25 Best Outdoor Movies

Survival Movies remind us that as bad as things get, they can always get better. We at the Wild West Trail recognize that lately there has been a lot of focus on social distancing and staying indoors, which often results in a disconnect from nature.

As you know, we love the outdoors and believe that it’s healthier to be isolated in the backcountry than quarantined inside your home.

That being said, if you are locked inside, this is the perfect time to brush up on some excellent movies focused on people taking on the outdoors and overcoming the wilderness.

Whether you are in self quarantine, or taking a zero day, our Best Survival Movies & Outdoor Movie List showcases the 25 best outdoor movies ever made – assembled below for your viewing pleasure.

Best Survival Movies

  • The Revenant | Best Survival Movies
    While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, Leo sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack. --- In THE REVENANT, Leo must utilize his survival skills to find a way back to civilization. --- Amazing cinematography and a compelling story line make this among the best survival movies ever made.
  • Castaway | Best Survival Movies
    In CASTAWAY, Tom Hanks is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the middle of the pacific ocean. --- A harrowing tale of survival on a deserted island that is definitely worth a watch.
  • The Martian | Best Survival Movies
    When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave Matt Damon behind, as he is presumed dead after a fierce storm. --- THE MARTIAN tells a story about a lone visitor stranded on an alien planet who must survive and find a way back to Earth, relying on his wits and a meager amount of supplies.
  • The Way Back (2010) | Best Survival Movies
    THE WAY BACK is a story about group of prisoners on a desperate quest for freedom. --- They embark on a 4,000 mile trek through the Himalayas, and soon find that mother nature may be even more imposing than their former captors.
  • 127 Hours | Best Survival Movies
    While exploring a remote canyon in Utah, James Franco becomes trapped when a boulder falls on his arm. --- Over the next five days (127 HOURS), he is led to make a choice: amputate his arm or remain pinned in the canyon to die.
  • All Is Lost | Best Survival Movies
    During a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, Robert Redford awakes to find his vessel taking on water after a collision with a stray shipping container. --- In ALL IS LOST, the lone sailor is forced to face his own mortality.
  • Life of Pi | Best Survival Movies
    A heartbreaking tale of loss and survival on the high seas, LIFE OF PI tells the story of the only human to survive a terrible shipwreck. --- But Pi is not alone on his lifeboat - a Bengal Tiger is there to keep him company.

Our Best Survival Movies list showcases some of our favorite tales of determination and the will to live. From The Revenant to The Martian, survival is about overcoming seemingly impossible odds – often in the face of a hostile mother nature.

  • In All Is Lost we watch Robert Redford’s character face his own mortality – as well as the dangers of the high seas.
  • In Castaway, Tom Hanks becomes stranded on a deserted island when his plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean. With little chance of rescue, in order to survive he must figure out a whole new way of life.
  • We included Life of Pi because technically it is a movie about survival. Also, it won some awards.
  • The Wild West Trail list of Best Survival Movies wouldn’t be complete without 127 Hours. Based on a true story, James Franco’s character has to make an impossible decision when his arm becomes trapped underneath a boulder. To cut, or not to cut? — that is the question.

Whether you are stranded on Mars, lost in the wilderness, or floating in the open ocean, these movies remind us that the instinct to survive allows a person to endure – even when all hope seems lost.

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Best Hiking Movies

  • Wild | Best Hiking Movies
    WILD is perhaps the most popular hiking movie of all time. --- Reese Witherspoon plays the role of a woman driven to the edge by the loss of her mother and marriage. --- With no outdoors experience, and a heavy backpack, she sets out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • A Walk In The Woods | Best Hiking Movies
    A WALK IN THE WOODS stars Robert Redford who plays a celebrated travel writer who returns to New Hampshire to reture. --- But instead of retiring, the old man announces he's going to hike over two thousand miles on the Appalachian Trail.
  • The Way | Best Hiking Movies
    In THE WAY, Martin Sheen plays an American father who travels to France to retrieve the body of his son, who died while attempting the pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela.
  • Tracks | Best Hiking Movies
    In TRACKS, an Australian girl satisfies her craving for solitude by embarking on a solo trip across the desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. --- You may recognize actor Adam Driver from Star Trek fame.
  • Mile Mile & A Half | Best Hiking Movies
    In MILE MILE & A HALF, Five friends set out to hike California's 211-mile John Muir Trail in 25 days. --- Inspired by the group's bond and dedication, others join them along the way.

