Sometimes characters in movies get lost in the woods or run from a killer, sometimes their ship gets wrecked or their plane crashes. There are plenty of best survival movies of all time that TechTrends recommends.
Whether it is about shipwrecks, getting lost in the woods, plane crashes or any other disaster, these survival movies, with some of them based on real events, will be so entertaining to watch. When people watch the best survival movies ever, these questions pop in their mind: Do I have what it takes to survive this? What would my reaction be in that situation? Would I make it out alive? There is something about this genre that makes it quite compelling, especially when they are based on true stories. Therefore, they may get under your skin. Others might only have an entertainment value. If you are in the mood for having your blood pressure rise, watch one of these best must-see survival movies and be grateful that you are sitting on your comfortable couch at home. Now let’s jump into the list.
Best Survival Movies of All Time
Quite naturally, humans have a fascination and obsession with surviving and staying alive. That is why watching survival movies satisfies that need. TechTrends put together a list of the best survival films of all time, ranked based on their rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Without further ado, let’s start.
14. Everest 2015
- Genre: Adventure/Drama
- Director: Baltasar Kormákur
- Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 73%, IMDb 7.1
Everest is one of the best survival movies of all time that is also based on a true story, which occurred on may 10, 1996. Climbers Jason, portrayed by Jason Clarke and Josh Brolin, start their ascent towards the Mount Everest’s summit. Unfortunately, a sudden and unexpected storm strikes, which leaves them in a horrible blizzard. They had to deal with the most difficult of situations and conditions to endure winds and the freezing temperature if they wanted to survive. Do not miss this wonderful survival movie that will get under your skin.
13. Swiss Army Man 2016
- Directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
- Stars: Daniel Radcliffe,
- Rating: IMDb 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes 72%
One of the greatest survival films came in 2016, named Swiss Army Man where Daniel Radcliffe played a corpse that washed to the shore. He then helps Hank, played by Paul Dano, survive in the deserted island. He becomes friends with the corpse, calling him Manny. Hank uses the corpse as a great tool to survive as he finds out that he can use him like a Swiss Army knife. This movie is very unique in the actor’s filmography as it is the surrealist comedy Radcliffe acted in. Hank aims to get home and he starts a journey with the dead man, who he imagines will come to life.
12. The Road 2013
- Genre: Sci-fi/Drama
- Director: John Hillcoat
- Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 74%, IMDb 7.2
The Road is also one of the greatest survival movies ever made which is about a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. A man and wife came to see that the entire world appears to be on fire, realizing that the life they knew is behind them. While the wife adapts less to the disaster that happened to them, an ill father rises to the defend of his son and together, they set out on a journey in order to survive. It is a very entertaining film, showing the details of surviving on a planet burned to the ground. Do not miss this wonderful movie.
11. The Shallows 2016
- Genre: Horror/Thriller
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
- Star: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Sedona Legge
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 78%, IMDb 6.3
One of the best survival movies of all time is 2016’s The Shallows. The horror thriller film revolves around the story of a medical student who goes to a secluded Mexican beach to relax. When she is surfing, this young woman gets attacked by a shark and finds herself far from the shore. The movie is quite entertaining when she has to find a way to survive while dealing with an injury as well. Blake Lively’s captivating performance in the movie attracted the attention of the critics who praised her. She carried the whole movie by herself and proved that she could do any genre. The movie was also a great success at the box office.
Read more: Best Horror Movies of All Time
10. The Revenant 2015
- Genre: Western/Adventure
- Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 78%, IMDb 8
The Revenant is one of the best survival movies ever and Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Academy Award after this role. He also won this third Golden Globe Award and his first Screen Actors Guild Award for playing Hugh Glass in Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s film. A group of trappers leave him to die when he gets mauled by a grizzly bear. Almost like a miracle, Hugh survives and wants to take vengeance on the person who abandoned him. DiCaprio had an enormously physical role and gave Hugh a powerful character with his impressive talent. The movie did deserve to win and the scene where he fights a bear is the most entertaining part; you do not want to miss it.
9. The Impossible 2013
- Genre: Drama
- Director: A. Bayona
- Stars: Tom Holland, Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Oaklee Pendergast, Samuel Joslin, Harry Holland
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 81%, IMDb 7.5
This historical drama demonstrates how one family survived after the destruction of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. In The Impossible, Naomi Watts plays the role of real-life doctor Maria Bennett. She, along with her husband and three children, are on vacation in Thailand when the tsunami happens. They get separated, and Maria gets injured; therefore, she needs quick medical attention. The chaotic aftermath of the disaster is shown in the movie, in which the family tries to come back to one another. The Impossible is indeed one of the best survival movies of all time.
Read more: Best Tom Holland Movies of All Time
8. Into the Wild 2007
- Genre: Drama/Adventure
- Director: Sean Penn
- Stars: Emile Hirsch, Kristen Stewart, Vince Vaughn, Brian Dierker
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 83%, IMDb 8.1
Into the World is an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s novel, and the movie follows the tragic tale of Christopher McCandless. He decides to leave everything behind and strike out on his own. All his experiences are recounted in this movie, and he plays alongside Stewart’s Tracy, who is one of the key characters. She was one of the last people who saw him on his journey. The two have a lot in common as she is also having a hard time figuring out what she wants from the world. Despite not knowing much about him, Tracy is drawn to McCandless. This is another one of the best survival movies of all time on our list.
Read more: Best Kristen Stewart Movies of All Time
7. Buried 2010
- Genre: Thriller/Drama
- Director: Rodrigo Cortés
- Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Robert Paterson, Cade Dundish, Abdelilah Ben Massou
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 87%, IMDb 7
Undoubtedly one of the best survival movies of all time, Buried, shows Ryan Reynolds, the main character, being imprisoned in a coffin. The movie was also entirely shot inside a coffin, too. He only has a lighter and a cell phone, so he has to use every tool there. He uses all his charm, good looks, disarming sense of humor, and serious chops in this horror show. Although it was a risky movie, it paid off as he had little to work with but there was a lot of tension. He was a driver in Iraq. Then, a group of people kidnap and bury him alive. He showcased a nerve-wracking performance, and made this one of the greatest survival movies.
Read more: Best Ryan Reynolds Movies of All Time
6. Cast Away 2000
- Genre: Adventure/Drama
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Stars: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Lari White, Peter von Berg
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 89%, IMDb 7.8
Cast Away is the story of Chuck Noland surviving a plane crash and living alone on an island for four years. Although the movie’s budget was $90 million, it became a box office success and grossed over $400 million worldwide. The list of the best survival movies of all time would not have been complete without Cast Away, which is not only a compelling drama, but also a romance between a man and a volleyball. Tom Hanks plays the leading role and portrays the character remarkably well.
5. The Martian 2015
- Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Star: Matt Damon, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Naomi Scott, Donald Glover
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 91%, IMDb 8
The Martian is another one of the best survival movies of all time. Matt Damon plays the role of astronaut Mark Watney in this distant future. Watney and his team are on Mars for an expedition, and because of the dust storm, the crew had to evacuate. Then, Watney is left behind due to the situation under the crew’s control. With nothing to be done, Watney is presumed dead. However, he actually survived, and he has to depend on his knowledge to keep going on Mars. It all happens as a group of extraordinary scientists work together to find a mission to bring him back before he runs out of time.
4. 127 Hours 2010
- Genre: Drama/Adventure
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Stars: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy, Treat Williams
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 93%, IMDb 7.6
James Franco got his first and ever Academy Award nomination for the role he played in the movie 127 Hours which is based on a real story. The film follows the real-life story of Aron Ralston, who is a mountain climber. He gets stuck and trapped under a boulder when he was in the canyon in Utah. His hand gets crushed by the boulder and he cannot move. Not having told anyone about his location, he has to fight for his life with limited resources of water and food. The film is an epic story of survival and determination. If you are love survival movies, you have to watch this. It is one of the best survival movies of all time.
Read more: Best Movies Based on True Stories
3. All Is Lost 2013
- Genre: Drama/Adventure
- Director: C. Chandor
- Stars: Robert Redford, Dyapa Gnaneshwar Reddy
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 94%, IMDb 6.9
As one of the most minimalist films ever made, All Is Lost features Robert Redford as the sole cast member and he hardly ever speaks during the movie. He portrays the role of a sailor who is lost when his ship gets wrecked. Being all alone in the Indian Ocean, he must find a way to survive after being forced to leave the ship. It is a wonderful survival movie that J. C. Chandor directed.
2. A Quiet Place 2018
- Genre: Horror/Sci-fi
- Director: John Krasinski
- Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, Djimon Hounsou
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 96%, IMDb 7.5
Emily Blunt’s husband in this movie and in real life directed the film A Quiet Place in 2018, which is a post-apocalyptic movie. This Sci-fi film tells the story of a family who is trying to run away from a land that has been overtaken by aliens who are blind but have a keen hearing and hunt with that. There are very scary scenes, which horror movie fans will find pleasing. This is one of the best survival movies of all time and it is the second one on our list. While Krasinski was the father of the family, Blunt played the role of his pregnant wife, Evelyn. The movie also earned a nomination for Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.
Read more: Best Emily Blunt Movies of All Time
1. Gravity 2013
- Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller
- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
- Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 96%, IMDb 7.7
One of the best survival movies of all time and the top one on the list is Gravity, where Sandra Bullock played the role of a lifetime. This outer space masterpiece shows her talent playing the role of Dr. Ryan Stone, who is a medical engineer. She is on the verge of experiencing her first ever space mission. Bullock features alongside great George Clooney, portraying the role of Lt. Matt Kowalski. The veteran commander was going to retire soon. While the first half of the movie shows these two actors, the second half is a one-woman show for Bullock. She was able to rise to the occasion and nail it. Her character is trapped in space following an incident and has to find a way to get back to Earth.
Read more: Best Sci-fi Movies of 2022