See also: FILMS ON SURVIVAL
Man on Wire
Documentary 2008 PG-13 94 minutes. . Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath. See Full Review
The Original Dream of Flight
Documentary 2012 NR 52m. Chronicling pre-Wright Brothers human flight, this documentary spotlights the brave souls who risked life and limb to fly before the advent of planes. The spectacular footage also captures today’s pioneers, whose ultimate thrill is to fly like birds, using only wingsuits resembling flying squirrels. See Full Review
The Alps From Above:
A Symphony of Summits
(Die Alpen – Unsere Berge von Oben)
Documentary 2015 NR 1hr30m. Soar over Mount Blanc and the Dolomites in this breathtaking aerial journey that recounts the history and geography of the Alps. It celebrates the skill of those who have made the Alps their home for centuries. I learned a lot about the alps. For when you want to relax and be inspired by nature. I loved this movie. No there is not much narrative but that’s one of the things I liked. I thought the beauty of the landscapes and cinematography spoke for its self. This movie, for me, was truly breathtaking and inspiring. Beautiful cinematography. It is gorgeous. Stunning breathtaking shots. I’ve just watched it for the 3rd time this week. Eventually I stopped hearing the running commentary. I was spell-bound by the scenery — so much to experience with the sound OFF — recommendation: some may want to just shut off the sound and enjoy the scenery. This is an outstanding documentary. This is what the series “Aerial America” only tries to be. Now this is a proper use of aerial photography!
Docudrama 2014 R 115 mins. Undone by a broken marriage and her mother’s death, Cheryl Strayed has been on a years-long reckless tear, fueled by addiction and despair. In a bid to save her life, she decides to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail — alone and with no experience.
To the Limit
Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 36m. Written and directed by Pepe Danquart, this gripping documentary follows the adrenaline-spiked sport of speed rock climbing, as German überclimbers Thomas and Alexander Huber attempt to set a record scaling Yosemite’s legendary El Capitan. See Full Review
Storm Over Everest
2008 Frontline NR 109 mins. This edition of “Frontline” heads to Mount Everest, where climber and filmmaker David Breashears relives the rescue effort to save climbers who were stranded in subzero extremes caused by a ferocious storm on May 10, 1996. Three teams of climbers were caught high on the mountain during an unexpected and ferocious wind and snow storm. What ensued was a desperate 48 hours, with amazing stories of survival and tragic stories of death. Attempted rescues of stranded climbers were impossible due to the incredible conditions during the disaster in which eight people lost their lives. The documentary consists of dramatic recreations and interviews with survivors—their faces and hands bear witness to the horrible conditions on the mountain. I have seen quite a few of the DVDs about the 1996 tragedy on Mount Everest, and this is one of the better ones, and the interviews on this one are the best. There are several interviews with the surviving team members themselves. There are several interviews with the surviving team members themselves. A perfect companion piece is Jon Krakauers book Into Thin Air that also deals with this storm on Mt. Everest.
River of No Return
Documentary: Nature 2012 TV-G 53m. This film is a journey into one of America’s best-kept secrets: the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, with a pair of newlyweds as guides. Not long into their adventure, an extraordinary turn of events will change their lives forever.
Docudrama 2012 PG-13 1hr 36m. With five loyal friends in tow, explorer Thor Heyerdal sails a fragile balsa wood raft along an ancient path some 4,300 miles across the Pacific. Along the way, they’re attacked by tidal waves, sharks and all the dangers the ocean can muster.
The Galapagos Affair:
Satan Came to Eden
Documentary 2013 NR 2hr. This documentary tells the little-known tale of a handful of European dreamers whose relocation to the Galapagos Islands took a tragic turn. Three families/groups at feud on an otherwise uninhabited small Galapagos island. People disappear, odd things start happening. The story is definitely an instant classic. Think Lord of the Flies meets Clue. This doc has something truly special. Diary entries about the same events but from different perspectives are delightful. Amazing to see the original film footage and photography that has survived since the early 1930s.
(180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless)
Documentary 2010 PG 1hr26m. A band of bliss-seeking surfer-mountaineers sets out — in 2007, by boat — on a journey to Patagonia, South America, in this adventure documentary.
