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The Best Survival Movies of All Time

14 must-watch Survival films


I am a camper at heart, and a prepper in my head so I do love a good survival movie. It doesn’t matter if it is a documentary, a based-on real events, or complete made-up silliness.

A survival movie is designed for you to root for the hero or hero’s and hopefully cheer for their happy ever after at the end.

The Wife will probably tell you she hates watching survival movies with me because I am always saying what I would do and what people did wrong haha.

Anyway, here is a list of my some of my favourite survival movies:


127 hours


I am not a massive fan of James Franco, but he is less annoying in this than most of this other films.

It is a based on true events film, about a climber who goes out hiking and climbing, gets his arm trapped, and spoiler eventually has to cut his arm off with a pocketknife to free himself.

It is actually quite a deep film, where mountaineer looks back on his life and realises his follies and grows from them.

Probably the best thing about the film is that it drives home the point that you must always tell people where you are going and for how long.

When I am out camping, I always tell people what I am doing, and I always have a personal emergency beacon on me, and I mean ON ME and not just in my backpack.




This film is based on a book, which is based on a true story. It is probably most famous for the cannibalism and how and why you would even think about it.

A Uruguayan Rugby team, family, and friends crash land in the Andes Mountains.

It is a great film about how they made use of things in the wreckage to survive, but ultimately some of them consume frozen human flesh of the dead.

They do this so they can go looking for other sections of the plane, equipment, survivors, and ultimately a way to maintain energy to hike their way out of the mountains.

If they didn’t eat the human meat, they would have all died without doubt, it poses an interesting question on if it is ever acceptable and could you even do it if it were.  


All is Lost


I was on the edge of my seat when I watched this, as Robert Redford is a powerhouse in it. He barely speaks, in fact there are only 51 spoken words in the movie but the acting and the score is superb. 

He gets lost at sea after an accident and has no means of communication equipment or navigation… oh and a storm is coming.

Eventually he must abandon the boat into a life raft and continue his survival quest.

He shows a lot of maritime survival skills in the movie, the builds a sextant, repairs the boat, crafts a solar still for drinking water, fishes, and uses flares and signalling fires.




This was made in that time when seemingly every film Tom Hanks made was up for an Oscar. Most of the film is just Tom doing what Tom does, and only he could make a Volleyball a compelling supporting actor.

There are a lot of survival troupes in this film, you know the ones, trying to make a fire and failing then jumping for joy when you finally manage, trying to crack open coconuts, and trying to build a raft but they are all done pretty well.

There are some happy and unlikely coincidences that help him out along the way, but by and large it is a very solid person trapped on a not so idyllic paradise island type film.

The ending was a little contrived but didn’t ruin the film for me.




There is a surprising amount of decent killer crocodile films, this one, Rouge, and Lake Placid all have their charms although like Shark films they tend to suffer when you start to see too much of the “monsters”.

Anyway, I enjoyed this one, even with a lot of rather silly moments. A woman goes into a flooded town during a storm to look for her father, unfortunately alligators seem to like storms and the taste of pesky humans.

The scene in the basement where she and her father are trapped with rising water, and the alligators are after them is particularly good.


Into The Wild


I was fascinated by this film, there is also a great documentary out there on this too called The Call of the Wild.

This is a story based on true events and is about a young man called Christopher McCandless who gave up reasonable family privilege and wealth to hike across America and finally live off the land in the Alaskan Wilderness.

The flashbacks hint at a not so happy family dynamic, and possible abuse but the most interesting thing for me was the lack of preparedness he had and how it led to his downfall.

He didn’t understand seasons, as he got isolated by a raging river which he easily crossed in the summer but was impassable in the other seasons, he only really knew how to hunt with a rifle, he had no idea how to preserve meat, and finally he was killed by misidentifying a plant which he eats, and he dies.

He seemed more interested in the romance of living off the land, but simply didn’t have the knowledge and experience to do so.


It Comes at Night


This is a great little film and is underrated in my opinion. In a nutshell there is a highly contagious disease, which is everywhere.

A family are living in a remote cabin in the woods, they have set rules to stay safe, then another family find them, they are taken in, and then SHTF.

I think I like this film so much because it is something, I wrestle with myself, our family is prepared for this kind of thing. We have our bug out bags, escape routes, and our home can function off the grid if need be.

However, in the case of protecting my family, I am always torn with how much help should you offer other people in crazy times because no matter how well prepared you are then will always be something that crops up you do not expect.

