Best Survival Movies [2021 Update]

Of all the genres and sub-genres in film, we are suckers for a good survival movie. There is something special about the triumph of the human spirit, and personal struggles of life and death that really speak to us more than any other type of movie. There are tons of great survival movies available, but below are 10 of the all-time best. Have a favorite that isn’t on our list? Let us know in the comment section at the end of the list. If you’re more of a TV fan, check out our post on the best living off the grid tv shows list.

1. Touching the Void (2003) 

touching the void movie

Coming in at number one is Touching the Void. This docudrama depicts the true story of British climbers Simon Yates and Joe Simpson as they became the first climbers to reach the summit of the Peruvian Andes Mountain “Siula Grande.”

The ascent went off without a hitch, but they were not so lucky on their return down the mountain.  Without giving to much away I can tell you that this true story filled with broken legs, cut ropes, crevices and excitement sits firmly a top this list. If you are looking for a jaw dropping 106 minute long journey that will leave you feeling exhilarated, alive, and cold then look no further than Touching the Void. 

2. 127 Hours (2010) 

Nothing beats a true story of survival. This film, starring James Franco as the real life climber Aron Ralston, is the true story of a man who must make hard choices to survive after getting his arm trapped between a rock and a hard place (pun intended).  When Aron Ralston realizes that help is not coming, and there is only one way to escape he cuts his own arm off with a pocket knife. 

Warning this film is not for the faint hearted, but if you can manage, it’s by far one of the best examples of survival you will find on this list. 

3. Cast Away (2000) 

Tom Hanks could write a “surviving plane wrecks for dummies” how to book after his role in Cast Away.  When his company plane goes down over the Pacific Ocean, Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks) finds himself marooned on a deserted island.  

The story’s shows Nolan as he slowly learns the art of survival. From making shelter to creating fire and even emergency dental work. You watch as Nolan transforms into the supreme bearded survivalist we all know and love. Wilson!!!!! 

4. The Grey (2012) 

Speaking of plane wrecks – Starring Liam Neeson, this movie shows that even a plane full of rough oil workers are no match for the Alaskan wilderness.  Shortly after their plane crashes, the surviving men come to realize that they are surrounded and being hunted by a pack of blood thirsty wolves.

If you were ever wondering who was more badass, Liam Neeson or Giant Alaskan wolves, you might need to watch this one.  This disaster survival movie puts the audience in the action, and it will leave you wondering… “What would I do?”

5. Into the Wild (2007) 

This biographical survival movie follows the life of Christopher McCandles (Emile Hirsch) as he leaves his comfortable life of privilege behind for the open road after college. You watch as McCandles learns how to survive without his car (which he abandoned) or his social security card and money (which he burned).

The story concludes in Alaska where McCandles experiences a culmination of his learned survival methods as he lives of the land in an abandoned school bus.  If you are looking for an inspiring movie about a journey to self-realization and freedom then look no further.  

6. Jeremiah Johnson (1972) 

Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) is a Mexican war vet who decides to move out west and become a true mountain man.  The film shows the struggle he endures until, aided by the help of some Native American friends, he learns how to live off the land.  Johnson soon finds a track of land and begins to raise a family with his Native American bride, but things are cut short when he finds himself engulfed in conflict with a nearby tribe.

If you have a fever for survival westerns then Jeremiah Johnson may be your only cure. 

7. I Am Legend (2007)

Will Smith is the fresh prince of New York in this doomsday survival thriller.  After an experimental virus that was created to cure cancer goes airborne and kills 90% of the world’s population, the immune Robert Neville (Will Smith) is left behind to find a cure.  He is not completely alone though.  Those who didn’t die were mutated into daylight hating super zombies.  

I Am Legend shows that sometimes the key to surviving is all about having the right motivation.  

8. World War Z (2013) 

Starring Brad Pitt as the Ex UN special investor Gerry Lane, World War Z is the post-apocalyptic survival movie that will leave you ready to bug out yourself.  When things take a turn for the worse, Gerry Lane scrambles to get him and his family out of Philadelphia alive.  They eventually land a spot on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, but Gerry must find the origin of the outbreak in order to insure his family’s safety. 

This film gives one of the better glimpses into the possible conditions of the end of the world, and the supermarket scene is enough to make any father panic. 

9. The Edge (1997) 

Billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) and photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) are pitted against the Alaskan wilderness when their plane goes down on their way to a photo shoot.  

Morse uses his photographic memory to recall knowledge from a survival book he was reading as the two try to survive long enough to be rescued. When Charles discovers Robert has been having an affair with his supermodel wife, he fears Robert might be planning to kill him. 

Overall a good classic 90s movie, and it will definitely satisfy your survivalist spirit. 

10. The Road (2009) 

Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy with the same name, this post-apocalyptic drama has its moments of thrilling action. Viggo Mortensen plays a father burdened with the seemingly impossible task of keeping his son safe in a world gone mad. As the two of them travel they encounter creeps and cannibals galore all the while being armed with a six shooter and two rounds.  

best survival movies

Ultimately if you are looking for an entertaining move to watch on a Saturday night then this is not a bad pick, but as far as survival goes this movie is more of a “how NOT to” guide.  

by Brent Patterson

The Simple Prepper