Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
I don’t watch as many movies as I used to, but I still enjoy a good survival movie from time to time. They’re usually not very realistic, but I don’t care about that. I’m not trying to learn survival skills from movies, anyway. I enjoy them because they’re inspirational and they make me think.
You can’t discount the value of inspiration. Preparedness can be boring sometimes, but if you’ve just seen a movie about people surviving a disaster against all odds, suddenly boring tasks like pulling weeds in your garden or inventorying your supplies become interesting again. And even if the movie isn’t inspirational, it could make you think of a problem or situation you never considered before, which will help you round out your preps.
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These are, in my opinion, the 100 best survival movies (that I’ve seen). A few things I want to mention first: I stayed away from the really over-the-top movies like 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. I also avoided movies about aliens (like Independence Day) and Zombies (like Dawn Of The Dead). Although I like those movies, including them all would have made this list twice as long.
For the same reason, I also didn’t include any documentaries (although many of these movies are based on true stories).
The movies are in alphabetical order, and for each movie I included a link to the DVD on Amazon.com. From there you can select Blu-Ray, Amazon Video, or any other format you prefer (if they’re available). Now on to the list:
1. 127 Hours – Based on a true story, this is about a hiker who is trapped in a canyon for five days and must find a way out in order to survive.
3. A Cry in the Wild – The story of a young man’s survival in the Canadian wilderness after his plane crashes.
4. A Man Called Horse – When an English lord is captured by a Sioux Indian tribe, he is given to the chief’s aging mother as a servant. Gradually, he embraces their way of life.
5. Aftershock: Earthquake in New York – After New York City is rocked by a massive earthquake, two men face uncertainty as their own family members lie buried in the toppled buildings.
6. Against the Sun – During World War II, three men end up adrift in a lifeboat with no food or water surrounded by shark-infested water.
7. Alive – A team of tough rugby players resort to drastic methods in order to survive after their plane crashes in the snow-covered Andes.
8. Andromeda Strain – A team of scientists races against time to destroy a deadly alien virus that threatens to wipe out life on Earth.
9. Apocalypto – In the twilight of the mysterious Mayan culture, young Jaguar Paw is captured and taken to the great Mayan city where he faces a harrowing end.
10. Apollo 13 – True story of how three astronauts, stranded 205,000 miles above the earth, fight a battle to survive while Mission Control works against time to bring them home.
11. Backcountry – A young couple goes camping in the Canadian wilderness and up lost in the territory of a dangerous black bear.
12. Battle Royale – A group of children are stranded on an island where their only chance of survival is through the death of all their classmates.
13. Behind Enemy Lines – After his plane gets shot down in Bosnia, Burnett is alone and trying to outrun a pursuing army.
14. Black Hawk Down – This film re-creates the American siege of the Somalian city of Mogadishu in October 1993, when a 45-minute mission turned into a 16-hour ordeal of bloody urban warfare.
16. Buried – A U.S. truck driver gets buried alive by Iraqis. All he has is a lighter, his cell phone, and a limited supply of oxygen.
18. Children of Men – For years, no one has been able to have children and the world faces the potential end of the human race. But when I man meets a pregnant girl, he has to get her to safety.
19. Damnation Alley – A post-nuclear movie in which nearly all life has been wiped off the face of the planet, leaving only a few survivors.
20. Dances With Wolves – A lone soldier makes friends with and eventually joins a tribe of Native Americans.
21. Dante’s Peak – Great depiction of how an unexpected volcano eruption could devastate a small town.
22. Death Hunt – Charles Bronson stars in a movie that details the determination of two men in a manhunt across the Canadian tundra.
23. Deep Impact – A teenager discovers a comet that turns out to be headed toward Earth. People struggle to reach safety before it’s too late.
24. Defiance – True story of the Bielski brothers, simple farmers who turned a group of war refugees into powerful freedom fighters.
25. Deliverance – The story of four men who test themselves against the elements and set out on a treacherous ride on the rapids of an Appalachian river.
26. Doomsday – To save humanity from an epidemic, an elite fighting unit must battle to find a cure in a post-apocalyptic zone controlled by a society of murderous renegades.
27. Eight Below – Eight sled dogs and their guide are stranded in Antarctica during one of the most brutal winters on record.
28. Empire of the Sun – A young British boy’s noble spirit allows him to survive the hardships of a Japanese prison camp in China during World War II.
