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Best survival movies

The best survival movies for preppers (or anyone who loves a good dystopian flick!)

[See the full post at: Best survival movies]
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  • Comments (54)

    • 12

      I think Cast Away would be a good addition to this list. You get to see Tom Hanks struggle through so many survival skills both mental and physical in that movie. Thanks for putting the list together!

      • 7

        Agreed! Will add.

    • 13

      The Edge is another good survivor thriller. Like your list.

    • 13

      I like the list. It’s great!

    • 6

      Soylent Green

    • 14

      in Arctic (2018) Mads Mikkelsen is like Cast Away in Pole

    • 11

      The Decline (French: Jusqu’au déclin, 2020) fits the bill as well, although from a slightly different than the usual preppers’ perspective 😉

      • 8

        Thanks! We were just talking about this yesterday. We will definitely watch!

    • 7

      Not really dystopian, but there are elements of Leave No Trace with Ben Foster that fit the list–definitely the survival off the grid aspect.

      • 9

        Thanks! It’s on my watch list!

      • 7

        I agree. Just finished watching it and it has some great lessons.

    • 9

      Bit surprised not to see Ray Milland’s <i>Panic in Year Zero…</i>

    • 9

      Just watched Bushwick on Netflix and it falls into this category. Very depressing.  Urban survival during mysterious uprising type event.

      • 9

        Just added to my list. Thanks!

    • 12

      Great list! The Martian is one of my all-time favourites. Out of curiosity, have you considered adding Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials to the list? It’s one of those young-adult-dystopia movies that was all the rage a couple years ago, but I find that it explores some interesting ideas related to harsh environments, pandemics and authoritarian regimes. If nothing else, it may be a good way to get some younger folks thinking about prepping and survivalism (it was definitely one of the first movies that got me thinking when I was a teen).

      Thanks for all the work you guys do. You’re site is a voice of sanity and reason in what can feel like a pretty crazy world.

      • 10

        Martian is soooo good. I was kinda surprised to see it nominated for so many awards. Sci-fi doesn’t always do so well with that kind of thing.

      • 13

        I actually never seen Maze Runner! But I like the idea of it potentially being a good intro for younger people.

        And thanks for the kind words. We are in the same boat and hearing that our efforts have a meaningful impact it really means a lot.

    • 11

      Panic in Year Zero. I’m tellin’ ya. Available to stream through Amazon (standard def, unfortunately). A little dated — 1962, after all — but it touches all the bases. Unexpected catastrophe, emergency stockpiling, societal breakdown, finding shelter, living off the land, managing family dynamics, dealing with profiteers and marauders… This really should be a much better known movie among preppers…

      • 7

        I was about to scoff at standard def but then I looked it up and it’s from 1962 haha. Haven’t seen it but you sold me with “dealing with profiteers”. Did you read World War Z?

      • 12

        I did, and quite enjoyed it. Was surprised to learn recently that Max Brooks is Mel’s son…

      • 9

        Oh! Now that you’ve described it that way I will definitely have a go at it! A part from being dystopian, I really couldn’t see why before. Thanks!

    • 9

      I have not seen it yet but I was told about the movie “A boy and his dog” that may belong to that nice list.

    • 14

      Great list! Thinking we may start a weekly family movie night based on this. 

      I Am Legend is one I would recommend adding. While it is very “Hollywood”, it demonstrates emotional, psychological and physical steps that enable survival in bleak conditions. 

       I’m just becoming familiar with your site and greatly appreciate all the great info!

    • 6

      Not a movie but I just had to add this second a day video depicting a London girl’s life slowly go from normal to chaos as civil war erupts. Based on real experiences of children in Syria. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RBQ-IoHfimQ

      • 8

        Wow, hadn’t seen that before, but it’s fantastic. Thanks July. Will think of a way to share this more broadly.

      • 5

        Thanks! I find that although preppers think about preparing for war, most never imagine themselves becoming refugees. It’s not an empowering thought. Almost 80 million people were displaced by conflict or persecution in 2019, about 1% of humanity.

      • 6

        For me, prepping is a way to avoid becoming a refugee. 

      • 5

        prepping can certainly help with that! especially it can help you avoid becoming an economic refugee. But most people who become refugees do so because bombs are falling around them and soldiers are killing civilians everywhere. In that situation you don’t have a lot of options. I don’t think most preppers would be able to avoid becoming refugees. 

    • 5

      Not feeling so hot the last few days so I’m laying around watching movies from this list. I’ve seen a lot of them but others I haven’t. I rarely watch tv so this is kind of different for me! 

      • 10

        Oh no! Sorry to hear about that 🙁 Did you find any movie you particularly liked?

      • 7

        Which ones from this list, that you hadn’t seen before recently, were your faves?

    • 9

      Like how Threads made it in this list. One of the few nuclear scenarios to show how grim and long that would be.

      Not a film but you guys may enjoy another British production called Survivors. The original 3 series were released in the mid 70s and there’s plenty of food for thought in there. 

      • 6

        Thanks. Was there actionable learnings from Survivors, or is it more of a cold-war-doom-porn thing? 

    • 9

      I watched the 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson for the first time last night, and am glad that I see it made your list. I learned quite a few survival tips from the movie and it is a pretty good representation of how hard it is out there living off the mountains.

      In the movie, they have to sleep outside under the stars in the middle of winter. So the two guys build up a big fire and make lots of coals, they then bury the coals with dirt and sleep on top of those coals for warmth. In the middle of the night, the new inexperienced guy wakes up yelling and smoking because his bedding is smoldering and burning. The older more experienced guy just chuckles and says “Didn’t put enough dirt down. Saw it right off.”

      That is a survival trick I learned in the movie that I didn’t know before.

