In this article, we highlight the 10 best hiking movies about mountain climbing, trekking and adventure, which tell how man faces challenges with himself and with nature.
A small curiosity to which we would like to draw your attention is that most of these films are drawn from true stories, making us reflect on human nature that leads us to escape the canons imposed by modern society, in search of the most authentic identity of man that can only correspond to the reconciliation with nature. At the same time, this desire could lead us to push ourselves too far beyond our limits, sometimes becoming too risky, thus putting our lives at risk.
What are the 10 best hiking movies to watch in 2023 ?
1- FREE SOLO
Free Solo is one of the best hiking movies for us ! 975 meters of pure, mostly vertical granite rock. The steep face of El Capitan is the eye catcher in California's Yosemite Valley, the mecca of free climbers. At the center of the free-climbing universe, it's always directly a matter of life and death. "It reassures me that even Spock has nerves," co-director Jimmy Chin says of his protagonist Alex Honnold at one point in his film, "Free Solo." The Most Successful Free Climber of All Time has just abandoned a record attempt to climb the legendary face of El Capitan without belay or aid. Free Solo is the name given to this technique, which claims several lives almost every single year.
In the opening scene of "Star Trek V: At the Edge of the Universe," the movie's Mr. Spock saves his friend Captain Kirk's life with the help of his rocket boots after falling while free solo climbing El Capitan. In reality, the free-climbing professionals cannot rely on this help, which is why no one before Honnold has dared to conquer this wall in this breakneck manner. Professional mountaineer Chin accompanies the exceptional athlete together with filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ("Incorruptible") and not only documents Honnold's boldest and most ambitious project to date, but also delivers a gripping character drama about the human being Alex Honnold in addition to sensational climbing and nature images. Winner of an Oscar for best documentary, "Free Solo" is more nerve-wracking than a thriller could ever be - even if the outcome is known.
The documentary by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, who are themselves enthusiastic climbers, is laid out like an ordinary hero's tale. Alex Honnold is introduced, we observe him during his preparations, parents, friends, the girlfriend have their say, there are setbacks, but, of course, they are overcome again. What makes "FREE SOLO" much more memorable than comparable mountaineering documentaries, however, is the multitude of problems that come up here as if in passing. For example, it's not just about conquering the rock face - although that alone would have made a fascinating documentary: in many trials climbs, Alex explores his route with a rope, noting and feeling every ledge and finally practicing the passage like a meticulously choreographed dance. But more than these athletic-technical moments, the filmmakers focus on the question of Alex as a person: how determined, how stubborn, how single-minded, and thus also: how reckless must someone be who risks his life in this way? Without declaring their climbing colleague and friend a "case”, the filmmakers succeed in creating a portrait of an extraordinary personality who by no means has only pleasant sides. And they also openly address their own dilemma: How does the presence of the cameras affect Alex's climbing? Do they drive him to take more risks? If something happens on camera, will they keep filming him? "I don't want to see him die," says Jimmy Chin, but he doesn't want to look away either.
2- INTO THE WILD
Into the Wild is one of the best adventure documentaries for us ! A film that needs no introduction, an international success and one of the best tests behind the camera of Sean Penn, after the novel of the same name written by John Krakauer.
Emile Hirsch plays the young protagonist Christopher McCandless, the son of rich American parents from the middle class who, after two years of university, decides to change his life completely.
He decides to escape social conventions and all those material possessions that, according to him, are only a cause of unhappiness and distraction from the true meaning of life.
He sells everything, donates the proceeds to charity and begins his journey to one of the wildest and most pristine lands on the planet: Alaska .
The protagonist leaves without giving any explanation to his parents, nobody knows his goal and his idea, only the sister receives a letter from time to time.
The film tells the story of the journey from Massachusetts to Alaska, far from the rhythms and dictates of modern life, a bumpy journey full of challenges and obstacles that, however, never distract the boy from his goal.
Nature is said to be a strict mother and Christopher experiences this on his skin, day after day, until she reaches her destination.
The locations of this film have entered the common imagination, becoming destinations for many travelers eager to retrace, at least in part, Christopher's exploits.
A must-see film, which carries a strong message and makes us understand the respect we owe to Nature.
Reese Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed, a girl with a difficult and self-destructive past, who tries to put a stop to the story of her life by trying to get back on her feet and restore order inside and outside herself.
The death of her mother makes her enter a deep depression, makes her hit rock bottom, to the point of risking her own life, finding a way out is the only possible solution to ease all this suffering.
The film is based on the novel "Wild, a crazy story of adventure and rebirth".
Cheryl decides to test herself with an experience so far out of her world, a physical and mental test, tackling the Pacific Crest Trail with almost no preparation or training.