29. Enemy at the Gates – WWII epic about a Russian and a German soldier.
30. Escape from New York – In the near future, crime is everywhere and New York City is a maximum security prison.
31. Everest – This movie follows the stories of two Everest expeditions that struggle against a severe snow storm.
32. Farewell to the King – During WWII, an American soldier escapes his Japanese captors and flees into the jungles of Borneo.
33. First Blood – Green Beret vet John Rambo wanders into the wrong small town and gets the living hell kicked out of him by the local law enforcement. He strikes back the only way he knows how, leading to a visceral flight and fight through the local mountains.
34. Gallipoli – The story of two young men who cross continents and great oceans, climb pyramids and walk through the ancient sands of Egypt to join their regiment at the fateful battle of Gallipoli.
36. Gray Lady Down – A disabled submarine sinks down to the side of an underwater mountain and the U.S. Navy attempts a rescue.
37. Hell in the Pacific – An adventure about two wartime enemies trapped alone on a desert island.
38. I Am Legend – The story of a lone human survivor in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by genetically-mutated humans.
39. Into the Storm – A small town is destroyed by a series of tornadoes while storm chasers attempt to get the best footage possible.
40. Into the Wild – The true story of Christopher McCandless who gave up his money and possessions and went in search of adventure.
41. Iron Will – Based on a true-life story, a young man and his team of sled dogs embark on a grueling and treacherous cross-country marathon, in hopes of winning a $10,000 prize.
43. Kon-Tiki – In 1947, an explorer travels thousands of miles across the Pacific ocean on a balsawood raft.
44. Lifeboat – Set during World War II, after their ship is sunk in the Atlantic by Germans, eight people are stranded in a lifeboat.
45. Life of Pi – While lost at sea on a lifeboat, a young man forms a connection with a dangerous Bengal tiger.
46. Lord Of The Flies – A group of children from a military academy are stranded on an island. Eventually they turn savage and start to kill each other.
47. Lost in the Barrens – The story of two very different boys in the Canadian wilderness. They must learn to depend on each other in order to survive.
48. Mad Max: Fury Road – In a post-apocalyptic future, a warlord has hundreds of slaves, some of whom attempt to escape.
49. Man in the Wilderness – After being given up for dead, Zachary Bass fights man and nature during his 600-mile Northwest Territory trek.
50. Miracle Mile – When a man finds out about an imminent nuclear holocaust, he and his friend attempt to escape the city before it’s too late.
51. Never Cry Wolf – Tyler, a young and inexperienced biologist, is deposited alone onto the desolate Arctic terrain. Once settled, he struggles to endure the forces of nature.
52. North Face – The edge-of-your-seat story of a competition to climb the most dangerous rock in the Alps. Based on a true story.
53. On the Beach – The war is over. Nobody won. Only the inhabitants of Australia and the men of the US submarine Sawfish have escaped the nuclear destruction and radiation.
54. Outbreak – Disease experts are called in to identify and stop a deadly virus which was carried into the country by an illegally smuggled monkey.
55. Panic in Year Zero – A post-nuke survival story of a father who fights to protect his family from looters, rapists and murderers.
56. Red Dawn – A group of teenagers fight back after Russians and Cubans invade America.
57. Rescue Dawn – Real-life story of a US fighter pilot Dengler, shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.
58. San Andreas – During a series of earthquakes, a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot attempts to rescue his ex-wife and daughter.
59. Shackleton – In 1914, a crew of 28 men must survive in Antarctica after their ship is destroyed.
60. Shoot to Kill – When a cunning murderer vanishes into the rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest, pursuing FBI agent Warren Stantin must exchange familiar city streets for unknown wilderness trails.
61. Six Days, Seven Nights – A pilot and his passenger struggle for survival after crashing on a deserted island.
62. Southern Comfort – When nine National Guardsmen enter the Louisiana swamp for routine training, they are unaware that just a handful of their ranks will make it out alive.
63. Survival Quest – It was supposed to be the ultimate wilderness challenge: Four weeks at the North Rockies Survival Quest School. But when the group crosses trails with an unstable and sadistic paramilitary squad, a shocking accident turns their nature trek into a desperate struggle for life and death.
64. Surviving the Game – A homeless man, recruited as a guide by a band of wealthy hunters, winds up the hunted instead.
65. Swiss Family Robinson – After being shipwrecked on a deserted island, the Robinson family overcome the obstacles of nature and transform their new home into a community.