Our list of Best Hiking Movies includes our top 5 picks for getting into the spirit of a thru-hike.

  • Reese Witherspoon in Wild helped to put the P.C.T. (and thru-hiking) on the map.
  • In A Walk In The Woods, Robert Redford & Nick Nolte come together as two sexagenarians seeking to hike the Appalachian Trail. Based on a true story.
  • In The Way, Martin Sheen embarks on a pilgrimage in Spain after the death of his estranged son.
  • With a strong female lead (& Adam Driver supporting), Tracks tells the story of a woman who decides to cross the desert in search of solitude, along with her dog and four camels.

As we can see, long-distance hiking does get some love from Hollywood. While the movies listed above are designed to capture the hiking experience, the most authentic look into a thru-hike on our Best Hiking Movies list comes from the documentary Mile… Mile & A Half. A fantastic telling of 5 friends who hiked the John Muir trail; it’s full of actual hiking footage and may be just what you are looking for to get in the spirit of a thru-hike.

Did we miss anything? Leave your favorite Hiking Movies in the comments below.

Best Wilderness Movies

  • The Last Of The Mohicans | Best Wilderness Movies
    THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is our favorite movie in this list. --- The last members of a dying Native American tribe, Daniel Day-Lewis plays an adopted member of the Mohican people. --- During the French and Indian War, the daughters of a British colonel are kidnapped by a traitorous scout, and it's up to Day-Lewis to rescue them.
  • Jeremiah Johnson | Best Wilderness Movies
    In JEREMIAH JOHNSON, a Mexican-American War veteran heads to the mountains to live in isolation. --- Unprepared, the veteran learns survival tactics from a seasoned mountain man.
  • The Edge | Best Wilderness Movies
    In THE EDGE, when a plane crashes down in the Alaskan wilderness the two survivors must hatch a plan to reach civilization. --- Aside from contending with the elements & a grizzly bear, the biggest threat to Anthony Hopkins' character may come from his adulterer companion (Alec Baldwin) who wants to steal his wife.
  • Dances With Wolves | Best Wilderness Movies
    DANCES WITH WOLVES tells the story of a Civil War soldier who develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. --- Let's just say the Army Brass didn't take kindly to that.
  • A River Runs Through It | Best Wilderness Movies
    A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. --- A story about brothers living in rural Montana, they spend much of their time fly fishing. --- Beautiful landscapes shot in the wilds of Montana make this movie a sight to see.
  • White Fang (1991)  | Best Wilderness Movies
    The 1991 version of WHITE FANG is arguably the best adaptation of the famous Jack London novel. --- A young Ethan Hawke stars in this classic story of a Klondike gold prospector and his canine companion.

Topping our list of Best Wilderness Movies is The Last Of The Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. I have seen this movie many times over the years. It features an amazing soundtrack, stellar performances, and beautiful cinematography.

Upon watching it recently I noticed there was a scene missing. I distinctly remember a specific, iconic exchange at the end of the movie that was no longer there. I did some digging and found out that Mann, being a perfectionist, had to re-shoot some scenes as many as 20 times. He was also heavily pressured from the studio to change his original version, which was nearly 3 hours long!

When The Last Of The Mohicans finally hit theaters, it was edited to be just under 2 hours in length.

