Best Survival Movies

The Best Survival Movies

Who doesn’t love a good survival movie? From surviving natural disasters, nuclear wars, and shipwrecks to sci-fi alien invasions and zombie plagues, survival movies cover a wide range of genres. But they all have one thing in common; they’re frickin awesome!

I know, there are a million and one movie lists out there, and I’ve even seen my fair share of survival movie lists, but most of them suck! That’s why we took the time to put together a list of some of the all-time greats.

Some of these you can find on Netflix, but a lot of them are pretty hard to find. I’ll link to all of them on Amazon below. Here is our list of some of the Best Survival Movies ever made.

Wilderness Survival Movies

Jeremiah Johnson

Jeremiah Johnson

Robert Redford stars in the adventure Jeremiah Johnson, a movie about a Mexican-American War veteran who wants to live a life of solitude in the mountains. Unequipped for the lifestyle, Johnson learns to survive as a mountain man in the wilderness.

The movies is partly based on the life of the legendary mountain man John Jeremiah Johnson, a story recounted in Raymond Thorp and Robert Bunker’s book Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson and Vardis Fisher’s Mountain Man.

127 Hours

127 hours is 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.

The story recounts Ralston’s remarkable story to save himself after being pinned by a boulder in an isolated canyon in the Utah desert. Over a five day period, Ralston examines his life and survives the brutal environment before doing the unthinkable to free himself from the boulder that trapped him.

Alive

In 1972, the Uruguayan rugby team was flying to Chile to play a game. While flying over the the Andes Mountains, the plane with 45 people on it crashed. Two months after the crash, sixteen survivors were finally rescued; their story made 
worldwide headlines when it became known that the survivors resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Alive is based on the real-life events of an Uruguayan rugby team that crash landed in the Andes.

The Snow Walker

The Snow Walker is the story of a couple’s struggle to survive after crashing in the Alaskan wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization.

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.

Into the Wild

Into the Wilderness isn’t really a story of survival; instead it’s a story of what can go wrong when an unprepared person tries to take on nature.

The movie recounts 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 survive in the wilderness.

Man in the Wilderness

For all of those who emailed me asking why Revenant wasn’t on the list, the reason is Man in the Wilderness.

Before Revenant, came the 1971 Classic, Man in the Wilderness — the better version of the story! After being mauled by a grizzly, Zachary Bass is left behind to die by his fellow trappers. Amazingly, he lives and plots his revenge while having to survive and make his way through dangerous Indian territory.

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.

Seven Alone

Seven Alone is the fictionalized version of the real-life story of a frontier family that traveled by wagon train from Missouri to Oregon. During the journey, both parents die, and the seven children have to make their way through the wilderness to complete the journey their parents started.

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 Movies

Cast Away

Cast Away

Starring Tom Hanks, Cast Away is the story of Chuck Noland, a time-obsessed Federal Express executive who is marooned in a desert island after his plane crashes into the ocean. With little knowledge of how to survive, Noland learns how to split coconuts, trap fish, build fires, and make use of several FedEx boxes that washed up with him.

Shackleton – The Greatest Survival Story of All Time

Based on the real-life adventure of Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose 1914 Antarctic expedition turned out to be one of the greatest survival stories of all time, the movie recounts Shackleton’s epic struggle to lead his twenty-eight man crew to safety after his ship was crushed in the pack ice.

Kon-Tiki

Kon-Tiki is the incredible true story of the legendary Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands on a balsawood raft in 1947.

Heyerdahl believed that people from South America settled Polynesia in pre-Columbian times, so together with five men he built a period correct balsa wood raft and set off on an on an epic 101 day-long journey to prove his theory.

Unbroken

The true story of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini’s near-fatal plane crash in WWII. After crashing, Zamperini survived in a raft for 47 days with two fellow crewmen before being caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a POW camp.

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.

