The Best Outdoor Movies Currently Screening on VOD Sites

To save you all some time, I’ve compiled the best movies about outdoor adventure that are currently streaming on the internet. Watch and enjoy!

Seven Years in Tibet
Find it on: Amazon Prime

Heinrich Harrer’s book Seven Years in Tibet is one of the greatest adventure books ever written. It’s an autobiographical account of an Austrian man who, during WWII, escapes from an Indian prison and travels to Lhasa, the magical capital of Tibet, an opulent city on the top of the world where monks have learned to separate mind from body and the people are ruled by a living god. But before he can get there, he must travel — by foot and on the backs of Yaks — for two years over some of the harshest terrain on this planet. By the end of the book, Harrer has befriended a young boy who will later become one of the 20th Centuries greatest lights, the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Compared to this extraordinary book, the movie version is kind of a let down. Although there is a lot to recommend here, most notably a decent performance by young Brad Pitt as the seeker of wisdom Harrer.

180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless
Find it on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

In 1968, a few dirt bags loaded up a van with surf boards and climbing gear and headed down to Patagonia. It was an epic adventure full of skiing, surfing and climbing, culminating with a new route up Mount Fitzroy.

The trip is all the more remarkable now that two of the three men, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, founded or co-founded two of the biggest outdoor apparel companies in the world — Patagonia and the North Face, respectively.

In 2010, documentary filmmaker Chris Malloy decided to recreate Chouinard and Tompkin’s 1968 trip by boat. The meditative film features interviews with the original party members, as well as stunning nature photography.

North Face
Find it on: Netflix, Amazon Prime

More often than not, movies about mountaineering become fodder for unintentional laughs and hate-watching. For whatever reason, climbers love to watch movies like Vertical Limit and Cliffhanger just to scoff and say, This is so dumb, that’s not how a bolt gun really works.

North Face is one of the rare movies that portrays climbing realistically. It follows two climbing teams in 1936 as they attempt to climb the unclimbed north face of the Eiger.

The Conquest of Everest
Find it on: Amazon Prime

I haven’t watched this one yet, but it looks like it has some sweet vintage footage of Everest’s first ascent.

Touching the Void
Find it on: Netflix

This movie is half documentary, half dramatic reenactment of one of the most remarkable stories in the history of mountaineering. Two English climbers in 1985 make an impressive ascent of a peak in the Peruvian Andes. But on their descent, one of the climbers, Joe Simpson, breaks his leg and falls into a crevasse. His partner, believing Simpson to be dead, hikes back to basecamp. Simpson — alone, dehydrated and starving — literally crawls back to his camp and lives to tell the tale.

The Thin Red Line
Find it on: HBO Go

While not about the outdoors per se, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line is likely the greatest movie about nature ever made. The movie’s ostensible subject is WWII’s Guadalcanal Campaign, but its real purpose can be gleaned in the shots that interrupt the footage of men fighting: birds flying overhead, vines hanging limply from trees, alligators padding slowly into rivers. The nature scenes seem like non sequiturs amid explosions and conversations about the meaning of life, until you realize Malick’s deeper purpose: To bring us to the almost Buddhist realization of the small role humanity plays in the universe. The jungles of the Solomon Islands seem to swallow up the human characters and their actions. Highly recommended.