Man on a Mission
Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars
Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 22m. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, computer game creator Richard Garriott becomes the first second-generation American astronaut as his $30 million ticket and secret Moscow training puts him aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket for a 12-day journey into space.
Ride the Divide
Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 20m. Starting in Banff, Canada, and ending at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Great Divide mountain bike race extends 2,700 miles along the Continental Divide. This scenic documentary follows three determined cyclists attempting the grueling ride.
Mile… Mile & a Half
Documentary 2013 NR 1hr27m. A group of artists leave their daily lives behind to hike California’s John Muir Trail, the 219-mile stretch from Yosemite to Mount Whitney.
Into the Cold:
A Journey to the Soul
Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 27m. An environmental activist embarks on a grueling two-month trek on foot to the North Pole to commemorate Adm. Robert Peary’s 1909 expedition.
Long Way Down
Documentary Series 2008 NR 3 discs. Together again, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman make another outrageous excursion in this Fox Reality Channel follow-up to the actors’ first trip, which was documented in the series “Long Way Round.” Kicking off their travels in the Scottish village of John o’ Groats, the pair eventually make their way to Cape Town, South Africa, journeying through Europe and Africa to reach their final destination.
Grand Canyon Adventure
River at Risk
Documentary IMAX 2008 NR 44m. This breathtaking documentary chronicles the 15-day river-rafting trip that environmentalists Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Wade Davis mount to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation
When We Left Earth:
The NASA Missions
Documentary 2008 TV-PG 6 Episodes. Follow the 20th century’s space race all the way to the moon — and beyond — in this documentary series. The program features eye-popping footage from a host of various missions, plus in-depth interviews with NASA astronauts and engineers.
Long Way Round
Documentary Series 2004 TV-MA 3 discs. A sort of Motorcycle Diaries for the Hollywood set, this documentary miniseries chronicles the cross-continental adventures of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as they set out on their BMW bikes to travel round the world. Embarking from London and arriving 115 exhausting days later in New York, the duo tackles 20,000 miles of tough terrain, explores offbeat destinations and takes in colorful local culture.
Living on One Dollar
Documentary 2013 NR 56m. Four American friends travel to rural Guatemala, where they attempt to exist on a dollar a day for two months to experience life in extreme poverty. I feel this film does well in capturing just a glimpse of the struggles the people face. It is eye-opening to be shown how little some people must survive on, and do survive on. This is life on $1 per day understandably depicted. It presents the real truth of poverty and the harsh economic situations in poor countries of Central America. This documentary was really touching because they shone a light on an issue, and then tried to improve the lives of the people they introduced us too. However, even more attention could have been paid to the impoverished villagers rather than the white kids who were playing poor. It would have been better if a film crew went in to film the actual people who live on a dollar a day. I think every Westerner would benefit from watching this film, and the earth would be a better place because of it. This should be mandatory for every person in Western civilization to watch. Yes, it should be required viewing for U.S audiences.
Docudrama 2005, TV Mini-Series, 6 episodes 1h each. Dramatization of the great discoveries of ancient Egypt, from the exploration of tombs in the early 1800s, to the unraveling of the Rosetta Stone to translate the ancient language on the tombs, to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The Search for Tutankhamun. S1, Ep1. Howard Carter hunts for the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun.
The Curse of Tutankhamun, S1, Ep2. A prize that Howard Carter sought all his life yields more than he can imagine.
The Pharaoh and the Showman, S1, Ep3. Italian Circus performer/engineer, Giovanni Belzoni becomes Egypt’s greatest explorer.
The Temple of the Sands, S1, Ep4. Belzoni clears centuries of sand from the Temple at Abu Simbel.
The Mystery of the Rosetta Stone, S1, Ep5. It’s a battle of linguistics between a brilliant French linguist and an English Scientist on deciphering the Rosetta stone.
The Secrets of the Hieroglyphs, S1, Ep6. Linguist Champollion fulfills his dream by visiting Egypt to read the inscriptions on the temple walls.