Some more Survive at Sea Films

  • Against the Sun – In an incredible true story from World War II, A WWII pilot, bombardier, and radioman find themselves adrift in the South Pacific in a tiny lifeboat after they are forced to ditch their torpedo bomber.
  • White Squall – A true story about a group of teenage boys who crew an actually operating sailing ship. While learning how to sail, a unique weather phenomena puts them all to the test.
  • All Is Lost – After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a sailor, in the middle of a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, finds himself marooned on a life raft.
  • 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.

Zombie Apocalypse Movies

The Omega Man

The Omega Man

Before the Walking Dead, came one of the original Zombie-genre classics, The Omega Man. If you are a fan of the TV show, you will recognize quite a few scenes that were lifted directly from the movie.

The Omega Man follows Army doctor Robert Neville, one of the only survivors of an apocalyptic war waged with biological weapons, as he struggles to create a cure for a zombie plague that wiped out most of the human race.

The Omega Man stars Charlton Heston and is the first of two on-screen adaptations of the classic novel; I am Legend. And to the people who keep emailing and leaving comments; yes I do realize that The Omega Man doesn’t have “classic zombies”, but the movie is one of the movies/books that inspired the genre.

The Omega Man stars Charlton Heston and is the first of two on-screen adaptations of the classic novel; I am Legend. And to the people who keep emailing and leaving comments; yes I do realize that The Omega Man doesn’t have “classic zombies”, but the movie is one of the movies/books that inspired the genre.

I Am Legend

I am Legend is the remake of the original Richard Matheson classic. In this version, Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a military scientist who is left alone in Manhattan after trying to discover a cure for a virus that turned everyone into demented zombies.

Zombieland

Zombieland follows Columbus, a panicky college student who 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.

Some of our other Favorite Zombie Survival Movies

  • Dawn of the Dead (1974 Edition)– Blood Gore & Zombies.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004 Remake)– More Blood Gore & Zombies.
  • The Last Man on Earth Vincent Price stars in the first big screen version of Richard Matheson classic, I am Legend.
  • 28 Days Later – A patient awakens from a coma to find a world filled with vicious Zombies.
  • 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.
  • Carriers– Four kids try to avoid a deadly pandemic that is attacking humanity.
  • Resident Evil – Apocalypse – Zombie thriller based on the popular video game.
  • World War Z – Former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane travels the world trying to stop a mysterious infection that is turning everyone into raging mindless zombies.

Post-Apocalyptic Movies

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli is a violent post-apocalyptic tale that takes place 30 years after a war has destroyed the world, and left it completely unrecognizable. A drifter, Eli, has been wandering North America for the last thirty years, finding solace in a unique book that he carries and guards with his life.

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.

The Road

I’m not going to lie; this movie was pretty damn depressing!

The Road is a dark and disturbing post-apocalyptic story of survival that shows a father and son’s journey across a post-apocalyptic America. In this on-screen version of Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a man and his pre-teen son, who was born during the chaos, make their way across country in hopes of finding a more hospitable environment in which to live

Some of our other favorite post-apocalyptic movies

  • 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.
  • The Postman– Set in a post-apocalyptic future after a war has destroyed the government, a wandering loner becomes the symbol of resistance.
  • 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.
  • The Road Warrior– In a post-nuclear war world, a loner fights against other survivors in search of gasoline.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Boy & His Dog– A twisted cult classic, set in a Post-Apocalyptic America, which has inspired a number of apocalyptic movies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Time of the Wolf – a disturbing but well-crafted French film from 2003 that explores a family’s experience coping with violence and societal collapse after an unknown and unexplained catastrophe.
  • The Survivalist: A raw post-apocalyptic thriller in which a lone man strikes a bargain with two women as they fight to survive roving gangs and the harsh isolation of a kill-or-be-killed world.

