Best Survival Movies

From surviving natural disasters, nuclear wars, and shipwrecks to sci-fi alien invasions and zombie plagues, survival movies cover a wide range of genres.

Survival Movies

Here is our list of the Best Survival Movies ever made.

Wilderness Survival Movies

  1. 127 Hours – Based on the true story of Aron Ralston whose journey into Utah’s Canyonlands National Park would become one of the most horrific tales of endurance and courage ever told.
  2. Alive – Based on the real-life events of an Uruguayan rugby team that crash landed in the Andes.  The story made worldwide headlines when it became known that the survivors resorted to cannibalism to stay alive
  3. The Snow Walker – Story of a couple who crashes in the Alaskan wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization and has to do what they can to survive.
  4. The Donner Party – Based on the real-life events of a group of pioneers who get stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains and resort to cannibalism to survive.
  5. Into the Wild – The real-life story of Christopher McCandless, a man who shunned society and went off into the wilderness in search of adventure. The movie gives a chilling look into what can go wrong when an unprepared person tries to take on nature.
  6. Jeremiah Johnson – Robert Redford stars in the adventure Jeremiah Johnson, a movie about a trapper who learns to survive as a mountain man in the wilderness.
  7. Man in the Wilderness – An abandoned fur trapper fights to survive after being injured and left for dead in the wilderness.
  8. Robinson Crusoe – Pierce Brosnan stars in the big screen version of Robinson Crusoe, a movie that is very loosely based on the classic novel. Crusoe is the only survivor of a shipwreck and has to survive on a deserted tropical island.
  9. Seven Alone – The true story of seven children who journey out on the Oregon trail after their parents die.
  10. The Edge –  After crashing in the Wild Alaskan wilderness, two men find themselves teamed up against a giant Kodiak bear in a brutal struggle for survival.

Survival by Sea / Castaway

  1. Cast AwayCast Away – One man’s story of survival after crash landing near a deserted island.
  2. Shackleton – The Greatest Survival Story of All Time – Based on the real-life adventure of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s whose 1914 Antarctic expedition turned out to be one of the greatest survival stories of all time.
  3. Lost – I know it’s a T.V. series, and not technically a movie, but I couldn’t leave it off the list. Uncover the secrets of what caused Oceanic 815 to crash and experience their incredible journey as they battle to survive and rewrite their own fate.
  4. Lord of the Flies – After their plane crashes into the sea, a group of young military cadets bands to together after becoming marooned on a remote deserted island. They eventually split up into two factions setting off a disturbing battle.

Zombie Apocalypse Movies

  1. The Omega Man – The Omega Man stars Charlton Heston in the 2nd on-screen adaptation of the classic novel, I am Legend. This movie is a classic end of the world zombie flick.
  2. Zombieland -Columbus, a panicky college student has managed to survive a zombie virus by creating his rules for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. He teams up with a real zombie killing badass named Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) for what is probably one of the funniest Zombie movies ever made.
  3. Dawn of the Dead (1974 Edition) – Blood Gore & Zombies.
  4. Dawn of the Dead (2004 Remake) – More Blood Gore & Zombies.
  5. I Am Legend This is a remake of the original Richard Matheson classic. Will Smith plays a military scientist who is left alone in Manhattan after trying to discover a cure for a virus that turned everyone into demented zombies.I am Legend
  6. The Last Man on Earth Vincent Price stars in the first big screen version of Richard Matheson classic, I am Legend.
  7. 28 Days Later – A patient awakens from a coma to find a world filled with vicious Zombies.
  8. 28 Weeks Later – 28 weeks have passed since the first film, 28 day’s later. Just when the virus is thought to be contained, a carrier accidentally spreads the deadly infection and wreaks havoc on everyone.
  9. Carriers – Four kids try to avoid a deadly pandemic that is attacking humanity.
  10. Resident Evil – Apocalypse – Zombie thriller based on the popular video game.