Would I be able to turn someone away to protect my family, and how do you make that choice?


Lord of the Flies


When I was a kid, I was forced to read the book and the original 1963 film at school (there is an inferior 1990 remake), and I hated both the book and film.

However, I have revisited them both as an adult and I love them.

It is a great little study of not only how survival might play out on a marooned island but how people might react without any rules, and the kids are certainly the most dangerous thing on that island to each other in the end.

I definitely think that in a SHTF disaster event, I will certainly have more issues with other humans than I will have from nature and wild animals.


Rambo: First Blood


I think a lot of people might class this as another one of those silly action blockbusters from the 80’s. However, it is in fact quite a scaled back film focusing on the ravages of the Vietnam War.

It is quite a sad film really, and you understand every decision Rambo makes even though it does involve killing people but if he didn’t then he would have been killed, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong it is not just a character piece, as there is obviously some great action and some round of applause inducing survival skills on show.

Probably the most famous survival scene is where he stiches up his own wound.



The Martian


Getting trapped in the mountains is bad, getting stalked by a CGI monsters is troublesome, but getting stranded on another planet seems careless!

That is what happens to Matt Damon, he gets left behind on Mars where we see survival practises such as first aid, food growing, and water collection. This is by far the most interesting thread of the film if somewhat flimsy.

The rest of the film is usual space fare, NASA people being clever, a NASA boss who is a seemingly mean but is really a good guy, heroic astronauts etc etc.

The special effects are great though, and everything looks realistic and believable to an extent.


The Revenant


Some films are great, and you watch them over and over again, some films are great but they aren’t really repeat viewings for some reason.

This is one of those films for me, I absolutely loved watching it in the cinema. It was probably my favourite film of 2015, but for some reason I have never watched it again.

It is filled with great acting, and Tom Hardy is an absolute bastard with a capital B. However, probably the main reason to watch it is for the bear attack on poor little Leo DiCaprio.

It is very well done and doesn’t just paint the bear as a monster. The scene seems to go on forever, just when you think oh that must be it, bang! the bear keeps on going.

The scenery even though it is shot to look bleak and intimidating, looks absolutely stunning to me. Maybe I should watch it again thinking about it!


The Shallows


Most shark films land in the so bad they are good category, and it makes Jaws even more impressive. The Shallows is a great shark film and generally a good film.

It gets a little silly in places but hey it’s a film with a CGI killer shark in it so what do you expect.

Blake Lively goes off on a trip to find herself after the death of her mother, she goes surfing, stumbles across a Whale carcass, and then things go horribly wrong.

She gets biting off a naughty Great White, and must battle against her injuries, dehydration, sun exposure, and a shark that seems more interested in her than a free Whale meal but Blake Lively is damn hot so who can blame it.

She manages to kill the shark and get to safety, and there is a nice one year later scene where she is with her sister and father and everything is great, but it is shot in a dreamlike way, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the shark actually won after all.


The Tomorrow Man


This is a standard odd couple romance film, but with a prepper twist. The man is a prepper, who spends his life prepping for a SHTF moment that may never happen.

The woman is a happy go lucky sort who will just buy things on a whim regardless of their use. They obviously fall in love, but can they get past their differences?

This film is not a masterpiece, but it did get me thinking, I have a wife and kids who luckily do share my views. However, I do have family members that don’t and I often worry for them, but I guess they worry for me too in a different way.


The Way Back


This is a fascinating and brutal watch and is inspired by real events. Basically, a Polish Army Officer is framed for being a spy by The Soviets.

He is sent to a labour camp in Siberia, which looks horrendous and solidifies why people would risk anything to escape.

Anyway, a rag tag bunch escape and that’s the end of movie… well actually no.

Once they have escaped, they just have the small matter of a 4000-mile hike through the Himalayans, and possibly the worst thing is that there was no YouTube then so they couldn’t even post weekly vlogs on their thru-hike haha.

Not all of them survive, but the Polish Officer Janusz does and what I found interesting is that he spent most of his like walking around the world, all the way up to 1989.

So, even though nature put him through hell, he grew to love it and respect it.


Final thoughts


Survival movies don’t just have to be based on true events, I love all types of survival movies whether they are realistic or outlandish. I love watching them and thinking about what I would do in the same circumstance.

About Tom Bell

Hi - I'm Tom, the owner and founder of TheSurvivalSpirit.com! I'm a passionate outdoors enthusiast and am dedicated to bringing you the hottest online survival advice.  


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