Best Hiking Movies and Documentaries
If one of my biggest fears ever comes true and someone gets access to my Google search history, they will encounter someone obsessively searching for best hiking movies and documentaries. I just cannot get enough of those movies or documentaries that take me away for few hours following the footsteps of others in territories I love or yet to discover.
With the growing interest in hiking, there are luckily many movies or documentaries regularly coming out. Some of these are big productions whereas some are amateur ventures that we now get to watch thanks to the abundance of streaming services.
Whenever I feel blue or anxious, watching hiking movies and documentaries always helps me to lift my mood. While this may attest to a strange character trait on my part, I also enjoy the survival movies where the protagonists need to cover thousands of kilometers on foot overcoming unthinkable challenges.
This is a list of some of the hiking and movies and documentaries that I enjoy to watch, often repeatedly.
The Mystery Mountain Project: Hiking Documentary Taking Place in British Columbia
The Mystery Mountain Project is a recent 2021 documentary about an attempt by a group of Canadian hikers to climb one of the most difficult mountains in British Columbia by replicating the same conditions that a legendary husband and wife duo climbers had to endure during their first ascent in 1926.
Their clothes, gear and even the food had to conform with what was available in 1926 – all modern day gear and conveniences were left behind. The journey does not necessarily go as planned all the time but the circumstances create a lot of opportunities for some good drama. One of the hidden gems in terms of the hiking documentaries.
The Way Back: True Story of Survival
The true story of the escape of a group of prisoner of wars from a Soviet camp during the Second World War. Directed by Peter Weir, the film features many well known Hollywood artists including Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. The story is based on the 1956 memoir of Slawomir Rawicz.
I did not have any expectations when I started watching the Way Back but the movie kept me glued to screen for the entire run time. The group crossed over Gobi Desert and Himalayas with long stops at various locations along the route. Heartbreaking yet engaging story with an interesting and often tense dynamic between the members of the group.
Tracks: Walking the Australian Outback
This is one of the movies that I also listed in the list of my favorite travel movies. It tells the true story Robyn Davidson (played by Mia Wasikowska) who took a solo track across the Australian outback in 1977.
She is followed, along with her camels, by a journalist portrayed by Adam Driver – on assignment for National Geographic – who is always a joy to watch. Her courage and the difficulties that she had to encounter during her track are unbelievable.
Jungle: Terrifying True Story of Survival
This is a terrifying true story of four hikers getting lost in the jungles of Amazon. Yossi Ginshberg, his two backpacking friends and their “guide” engage in a life changing adventure to take a break from the common backpackers scenery during their months long gap year trip to South America.
Although the movie was not praised by the critics – it is still an engaging and at a times terrifying watch, even more terrifying when you think that it is a true story.
Wild: Solo Journey Covering the Entire Pacific Crest Trail
This is one of the big screen movies directed by late Jean-Marc Vallée and featuring Reese Witherspoon. The movie is entirely based on the memoir of Cherly Strayed`s novel of the same title focusing on her months long trek on the famous Pacific Crest Trail running from the USA-Mexico border all the way up USA-Canada border. The screen play is by another famed figure – the English writer Nick Hornby.
Reese Witherspoon does a great job making viewers care for her journey and whether she will succeed. Amazing nature sceneries are a plus along with the excellent use of music my Jean-Marc Vallée. it is so sad that we will no longer get to see more of his wonderful movies and series.
The Way: Religious Pilgrimage
The Way is probably one of the most famous long walk movies telling the story of very unlikely walkers who crossed paths on the Christian pilgrimage route Santiago de Compostela. While the movie starts with a dramatic event, this is still one of those rainy day movies to lift your mood.
The main character is portrayed by Martin Sheen whose son – Emilio Esteves – is the director of the movie.
Wildlike: Mesmerizing Sceneries from Alaska
I do not need any excuse to watch a movie featuring scenes from Alaska. Wildlike – in addition to the mesmerizing nature scenery – also has a very engaging plot telling the story of unlikely friendship between a young girl victim of abuse and a solo male hiker.
Into the Wild: We All Know the Ending
Another movie with beautiful scenery from Alaska but much more. This movie directed by Sean Penn is so famous that it does not even need to be listed. True story of Christopher McCandless based on the book of the same name by Jon Krauker.
Christopher McCandless left his family and society behind right after graduating from college in search of the solitude and union with nature. His journey took him to Alaska and the magic bus. The bus got very famous and almost turned into a pilgrimage destination and it had therefore recently been relocated by Alaskan authorities. The movie does not follow a linear storyline but it still works.
Seven Years in Tibet: Deep into the Himalayas
A wonderful feature by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud following Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer`s in his years of exploration in Himalayas and Tibet. The main character is portrayed by Brad Pitt but the side characters and their stories are at least as engaging as his.
Not all of his experiences are pleasant but he finally finds his footing in these foreign lands, which reward him in many unique ways.
These are only some of the hiking/walking related movies that I love and I regularly update this post as I watch new ones. For more movies, you can check out my post on my favorite travel movies and documentaries.