Whether you’re looking for inspiration to get outdoors or would like to plan an adventure, our list of best outdoor movies and adventure documentaries will show you a wide range of life-changing trips with a bonus of movies about the outdoors you probably haven’t heard about.
Movies and documentaries have the power to inspire us. Movies about pushing your physical and mental limits, movies about survival, movies about breathtaking landscapes near and far from home, movies that capture the ever longing feeling of freedom, and movies that show how adventure and outdoors can change lives.
You’ll find all of them right here.
What you won’t find is over shared familiar movies like Indiana Jones or Eat Pray Love type. We went way beyond and found movies you might have never heard of, but they surely leave you in awe.
These movies picture reality (many of them are based on real events) over dreams.
We’ve rounded up the 30 best outdoor movies and adventure documentaries that will inspire you to go outdoors and live a life full of adventure.
To save you time, we’ve also included resources where exactly you can watch them!
They are divided into three categories:
- Best outdoor movies
- Best adventure documentaries
- Movies about the outdoors you haven’t heard of
Get inspired and don’t dream it; live it!
Best outdoor movies
1. A Walk in the Woods
Old friends, well in their sixties, played by Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, decide to hike the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail through American East.
A movie full of humour with the famous hike landscapes also showcases the backpacking struggles, meeting new people along the way, and an endeavour of finishing the trip with untrustworthy and out of shape friend.
2. Leave no trace
Father and daughter have been living in a very simple shelter in the woods for years. While he taught her all survival skills, and they’ve been happy with their life, they occupied land illegally and ended up being housed by the government.
While most movies on this list arae thrilling and will keep you on the edge while watching, Leave no trace is slow-paced and emotional but one of the best outdoor movies I’ve seen.
3. The way back
A group of seven prisoners escaped the horrendous Siberian gulag. The fight for survival every second of the movie, whether it’s brutal weather or lack of food. They trek more than 6,400 km from Russia to India in search of freedom.
Despite the hardships, the movie has a beautiful way of storytelling and capturing the changing landscapes.
The way back was inspired by a true story, starring Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan.
Movie based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir who is played by Reese Whiterspoon.
After a troubled past and no previous hiking experience, she sets to hike a big part of the 4,260 km Pacific Crest Trail. Along with meeting kind and unkind strangers along the way, she’s not trying to escape her life, but rather heal herself through deep reflections.
While the majority of us can’t relate to her problems, you find yourself emphatizing with her as the movie goes on.
Other than her own story, the movie show the amazing landscapes extensively and I think it’s the best movie about Pacific Crest Trail (and there are many).
5. The Way
An American father travels to France to recover his sons’ body. He was trying to walk the famous pilgrimage El Camino de Santiago from France to Spain but didn’t get past the first day.
While the father cannot wait to get on the plane back to the US, he decided the last second he will continue his son’s trip and embarks to walk El Camino de Santiago by himself.
The movie portrays the true spirit of backpacking, from meeting random strangers to forming unique relationships with fellow travellers on the same journey. It made me want to pack my bag and explore the world (once again)!
6. The Motorcycle Diaries
The only well-known movie on the list.
A true story of young Che Guevara and his friend travelling around South America on a motorcycle. The freedom and spirit of adventure are fantastically captured here.
They encounter injustice along the way, as well as the hospitality of strangers. It portrays the landscape of South American countries and their people beautifully.
If you’re longing for a grand adventure, this will give you the final push.
And before you go, take an exciting journey to South America from your home.
Mount Everest is getting a lot of hate these days. Professional climbers are saying that Everest is not real climbing, but rich people climbing.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t effect wheterh you watch Everest movie or not. It’s a very nicely told survival story about pushing yourself to the limit, sometimes over the limit.
A group of climbers get stuck in a blizzard while trying to reach the top of Mount Everest. Despite the warnings, some of them are determined to reach the top no matter what. The question is if they can get down safely. And if they care about getting back to safety.
8. All Is Lost
Starring Robert Redford, this (almost) silent movie is beyond thrilling from the beginning till the end.
It’s about the survival of the elements of the sea while sailing alone. When you think his life is over, that’s when he comes up with a crafty solution to survive and continue.
The greatest actors of all time, such as Robert Redford, hardly ever disappoint, and this movie proves it.
Due to family troubles, a 14-year old girl is forced to go live with her uncle in Alaska. After his abusement, she runs away with nowhere to go and very little money.
Somehow by accident, she joins an older hiker and they set on a journey through the wilderness of Alaska with her plans of reaching Seattle.