There will be many difficulties during the journey, difficult obstacles to overcome but, fortunately for her, there are many people who will help her.
Every step of her journey is a step in her mind, a constant challenge against her pains and fears.
The success of this film made the Pacific Crest Trail famous to the point that the authorities had to regulate access with special permits, to avoid overcrowding.
4- THE WAY
The protagonist of this intense film is Martin Sheen, who plays Dr. Thomas Avery, an American dentist close to retirement, who spends his days between work and the golf club.
His routine is suddenly interrupted by a call from France, it's the police who bring him terrible news about his son.
The man leaves for Europe, and as soon as he arrives, the police welcome him to recognize the body of his son, who died accidentally on the way.
The father decides to have the body cremated and take it to America, but during a sleepless night, he has an idea: he wants to do what he has never done before, a trip with his son.
He decides to go to Santiago de Compostela, concluding the journey that his son had to interrupt.
The itinerary is the occasion of encounters and contaminations, on the way he meets people who will prove to be precious travel companions, each on the road for a different reason.
Along the way, Thomas will understand many things about himself and his son, will be able to accept what has happened and overcome many prejudices he has been living with for a long time.
This is without a doubt one of the films that best captures the spirit of slow travel, the true essence of travel to know ourselves and the world around us.
Competition is not necessary to climb Mount Everest. The mountain offers enough incentive and problems. By its own rules and weather conditions, it devours every year again and again some people. In the meantime, more than 200 corpses lie there, because it is impossible to recover them. This fact is material enough to turn it into an American-Icelandic feature film. It revolves around the events of 1996, during the ascent in May, and resembles a biographical adventure film.
Baltasar Kormákur directed the 120-minute adventure film. The screenplay was written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. All shooting was scheduled for six weeks in the Italian Alps and a month in Iceland, after which work continued for another month in Nepal. This involved Nicky Kentish Barnes, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan, Brian Oliver, Baltasar Kormákur and Tyler Thompson as the lead crew, and resulted in a film with an age rating of 12. Partly local mountain guides supported the work on the King's Peak, with cinematographer Salvatore Totino. It wasn't until after production had begun that U.S. film production companies Cross Creek Pictures and Walden Media stepped in on November 12, 2013, and took over large parts of the financing.
Cast: One of the main characters is Jason Clarke, who plays Rob Hall, the expedition leader of the New Zealand team. Next is Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, the Texas pathologist, and Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer. Both climbed in the Santa Monica Mountains in early January 2014 to prepare for the role. Other major characters include John Hawkes as Doug Hansen, the mailman from Renton. Robin Wright brings Peach Weathers to the big screen. Michael Kelly interprets Jon Krakauer, the journalist, on assignment for Outside travel magazine. Sam Worthington watch as Guy Cotter. Keira Knightley contributes as Jan Arnold and Emily Watson as Helen Wilton. In other roles follow: Thomas M. Wright, Martin Henderson, Naoko Mori and Mark Derwin.
The adventure film "Everest" is a gripping drama and is based on a true incident. From the very beginning, Rob Hall's voice rings out, "Mount Everest is without a doubt the most dangerous place on earth." In reality, the team consists of ambitious amateur mountaineers. Director Baltasar Kormákur succeeds well in solving the primal problem, because, as a rule, actors can't climb and mountaineers can't act. The characters seem superficial due to the number of contributors, but emotions also find their way in through the integrated wives. All the actions of the Hollywood stars seem natural and the scenes on Mount Everest radiate the elemental forces. "Everest" is a classic disaster movie: before the end, the outcome is known, and yet the viewer still feverishly sympathizes with the characters.
6- THE LAST TRAPPER
"It is encounters with people that make life worth living," French writer Guy de Maupassant once said.
When director Nicolas Vanier met Noman Winther, one of the last trappers, on a trip through Canada, this chance meeting was to shape all his future endeavors. Vanier, known for adventurous expeditions far from civilization and the resulting adventure reports, photo books, novels and documentaries, found in Norman Winther exactly what he himself loved: a passion for the Great North, the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The trapper embodied the qualities Vanier would give a fictional hero. The result was The Last Trapper the first feature film by the director, who was born in Senegal in 1962.
Norman Winther is one of the last hunters to maintain a relationship with Nature, in this case the majestic Yukon Rockies, based on a deep knowledge of the environment and a great respect for natural balance. Accompanied by his wife Nebaska, a Nahanni Indian, and his faithful sled dogs, Norman takes us on a journey of discovery through a world that follows the rhythm of the seasons; immersed in scenarios of unimaginable beauty, he enthralls us with the story of an adventurous life, whose strength and courage are a reflection of sublime nature.
