Even the most hardened, outdoorsy adventurers sometimes have to spend time inside. So you might as well enjoy it. When you want to experience endurance, true grit and sheer determination – from your warm safe place on the sofa – here are five of the best survival films based (some more loosely than others) on true stories. A word of caution though; these films will make you question what you would do in similar situations…
Arguably one of the most well-known survival stories, this 2010 film directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Franco features the story of Aron Ralston.
Out hiking the canyons of Utah alone in 2003, he falls and becomes trapped by a boulder which pins his right arm against the rocks. After several days, he realises that no-one knows where he is and subsequently no-one is going to find him so he makes the decision to cut his own arm off, with the knife blade from his multi-tool, to free himself.
The big question: Could you cut off your trapped limb with a blunt pen-knife?
Touching The Void
A 2003 documentary-drama about two mountain climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, directed by Kevin MacDonald.
In 1985, the pair of experienced mountaineers set out to climb the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru. They got to the summit but then Simpson falls and breaks a leg. As Yates tries to lower him down the mountainside, they get caught in a storm. Not knowing if his partner is dead or alive, with his own life at risk, Yates has to make the decision to cut his partner’s ropes to save himself. Unbeknownst to him, his partner manages to survive the fall with his broken leg.
The big survival question: Would you stay with an injured friend if both of you were facing death or save yourself?
This well-known film is probably most famous for making viewers question whether they could eat their dead friends in order to live. Released in 1993, the film was directed by Frank Marshall and narrated by John Malkovich.
The story events date back to 1972, when a plane carrying 45 people crashed into the Andes mountains. The passengers included 19 members of an Uruguayan rugby team as well as family, friends and fans. 16 were eventually rescued alive, not only having survived the original plane crash but also endured two months in freezing and inhospitable conditions. Yep, you already know that they managed this partly by eating their dead co-passengers.
The big question: Kinda obvious!
The Way Back
Directed by Peter Weir, this 2010 film starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan is based on the memoirs of Slawomir Rawicz. A polish prisoner of war during the Second World War, the story is about him and several other inmates escaping a Soviet forced labour camp in Siberia and walking 4000 miles across mountains and deserts to achieve freedom in British ruled India.
While there has been considerable debate over whether it’s Rawicz’s story or not, it is generally agreed from historical evidence and eyewitness accounts that someone, or rather, some three men, completed this mammoth journey.
The big question: 4000 miles is a long way to walk, right?
The 2015 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro Inarritu is a fictionalised version of a true story about an American trapper named Hugh Glass.
In 1823, Glass was employed as a guide through native Indian lands for a party of fur trappers. Mauled by a bear, he is seriously injured and his colleagues abandon him for dead, taking his tools. Despite his injuries, he undertakes an arduous journey to take revenge on the men who abandoned him.
This film does add several events and sub-plots that did not happen in the real story but if you are a stickler for facts, Hugh Glass did indeed exist and he really was mauled by a bear, left for dead and journeyed for around 200 miles with significant injuries all while avoiding being killed in several attacks by Native Indians.
The big question? How did Leonardo DiCaprio survive filming this movie?