Could You Make It Through These Survival Movies?

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Off the bat, I can tell you this: I definitely would not come out alive in any of these survival movies. But maybe you're made of sturdier, more practical stuff than I. Maybe you were raised learning how to build fires and hike instead of watching TV and reading too many books, like I was. I've come to terms with the fact that if a zombie apocalypse transpired, my utility would be nil.
Maybe I could learn some useful skills from watching enough of these survival movies. We've culled the most intense movies about people boldly facing the elements, and occasionally succeeding. To add another layer of discomfort to your viewing experience, many of the movies are actually based on true stories (we'll indicate which ones).
Get ready for journeys into the Alaskan winter, swims among sharks, and snakes on planes. These are the most intense and downright awe-inspiring survival movies around. As Madonna put it, sometimes you make it through the wilderness.
1 of 13
The Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

The Robinson family, consisting of a mother, father, and three sons, flees Napoleon's reign and seeks a fresh start in New Guinea. Unfortunately, the journey doesn't go as planned. They're shipwrecked on a desert island, and now have ample time for family bonding.

Is it based on a true story? Definitely not. The Swiss Family Robinson is a book published in 1812 with the intention of instilling readers with family values.

Survival skills necessary: Hardiness, wholesomeness, a good head on your shoulders.
2 of 13
Blue Lagoon (1980)

Blue Lagoon is like a sexually charged Lord of the Flies. After their ship is wrecked, two Victorian cousins find themselves stranded on an idyllic Pacific island. As they get tanner and their hair more unkempt, Richard (Christopher Atkins) and Emmeline (Brooke Shields) shake off the confines of their Victorian society and explore their sexuality. In addition to honing basic survival skills, they have sex on essentially every square inch of the island.

Is it based on a true story? No, it's based on a 1908 novel called The Blue Lagoon by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. In the book, Dickie and Emmeline have a child in a most unusual way. Emmeline falls asleep, and when she wakes up, an infant boy is conveniently next to her.

Survival skills necessary: Teenage exuberance, a free spirit, a Victorian updo that needs to be let loose
3 of 13
Cast Away (2000)

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a high-powered Fed Ex executive on his way to a meeting when his plane crashes somewhere over Malaysia. For the next four years, Chuck is stranded on a desert island. Cast Away is different than the other survival movies on this list — more existential, perhaps. As Hanks told the Los Angeles Times, “I didn’t want to show a man conquering his environment, but rather the effect the environment has on him. I wanted to deal with subject matter that was largely verboten in mainstream movies, taking the concept of a guy trapped against the elements, with no external forces, no pirates, no bad guys, and tell it in a way that challenged the normal cinematic narrative structure.”

Is it based on a true story? There's no true story that directly correlates with Cast Away. Rather, the movie was informed by castaway incidents and survivalists. The screenwriter, William Broyles Jr., actually isolated himself on an island in Mexico to learn how Chuck might survive the isolation and environment.

Survival skills necessary: A knack for creating imaginary friends, survival instincts, the ability to make a fire, an appetite for stingrays
4 of 13
Open Water (2003)

By the time Daniel (Daniel Travis) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan) realize the scuba boat has left them, it's too late. They're stranded in shark-infested waters. The worst part of Open Water is how excruciatingly long it takes. The young couple has hours to contemplate their impending death. "We paid to do this," Daniel says, incredulously. Then, they start talking about each other, and about their lives. Open Water is a portrait of a slow doom, of the feeling of being forgotten and abandoned. Of every movie on this list, it's the most low-budget— and almost certainly the scariest.

Is it based on a true story? Did you know that getting left behind during scuba trips is a real thing that happens to people? Well, it is — and it happened to Tom and Eileen Lonergan, the young couple whose story formed the basis for Open Water. They were left behind during a scuba-diving tour of the Great Barrier Reef. Their bodies wren't recovered, but a message written on a dive slate, used for divers to record their messages, was: "[Mo]nday Jan 26; 1998 08am. To anyone [who] can help us: We have been abandoned on A[gin]court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!"

Survival skills necessary: How about you just don't get yourself into this situation? When it comes to scuba diving, think like a fish — swim with the group.
5 of 13
Into the Wild (2007)

Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) swears off society and his parents' wealth in search of something authentic, something found only in nature. In April 1992, McCandless, with his transcendentalist heart, traveled to the Denali National Park in Alaska and set up camp in an abandoned city bus. But McCandless was sorely unprepared for the wilds — after he becomes trapped, he starts to forage for food and can't distinguish between what's edible and what's poisonous. By capturing McCandless' spirit and wide-eyed perspective, Into the Wild makes his premature and senseless death all the more tragic.

Is it based on a true story? Incredibly, yes. Into the Wild is based on John Krakauer's book of the same name, which tracks Christopher McCandless' life from a comfortable childhood to a death in Alaska. Krakauer tries to determine cause of McCandless' death which, to this day, remains a mystery.