This theatrical version doesn’t appear to have contained the dialogue that I remember, which wasn’t added until the 1999 release of the Director’s Expanded Edition. In 2010 a Director’s Definitive Cut was released on Blu-Ray. While this added a few small scenes, it removed the scene in question – the famous last scene in the movie!

We’ve included the missing dialogue here, for your enjoyment and consideration:

[Final scene in the movie, as Chingachgook is giving a eulogy for his fallen son]

Chingachgook : The frontier moves with the sun and pushes the Red Man of these wilderness forests in front of it until one day there will be nowhere left. Then our race will be no more, or be not us.

Hawkeye : That is my father’s sadness talking.

Chingachgook : No, it is true. The frontier place is for people like my white son and his woman and their children. And one day there will be no more frontier. And men like you will go too, like the Mohicans. And new people will come, work, struggle. Some will make their life. But once, we were here.

While all the movies in this list are worth watching, if you haven’t already – and especially if you love movies that take place in the wilderness – do yourself a favor and watch The Last Of The Mohicans.

Is our list of Best Wilderness Movies incomplete? Leave some suggestions in the comments below.

Best Outdoor Movies

  • Free Solo | Best Outdoor Movies
    FREE SOLO is a documentary about professional rock climber Alex Honnold. --- Watch as he attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan's 900-metre vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park.
  • Into The Wild | Best Outdoor Movies
    INTO THE WILD is one of the most popular outdoors movies of all time. --- A great story mixed with an excellent sound track from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, this movie is a must-see.
  • Grizzly Man | Best Outdoor Movies
    Based on a true story, GRIZZLY MAN is Werner Herzog's documentary examining a man who lived among a family of wild grizzly bears on an Alaskan reserve. --- When one of the bears he loved turns on him, the raw footage serves as a reminder that nature isn't always friendly.
  • Leave No Trace | Best Outdoor Movies
    In LEAVE NO TRACE, a father and daughter live a mysterious - and illegal - existence in a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon. --- When a small mistake tips them off to authorities, they are sent on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call their own.
  • Touching The Void | Best Outdoor Movies
    TOUCHING THE VOID is based on the true story of two young climbers, who in 1985, set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. --- They succeed, only to meet with disaster when one climber breaks his leg in a fall. --- When a storm threatens both their lives, the ultimate decision has to be made.
  • Deliverance | Best Outdoor Movies
    Four city-dwelling friends decide to get away from their jobs, wives and kids for a week of canoeing in rural Georgia. --- When the men arrive, they are not welcomed by the backwoods locals, who stalk the vacationers and savagely attack them in the woods. --- Soon, their canoe trip turns into a fight for survival.
  • The Great Outdoors | Best Outdoor Movies
    Actors Dan Ackroyd & John Candy are at their best in THE GREAT OUTDOORS. --- A serene weekend of fishing at a Wisconsin lakeside cabin gets crashed by obnoxious in-laws and hijinks ensue.

On our list of Best Outdoor Movies we’ve included a few documentaries and a few classic films.

  • In Free Solo and Touching The Void we get an in-depth look at what it takes to climb a mountain — both supported and unsupported.
  • Grizzly Man tells the true story of a man who got a little too close, emotionally and physically, to a tribe of wild grizzly bears.
  • Into The Wild is a beautifully made movie, complimented by an excellent soundtrack from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. Telling a story of wanderlust, we follow Emile Hirsch’s character into the depths of the Alaskan wilderness.
  • We’re rounding out the list with The Great Outdoors. A classic comedy with Dan Ackroyd and (the late) John Candy. This movie is a whole lot of fun and should be added to your repertoire of watched films immediately.

This guide gives you a good place to start, whether you are interested in Outdoor Movies, Survival Movies, Hiking Movies, or simply movies that depict the wilderness in all her shining glory.

With all of these great outdoor films waiting to be watched, just be careful; there’s a world out there waiting to be explored, as long as you don’t get stuck on the couch.

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