(Some Of) My Favourite Outdoor, Wilderness and Survival Movies

I am a lover of movies, a cinephile if you will.  I can’t explain it and I make no apologies.  I love the thrill of putting in a movie, whether it is new to me or an old favourite, and immersing myself in the experience for 2 hours. 

When I’m unable to get out and enjoy the great outdoors on my own, I settle myself in for an evening of movies. 

Here are a few of my favourites that scratch my itch for The Great Outdoors:

Everest-IMAX (1998): Not to be confused with the 2015 film Everest; this IMAX movie was released in 1998 and features a blend of history, culture, tragedy and human triumph.  Running at less than an hour this short film offers up some of the most incredible cinematography and places the viewer right along with the climbers as they aim to summit Everest in the spring of 1996.  The heartbreak tragedy that claimed the lives of 8 climbers also features heavily in this movie.   

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PafBF3mpckE

Deliverance (1972): Many people know this movie by it’s reputation alone.  Does the phrase “Squeal like a pig” ring any bells?  I encourage people to give this movie a chance regardless of what they have heard.  Four friends set out for a weekend canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River.  Unfortunately they run afoul of some less than hospitable country folk and the fight for survival is on.  An all-star cast lead by Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight helped make Deliverance a box-office smash and earned it several Academy Award Nominations.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at-gOm93fZg

The Blair Witch Project (1999): Very few movies have polarized audiences like The Blair Witch Project.  BWP is a love it or hate it kind of movie.  I happen to fall into the ‘love it’ category.  I remember seeing this movie in theatres during the summer of ’99 and I was profoundly impacted by it.  As someone who had spent time in the woods I was able to empathize with the characters and their plight.  The plot centers on a trio of college students who enter the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland to make a documentary on the Blair Witch.  Before long our hero’s find themselves lost and in way over their heads.  As their situation goes from bad to worse as the group begins to see that maybe there is some truth to the Blair Witch.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_Hw4bAUj8A   

The Great Outdoors (1988): Let’s break the tension a little bit with this lighthearted little film starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd.  Not much more needs to be said with these two comedians at the helm of a film named The Great Outdoors.  Picture some city folk spending summer vacation in the wilds of Wisconsin.  Throw in family drama, some rather resourceful raccoons and a giant grizzly bear who is prematurely balding and you have an 80s classic on your hands.  It’s fun, harmless entertainment for the whole family.   

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlbLVZM5t1I

White Water Summer (1987): This movie was a favourite of mine growing up.  Our protagonist Alan, is sent to (essentially) wilderness summer camp and he makes it clear right off the bat that he does not want to be there.  Guide and leader Vic begins picking on Alan and continually pushes him to his limit.  The two continue to butt heads until an accident forces Alan to step up and fight for their survival.       

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QBmRr7h7Fw

Valley Uprising (2014): This is the most recent movie on the list and it can currently be found on NetFlix.  This documentary film takes us through the history of rock climbing and the counterculture that it attracted/attracts in Yosemite National Park.  Even though I’m not experienced with rock climbing, this movie is filled with enough colourful characters and breathtaking climbing stories to hold your attention.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQXWnoipdFE

Alone In The Wilderness (2004): This may be my all-time favourite documentary movie about the outdoors.  Richard (Dick) Proenneke picked up his whole life and moved to Twin Lakes in Alaska.  Proenneke spent months handcrafting a log cabin that he would reside in for the next 30 years of his life.  What really makes this movie special is that all of the footage was shoot by Proenneke and the narration is lifted directly from his detailed diaries.  I cannot think of a better display of the trials, tribulations and pure joy of living off the land.    

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYJKd0rkKss

The Edge (1997): This was a film that I saw back in theatre in 1997.  A cheating wife.  A jealous husband.  The lover.  A plane crash and an angry grizzly bear.  Think of this movie as one big game of wilderness cat and mouse starring Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins.  I should also credit the great Bart The Bear for his performance in this movie.  This is his second appearance on this list as he played in The Great Outdoors as well.     

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDTtUSI_CGg

Touching The Void (2003): One last disaster and survival film for you.  Touching The Void is based on Joe Simpson’s personal account (he wrote a book under the same name) of climbing the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.  After reaching the summit with his climbing partner Simon Yates, Joe Simpson broke his leg in a fall.  Various other circumstances compounded this injury and Simon Yates was forced to make a decision that he would struggle with for years to follow.  Touching The Void is presented in a docu-drama style with re-enactments along with interviews with both Simpson and Yates.  It’s enthralling and tense.  Watch it!       

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtnqVZEktyg