25 of the Best Wilderness Movies for Survival Skills

June 26, 2024

Sarah Shelton

Sarah Shelton

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Are you looking for some fun movie suggestions that will teach your kids about survival skills? We have put together a list of the best wilderness movies that will open up discussions with your kids about what it takes to survive in the elements.

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Best Wilderness Movies for Learning Survival Skills

Does your family enjoy hiking, camping or other outdoor wilderness adventures? A common fear for many people is that they would somehow be stuck in the wilderness and have to figure out how to survive until help comes.

Sharing good survival movies with your kids can help to open a conversation of what to do if you encounter wild animals or if you are stuck in a situation where you need to survive the elements of mother nature in the great outdoors.

Wilderness Movies for the Whole Family

These wilderness movies are great for a family movie night. Many of these come from classic books, while others are movies that you may remember watching with your family when you were a child.

1. Robinson Crusoe (1954) PG – Have your kids read Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe? This is a classic story of survival when Robinson Crusoe, a 17th century man survives a shipwreck and must carve out a life for himself on a deserted island. This movie was nominated for an academy award for best actor and is a classic adventure survival story.

2. Adventures of The Wilderness Family (1975) G -Based on the true story of the Robinson family who left the big city of Los Angeles to move to the Rocky Mountains. The father builds a log cabin and the children befriend wild animals. Your kids will enjoy watching their adventures in the wilderness as they create a simple life for themselves off the grid in the mountains.

3. Disney’s White Fang (1991) PG – This is Disney’s retelling of the classic by Jack London. Starring Ethan Hawke as the Yukon gold hunter who befriends a mixed dog-wolf he rescues from the hands of a man who abuses him.

4. Swiss Family Robinson (1960) G – Another Disney classic that is often watched at least once a year in our home. Your kids will love watching the Robinson family survive a shipwreck and land on a deserted island. They begin to settle in and build a massive tree house, and try to ride on zebras and ostriches, while fighting off pirates!

5. The Life and Time of Grizzly Adams (1974) G  – This was a series that ran for one year about an innocent mountain man who is a fugitive. He lives in the wilderness running from the law and has a grizzly bear as a friend. He is always available to lend a helping hand to people who may pass by him in the forest.

6. A Cry in the Wild (1990) G- Based on the beloved book Hatchet, this movie follows a young boy who crash lands in the Canadian mountains when the pilot has a heart attack. The only thing he has to survive with is a hatchet that his mother gave him.

7. My Side of the Mountain (1969) G – This movie is based on one of our families’ favorite books! 13 year old Sam runs away from home and takes a pet raccoon with him to live in the Canadian woods and be self-sufficient. This is where he meets a peregrine falcon who also becomes his pet.

Wilderness Movies for Teens

Teens will enjoy these movies for their emotion and depth. There are also many thrills and adventures as the characters fight to survive the elements. They teach problem solving skills, resilience and offer excitement and thrilling moments.

8. Cast Away (2000) PG 13 – Tom Hanks has a great performance as a Fed-Ex high executive whose plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean. He is the only survivor on the plane crash and everyone assumes he is dead. He ends up making his home on an uninhabited island where he lives for years with his only friend, a volleyball he names Wilson.

This movie won many different awards for best actor including a Teen Choice award. It was one of the best movies of 2000, and Tom Hanks shines in his desperate attempt to survive and find a way to be rescued.

9. Life of Pi (2012) PG – Based on a philosophical novel, Life of Pi follows a young man who survives a disaster at sea aboard a freighter with animals on it. He soon realizes he isn’t the only survivor and has to survive with a bengal tiger on a lifeboat at sea for 227 days.

10. Leave No Trace (2018) PG- A veteran with PTSD who can’t be around society, takes his 17 year old daughter to live in isolation in an old urban park in Portland, Oregon. Here they live in complete isolation using forest survival skills and only returning into town for supplies.

11. All is Lost (2013) PG 13- This is a good survival movie starring Robert Redford as the main character who is alone at sea taking a solo sailing voyage across the Indian Ocean. His boat crashes with a shipping container and his navigation system and radios fail.

This movie has very little dialogue and is beautifully shot. It is very thrilling and suspenseful as he sails into a violent storm and has to survive and sail his way out.

12. The Snow Walker (2003) PG – A Canadian survival film about a Canadian bush pilot and the young woman who is his passenger who survive a plane crash and have to survive the harsh conditions of the Northwest Territories.

Wilderness Movies Based on True Events

These wilderness survival films showcase true stories of grit and determination to survive in intense situations. All of the movies in this category are are PG 13, with one of them rated R. They are great stories of true survival, but are very intense, and thrilling.

I recommend that you watch this with older teens and use caution to those that may be sensitive to intense moments, death and blood. I have chosen to include these movies because they help to provide a cautionary tale of what can happen if an emergency arises when you are out in the wild.

13. Everest (2015) PG 13 – This drama adventure movie is based on the true account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where 11 climbers from different expeditions were caught in the deadliest blizzard to ever hit the mountain. This movie follows each expedition as they are challenged by freezing temperatures and blistering winds to survive against all odds.

14. Kon-Tiki (2012) PG 13 – A historical drama survival movie about the true story of a Norwegian explorer and his crew as they embark across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft named Kon-Tiki. This movie takes you along on their 101-day, journey from Peru to the Polynesian islands, facing storms, sharks, ocean.

15. Rescue Dawn (2006) PG 13- This movie is based on the true story of Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler (played by Christian Bale). His plane was shot down on a mission during the Vietnam War and taken as a prisoner of war. After being tortured and starved, he escaped with other prisoners and they have to fight to survive in the rainforest jungles.

16. Thirteen Lives (2022) PG13 – If you followed the news in 2018, you may remember watching the rescue story of the soccer team and their coach that were trapped in an underwater cave in Thailand. This movie, directed by Ron Howard faithfully portrays the true story of the cave rescue mission.

17. 127 Hours (2010) R – This survival hiking movie is based on the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco). This mountaineer was trapped by a boulder when climbing in an isolated canyon in the Utah desert. He has limited supplies and no hope of rescue, and has to go to desperate measures to survive by amputating his own arm with a pocket knife to live.

This movie is very intense. The acting is phenomenal and if you or your older teens hike or mountain climb it is a great example of why you need to be prepared, and what can happen if you hike alone. It is rated R for language, intensity, some sexual references and blood. As a hiker, I personally really enjoyed the movie. You may want to preview it first before showing your teens.

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Movie Response Pack

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Documentary Wilderness Survival Shows and Movies

These wilderness survival movies are actually documentaries that follow scientists as they brave the elements of the natural world for their research. Documentaries are wonderful educational tools that can help your children want to explore many different topics of nature and animal science.

18. Alone Across Alaska: 1,000 Miles of Wilderness (2013) Not Rated – This documentary chronicles the journey of  backpacker Bruce “Buck” Nelson’s trip across Alaska’s Brooks Range. He traveled and filmed the entire journey alone. It has amazing and beautiful up close and personal footage of the Alaskan wilderness and its wildlife.

19. Alone in the Wilderness (2004) G – Touted as one of the best survival movies about Richard Proenneke self-made documentary Alaskan wilderness

20. Being Caribou (2004) Not Rated – A husband a wildlife biologist and his environmentalist wife go on a journey to follow a herd of caribou across the Arctic tundra on foot. This documentary follows the perilous journey for these scientists and the caribou.

Wilderness Survival Television Series

If your family enjoys learning about outdoor survival skills they will really enjoy these survival themed series. They are great for the whole family and you will learn so much while you are watching them.

21. Survivorman (2004 – 2016) – Les Stroud, avid outdoorsman and survival expert takes you on a survival adventure in this series. Each show he allows himself to be stranded in a remote location with no supplies or any equipment to replicate what would happen if you suddenly found yourself lost without food, water or supplies.

All he has with him is a one man camera crew that films his experience needing to find food and shelter and a way out. My whole family loved this show, and learned so much by watching it.

22. Ray Mears Extreme Survival (1999 – 2002) – This show originally aired on the BBC. In this series, survivalist Ray Mears travels to the farther corners of the Earth to find natives who live out in nature. He interviews them and shares how they survive in the most extreme of conditions. You will learn survival tips and hear amazing stories of survival.

23. Bear Grylls Survival School (2016) – This reality series follows a group of children who leave all of their technology at home and go on a two week adventure in the wild. With the help of Bear Grylls, they must learn how to work together as a team to learn the skills that they need to survive.

24. History Channel’s Alone (2015 – current ) – In this series, 10 contestants that consider themselves to be survival experts attempt tp survive alone in the wilderness with nothing but a backpack. They have to struggle with harsh weather, hunger and dangerous wildlife. The last person left that doesn’t have to be picked up wins $500,000!

25. Coyote Peterson: Brave the Wild (2020) – If your kids love wildlife and animals, they may have heard of You Tube star Coyote Peterson. In this show, Coyote Peterson goes on a wild adventure in the Australian Outback to search for some of the world’s most dangerous animals.

Books for Real Life Survival Skills Training

After you enjoy these movies, consider adding real life survival skills training to your homeschool lessons. Here are 3 books we recommend for some hands-on learning:

Off Grid Kid: Survival Skills For Life: An Interactive Outdoor Survival Guide For Kids on Making Fire, Building Shelters, Foraging Wild Food and Improving Mindset – Written for older kids & teens by a 20 year military and survival expert.

Survival Projects for Off-Grid Living: Survivalist’s Handbook of DIY Projects for Preparedness – A hands-on approach to learning 75+ diy survival and off-grid projects

Wilderness Navigation: Finding Your Way Using Map, Compass, Altimeter & GPS, 3rd Edition (Mountaineers Outdoor Basics) – Learn how to use tools in order to explore the wilderness so you an find your way back.

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