Alaska is alway pictured amazingly in the moviese but Wildlike also captures how a young girl finds a connection to nature.
One of the best outdoor movies on this list, definitely in my top three.
10. The Revenant
The Revenant was partially filmed in the Canadian Rockies and I was so excited when I recognized some landscapes in the movie.
Set in 1823, a frontiersman, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, suffers serious injuries after a bear attack. A member of his team decides they’re fatal and leaves him to die.
He must fight for survival in the thick of winter which is best seen in the famous scene of him killing a bear to wear his fur as a coat.
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11. 127 Hours
Imagine going rock climbing without telling anyone about your plans. You fall down a deep canyon, and your hand gets stuck between a rock wall and a boulder. Nobody knows where you are. You’re short on food and water. And there’s no help coming.
What would you do? It’s been 127 hours already.
What you’ll see is an incredible true story of survival. James Franco’s fantastic performance shines through without you even noticing the whole movie is happening in his, and the unfortunate rock’s very close proximity.
12. Into the wild
A fresh graduate of a presigious university coming from a wealthy family, decided to donate all his savings to charity and rather go explore the world. And where else he can find solitude and the most wild places of all? It’s an American movie so, in Alaska, of course.
Together with the Motorcycle diaries, Into the wild is the most watched movie of all travelers, and backpackers.
It truly captures the spirit of the unknown adventure and life of freedom. If you ever thought about leaving it all behind to pursue any kind of adventure, this movie will be highly inspiring for you.
13. Best adventure documentaries
Freedom under load
Chances are you’ve never heard about this documentary because it was filmed in our home country of Slovakia. I’m including it on this list not just because of the Slovak roots but also because the topic of porters is very fascinating, especially for mountain lovers.
Freedom under load follows an old generation of High Tatras mountain porters who carry hundreds of kilos of supplies to mountain huts every day.
They talk about how they overcome the weather conditions that come with any job on a mountain, about the solitude they find in the mountains and why this old tradition is not only their job but a way of life.
14. Touching the Void
If I made an article about the best adventure documentary of all times, this would be #1. It’s the most incredible mountaineering story based on true events.
Two climbers attempt to summit Siula Grande in Peru. What happens along the way is a disastrous tragedy and a test of their endurance.
Whatever survival movie you’ve seen until now, prepare to watch in awe every second. This palm-sweating movie is emotionally strong and physically demanding; it’s almost unreal what these two friends went through.
15. Free Solo
A historic achievement of free climbing the El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Climbing without a rope is as dangerous as it sounds, especially on a wall almost one kilometre high.
If you ever attended a mountain film festival, you might be familiar with a name Alex Honnold. His free minded attitude to danger and humorous commentary in the least expected situations are hard to forget.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a rock-climbing fan or not; it’s nerve-wracking to watch and, without a doubt, one of the best adventure documentaries of all time.
Free solo won an Oscar in 2019 for the Best Documentary Feature.
16. 180 Degrees South
Following an epic journey of Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins (co-founder of North Face) from 1968, young Jeff gets shipwrecked, among other unexpected adventures.
Patagonia’s stunning landscapes are always amazing to watch, especially when they’re paired with a story about living life to the fullest of conservationists protecting the lands. A real treat to watch and listen to.
17. The Alpinist
Similar to Free Solo documentary, The Alpinist is about a young bold mountain climber who is fearlessly summiting difficult mountains without using a rope.
Marc-Andre Leclerc is one of the best mountain climbers in the world, yet he couldn’t care less about filmmakers making a documentary about him. They had a hard time following his climbs, Marc doesn’t share his plans, take partners on a climb or at least use a cell phone.
The Alpinist is one of the most inspiring documentaries about climbing with a very surprising ending.
If you like the western type of movies, this is a real-life adventure.
Four friends trained 16 wild mustangs to ride them from Mexico to Canada through the American West. This long 3,000-mile journey tested their friendship and resilience while caring for horses.
19. Top Gear: Bolivia Special
If you’re not familiar with the British TV show about cars, you’re missing out. Not that I’m a fan of cars, but I’m a huge fan of road trips.
Their “specials” are always thrilling to watch as they embark on a journey through a country while producers prepare for them usually very low budget to buy cars in a country they’re visiting.
You’ll see stunning landscapes and a humorous story of three funny Englishmen.
20. Top Gear: Patagonia Special
South America has a special place in my heart, as you could see from included movies.
This is another documentary about Patagonia in Chile and Argentina but not a boring one. The three funny Englishmen encounter problems and hostility they haven’t expected.
