Top 10 Real Life Survival Movies

The most frightening and awe inspiring tales of survival are the ones that really happened. Based on true stories, these films showcase the desperate struggle to stay alive against impossible odds and the wrath of mother nature herself. From storms at sea, to plane crashes and getting trapped, the challenges are absolutely daunting and nail biting. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down the top 10 greatest real life survival movies.
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Top 10 Real Life Survival Movies


These tales are so bone chilling because they really happened. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down the top 10 greatest real life survival movies.

For this list, we’ve decided to deal exclusively on films that are based on actual stories of people fighting to survive nature’s wrath. However, we are not attesting to the realism or factuality of these depictions.

#10 – “Open Water” (2003)


Kicking off our list is the tale of a couple whose scuba diving vacation becomes a living nightmare. After accidentally being left behind, they find themselves praying for rescue. The camera brings us into the water as silent observers, where we witness their panic, hunger and exhaustion. Hopefully, the filmmakers embellished more than a few of the horrific details in this documentary-style nail biter.

#9 – “White Squall” (1996)


Set in the 1960s, this true-to-life high seas adventure story recounts the tale of a ship that sinks during a senior school fieldtrip due to a sudden storm. In this rite of passage movie director Ridley Scott emphasizes realistic visuals, and relies heavily on Jeff Bridges’ gripping portrayal of the tough-as-nails captain who forces discipline on his crew.

#8 – “The Perfect Storm” (2000)


In this decidedly mainstream Hollywood picture, George Clooney stars as the captain of a commercial fishing boat that gets caught in an ultra-violent super storm. While you can argue that this disaster film is overloaded with visual effects, you have to concede that the prospect of 100-foot waves is beyond daunting. Unfortunately, Hollywood had to stay true to life so they couldn’t give us the usual happy ending we’re trained to expect.

#7 – “The Way Back” (2010)


Set during World War II, this film is an adaptation of a popular non-fiction book that tells the tale of a group of prisoners that flees a Soviet labor camp across thousands of miles of scorching desert. Along the way, we share in their anxiety, troubles and drive for survival, and are continually compelled by the strength of the human spirit, and the terrifying sandstorm!

#6 – “Rabbit-Proof Fence” (2002)


Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching children suffer, especially when they’re alone and searching for their parents. Centered on the story of a trio of mixed-race aboriginal sisters, we watch as they escape a native settlement in 1931, and then embark on a nine-week pilgrimage home. With only a rabbit fence to guide them, the girls navigate fifteen 1,500 miles in desperate need of shelter and supplies.

#5 – “Rescue Dawn” (2006)


Portraying German-American pilot Dieter Dengler, Christian Bale is captured while flying over Vietnam. After escaping with some of his fellow prisoners, he learns the jungles can be just as cruel as his captors. This agonizing yet inspirational tale spared us the typical Hollywood conventions by focusing on the characters’ desperation and determination to survive. Interestingly, it was shot in reverse order so Bale was able to regain his weight as filming progressed.

#4 – “Touching the Void” (2003)


This gripping docudrama details the exploits of two young climbers through interviews and re-enactments. After detailing their ascent of a treacherous mountain in the Andes, it depicts a seemingly insurmountable descent, filled with regret, sorrow, lack of supplies, a broken leg and the fury of Mother Nature herself. As you can imagine, this documentary style film made the tale too real for viewers and exceedingly hard to watch.

#3 – “Into the Wild” (2007)


Directed by Sean Penn, this film follows the two-year travels of a man named Christopher McCandless as he decides to forsake his privileged life in order to rough the wilderness. Told in a non-chronological way, it depicts his frailty as nature unsympathetically wears the man down and shows him no sympathy or chance for a do over. This film is both gorgeous and frightening, just like the journey it depicts.

#2 – “Alive” (1993)


This was the first mainstream movie to bring us a survival story based on actual events. It grimly depicts the infamous crash-landing of a Uruguayan rugby team in the ice-covered Andes in October of 1972, and shows as they’re forced to do the unthinkable to survive. In true Hollywood fashion, this becomes a spiritual experience that emphasizes group bonding and determination.

#1 – “127 Hours” (2010)


Taking the top spot on our list is the biographical drama about outdoorsman Aron Ralston. James Franco depicts the unfortunate soul as he is trapped against a canyon wall and forced to cope with the shock of the situation, to ration his supplies while hallucinating, and ultimately to summon the courage to dismember himself. This film is memorable for its immediacy, as we’re addressed through a camcorder and left praying for a miracle.

Do you agree with our list? Which real life survivor story captivated you the most? For more interesting Top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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