7- NORTH FACE
In the summer of 1936, Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, two Bavarian soldiers, decide to climb the North Face of the Eiger in the purest tradition of German mountaineering. Considered one of the most difficult climbs in the Alps, this legendary and tragic ascent is followed by several journalists, including Toni's partner, who works for a German magazine. After all, Goebbels did not hesitate to turn the two climbers into heroes of the Third Reich, despite the fact that neither of them was a member of the National Socialist Party.
Rockfalls, avalanches, a crumbling wall and sudden, unpredictable weather changes had so far prevented an ascent and claimed several lives. It was not until 1938 that the Germans Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg and the Austrians Heinrich Harrer (hero of "Seven Days in Tibet") and Fritz Kasparek succeeded in making the first ascent. Munich director Philipp Stölzl, however, is less interested in the heroic victory than in the existential struggle. That's why "North Face" is not about the first successful ascent, but takes place two years earlier: four climbers are surprised by a snowstorm and are stuck in the wall. The result is a visually stunning, exciting alpine drama that also attempts to explore the connections between mountaineering and National Socialism, but unfortunately takes the easy way out on this second level.
Writer Robyn Davidson undertakes an epic journey from Alice Spring across the Australian desert to the Indian Ocean.
Traveling 2,700 kilometers accompanied by her dog and four camels, the woman faced wild and unexplored areas. An adventure that showed her ability to face solitude and the most extreme conditions.
During her journey, she met Rick Smolan, a well-known New York and National Geographic photographer who documented her journey.
Robyn is determined to travel alone and does not want any other travel companion, so at first the presence of the photographer is not appreciated at all, but little by little the relationship between the two softens, thanks also to the hardships they are confronted with during the journey, until it becomes a true friendship.
The protagonists are Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) ready to face the wilderness in the virgin north of Ontario, Backcountry is a film that immerses the viewer in the Canadian "desert" in which time is completely absorbed by the natural immensity, with the aim of making the sensory dimension of the journey perceived.
It is a film that transforms itself, starting from a quasi-documentary approach to gradually increase the tension as we immerse ourselves in nature, which gradually shows its harshest and most unforgiving sides.
At a certain point the protagonists lose the way and all spatial reference and find themselves wandering in the woods, here begins a continuous search for landmarks, the solution that approaches and then reveals itself as an illusion in a crescendo of tension.
It is certainly not a relaxing film, but it is a film that certainly makes the viewer understand that Nature must be respected, has its own rhythms and rules, and does not forgive the arrogance of those who claim to dominate it or, worse, it lives as if it were its domain.
The last part of the film focuses on Jenn's struggle for survival, running away from an animal that will become more and more distant and invisible, giving way once again to the powerful amoral presence of nature.
10- A WALK IN THE WOODS
The protagonist Bill Bryson is a writer and journalist who has difficulty accepting the passage of years, he does not want his whole life to be linked only to the memories of past years, so he decides to live again experiences that can give him emotions.
He decides to embark on one of the most famous hiking trails in the world, the Appalachian Trail, against the advice of his wife who requires him to leave with a travel companion.
But who can follow him on this impossible journey? Only his friend Stephen Katz. An experience that will put them to the test: between exciting encounters, wild animals and deadly dangers. The story is based on a humorous tale by Bill Bryson himself (the protagonist played by Robert Redford), in which he recounts the journey with his friend Stephen.
This film is based on the interpretation of the always excellent Robert Redford, a little disappointing expectations in terms of scenery and settings.
A film that should have as a thread the narrative in nature sees prevail scenes of interiors or exteriors reconstructed in the studio without too many subtleties.
An ironic and funny film, based on the skill of the actors, we wanted to put it on this list precisely for the ironic and light-hearted approach to the story of the journey into nature, but we included it as the last one on the list.
Don't miss to watch these hiking movies !
There seems to be a common thread in many of these stories. The search for meaning in life, often after a tragedy or a particularly difficult time.
Stories of people who approach the journey on foot as an experience to know each other better, to heal from loneliness and fatigue.
The narrative needs, the need to develop a story articulated in the different acts, often lead the protagonists to travel long distances that take weeks or months to complete, time that few have.
However, many films manage to convey to the viewer the spirit and philosophy of this type of journey, which can also be experienced in a few days of walking.
Moving on foot, crossing nature and landscapes at a slow and cautious pace, makes this type of journey so effective to find oneself.
Walking helps to slow down thoughts, to put them in order, it gives us time to think and reflect, but we should never improvise and take on challenges beyond our means, as many of these hiking movies teach us.