66. Take Shelter – A farmer begins having visions of a terrifying disaster. Despite the protests of his friends and family, he starts preparing.
67. Tears of the Sun – A crack team of U.S. Special Ops commandos struggle to rescue innocent missionaries amidst the bloody horror of Nigerian ethnic cleansing.
68. Testament – An unexpected nuclear strike has occurred and no one knows who did it or why it happened.
69. The Bounty – The story of a sea captain who, in 1787, steered The Bounty on a 27,000-mile voyage into danger, chaos and madness.
70. The Condemned – Brought to a desolate island, a death row prisoner finds himself trapped in a fight to the death against nine other condemned killers from all corners of the world.
71. The Day After – The inhabitants of a small town in Kansas learn along with the rest of America that they have fewer than 30 minutes before 300 Soviet warheads begin to appear overhead.
72. The Earthling – The story of a dying man with a fascinating past who teaches a small boy not only how to survive in the wild but how to survive in life.
73. The Edge – Two men up against a giant Kodiak bear, and their own inner demons, when lost together in the Alaskan wilderness.
75. The Flight of the Phoenix – Robert Aldrich’s tense, 1965 drama about a plane crash in the Sahara is a unique psychological study of men in desperate circumstances.
76. The Grey – Six oil workers are stranded in Alaska after their plane crashes, and a pack of wolves stalk them every step of the way.
77. The Impossible – Based on the tsunami that devastated Thailand in 2004, this movie follows a family that fights for survival amid the chaos.
78. The Killing Fields – Schanberg is a journalist who covered the war in Cambodia, and Dith is his translator and aide, who is exiled to Cambodian labor camps where millions of others have died.
79. The Last Man On Earth – After a plague wipes out the human, Dr. Robert Morgan looks for a cure at night while hunting vampires during the day.
80. The Martian – After an astronaut is stranded on Mars, he has to find a way to survive with only a few basic supplies.
81. Miracle Mile – When a man finds out he only has an hour before nuclear missiles destroy Los Angeles, he searches for the one girl with whom he wants to spend his last minutes.
82. The Mosquito Coast – The story of a modern man who takes his family into the jungle.
83. The Mountain Men – Bill Tyler and Henry Frapp lead a rugged life as fur trappers in the Rocky Mountains amongst hostile Indian tribes and must decide whether to help a chief’s runaway squaw.
84. The Naked Prey – In the late nineteenth century, colonialists are captured and hideously tortured. Only one is released, without clothes or weapons, to be hunted for sport, and he embarks on a harrowing journey through savanna and jungle and back to a primitive state.
85. The Omega Man – Welcome to the future. Biological war has decimated life on Earth. Los Angeles is a windswept ghost town where Robert Neville tools his convertible through sunlit streets foraging for supplies.
86. The Poseidon Adventure – Follows ten survivors as they struggle to escape from an ocean liner capsized by a tidal wave.
87. The Postman – A drifter leads the resistance against a military tyrant after the collapse of civilization.
88. The Quiet Earth – A government research scientist wakes up to discover that he may be the last man on earth.
89. The Revenant – In the 1820’s, a frontiersman is mauled by a bear and left for dead by his fellow hunters. He struggles to survive against all odds.
92. The Snow Walker – The story of an Alaskan bush pilot and young Eskimo girl who survived a plane crash in the Alaskan outback.
93. The Trigger Effect – When the power goes out in the big city and society starts to break down, husband and wife Matthew and Annie find out that not even suburbia is safe.
94. The Way Back – Based on the true story of seven prisoners who escape from a Siberian gulag and travel thousands of miles on foot to freedom.
95. Tomorrow When The War Began – Seven college students must fight for their survival and their freedom when a foreign army invades their country.
96. Touching the Void – Two British mountaineers attempt to climb the previously unconquered mountain Siula Grande. A mixture of overconfidence in their own abilities and underestimation of the climb’s difficulties bring them to grief.
97. Tracks – The story of a young woman who leaves her life in the city and treks across 2,000 miles of Australian desert.
98. Unbroken – Based on the true story of three men who survive on a raft for 47 days before being captured by the Japanese navy and sent to a POW camp.
99. Walkabout – Two teenage siblings are lost in the Australian outback where they meet an Aborigine, who teaches them how to survive in the wilderness.
100. Waterworld – Set in the future when Earth is completely covered in water and the human race is struggling to survive.
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