20 Survival Movies to Get You Through The Winter To Come

It could be worse—take it from these films. Some are even based on true stories.

Congratulations, you’ve made it to December, 2020. Maybe you were running laps around the block during the spring lockdowns. Maybe you were doing pull-ups as much to blow off steam from isolating with your significant other as you were to stay in shape. Either way, one perk of being an outdoor athlete is most of us have brushed up against discomfort, possibly even survival, at some time or other. We know how to push through the pain, and how rewarding it is to come out the other side of a challenge. But as we head into the short, dark days of winter, if you need a reminder that—yes—it could be worse, we put together a list of 20 survival films (including one TV show) to get you through.

Some of these are based on true stories, in fact some are true stories. Some are pure fiction. And, of course, there are many, many more that could be added to the list. Depending on your definition of “survival,” basically any action movie could qualify. But we chose most of these based on a human-versus-nature theme. We hope you enjoy. Here’s to … survival.

 

Adrift

“Based on a true story from Hurricane Raymond and set in 1983, the film stars Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as a couple who are adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after a hurricane, and must find their way to Hawaii with a damaged boat and no radio.”
Available on Netflix
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

The Way Back

“Denounced by his wife as a possible spy in 1939, Janusz (Jim Sturgess) finds himself in a remote Siberian labor camp. Faced with brutal conditions inside and out, Janusz is determined to escape. A blizzard provides him with the perfect opportunity, and he and a small group of fellow prisoners make a break for it. Escape, however, is the easy part, for Janusz and his companions face a 4,000 mile trek on foot through the frozen Himalayas before they can truly be free.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime


The Perfect Storm

“Based on a true story, the film tells of the courageous men and women who risk their lives every working day, pitting their fishing boats and rescue vessels against the capricious forces of nature. Their worst fears are realized at sea on Halloween of 1991, when they are confronted by three raging weather fronts which unexpectedly collide to produce the greatest, fiercest storm in modern history.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

The Impossible

“In December 2004, close-knit family Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand. But the day after Christmas, the idyllic holiday turns into an incomprehensible nightmare when a terrifying roar rises from the depths of the sea, followed by a wall of black water that devours everything in its path. Though Maria and her family face their darkest hour, unexpected displays of kindness and courage ameliorate their terror.”
Available on Netflix
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

The Martian

“When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce storm. With only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded visitor must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates hatch their own plan for a daring rescue mission.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Castaway

“Obsessively punctual FedEx executive Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is en route to an assignment in Malaysia when his plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm. The sole survivor of the flight, Chuck washes ashore on a deserted island. When his efforts to sail away and contact help fail, Chuck learns how to survive on the island, where he remains for years, accompanied by only his handmade volleyball friend, Wilson. Will Chuck ever return to civilization and reunite with his loved ones?”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

The Revenant

“While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack. When a member (Tom Hardy) of his hunting team kills his young son (Forrest Goodluck) and leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back to civilization. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, the legendary fur trapper treks through the snowy terrain to track down the man who betrayed him.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Life of Pi

“After deciding to sell their zoo in India and move to Canada, Santosh and Gita Patel board a freighter with their sons and a few remaining animals. Tragedy strikes when a terrible storm sinks the ship, leaving the Patels' teenage son, Pi (Suraj Sharma), as the only human survivor. However, Pi is not alone; a fearsome Bengal tiger has also found refuge aboard the lifeboat. As days turn into weeks and weeks drag into months, Pi and the tiger must learn to trust each other if both are to survive.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Gravity

“Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Her commander is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), helming his last flight before retirement. Then, during a routine space walk by the pair, disaster strikes: The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Ryan and Matt stranded in deep space with no link to Earth and no hope of rescue. As fear turns to panic, they realize that the only way home may be to venture further into space.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Titanic

“James Cameron's "Titanic" is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic; the pride and joy of the White Star Line and, at the time, the largest moving object ever built. She was the most luxurious liner of her era -- the "ship of dreams" -- which ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Arctic

“A man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

127 Hours

“While exploring a remote canyon in Utah, mountaineer and adventurer Aron Ralston (James Franco) becomes trapped when a boulder falls on his arm. Over the next five days, Ralston examines his life and considers his options, leading him to an agonizing choice: to amputate his arm so that he can extricate himself and try to make his way back to civilization or remain pinned to the canyon wall and likely die. Based on Ralston's book, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Jurassic Park

A wealthy entrepreneur secretly creates a theme park featuring living dinosaurs drawn from prehistoric DNA. Before opening day, he invites a team of experts and his two eager grandchildren to experience the park and help calm anxious investors. However, the park is anything but amusing as the security systems go off-line and the dinosaurs escape.

 

Alive

“A Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

Swiss Family Robinson

“In this family film, the Robinson clan -- mother (Dorothy McGuire), father (John Mills) and their three sons, Fritz, Ernst and Francis -- flee the reign of Napoleon to start afresh in New Guinea. When their ship gets damaged en route, the family takes refuge on a deserted island. The Robinsons learn to live in the wild, have various adventures and build an impressive house in a tree. However, while island life is full excitement, the question of whether to return to civilization looms.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

Touching The Void

“In 1985, two young climbers, Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron), set out to be the first to reach the summit of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. They succeed, and the two embark on the treacherous descent down the mountain -- only to meet with disaster when Simpson breaks his leg in a fall, leaving Yates to lower him the rest of the way with ropes. When a storm threatens both their lives, Yates must decide whether to cut the rope and risk Simpson's likely death.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Rabbit Proof Fence

“Three mixed-race girls are torn brutally from their Aboriginal mother and sent over a thousand miles away to a training camp for domestic workers as part of a government policy to integrate them into white society. Linking the camp and their distant home territory is a vast rabbit-proof fence, which stretches from one coast to another and just might help the girls find their way back.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

 

Survivorman

“Outdoorsman and survival expert Les Stroud permits himself to be stranded for a week in a remote location with no equipment or supplies apart from his one-man camera rig, documenting his experience and providing insight into how to manage whatever hurdles the wilderness might throw at him.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime

Shackleton’s Captain

Shackleton's Captain (2012) Captain Frank Worsley signs on as Captain of the Endurance to navigate Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew to Antarctica. When the expedition ship is crushed; Worsley's seamanship and navigational skills saves them all.”
Available on Amazon Prime


The Edge

“The plane carrying wealthy Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) crashes down in the Alaskan wilderness. Together with the two other passengers, photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) and assistant Stephen (Harold Perrineau), Charles devises a plan to help them reach civilization. However, his biggest obstacle might not be the elements, or even the Kodiak bear stalking them -- it could be Robert, whom Charles has reason to believe is having an affair with his wife and would not mind seeing him dead.”
Available on iTunes
Available on Amazon Prime