There's something about survival movies that make them way more intense than any genre. The constant possibility of the main character dying throughout the film definitely contributes most of that tension. The best survival movies initially let you get attached to the character before putting him in dire straits. That way, you care about the main character, and want him to survive until the end of the film. It’s those characters that will make this list; great movie survivors. These aren’t necessarily the survivors that overcame the greatest odds. They are the survivors that you fell in love with and then were at the edge of your seat until the very end of the film, wondering whether or not he or she would survive. It goes without saying but just so there is no confusion, SPOILER ALERT for these movies:Cast Away, Buried, The Revenant, 127 Hours, Life of Pi, The Grey, The Road, and I Am Legend.
Chuck Noland, Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a man just minding his own business on an airplane, when it crashes into the ocean. Chuck is the only survivor and makes his way to a deserted island where he survives for FOUR YEARS before he is rescued. He learns all kinds of survival skills and befriends a volleyball named Wilson (you read that correctly). This is a fantastic movie that won a Golden Globe and was nominated for two Academy Awards.
Paul Conroy, Buried (2010)
Paul Conroy wakes up one day and realizes he is buried in a coffin, with no clue how he got there. Armed with just a lighter and a cell phone, he does everything he can to escape the situation and survive. This is an intense, suspense thriller, and Ryan Reynolds (who plays Paul Conroy) does an amazing job at giving the audience that same claustrophobic feeling that he feels throughout the movie.
Hugh Glass, The Revenant (2015)
In Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar win, he plays a fur trader who is betrayed by one of his own and left for dead. His situation gets more and more bleak throughout the film, as he fights a grizzly bear, is chased by Native Americans, and is hunted down by his former fur trading partner (played by Tom Hardy). It’s definitely more of an artistic, slow-paced movie, but it is beautifully shot and has a strong cast. It won three Oscars and three Golden Globes.
Aron Ralston, 127 Hours (2010)
Based off a true story, Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, finds himself in dire straits when a boulder traps his arm while hiking. He is unable to call for help in the conventional manner and he does everything he can to signal his whereabouts to anyone who may cross his path. Nothing works, and he eventually is forced to cut off his own arm, in one of the most gruesome scenes ever put to film (excluding horror movies). It was nominated for six Oscars and three Golden Globes.
Pi Patel, Life of Pi (2012)
First-time actor Suraj Sharma (Pi Patel) was incredible in this terrific adaptation of the book of the same name. Pi Patel gets stranded on a small boat in the middle of the ocean, and befriends a Bengal tiger. This is an epic journey of discovery and adventure and has some of the best special effects that you didn’t realize were special effects you’ve ever seen. It won four Oscars and one Golden Globe.
Ottoway, The Grey (2011)
Who wouldn’t want Liam Neeson on their side when trying to survive in the wilderness. The Grey is about six oil workers who crash in the wilderness and must do what they can to survive. Throughout most of the movie, they being hunted by a pack of wolves. The movie is tense throughout, however, the ending is incredibly disappointing (it does leave you wanting more, but not in a good way).
Unnamed Main Character, The Road (2009)
Viggo Mortensen is terrific in this post-apocalyptic survival movie, in which he and his son make their way to the sea. One thing that is similar about all of these movies is that you spend your time (mostly) with one character. That actor has to have the acting chops to make the movie effective. The Road is no different.
Robert Neville, I Am Legend (2007)
In this post-apocalyptic zombie movie, Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, must find a cure to a plague that has wiped out most of humanity. It’s just him and his trusty dog against swarms of zombies. Many people do not like the way the movie ended, however, there is an alternate cut to the ending which is thought to be much more accepted as canon.
As stated earlier, most of these movies, with the exception of The Revenant, are carried by more or less one actor. Tom Hanks, Ryan Reynolds, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Franco, Suraj Sharma, Liam Neeson, Viggo Mortensen, and Will Smith all do incredible jobs at having you connect with their characters and feel what they are going through. It’s no surprise, as all of these actors, with the exception of Suraj Sharma, are proven talents, that elevate pretty much every film they are in. What movie survivors would you add to this list? Sound off in the comment section below.
Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager