9 Great Films About the Outdoors

9 Great Films About the Outdoors

9 Great Films About the Outdoors


Not all of us get to be in the outdoors all the time, so seeing a movie about it usually helps with those post backpacking-blues. There’s plenty of great books out there for those who like to read these adventures, but for those who just prefer the film world, these movies will keep you at the edge of your seat.

The Great Outdoors (1988)

This movie is a classic, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re really missing out. Starring the late John Candy and Dan Aykroyd, a father heads to the backcountry of Wisconsin for a peaceful vacation where his family can connect with nature and each other. It’s not long until his brother in law’s family shows up, quickly turning what could have been a nice trip into a headache. Though it’s an old movie, it’s still as funny as it was years ago and definitely happier than the following films on this list.

Into the wild, movies, films, backpacking

Into the Wild (2007)

Most backpackers have heard of this film, which was based off a non-fiction book about Chris McCandless, who traded in his comfortable life for the wilderness. In the film, you can follow his brave and true adventure of ditching everything he knew to head to Alaska and see if he could make it in the wild. He faces some pretty interesting things along his journey, but only you can watch it to find out what happens. This movie is based on the book.

Alive (1993)

This one is a little more gruesome, and if you don’t mind a little bad acting, then Alive will keep you hooked. Based on the book written by Piers Paul Reid about the 1972 Andes Flight Disaster in which a Uruguayan rugby team went down in the Chilean Andes, the movie is just as unbelievable as the real thing. Many died, but a few survived by braving the cold and relying on cannibalism as their only source of food. Yes, cannibalism. 

Alive, films, backpacking, hiking

Wild (2014)

Based on the amazing memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild is about a woman who heads into the outdoors with absolutely no experience, in order to put her life back together after her mother passes away. Strayed, starring Reese Witherspoon,  decides to take on the Pacific Crest Trail one obstacle at a time, and her journey is definitely worth watching. 

The Grey (2011)

Liam Neeson is usually given credit more for his role in Taken, but if you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a great solution to your Friday night. Another plane crash film, this one takes place in Alaska, where a group of oil men intending to work on the Alaskan Pipeline, go down in the snowy wilderness. They must find a way to escape their circumstance without getting chased by a pack of hungry wolves, looking to make the men their dinner; possibly as an act of revenge.

Wings of Hope (2000)

Wings of Hope was a made for TV documentary about a German Peruvian woman named Juliane Koepcke, who is an incredible survivor and outdoor genius. Koepcke was the sole survivor of LANSA Flight 508 which disintegrated in the air after being struck by lightning. Koepcke somehow survived, but still had to navigate through jungle to get help, as if surviving a plane crash alone wasn’t enough. It took her ten days of some hardcore outdoor and survival skills to make it,  until three men from a village found her. Wings of Hope looks back on her incredible story.

127 Hours (2010)

Any backpacker who hasn’t seen this movie has at least heard of it. Aron Ralston, a man who went hiking in Utah, suddenly gets pinned by a boulder inside a canyon, where he was unable to move for…guess what? 127 hours. After carving his own predicted death date into the rocks and filming his good-bye message to his family, he has an epiphany and decides he’ll have a chance of surviving by cutting off his arm. We’ll leave the details to your imagination and your Saturday evening.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)

When Dieter Dengler, a fighter pilot, got shot down during the Vietnam War in Laos, his nightmare wasn’t over yet. Dieter was the star of his own documentary film, where you see how he had to survive in the jungles of Southeast Asia. He learned how to get through unpredictable and dangerous weather, interesting bugs, and not-so welcoming villagers. It’s directed by Werner Herzog, the same man who directed ‘Wings of Hope’. Rescue Dawn is the more recent version of this film.

A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson, films, hiking

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

If you’re up on you’re backpacking culture, then you’ll know that A Walk in the Woods is a travel memoir written by Bill Bryson, a very well known writer in this genre. The book, written in 1998, was Bryson’s account of his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, with his old college friend, Stephen Katz. While Bryson’s attempt was successful, he still had his fair share of challenging, yet rewarding moments, which every hiker will be able to relate to in this film.

Got a while until your next backpacking trip? Watch one of these films to reminisce.

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.