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.
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 who sells you a dream. 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 Hollywood dream movies.
We’ve rounded up the 20 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!
Get inspired and don’t dream it; live it!
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!
20 best outdoor movies and adventure documentaries
1. Freedom under load
Starting with an award-winning documentary from our homeland Slovakia.
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.
2. The Eagle Huntress
A documentary that shows the 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 in 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.
3. 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.
Following his footsteps to find the lost city, the story shows the hardships of leaving the family to explore and fight in the Amazon jungle and contradictory opinions about the tribe in England.
4. 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 times, such as Robert Redford, hardly ever disappoint, and this movie proves it.
5. Y tu mama tambien
The movie taking place in Mexico follows three young friends road tripping around the country.
As you would expect from young protagonists, it involves a lot of flirting, sex, tense situations and searching for freedom while showcasing the Mexican countryside’s beauty.
6. 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.
7. 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, 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 Chine (about pandas), Bears, Penguins, Monkey Kingdom, and Elephant.
8. 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.
A true story of a young girl crossing the Australian desert alone. She’s accompanied by camels, her dog, and occasionally a photographer who meets her at certain points to capture her journey.
Every so often, she meets an Aboriginal or a local who is shocked by her attempt to cross the vast dry land and eventually, they’re trying to help her on her way of self-discovery.
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.
While it was sometimes horrifying to watch them cross a dangerous terrain, their determination might help them reach their goal. Or not?
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.
The question remains: Is Edie going to summit the mountain? This slow-paced movie nicely captured a quirky old lady chasing her dream and her friendship with a local.
12. 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.
Are they going to adapt to a normal life or return to the woods? A compelling movie captures the relationship of a teen girl with her father, a veteran.
13. 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.
14. Grizzly Man
A story of (many say) a 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.
I’ll let you decide what you think about his character.
15. 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)!
16. 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.
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 outdoor movies of all time.
17. Touching the Void
If I made a list of the best adventure documentaries of all times, this would be #1. It’s the most incredible true mountaineering story.
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 minute. This palm-cheating movie is emotionally strong and physically demanding; it’s almost unreal what these two friends went through.
18. 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.
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.
The story is tense and the landscapes breathtaking.