6 Epic True Adventure Movies — and Vertical Limit

Action Life, Art, Culture, Travel, Video 15 156

As you probably know, REI will be closing for Black Friday this year. They want customers and their own employees to get outdoors rather than spend the day shopping. Inspired by #optoutside, the state of California will waive all park admission fees on Friday. Good news if you’d rather camp in the woods than outside of Best Buy.

But what if you can’t get away from your family and holiday obligations? What if you’d rather #optinside and maintain the Thanksgiving tradition of binge viewing and movie marathons while you digest? Action Life has got you covered with the six greatest adventure movies based on true stories. These primal dramas of man vs. nature could inspire you to get off the couch and #optoutside with the good people of REI. Or you might just relate since being home feels like wilderness survival.


The book is so much better. I’ve included the crash sequence, which is the best part, so you don’t have to survive 90 minutes of Ethan Hawke with a goatee pretending to be starving and cold and Uruguayan.

Alive!–yes that’s an exclamation point in the title–tells the story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes. The survivors endured freezing temperatures, starvation, and an avalanche before…

I won’t spoil the ending or tell you what they did to survive, but maybe save this one for after dinner.


Shortly after his college graduation, Christopher Mccandless donated his life savings to charity, burned the money in his wallet and set out on a quest for truth that led him into Alaska’s harsh backcountry. Sean Penn directs and Emile Hirsch stars in this powerful adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s classic. This is the story of what happens when you throw out the map.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (In theaters now.)


Back in the day, whaling ships from Nantucket, Massachusetts would go on three year voyages to hunt gentle giants halfway around the world. The Heart of the Sea is the story of the Essex, a whale ship that never came home. This grim tale of violence, madness, and cannibalism at sea inspired the novel Moby Dick. Nathaniel Philbrick tells the true story in his book, in the Heart of the Sea. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I loved/ was haunted by the book. Judging by the trailer, this nautical classic got the hyperactive Mad Max treatment.



Dieter Dengler was probably the unluckiest fighter pilot in history but the luckiest POW of the Vietnam War. Dengler immigrated to America to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying for the U.S Navy. On his first mission he got shot down over Laos and was taken prisoner. Through torture, illness, and hunger, Dengler remained optimistic and determined to escape so he could get his wings back. He makes it past the guards only to find that the jungle is his real prison.

This is one of Christian Bale’s skinny movies. Werner Herzog, better known for his art films, directs a war picture like you’ve never seen.



Robert Redford. Alone. Aboard a sinking sailboat. No blood-painted volleyball to keep him company. The long silences on screen give you plenty of time to reflect on your own mortality.



No way, no way would I do what Joe Simpson did to survive after he fell to the bottom of a crevasse on a remote glacier in Peru. It’s inspiring and all, but seriously, I’d rather cut through my arm like that guy in 127 Hours. I’d cut through both my arms before I’d do what Joe Simpson did. Simpson and his climbing partner tell the story in their own words. Claustrophobes, be warned.



Get into an altered state with your climbing buddies and have giggle fits screening this so–bad–it’s–glorious thriller. If Vertical Limit were a slightly better movie, we would have forgotten it by now. It’s the film’s cringe-worthiness that has earned it cult status, mocked by climbers the world over.

One YouTuber produced this handy climbing tutorial based on the absurd opening scene:

But you don’t have to be a mountaineer to spot the realism issues that make the movie special. You may have questions like: how are they able to sprint on a glacier at high altitude? Why the hell do mountaineers need nitroglycerin? Is that the treasure hunter guy from Titanic? And what’s with the whole brother/ sister incest vibe, is that a plot device or just bad acting?

About the author / 

Charlie Daly
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Remember when the Squid got a longboard on Rocket Power? Charles didn't know he could rip until he discovered the womp of the shore-break and traded his stick for fins and a speedo. He writes on a typewriter and lives in East Asia. Read him at: Dalyprose.com & Broke-Ass Stuart

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