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21. The Eagle Huntress
A documentary that shows real girl power. It’s a true story about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl and her journey to become the first female eagle hunter in 12 generations.
Landscape shots of Mongolia transfer you into their nomadic life. With every struggle this girl has along the way, you’ll become her fan more and more impatiently anticipating the result of her efforts.
22. Disney nature
Even though wildlife documentaries tend to be long and tedious, that’s not the case with Disney nature movies.
A team of expert videographers follows a journey of a family or families of one animal species. Their struggles of survival against predators, life throughout all seasons, searching for food, the birth of their babies, and family life.
They transport you to a wildlife wonderland with exceptional footage and incredible close-ups. You will wonder many times how on Earth they were able to film such intimate shots.
Movies we’ve watched so far and highly recommend: Born in China (about pandas), Bears, Penguins, Monkey Kingdom, and Elephant.
23. Grizzly Man
A story of (many say) delusional man who believed he was protecting the bears in Alaska. He spent several summers with bears just watching them, but he called it making friends with them.
There are two camps of his story: people either admired him for what he did for bears or despised him for intruding on bears’ space.
24. Salto is the King
The adventure documentary about Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on Earth, holds a special place in my heart.
In the documentary, you can see the unreal beauty of Angel Falls and surrounding jungle. The climber and expedition leader Peter Ondrejovic from Slovakia has been the first ever to rapell down the Angel Falls, and I’m grateful to call him my friend.
It was only thanks to his advice that we were able to visit Venezuela when travellers were afraid to go due to the economic crisis. It was thanks to his support that we were able to visit and swim right under the Angel Falls, trek the table mountain Roraima and fall in love with this amazing country (you can watch our video about Backpacking Venezuela here).
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25. 14 peaks: Nothing is impossible
The newest adventure documentary on this list is about a Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja. He sests out to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,ooo meter peaks.
The first person who successfully summited all 14 peaks without using an oxygen was Reinhold Messner and it took him more than two decades. Nirmal’s plan, however, is 7 months!
His enthusiasm and love for life and challenge shines through the whole documentary when he’s trying to achieve a huge climbing goal but still finds time and energy for mountain rescues when he’s needed.
Together with sherpas and his friends, he’s determined to complete his goal, The Project Possible.
The best movie about the outdoors made in 2021.
Arctic is a survival story in extremely harsh conditions based on true events.
After a plane crashed in the Arctic, the one survivor with almost no injuries finds another survivor, a woman who is barely awake and suffered serious injuries. He’s doing his very best to keep both alive and faces a tough choice of waiting for a rescue plan or trekking through the white plains to find help.
After he set off with the woman strapped on the sled, the challenges just keep coming and coming, including a polar bear attack.
The whole movie is basically a one man show but it’s brilliantly played by Mads Mikkelsen and it definitely doesn’t lack thrilling action.
This outdoor movie is unlike any other on the list – while it’s a survival story, it doesn’t involve climbing or harsh winter conditions. But rather an extreme heat, sand , and camels.
A true story of a young girl crossing the Australian desert (3,200 km) alone. She’s accompanied by camels, her dog, and occasionally a photographer who meets her at certain points to capture her journey.
A movie following the script “it’s never too late.”
An older widowed lady, Edie, embarks on an adventure to the Scottish Highlands. Following her lifelong dream of summiting a mountain, two young fellas from an outdoor store convince her to hire one of them as a guide and to teach her essential survival skills.
As Edie learns more before her big trip, it’s the young “guide” who ends up learning much more he could have imagined.
29. The mountain between us
A Hollywood movie starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba is not a thrilling survival story full of action but rather a slow-paced movie with evolving characters while they’re trying to survive in the mountains.
When two strangers get their flights cancelled but are in a hurry, they hire a private pilot. Unfortunately, this results in a plane crash in the Utah mountains while nobody knows where they are.
The unfolding of the situation is surprising and shows how regular people might behave in a winter survival situation, as opposed to professional climbers.
30. The lost city of Z
Who doesn’t like a movie about discovering a native tribe hidden in the jungle?
This true story takes place in Bolivia in the 20th century, where a British explorer discovers evidence of a hidden civilization.
I loved every single outdoor movie and adventure documentary on this list.
If most of these are new to you, I recommend starting with Touching the Void, Wildlike, and Top Gear.
Movies about the outdoors are my favourites so if you have any recommendations, please share with us in the comments.
Ready for your own adventure? Start here:
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