Post-Apocalyptic Movies

  1. The Book of Eli -This story takes place 30 years after war has destroyed the world, and left it completely unrecognizable. The new world is filled with roaming gangs who have destroyed all the world’s book,  in an attempt to control whoever is left. The Book of Eli is the story of one man who is on a mission to revitalize a lost society, in a post-apocalyptic world.
  2. The Road – The big screen version of Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling and PulitzerThe Road Movie Cover Prize-winning novel, The Road. The Road is a dark and disturbing post-apocalyptic story of survival that shows a father and son’s journey across a destroyed America.
  3. Waterworld– Waterworld is a post-apocalypse future where the world has been covered by water. The story is about a few who cling to the hope of finding dry land to ensure the survival of the human race. It’s basically Mad Max with water.
  4. The Postman – Set in a post-apocalyptic future, after war has destroyed the government, a wandering loner becomes the symbol of resistance.
  5. Mad Max -The end of the oil age is here and civilization has started to break down, in the first of the Mad Max series.
  6. The Road Warrior – In a post-nuclear war world, a loner fights against other survivors in search of gasoline.
  7. Panic In Year Zero – A family of four leaves Los Angeles for a camping trip just before a nuclear bomb destroys the city. As chaos breaks out, the father must fight to keep his family alive.
  8. 20 Years After – A Post-Apocalyptic story of a young woman who finds herself on a journey to deliver the first child to be born in over 15 years.
  9. A Boy & His Dog – A twisted cult classic, set in a Post-Apocalyptic America, which has inspired a number of apocalyptic movies.
  10. Children of Men – Children of Men is a story where humans have become infertile in a world filled with terror and nuclear fallout.  A small group journeys through an urban landscape filled with vicious urban fighting to protect a lone pregnant women and save the human race.
  11. Reign of Fire – A Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi adventure, where man is driven into hiding when a boy unknowingly releases dragons back into the world.

Invasion / War Survival Movies

  1. Defiance – Based on the real-life story of the Bielski brothers, Defiance tells the tale of a group of defiancebrothers who fled in the woods after Nazis killed their parents. They formed a resistance movement and cared for over 1200 people in makeshift villages that they built throughout the forest.
  2. Red Dawn – The invasion of the United States has begun and eight teens escape into the mountains of Colorado and prepare to wage guerrilla war against the Russians.
  3. RED DAWN – 2012 Remake where a group of teenagers have to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.
  4. Heaven Knows Mr. Allison – WWII story of survival featuring a marine who becomes stranded with nun on an island swarming with Japanese soldiers.
  5. Behind Enemy Lines – A pilot forced to evade and survive behind enemy lines
  6. Rescue Dawn – The true story of a US fighter pilot who is shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.

End of the World / Armageddon Movies

  1. When Worlds Collide – 1951 Classic – The Earth is in danger of colliding with a runaway star, as a  group When Worlds collide movieof survivalists builds a space ship to start a new civilization
  2. War of the Worlds – Steven Spielberg directs the 2005 adaptation of H. G. Wells’ classic novel The War of the Worlds.
  3. The War of the Worlds (1953 Edition) – George Pal, who also produced When Worlds Collide, first brought H.G. Wells classic story of alien  invasion to the big screen in 1953. The film is a classic sci-fi movie and won  the Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1953.
  4. Independence Day – The question of whether we’re alone in the universe is answered as aliens attack the world.
  5. Cloverfield – Five young New Yorkers document their attempt to survive as a creature attacks the city.
  6. The Day After Tomorrow – Global warming plunges the world into an instant Ice Age that causes super storms, chaos, and death throughout the world.
  7. Armageddon -A group of oil riggers are sent into space to save the world from a giant meteor.
  8. 2012 – To be honest I thought this movie kind of sucked, the only reason I put it on the list is because a few readers emailed me telling me how great it was. I did like the crazy survivalist guy.
  9. The Core – The U.S. Government discovers that the earth’s core has stalled and the survival of mankind could be at stake.
  10. Deep Impact – A high school astronomy student discovers a comet that’s headed straight for Earth. The government builds caves to prevent the extinction of mankind and a group of astronauts is sent to destroy the comet with nuclear weapons.

Survival Movies Suitable for Kids

  1. White FangWhite FangJack London’s classic tale of a young man trying to carry out his father’s dying wish to find gold in the great Alaskan frontier.
  2. Davy Crockett – The adventures with Davy Crockett
  3. Shipwrecked -A Disney Classic that includes a shipwreck, pirates, and a boy who must survive alone on a jungle island.
  4. Wilderness Family Trilogy– The adventures of a modern family who leaves the big city for a life in the mountains.
  5. Swiss Family Robinson – Disney’s big-screen version of the classic novel, Swiss Family Robinson. Swiss Family Robinson is the story of a family who must build a new life after becoming shipwrecked on a deserted island.
  6. A Cry in the Wild – Based on Gary Paulsen’s classic wilderness survival novel, “Hatchet” about a 13-year-old boy who has to survive alone in the wilderness.
  7. Stranded – Another version of the classic novel Swiss Family Robinson.
  8. Lost in the Barrens – An orphaned teen is sent to live with his Uncle in the wilderness.

Mountain Survival

  1. Touching the Void – An amazing story of survival about a mountaineers attempt to survive and return to base camp.
  2. The Mountain Men – A movie about the life of a couple of fur trappers in the Rockies.