Invasion / War Movies

Defiance Movie
  • Defiance– Based on the real-life story of the Bielski brothers, Defiance tells the tale of a group of brothers who fled in the woods after the Nazis killed their parents. They formed a resistance movement and cared for over 1200 people in makeshift villages that they built throughout the forest.
  • Lone Survivor – Lone Survivor is based on the true story of four heroic Navy SEALs who were ambushed during a covert mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. It’s based on the story told by the only surviving member of the team Marcus Luttrell.
  • Red Dawn – The invasion of the United States has begun, and eight teens escape into the mountains of Colorado and prepare to wage a guerrilla war against the Russians.
  • RED DAWN– 2012 Remake where a group of teenagers has to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.
  • Heaven Knows Mr. Allison– WWII story of survival featuring a marine who becomes stranded with nun on an island swarming with Japanese soldiers.
  • Behind Enemy Lines– A pilot forced to evade and survive behind enemy lines
  • Rescue Dawn– The true story of a US fighter pilot who is shot down and captured during the Vietnam War.
  • The Way Back – A true story of seven Russian soldiers during WW2 who escape a gulag in Siberia. They walk 4000 miles out of Siberia into the Gobi desert and across the Himalayas into British controlled India. An epic feat of survival.
  • The Island on Bird Street: This movie is often overlooked, but is a great survival related film. Based on a true story during WWII in Warsaw, Poland, it shows the survival of an eleven-year-old Jewish boy separated from his father and uncle who are taken to work camps, from which no one returns. He has three things to sustain him: his pet mouse, Snow; the book Robinson Crusoe; the promise of his father that he will return.”

End of the World / Armageddon Movies

When Worlds Collide
  • When Worlds Collide: 1951 Classic – The Earth is in danger of colliding with a runaway star, as a  group of survivalists builds a space ship to start a new civilization
  • War of the Worlds – Steven Spielberg directs the 2005 adaptation of H. G. Wells’ classic novel The War of the Worlds.
  • 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.
  • Independence Day– The question of whether we’re alone in the universe is answered as aliens attack the world.
  • Cloverfield– Five young New Yorkers document their attempt to survive as a creature attacks the city.
  • The Day After Tomorrow– Global warming plunges the world into an instant Ice Age that causes super storms, chaos, and death throughout the world.
  • Armageddon-A group of oil riggers are sent into space to save the world from a giant meteor.
  • 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.
  • The Core – The U.S. Government discovers that the earth’s core has stalled and the survival of mankind could be at stake.
  • 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.

Adventure Survival Movies Suitable for Kids

  • White Fang
    Jack 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.
  • Davy Crockett – The adventures with Davy Crockett
  • Shipwrecked-A Disney Classic that includes a shipwreck, pirates, and a boy who must survive alone on a jungle island.
  • Wilderness Family Trilogy– The adventures of a modern family who leaves the big city for a life in the mountains.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stranded– Another version of the classic novel Swiss Family Robinson.
  • Lost in the Barrens– An orphaned teen is sent to live with his Uncle in the wilderness.

Mountain Survival

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

Survival Documentaries

Alone in the Wilderness

Alone in the Wilderness

This is probably one of my all time favorite movies/documentaries on survival. For anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving it all behind and going off the grid, then you need to watch Alone in the Wilderness. It is quite possibly one of the greatest wilderness survival documentaries ever made.

“Alone in the Wilderness” is a documentary that shows Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke, a naturalist and survivalist, living alone and building his own log cabin high in the mountains of Alaska at a place called Twin Lakes.

Alaska Silence & Solitude

Alaska Silence & Solitude is a follow-up to Alone in the Wilderness. Filmmakers Bob Swerer and Bob Swerer Sr. trek into the remote wilderness of Alaska, 25 years after the original classic was made, to meet Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke. The movie shows Proenneke, who at this time is 75 years old, and how he has lived in the wilderness for over 30 years.

Native American Survival Movies

  • 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
  • Geronimo – An American Legend-The story of Geronimo an Apache leader who fought for decades to preserve his tribe’s way of life.

Misc. Survivalist Movies

Rambo
  • The Flight of the Phoenix– A military plane crashes in the desert, and the survivors must fix it before all the crew members die.
  • First Blood– The best of the Rambo series. “They drew first blood, not me.”
  • Rambo– The 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!
  • Sunshine– A crew of seven astronauts are sent on a mission to re-ignite the dying sun.
  • Open Water– Based on a true story of a couple who is abandoned at sea and must survive in shark-infested waters.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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27 Comments

  1. Note: Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke is now a government tourist site. I am sure doing this in the year 2011 would land your ass in federal prison. I mean all the flights records would give your location away to the police. You would be visited by Alaska State Police, Fish and Game, and various federal agencies to inspect you “lonely” wilderness cabin.

