In Hollywood, there are plenty of climbing movies out there; although they may not be as abundant as other genres, such as romantic comedies or typical action movies. As an avid climber, climbing movies both interest and inspire me to pursue my passion. That being said, there are plenty of them that are not accurate, or not worth the time invested to sit through 2 hours of your life for. Although there are still those movies out there in this genre that are worth investing the time in and really are a thrill to watch and enjoy. Although those who do enjoy to rock climb will appreciate the following movies, anyone who just enjoys a thrill and a good flick will also enjoy what we have listed below.
There is such a wide variety of great movies in this genre, and it really was very difficult to narrow it down to only five such masterpieces. These films not only inspire us but make us think about our own lives and how we would respond in emergency situations. These movies all have amazing cinematography and direction, and that alone is why we deemed it necessary to add them in here.
In this following article, we will go over what we deem are the best climbing movies out there right now. Some of the following movies may not be suitable for minors, so keep that in mind. Additionally, not all of these are what most would consider current, but they have stood the test of time and are still great experiences to enjoy with your friends and family. Keep in mind, these are in no particular order; simply pick one you haven’t seen yet and enjoy!
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Five Best Climbing Movies
1) Touching the Void (2004)
Runtime: 1h 46 min
Touching the Void is a movie made in 2003 that is set in the year 1985 in the Peruvian Andes. The film follows two young climbers as they attempt to reach the summit of the Siula Grande. The interesting thing about this one is not the climb up, but the descent down. While they two are beginning the journey back down, Simpson (played by Brendan Mackey) breaks his leg and Simon (Nicholas Aaron) must help to lower both of them down the rest of the way. This already sounds like a thrill-ride of a climbing flick but it gets worse. On the way down, a deadly storm rolls in adding panic and fear to an already possibly deadly situation. As fans of this genre, it isn’t hard to appreciate a good fear-for-your-life survival movie. This one does not disappoint and will keep you on the edge of your seat while you root for the two to survive the descent down.
Another interesting feature of this film is that the ascent up the mountain seems relatively easy, which other films depict as hard (because it is). This not only leaves you with a false sense of hope but also keeps you wondering what will happen to cause the climbers to fear for their safety. As I’m sure some of you can relate, we never know what may happen when climbing; which is a major attracting part of this film. As a viewer, you are not sure what will happen next, especially when you start to grow attached to the characters and truly care for their well being. On that note, these characters really are quite unique. Each one with his own flaws and shortcomings. Their relationship is really inspiring and a joy to watch.
What We Like
Climbers who have a passion for the sport will connect with this movie on a deep level. As with any type of recreational activity, there are dangers involved; that being said, the isolation and despair that is found with this film will grip you and keep you enthralled until the end. The cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning and the directing will make you feel fully immersed in the story and setting. It fully captures what every climber fears, and hopes will never happen to them while alone in the wilderness. This is definitely not a film you will want to pass up.
2. North Face (2010)
Runtime: 2h 6 min
North Face is based on a true story that is set in 1936 and is located in the Alps. The namesake for the movie, North Face, refers to the last major un-climbed Alpine face. The movie follows the narrative based on history documenting this disastrous climb. The movie follows two competing teams attempting to climb the North Face and follows two amateur climbers who have recently joined the German militia. After requesting leave from the army under false pretenses and being denied, the two quit the military to attempt the climb. The interesting thing about this movie is not only the historical aspect but the fact that it is a narrative as well. We don’t want to give too much away, but just know it is gripping and thrilling. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already. The ending is compelling and heartbreaking and will keep you questioning what transpired in the movie, all the while knowing that it is based on history.
One thing that really sets this film apart from the rest, and from other films in this genre is the narrative aspect. It is truly amazing, and not something that is too common for any type of movie. This film will keep you guessing and wondering if everyone is going to make it out alive. And in the end, you may find yourself upset with the filmmakers; but that is the sign of a good film. It made you feel, act, and respond exactly the way the historical climbers did. In that sense, this film really is a masterpiece of modern cinema and definitely one that you would want to pass up experiencing.
It is just astounding that not only this is based on a true story, but the story has stood the test of time. It is a great movie on its own, but coupled with the fact that it really did happen to this group of individuals makes you question your own life and realize that you really never know what can happen. I think that is one of the most attractive parts of this film.