Survival skills necessary: Distinguishing between Alaskan roots, adequate preparation
6 of 13
127 Hours (2010)

Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a modern American adventurer and mountaineer exploring Utah's national parks. Then, the unexpected strikes, as it is wont to do. A boulder falls on Aron's arm, trapping him within a canyon. He's faced with a choice: Remove his own arm, or die, pinned to a canyon wall.

Is it based on a true story? Cringe, yes. Aron Ralston's aptly titled memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was the inspiration for this harrowing movie. Knowing that Ralston survives is only a minor comfort while watching the movie, because you see every harrowing moment of what that survival took.

Survival skills necessary: An iron gut, a lack of squeamishness, physical and emotional strength
7 of 13
The Grey (2011)

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) and his co-workers are flying from an oil rig in remote Alaska towards civilization when their plane crashes. Of the entire group, Ottway knows exactly what danger they face. His job is to hunt the gray wolves that threaten the oil drillers. Slowly, the group of men is stalked and picked off by the wolves. The Grey topples man from the top of the civilization pyramid, and shows that in the cold, wet wild, without our buildings and our comforts, we are all extremely susceptible.

Is it based on a true story? The Grey is based on a fictional short story by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers.

Survival skills necessary: Being Liam Neeson, high body temperature, stellar aim, lack of fear, intimate knowledge of wolves. This National Geographic article written by an ecology professor is a run-down of whether the wolves in The Grey behave accurately to nature (i.e. do real wolves' eyes glow?).
8 of 13
Life of Pi (2012)

What really happens in Life of Pi? The movie's end throws a curveball that colors exactly how much of the narrator's recollection can be trusted, but this much we know: Pi (Suraj Sharma) is on a ship traveling from India to Canada which sinks during the journey. He's trapped on a lifeboat with treacherous creatures, and must use both cunning and trust to survive.

Is it based on a true story? No — The Life of Pi is a fable about life and survival.

Survival skills necessary: Fishing, navigating, ability to get along with tigers
9 of 13
Gravity (2013)

Of all the space-set survival movies — and there have been many — Gravity is the most elegant. The movie luxuriates in sweeping shots of a distant planet Earth, and in the loneliness and distance of space. The trouble begins when a Russian satellite explodes, sending debris hurtling towards a space shuttle on a mission to repair the Hubble telescope. The explosion kills all members of the shuttle crew except Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who are on a space walk. They lose touch with Houston, and only have each other (and a limited supply of oxygen and fuel) to reach another space station.

Is it based on a true story? While Gravity isn't based on a true story, it's grounded in an undeniable phenomenon: Space travel is incredibly dangerous.

Survival skills necessary: Imperviousness to existential terror
10 of 13
The Revenant (2015)

The frontier is a treacherous place. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) knows this intimately — he's made a career out of being a guide for trappers. In 1823, during a trapping excursion, he's mauled by a bear and left behind by his fellow travelers, who fear an attack from the native Indians. If he's going to survive, he's going to have to do it on his own. And yes, it will involve sleeping inside a dead horse.

Is it based on a true story? The Revenant is loosely based on the life of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who, like the movie's Hugh Glass, got attacked by a bear and survived.

Survival skills necessary: The sheer drive to win an Oscar, general frontiersman bravado, an eye for beauty (the movie's cinematography was both stark and stunning)
11 of 13
The Shallows (2016)

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) has gone to an island to surf and to recuperate her spirit after her mother's passing. On her last day, she travels far on her surfboard to get a glimpse at a humpback whale — and that's when she's attacked by a great white shark. Her leg is wounded, but she manages to find shelter on a rock. For the rest of the movie, it's Nancy vs. the shark and Nancy vs. the rising tide and Nancy vs. the elements.

Is it based on a true story? No, it's fictional. Obviously, though, shark attacks do happen.

Survival skills necessary: Good balance, the ability to outwit a shark, quick thinking using limited resources
12 of 13
The Mountain Between Us (2017)

Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a pioneering photojournalist who's late to her own wedding, and all the flights to her destination are cancelled. She manages to get a pilot to take her and another man, Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba), to another airport on his connection flight. But the plane goes down not long after takeoff, leaving Alex and Ben — total strangers — to rely on each other on their trek away from the mountain.

Is it based on a true story? It's fictional, but we wish everyone could have an experience as vivid as that log cabin scene.

Survival skills necessary: The ability to fix your own broken leg, bravery, breaking down walls between people
13 of 13
Adrift (2018)

Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) are just two kids in love, doing what two kids in love do — if they are professional sailors, that is. Oldham and Sharp set off on a journey across the Pacific. Then, a hurricane crosses their path, wrecking their 44-foot sailboat and leaving a grievously injured Oldham in charge of ensuring their survival.

Is it based on a true story? Yes. Tami Oldham was stranded at sea for 41 days. Her fiancé, Richard, did not survive. Due to her head injury, Oldham couldn't read a book for five years.

Survival skills necessary: Sailing, emotional endurance, grit

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