Survival Documentaries

  1. Alone in the WildernessAlone in the WildernessAlone in the Wilderness is probably one of the best wilderness survival documentaries ever made. The movie shows Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke, a naturalist and survivalist living alone high in the mountains of Alaska at a place called Twin Lakes.
  2. Alaska Silence & Solitude – A follow-up to Alone in the Wilderness; filmmakers trek into the remote wilderness of Alaska 25 years after the original classic. The movie shows Dick Proenneke, who has lived the wilderness for over 30 years.
  3. Nanook of the North – A film that studies Eskimo life including, hunting seal & walrus, building igloos, and a number of other Eskimo survival skills.
  4. American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl – The story of how people survived drought, dust, disease, and famine.
  5. The Great Depression – A historical look at the Great Depression.
  6. American Experience – Influenza 1918 – A chilling look at the flu pandemic of 1918 that killed an estimated 675,000 people.
  7. Snowshoes and Solitude: A Year in the Wabakimi Wilderness – Les Stroud and Sue Jamison document their year in the Wabakimi Wilderness, attempting to replicate life in North American 500 years ago.

Native American Survival Movies

  1. A Man Called Horse – Richard Harris (who also stars in Man in the wilderness) plays an English aristocrat who is captured by Dakota Sioux and eventually adopts their way of life
  2. Geronimo – An American Legend -The story of Geronimo an Apache leader who fought for decades to preserve his tribe’s way of life.

Misc. Survival Movies

  1. The Flight of the Phoenix – A military plane crashes in the desert and the survivors must fix it before all the crew members die.
  2. First Blood – The best of the Rambo series.
  3. Rambo RamboThe most brutal and realistic of the series, Vietnam Vet John Rambo ends up living in Southeastern Asia near Burma and is forced back into action to save a group of American missionaries. This movie is pure brutality, and is not for those who get squeamish at the site of blood and guts!
  4. Sunshine – A crew of seven astronauts is sent on a mission to re-ignite the dying sun.
  5. Open Water – Based on a true story of a couple who is abandoned at sea and must survive in shark-infested waters.
  6. Apocalypto – The story of a Mayan man’s adventure  to save his wife and child after a vicious tribe attacks and enslaves everyone in his village.
  7. The Grapes of Wrath – An American Film Classic, The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of a family who treks across the country to escape the dust bowl in hopes of reaching the promised land of California.
  8. The Grey – After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled huntsman to survive, but a pack of merciless wolves haunts their every step.

38 Comments

  1. Jim
    February 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Wow nice list! I thought I knew about all the survival movies what were out there but there are a number of them that I have never heard of. I’m going to have to check a couple of them out.

    My Favorites so far are Cast Away, book of eli, the road, and defiance.

  2. LovesToSpooge
    February 23, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    A nice list indeed, however, Waterworld and The Postman should never be included in a list that has the word ‘best’ in the title.

    • FRED
      November 24, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Waterworld is a terrible movie.

      • Don oberloh
        June 4, 2016 at 8:30 am

        Maybe for you but there might be some redeeming qualities for others

        • Mist
          July 10, 2016 at 2:54 am

          I liked waterworld

    • DavidR
      November 11, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      I’m told The Postman by David Brin is a good book.

    • Maia
      November 15, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      I could live without Waterworld ever having been made. I, however, thought The Postman was pretty good considering. Just my opinion though. But most everyone I personally know liked it.

      • scooter
        April 21, 2016 at 9:45 am

        …I don’t know, i love both. They fall into my favorite genre of movies and there aren’t enough well funded examples being produced. So I choose not to be overly critical. What about “The Day”? Maybe…?

  3. Ken
    February 24, 2011 at 2:13 am

    I would’ve put Snowshoes and Solitude on the Survival Documentaries list. Gotta give Les Stroud (survivorman) some recognition.

  4. Iouri
    February 24, 2011 at 3:43 am

    I agree, Postman is definitely not one of the best survival movies. Just a propaganda movie.

  5. Reader
    February 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Man, thank you so much for this list. I LOVE these kinds of movies. I’m printing it now to use with my NetFlix.

  6. Pharestc
    February 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Jeremiah Johnson?!

    • Maia
      November 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm

      I watched this movie a long time ago. It’s pretty decent. Redford nailed the part.

    • Srenn
      May 31, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Agreed, jeremiah johnson is a great frontier survival flick.

  7. Don
    February 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Am I the only person that has seen Panic in Year Zero
    it’s an oldie but it’s worth a look.

    • dee
      June 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Panic in year zero….excellent movie… dated but still good

  8. Practical Parsimony
    February 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Oh great! I go from Little House on the Prairie to movies to keep me awake at night…LOL…just kidding. Thanks for a complete list. Maybe I can find these on Hulu or at the Libary. I see some comments include other movies. Thanks, everyone. Maybe I will make another recipe of Black Bean Brownie just to go with one of these tonight.

  9. Justin Bowen
    February 25, 2011 at 7:41 am

    I can’t believe Waterworld made it on a list while The Edge didn’t.

    • aric
      September 15, 2015 at 11:39 am

      WOW I loved the EDGE.
      does anyone know a movie where a boy and his father live in the woods, father breaks his leg and dies from infection, the 11 year old lives alone awhile and then gets taken to a county orphanage.
      the name blue county doesnt come up with anything for me.

      • Enter your name...Dooud
        January 5, 2016 at 7:15 am

        The Education of Little Tree, great movie and book.

        • Enter your name...andrew
          February 2, 2016 at 4:30 pm

          The education of little tree was written by a white supremist
          It was supposed to be his own bio but it all fiction

      • arsalabbasi
        May 4, 2016 at 9:01 am

        “The Road”

  10. Dustin
    February 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Great list. I don’t know if your smoking crack but you need to put it down, pick up the marijuana and watch Waterworld again because it is one of the greatest movies of all time and Does belong on this list along with postman.

    • james
      March 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Waterworld will always be my favorite film..

  11. Rosie
    February 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    My only problem with this list is Christopher McCandless dies out there so it’s really not a survival story at all. Besides that, great list.

  12. eugene
    February 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Uh, ditch Waterworld and the Postman in your post apocalypse section and add Blade Runner. All that rain and gloom is fall out.

  13. Brian
    February 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Great list, but you missed Shawn of the Dead. The ultimate zombie survival movie.

  14. Nasty Gash
    February 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    CAST AWAY is nothing but an advert for FedEx. The entire cast, crew, producers, directors, etc should be ashamed for producing this advert and calling it a “movie”. How many times was the FedEx logo seen? Was there even one scene where it was not seen? Artistic integrity? They have none. Tom Hanks, you are among our favorite actors, but you failed on this one.

    When it became evident to my wife and me what it was (about half way thru), we left and demanded our money back. The manager apologised and did so. Much later we saw it thru with friends on their DVD. No way I would pay to see it.

    How much did FedEx pay for the advert?

    Shame on everyone involved with this fraud.

    • Adam
      January 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

      They didn’t actually pay anything. Unreal I know.

    • Lima
      November 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Did you want them to use some generic name like Ship It, Inc? NOT realistic. There is no way to portray reality unless you actually portray reality! FedX was ALLLLL he had left. I suppose you would have preferred that Wilson was a coconut rather than a volleyball? They could have named it CoCo. And Tom Hanks could have eaten CoCo! Gosh…that would have been a vast improvement over Wilson. NOT! Without FedX there would have been no Wilson…..no crash….no movie. If ANYthing, it slammed FedX because of the plane crash and the death of those on board; that’s not a plug for a company, by any means! Think before you speak!

  15. Matt
    March 1, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I Am Legend was CRAP. Even Omega Man was better & I hate Charlton Heston.

    • Tim
      January 24, 2012 at 5:19 am

      THIS! A million times this! It mentions the book but the movie gets every single possible point of the book wrong in the most rediculous fashion imaginable… The book is amazing, the movie is garbage…

  16. God
    March 1, 2011 at 9:02 am

    i liked most of these movies, but now i have a few more to watch =) i was disappointed that “Kodiak” was not under the “Mountain Survival” category. “Kodiak” was a good movie about these 3 guys crashing into a mountain and having to survive until they get down the mountain. seriously, go watch it.

  17. Nick
    March 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I have basically no problems with this list, it’s a good list of somewhat good movies in general, having not seen the majority of them however I wont say that I think it’s a great list.

    THAT SAID, I have one HUGE problem, and that is the description, or even inclusion of, White Fang, the famous novel by Jack London. Not only is that description not anything resembling the book, if that is what the movie is about, then every copy of it should be destroyed, burned, deleted, and generally wiped out of existence!

  18. Chris
    March 4, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Blasphemy that 2012 isn’t on the list! LMAO just kidding that was aweful. Too much.

  19. Jeff
    March 4, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Great topic. Lots of good movies to check out.

    In the future, if you update your lists, you might want to add “The Mosquito Coast”. Good movie with Harrison Ford from the 80’s about a Surburban family that goes to live in the jungles on South America.

    What about the TV show, “the Colony”? It was too staged for my liking, but had some good ideas.

    I Am Legend, DID suck!

  20. Joe Ballard
    March 4, 2011 at 10:50 am

    What about K-2? And don’t forget the greatest survival movie of all time “Home Alone.”

    • E.C.
      August 29, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Home Alone, and it’s sequels are definite classics on urban survival techniques, and bugging in.

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