The thrill and tenacity are a big part of survival movies, making us live through the characters. With this list of nineteen best survival movies, your adrenaline will be pumping in no time. Enjoy the thrill and emotions within these captivating journeys.
1.Cast Away (2000)
English Russian 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom HanksHelen HuntPaul Sanchez
Of course, to start this list, we must go over the survival classic such as the 2000s film by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Tom Hanks as Chuck, a man trapped on a deserted island after being cast away in a plane accident. Through the journey of being alone, Chuck must do everything to survive and return to his home and fiancée in Memphis.
The film is a certified classic when it comes to survival movies. Be ready to get your tissues out, as this film will make you an emotional mess afterward.
2. The Martian (2015)
English Mandarin 2h 24m IMDb
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
A struggle to survive in space, The Martin follows the harrowing tale of survival on the Martian grounds. Astronaut Mark Watney is assumed dead by his crew after a fierce sandstorm swept their base. The disaster caused by the storm leads to the departure of the other members, leaving Watney behind.
A Martian grossed $630 million with its $108 million budget, making it a blockbuster success. The film received many accolades and a long list of nominations for many awards, including the Oscars. You can’t go wrong with this movie if you are looking for a survival sci-fi film.
3. Train to Busan (2016)
Korean Hawaiian English 1h 58m IMDb
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Stars: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Ma Dong-seok
Nothing screams survival other than the guttural shrieks of zombies. The horror-action zombie flick from South Korea, Train to Busan, gives you the high emotions and thrill of survival. With zombies running amok, a father and his daughter must reach Busan before the zombies get them first.
With many zombie flicks in the media today, it’s tough to stand out for the newcomers. However, Train to Busan pulls it off through its brilliant acting and excellent writing. With a budget of $7 million, it reached a worldwide gross of $90 million, making it a hit in Wester and Asian cinema.
4. 127 Hours (2010)
English Italian 1h 34m IMDb
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
While most survival films have some adversities, such as an apocalypse, there is nothing more horrifying than a story that happened in real life.
127 Hours is a biopic based on the harrowing story of Aaron Ralston and his journey to survive in the isolated canyon. Being trapped in a boulder, Ralston needs to get himself out by whatever means before he succumbs to death.
The film is an inspirational yet gut-wrenching tale. Unlike in other survival films, there is no monster to fight, only nature having a clasp on the man’s body.
5. I Am Legend (2007)
English 1h 41m IMDb
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
I Am Legend follows Robert Neville (Will Smith) as he finds the cure for a virus that made the world into an apocalyptic mess. After being alone as the sole survivor in New York, Neville is on a search to find other survivors. As he is immune to the virus, he sets himself on the mission of reversing the effects and saving humanity.
I Am Legend serves excellent action sequences and emotional moments. The film serves as a classic within the survival-virus film genre.
6. The Pianist (2002)
English German Russian 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Based on the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist details the haunting tale of distraction in German-occupies Warsaw. Despite being Polish Jewish, Szpilman is separated from his family after they are forced into a concentration camp. With his passion for music as a pianist, he must strive to survive in the increasingly lonely and haunted ghetto area in Warsaw.
There is nothing more terrifying than a survival tale based on real life. The Pianist shows the stoic and unblinking stare of human despair to live. The Pianist’s accurate and brilliant depiction garnered many accolades and notoriety in cinema.
7. The Revenant (2015)
English Pawnee French 2h 36m IMDb
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
The Revenant follows the journey of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he struggles to keep himself alive in the cold and dangerous woods. After being injured in a bear attack, Glass and his son are left by his companions, who betrayed him. With his grief and anger, Glass pushed himself to get back into the civilization and find the culprits despite his injury.
The imagery in this movie is not for the faint of heart. It deals with many gore and shots of bodily harm. However, check out this film if you love a harrowing tale and gorgeous photos.
8. Lord of the Flies (1963)
English 1h 32m IMDb
Director: Peter Brook
Stars: James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards
Lord of the Flies is a film adaptation of the literary classic of the same name. The story follows the struggle of young boys as they are left within the confines of an isolated island. This black and white 60s film is one of the earliest adaptations of the book in the cinema.
If you love a bit of a philosophical journey, this film is an excellent treat for you. It thoroughly examines the nature of evil in the innocence of the young. Lord of the Flies is a piece of media that will leave you thinking even after the film ends.
9. As the Gods Will (2014)
Japanese 1h 57m IMDb
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Nijirô MurakamiShôta SometaniRyûnosuke Kamiki
Death games have been a staple in Japanese cinema in the 2010s, but the genre is ripe within the 20th-century manga sphere. One of the films that tackle this trope is As the Gods Will. With the overwhelming power of a God, Shun Takahata must confront the odds.
True to most Japanese horror and thriller flicks, As the God’s will is a film wrapped in gore and mystery. At the start, no one knows the nature of this game or why they are forced to dot it. If a surplus of blood and exploding bodies does not suit your taste, this film is certainly not for you.
10. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
English 2h 14m IMDb
Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Fassbender
Based on the biographical novel of Solomon Northup, 12 years a Slave details his true-to-life journey as a victim of human trafficking. Solomon is a free black man in upstate New York; he is living a pretty good life until its course is highly changed. When he is suddenly abducted, Solomon is forced into slavery.
With the rampant racism in the country, Solomon struggles to keep himself alive and return to his family. The film is a harrowing tale littered with incredible cinematography and brilliant actors. The biopic is an excellent piece that shows the adversity against racially fueled violence.
11. Life of Pi (2012)
English Hindi Japanese French 2h 7m IMDb
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
The film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Yann Martel. It details the journey of Pi Patel as he and his animal companions struggle in the middle of the sea. The movie discusses many philosophical and thematic ideas throughout the film.
Although some of you are maybe familiar with the famous novel, let the movie fill you with its excellent visuals and brilliant actors. The film also won four Oscars and was nominated for hundreds of awards. With its gross of $600 million, the film is a commercial and critical success.
12. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
English 2h 6m IMDb
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur
When people say survival films, most think of blood and horrific imagery. However, Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson is a fantastical survival film that the whole family can watch. The movie follows the Robinson family as they are cast away on a deserted island.
With the threat of the sea and pirates, the family must work together to survive. Swiss Family Robinsons shows many fun adventures on the island and a terrific treehouse many of us dream of. It’s an excellent film about survival without the gory perils but still with stakes.
13. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
English Japanese 2h 19m IMDb
Director: Mel Gibson
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
A heroic and inspirational war film, Hacksaw Ridge, shows the two sides of WW2. With the true-life story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the film showcase one of the most chilling yet undoubtedly human tale in the middle of a battle. With troops and armies all over the place, Doss submits himself to the mission of not firing and killing anyone.
The Oscar-winning feature showcases the best and worst nature of humankind. The struggle to keep themselves alive within the turmoil of war is a harrowing story in and of itself.
14. Alive (1993)
English 2h IMDb
Director: Frank Marshall
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton
Nothing is scarier and more dangerous than battling against mother nature herself. Trapped in the cold and barren Andes mountains, the Uruguayan rugby team must do anything to be alive. With this mission, the crew is forced to eat the corpse of their dead comrade.
Alive is a harrowing tale based on a true story. With its authentic portrayal of the events and emotional tale of human friendship, the film is excellent if you are into inspirational tales.
15. Children of Men (2006)
English German Italian Romanian Spanish Arabic Georgian Russian Serbian 1h 49m IMDb
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor
With most women in the world becoming infertile, human society is forced into chaos. In the middle of turmoil, Theo Faron is tasked to lead an immigrant, Kee, to the coast and into safety. As the film progresses, Theo slowly discovers that Kee is essential to the human race and that he must do anything to help her survive.
With its new ideas and philosophical themes, the film garnered man accolades and praise. The film by Alfonso Cuarón showcases the profound nature of human existence.
16. Room (2015)
English 1h 58m IMDb
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Stars: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers
After being trapped in an isolated space called ‘Room,’ Jack and her Ma sets on a daring escape into the real world. The 2015 film by Lenny Abrahamson follows the journey of a mother and her son as they got out of the world for the first time in seven years. With the newfound freedom, the two must adjust to the real world.
With its 140 nominations, the film won over a hundred, making it a critically acclaimed media. Its survival does not come with monsters or zombies but with the isolation of the human mind.
17. Gravity (2013)
English Greenlandic 1h 31m IMDb
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris(voice)
Surviving in space must be the most challenging and most dangerous task a human can take. Against the sun’s radiation, the universe’s blackness, and the vast distance to the earth. Unfortunately, two astronauts are faced with these same challenges.
Children of Man director Alfonso Cuarón is back to direct Gravity, so you know what you are in for if you are familiar with his works. With its high stakes and incredibly heart-thumping sequences, you are at the edge of your seat with every scene. The film is greatly critically acclaimed, earning seven Oscars and many accolades.
18. World War Z (2013)
English Spanish Hebrew Arabic 1h 56m IMDb
Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz
Another zombie flick with many scenes that will have your heart racing. Marc Foster’s World War Z follows the story of Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane as he tries to stop the zombie from destroying the army and humanity. With the mission to help humanity, Lane faces a myriad of dangers as he tries to discover the background of the virus.
World War Z is your stereotypical action-based survival film. However, being standard is not a bad thing for the film. It offers many excellent action sequences and incredible emotional plot beats. If that sounds good to you, better add World War Z to your must-watch.
19. A Quiet Place (2018)
English 1h 30m IMDb
A family must do everything to survive an unknown threat threatening humanity. A Quiet Place details the journey to keep monsters at bay through being silent. Tracking through sounds, the Abbotts must do everything to keep their surroundings as quiet as possible.
This horror mystery film has been a hit since its release. The film solidifies itself as a blockbuster success by earning $340 million against a $17 million budget. You will have a great time watching A Quite Place through its ingenious premise and brilliant acting.
You are set for the next movie marathon with this list of nineteen best survival movies. Whether you want a hardcore gory survival flick or a fun adventure in the sea and wilderness, this guide has it all. Cozy up, prepare your snacks, enjoy a fun time, and unwind.