the US Army can bestow upon a soldier. It is typically earned through feats of military valor in combat, and virtually always is earned by marksmen who are skilled in taking enemy lives. There is one exception to this rule: Desmond T. Doss, the only person to ever receive the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot. Hacksaw Ridge is his story.

 

Lone Survivor

In late June 2005, Marcus Luttrell and his team set out on a mission to capture or kill a notorious Taliban leader. They are left to fight for their lives in one of the most valiant efforts of modern warfare.

 

Rescue Dawn

Rescue Dawn follows the epic struggle a US fighter pilot faces after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

 

Space Survival Movies

These movies are all set against the cold, airless vacuum of space. Space survival is a high-stakes game because without extensive environmental support, there’s no way to survive. Add in some looming threats and you’ve got a spine-tingling story of survival.

 

Apollo 13

Based on the true story of the Apollo 13 near-disaster, this movie follows a difficult moon mission. At first, everything goes well– but when an oxygen tank explodes, the scheduled moon landing must be aborted. Challenges and tensions within the crew and numerous technical problems threaten the astronauts’ survival and their safe return to Earth.

 

Alien

In space, no one can hear you scream. Alien is a classic survival horror film that makes you wonder: Why didn’t they just listen to the person who knew what they were talking about? Not for the faint of heart!

 

Gravity

Two astronauts work together to survive after an accident leaves them stranded in space. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But this film is considered a masterpiece by many for its incredible characterization and acting against the dramatic backdrop of outer space.

 

Europa Report

Europa Report is a found-footage-style movie about an expedition to one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, Europa. It’s the story of a search for life in the far reaches of space, and it doesn’t go how any of the astronauts expect it to.

 

The Martian

An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assumes him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity, skills, and copious amounts of duct tape to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive and can survive until a potential rescue.

 

Documentaries

While the movies above are all fictional stories, these films try to understand the true heart of human survival. We’ve already shared several survival stories in our list of hiking and climbing movies, but here are several more true stories of incredible feats of survival.

 

Being Caribou

In this documentary, a wildlife biologist and an environmentalist follow a herd of caribou across 1,500 kilometers of Arctic tundra – on foot. It’s a challenging journey for both the scientists and the caribou and provides a new, unique perspective towards the Arctic landscape.

 

Between Home

A sweeping documentary about overcoming boundaries, “Between Home” follows the seafaring survival of Nick Jaffe on his world-spanning voyage from the UK to Australia. Jaffe is an artist and amateur sailor, and this film is essentially his diary as he negotiates the treacherous waters of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

 

Cold

The shortest film on our list, Cold is an absolute must-see. In the past 30 years, 16 expeditions have tried and failed to climb one of Pakistan’s 8,000-meter peaks in winter. On February 2, 2011, Simone Moro, Denis Urubko, and Cory Richards became the first to succeed. Their story is almost unbelievable.

 

Happy People: A Year In The Taiga

Some stories of survival are about people removed from their normal environment. But Happy People is a candid look at the lives of Siberian trappers, whose lifestyle has survived both the harsh Siberian environment and challenges from the modern world.

 

I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash

In 1972, a plane carrying a college rugby team and several other passengers crashed in the far-flung Andes mountains. The world thought they had died, but they hadn’t. This is the story of their 72 days of survival in the mountains.

 

The Summit

In August of 2008, 22 climbers from several international expeditions converged on High Camp of K2, the last stop before the summit of the most dangerous mountain on Earth. 48 hours later, eleven had been killed or simply vanished into thin air. The Summit is their true story.

 

Movies By Streaming Service

 

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Netflix

 

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Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about