The Middle of the World
(O Caminho das Nuvens)
Docudrama 2004 NR 1hr 25m. It’s a known fact that desperate people will be driven to take desperate measures. And when we say driven, we mean it — literally. This movie is based on the incredible true story of a man who takes his wife and five children on a 2,000-mile bicycle trip across Brazil in search of a decent job. Stars Cláudia Abreu and Manoel Sebastião Alves Filho.
Documentary 2006 PG 92 minutes. In 1969, Donald Crowhurst, a former engineer whose bravado outweighed his sailing expertise, entered a London Times-sponsored yacht race around the world. This thrilling documentary highlights the harrowing conditions Crowhurst faced.
Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip
Documentary 2003 NR 106 minutes. Ken Burns’ documentary celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental road trip, one undertaken for the flimsiest of reasons: a $50 wager. In 1903, Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson started up his Winton in San Francisco; sixty-three days later, he arrived in New York City. Burns captures Jackson’s pioneering spirit using photos, letters and footage from a road trip he and his crew take to retrace Jackson’s journey.
Documentary 2001 NR 1hr 4m. Two friends embark on an extraordinary journey when they enter the jungles of Indonesia’s Irian Jaya to begin the more than 600-mile trek documented here. Their goal: To reach the planet’s last primitives — a tribe untouched by the outside world. In the weeks-long expedition, the adventurers reveal the secrets of the virgin Mamberamo River and struggle with everything from hunger to malaria as they trudge forward to their goal.
Lost in the Grand Canyon
Documentary 1998 NR 53 minutes. Narrated by Joe Morton, this “American Experience” documentary recounts the 1869 quest of Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell (voice of Peter Coyote) to chart the unexplored land and breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon. Ninety-nine days after he and his team set out by boat to face the dangerous and unknown terrain, Powell emerged from the vast canyon and opened America’s eyes to the rugged splendor of the region.
Seven Years in Tibet
Docudrama 1997 PG-13 136 minutes. Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) journeys to the Himalayas without his family to head an expedition in 1939. But when World War II breaks out, the arrogant Harrer falls into Allied forces’ hands as a prisoner of war. He escapes with a fellow detainee and makes his way to Llaso, Tibet, where he meets the 14-year-old Dalai Lama (Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk), whose friendship ultimately transforms his outlook on life. No action, no violence, no nudity. So why did my teenage kids watched it several times? Maybe it because the story seemed genuine. Ok, it moves slowly, but then, that’s part of what transformed Harrer — the journey to find himself required that he slow down. My kids seemed to understand this, and could relate (amazing). This is one of our favorite movies to watch at least once a year.
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
Documentary 2010 NR 1hr 34m. Venerated documentarian Werner Herzog teams with director Dmitry Vasyukov for this observant look at life along the River Yenisei in northern Russia, where the industrious inhabitants of a rural village truly live off the land.
Docudrama 1975 NR 140 minutes. A party of Russian soldiers hires aged hunter Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk) to guide them on a surveying expedition through Siberia in the early 20th century. Uzala leads the group through life-threatening conditions with reverence and concern for his surroundings. Based on true memoirs, Akira Kurosawa’s Academy Award-winning production is a testament to the value of lasting friendship, loyalty and mutual respect.
Drama 1971 NR. Horrific circumstances strand an urban brother and sister (Lucien John and Jenny Agutter) in the Australian outback, where they’re found by an aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who helps the pair return to their city. As they wander, the siblings survive danger with the help of their new friend. The bond between the three grows, but when they reach civilization, the aboriginal boy finds he’s unwelcome.
Documentary 1950 NR. This Oscar-winning film chronicles the voyage of Norwegian biologist Thor Heyerdahl, who, in 1947, embarked on a daring passage from Peru to Tahiti to prove his theory that South Americans aboard balsa-wood rafts settled the South Seas Islands. Shot en route with 16-millimeter camera equipment, the documentary follows the Kon-Tiki, a raft made with no nails or rivets, on the journey the scientific community considered foolish and suicidal. An amazing little documentary (it’s less than an hour) that chronicles Heyerdahl & Company’s voyage.
See also: FILMS ON SURVIVAL
Must-See Movies—For What You Need to Know
TELL YOUR FRIENDS!