Why spend millions of dollars on elaborate movie sets when the world’s most beautiful landscapes are already out there in nature? It’s only logical, then, that hiking should be well represented in movies, taking epic terrains and mountain ranges and planting them on the big screen to be enjoyed from the comforts of your sofa or cinema seat.
Of course, the best hiking movies are not purely about the scenery and – just like the real thing – you’ll find no shortage of thrills along the way. It’s no coincidence that we use the term cliffhanger to describe a teasingly open ending, originating from early silent movies in which the lead character would quite literally be left hanging from a cliff side.
So, with such a long history to delve into, here are five of the best hiking movies to set you on the right path.
5. The Eiger Sanction (1975)
Clint Eastwood plays a classical art professor who doubles as one of the world’s top mountaineers and a retired assassin – naturally. As you might expect, Eastwood comes out of retirement and puts all of his skills to good use – minus the art teaching – hunting down his victim on the north face of Switzerland’s Eiger Mountain. This might be predictably overblown Hollywood fare, but it’s a classic mountain climbing movie nonetheless.
4. 127 Hours (2011)
Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is one of many hiking movies based on grisly real-life events. Starring James Franco as thrill-seeking canyoneer Aron Ralston, the breathtaking Utah landscapes seem less welcoming after his arm becomes trapped under a boulder. Unable to struggle free, Ralston must go to extreme measures in order to save his own life. One of the best hiking movies of recent years, it was nominated for six academy awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
3. Vertical Limit (2000)
Vertical Limit is a sibling rescue mission set on the K2, the world’s second highest mountain peak. When Annie Garrett’s climbing expedition goes disastrously wrong, her brother Peter ascends the mountain to save her – despite losing his father to a climbing accident years before. Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney star as the brother/sister duo in this gripping movie, but don’t be fooled by the scenery – it was actually shot on Mt Cook, New Zealand.
2. Into the Wild (2007)
When affluent teen Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) leaves his comfortable life to head into the wild, it’s as much a journey of self-discovery as it is a grand adventure. In this twice Oscar-nominated hiking movie directed by Sean Penn, McCandless heads for Alaska and ends up setting up camp in an abandoned bus. With supplies running short, can he find himself before it’s too late to turn back?
1. Touching the Void (2003)
This gut-wrenching true story of climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ near fatal climb of Peru’s Siula Grande won Best Film at the BAFTA Awards in 2004. The sub-zero temperatures of the Peruvian glaciers make for a grueling landscape, but really this is a movie about loyalty, friendship and survival. After Simpson breaks his leg during a Blizzard, a situation develops in which Yates is forced to choose between his own life and his friend’s. Find out who makes it through in this must-watch survival documentary.
After your hiking movie marathon, get out there and discover some of the breath-taking scenery and adventure for yourself. Outhike the actors and bring back a hiking film of your own – whether you’re off on a backpacking trip or just hiking for the day.