What We Like
As an avid history buff, I absolutely love how this movie combines both of my passions. Reading about this story beforehand is not advised, but if you like the movie it is highly recommended to research the story. Although it is set back in the day, it does not feel like the time period is disconnected from what this story is about. It is gripping and will keep you wanting more, long after the end credits. The setting is both beautiful and haunting, and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, with some climbing movies, the set up prior to the actual real story can seem slow and stereotypical; that is not the case here. Everything setting up the climb is completely necessary and will help to set up the characteristics of the atmosphere and the characters as a whole.
3. Meru (2015)
Runtime: 1h 30 min
Meru is a documentary that follows Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk. After a failed attempt to climb what is referred to as “shark’s Fin” on the way to Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas in 2008, the climbers return for a second attempt. This film chronicles the team’s attempt to claim this mountain once more, and when asked why the simple response given is because ‘why not?’ This major attraction to this gripping film is the fact that it is completely real and documented. There are so many scenes in this movie that will both give you an adrenaline rush and a feeling of dread. This is a must-see for any climber or any fan of climbing movies for that matter. Without risking giving too much away, you should know that this narrative is a must-see.
What this film accomplishes that others in the genre can easily miss is how many trials and tribulations there can be when climbing a mountain. It also goes to show how we as human beings have a need inside us to triumph over our past failures. And that in a sense is the core of what this film is about. Not only is it a fantastic documentary in its own right, but it will make you question and really try to understand the human condition. I know that personally after viewing this film, my perspective on my own actions and ambitions will forever be changed.
What We Like
We absolutely love the gripping real story that is Meru. This film is so immersing and will transport you right into the thoughts and fears of the team filming as they attempt the climb once more. There are situations in this film that is rare to find in a documentary, and we aren’t quite sure how the film crew survived to tell the story.
4. Vertical Limit (2000)
Runtime: 2h 4 min
Although this one is a little on the older side compared to others, it has stood the test of time and still remains to be one of the best climbing films, if not one of the best films in general. The film starts out with a backstory, which is not only a great idea to set the tone for the rest of the film, but also accomplishes understanding why the protagonist (Chris O’Donnell) is the way that he is.
After an accident on a climbing expedition which resulted in his father’s death, Peter Garrett has always felt responsible and ever since has abandoned his passion for climbing. His sister has now become a top climber and gets stuck while leading an expedition. Peter now has to face his fear of climbing to save his sister or risk losing his only family left. While this film has received mixed reviews over the years, it is still worth the experience to add on this list. There are so many positive aspects to Vertical limit; such as family being everything and facing your childhood. Not only is this a great climbing movie, but it also makes us think about our own fears and what makes it worth conquering them.
What We Like
Although a bit on the corny and cheesy side, we absolutely love how this movie continues to make us feel, all these years later. The cinematography is great for the time this film was produced, and with any film, it strikes emotion. That is what is great about this one; it makes us think about our selves and our own fears. It also makes you realize what you would do for your family and is thrilling all the while. Definitely worth a viewing, if you haven’t already.
5. 127 Hours (2010)
Arguably the most ‘Hollywood’ in this article, 127 hours is a great film in its own right. Based on a true story and set in Moab, Utah, this film follows Aron Ralston (James Franco) who is trapped and alone in the desert rocks of Moab. While exploring, a boulder falls and traps his arm, preventing him from moving or escaping. The film then depicts the next 5 days without any hope for survival. After thinking about his life and choices, Ralston makes the painful decision (literally) to amputate his own arm in order to escape death. Based on the book by Ralston, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”. This is such a gripping and thought-provoking story about the dangers and excitement of geological landscapes.
This is not only a great climbing movie but a great tale of survival against impossible odds as well. James Franco does a fantastic job portraying the excitement of climbing and exploring, to then the dread of being stuck and alone. As climbers, this possibility is something we can all relate to. Although the very premise of this film is disturbing and chilling, the movie is one that should not be missed by any means. It makes you think about what you would do in the same situation, and if you could.
We hope this article was informative to those who love watching a good climbing movie, or even to avid climbers who enjoy these types of films as they can relate to the thrilling yet dangerous recreational activity. Each film listed above is a modern masterpiece in its own right, and you should enjoy spending the time with your friends and family watching these. Some of them may not be for the faint of heart, but the experience you take away is one that will have a lasting impression and should not be missed.
There is so much diversity in the genre of climbing movies and a lot of themes that are still left to discover. The movies listed above not only depict the perils and joys of climbing but also what effect it can have on us as humans. It can bring out the best as well as the worst in us, and it really goes to show how everyone responds differently to emergency situations. We hope you enjoyed this article, and that you are able to pick a movie from the list you have yet to enjoy.