    • He didn’t just go someplace and build a cabin and live. He did it legally and bought the land. Hell, he had at least monthly visits from govt. wildlife management picking up and dropping off film for him because he was working for them filming the wildlife. It was hardly a covert operation he had going on. Read his diary.

  2. I didn’t read every comment to see if anyone else pointed this out yet, but, c’mon. I am Legend as best zombie movie? Lame. Maybe the original could deserve to be in the top 5. But not the mediocre Will Smith remake. 28 days/weeks later are 50x better. And of all the Resident evil movie you pick the worst one. Actually, nemesis was worse, i take it back.

  3. I must agree with Jim, Jericho was one of the best shows for survival. Also The Walking Dead is also good, just think of the zombies as another country taking over the USA.

  4. There was a bbc movie released a couple decades ago where a nuclear disaster wiped out a section of northern england. The story is amazing and documents exactly what may happen in event of nuclear war. I can’t remember the name if anyone one reading this does please respond with title. I want to get a copy for my wife and I to watch.

    • I think the movie/documentary your thinking of is called : “Threads (Nuclearwarmovie conflict discharge crass)”, that’s what I have it as on my comp.. my friend downloaded it for me

  5. Into the Wild? The guy went unprepared and didn’t know how to get out when he needed to get out. This is a how to kill yourself in the wild movie.

  6. I think some survival movies for kids should include Mountain Family Robinson, Adventures of the Wilderness Family, and the Further Adventures of the Wilderness Family. I think some family lessons can be obtained in a lot of areas from watching the Lords of the Ring trilogy as well, though it may be a little intense for the very young.

    Battle: Los Angeles is right there with Independence Day and War of the Worlds especially since it highlights the importance of attacking command and control objectives.

  7. Super list. Just downloaded the walking dead to watch…survivors the tv show was good. gonna go alone in the wilderness a go. cheers

  8. If you are looking for true grit survival stories, try looking for Kokoda its about Australian and NZ Soldiers on the Kokoda trail…good list but I think this Aussie movie should be there with them.

  9. I disagree on ‘Into The Wild’ as one of the best survival movies, let alone the number 1 slot.

    Primary reason: He DIDN’T survive. He dies an agonizing, prolonged, and totally preventable death.

    Second reason: He did everything wrong. If something could accidentally be done right, he STILL did it wrong.

    Case in point, he tried to cross the river to return to civilization once he realized he was in WAAAAAY over his head. The river is raging too hard to cross. Your two choices are:
    1) Hike up-river to an area above ice melts and branch inlets to where the water is calmer and much more shallow and cross there.
    or
    2) Give up.

    He chose 2.
    Actually, there was a third and fourth option in a rescue cabin about 15 miles from his bus and a crank operated cable chair crossing about 5 miles down-river. But as he didn’t have enough sense to bring a map of the area, he didn’t know about them.
    I’m not the only one who feels this way about him and the movie. The residents in the area have an extremely low and very negative opinion of him and, according to every press account and interview, every ‘stupid, spoiled and delusional kid who tried to follow in his footsteps’.

    • The thing about surviving is also learning what doesn’t work. That’s why I would keep this one on the list. There are great examples of what NOT to do and why practicing and knowing how to survive is important.

      • Yes its been awhile the list is out. I want to agree with you adamantly. Most people that fail(die) from trial and error are not observing others failures for avoidance. Having all the right choices can only be from avoiding wromg choices previously observed.

  10. Book of Eli was not about ‘books’, it was specifically about the Bible.

    The Postman is a great post-apocalyptic book, it’s a terrible movie.

    Look for ‘Silent Running’, if you like Post-Apocalypse /Armageddon movies.

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