      I prefer the first half of the movie, as it just gets meh… and huh??? after a certain point. But the first half was very well done and full of good survival knowledge.

      Has anyone else seen it? What survival tip did you pull from it?

    • 7

      Greenland 2020 is superb, as is the remake of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS,  TV series Jericho takes some beating as well, along with Falling Skies

      • 8

        I’ve heard of Jericho, but just have never gotten around to it. Did you like it?

      • 9

        To be honest Sir, I thought it was one of the very best American PA dramas I have ever seen, I put it equally in my list along side falling Skies and Jeremiah,   Only trouble with it was the production company cut the show down to about 2 1/2 series when the material is clearly good enough for 5 series.

      • 7

        Just added Greenland to the main list.

      • 5

        Its very good, good cast, little or no gung ho rambo stuff, just good drama

    • 7

      Great list.  Don’t forget Robert Redford in “All is Lost”.
      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2017038/

      After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.

    • 5

      Deep Impact

      Armageddon

      The Day After

      On the Beach ( heartbreaking , both versions)

      Virus (heartbreaking but very dated now)

      Death of Grass

      War of the worlds

      Children of men

      • 8

        Love many of those, especially Children of Men! But we’re trying to distinguish between great “disaster porn” vs. movies you can learn something from. 

    • 7

      Recently watched “#Alive” with the spouse. It’s a korean zombie movie, but with an emphasis on Shelter-in-place, or “bugging in.” 
      relatively trapped in his parents apartment, the protagonist struggles with topics such as rationing his food, collecting rainwater, searching nearby apartments for supplies, and trying to keep hope when rescue seems further and further away.

    • 5

      A couple I’ll recommend:

      • A Cry in the Wild (1990): An adaptation of the novel Hatchet, in which a boy is stranded in the Canadian wilderness with little more than a hatchet to survive.
      • Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010): A Werner Herzog documentary about the lives of Siberian trappers. Lots of neat tidbits about how to trap animals, natural insect repellants, and more.
    • 2

      Review of the 2013 Korean film Flu, available for free on Amazon Prime as of this writing.

      Rating: 5/10

      Summary: It won’t make the Best Of list, but it’s worth a watch if you want to see an Asian version of Contagion. The scene setting is the best part, while the interpersonal writing/storylines can be a real groaner.

      Plot: A mutated H5N1 avian flu rapidly breaks out in a suburb of Seoul. 50% of people get infected and 100% of those die. Everything breaks down in a day or two.

      It’s interesting seeing how different cultures think about disasters, how society or government will react, etc. I like the 2016 Japanese take on Godzilla, Shin Godzilla, for this reason — the story is told through the eyes of a mid-management government worker in Tokyo trying to handle the crisis response.

      Flu has a B-plot about the government response, but it’s more told through the eyes of a low-level Emergency Response Team member and the doctor he fancies. 

      One of the unique things in this movie is how much of the screen time is devoted to being in a quarantine camp. Plot lines include selfish people not wanting to follow directions, government lying, and all the normal stuff.

      The 5/10 rating mostly comes from the overall scene and storyline. While it’s on the better end of Korean cinema, you’ll still notice how it’s “not from Hollywood.” And some of the writing / devices used are groaners straight from the 90s. 

      One major highlight is the child actor, who plays the (maybe 7 year old?) daughter of the main doctor. She’s adorable and gives one of the better child performances I’ve seen in a while.

    • 3

      I think Threads is probably one of the more realistic movies out there.   

      One that I haven’t seen show up yet is To Survive (Amazon Prime).  Not a big budget movie but centers around a man trying to make it South for the winter and encounters the best and worst in humanity.  Only humans that have to be judged on their type of humanity.

    • 3

      Another interesting one is One Hundred Mornings.  Set in Ireland, it follows 2 couples who have to survive after an apocalyptic event.  It’s an interesting view on how the remaining society starts to decay when basic human resources start to run out.  Also, how close-quarters group dynamics evolve during a catastrophe.

    • 3

      No Blade of Grass (1970) – Set in the UK, a worldwide catastrophe causes some Londoners to escape to the country.  Not the most exciting or well-acted movie, but the scenarios could really happen.  From city riots, to the group’s women being accosted, to group dynamics, it’s worth a watch.  Saw it on HBO +.

      • 1

        Thanks for the great suggestions, we’ll put them on our watchlist!

      • 3

        I think the more scary movies are the movies without zombies.  At least with zombies, you know where you stand.  With people, you don’t.

    • 3

      A movie that I’m looking forward to seeing is called 13 Minutes. It’s about four families that have 13 minutes to get to a shelter before the largest tornado on record hits. It’s a survival movie that looks pretty good but got rated 4.3/10, so we will have to see how it really is.

      • 2

        The premise is interesting, but those ratings 🙈 I’d love to know what you thought of it after you’ve watched it.

    • 3

      Enjoyed this and found it useful in terms of showcasing some survival skills, as well as psychology and philosophy:

      Arctic Daughter: A Lifetime of Wilderness is the second documentary by Jean Aspen and Tom Irons. Recorded at their cabin in Alaska’s remote Brooks Range, it layers historic footage, vivid photos and video and original music to portray Aspen’s amazing life. Born to explorer parents, Connie and Bud Helmericks, Jeanie began life in arctic wilds. At twenty-two, she and a friend set off on the Yukon River for a year alone. This lyrical odyssey across seven decades celebrates the art of following one’s dreams beyond a beaten trail.

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11656656/

      • 1

        Great find – had never heard of it. Looks like it’s available on Prime.

    • 1

      “Goodbye World” should be on the list. https://www.imdb.com/video/vi2833234457/?playlistId=tt2352802&ref_=tt_ov_vi

      “When a mysterious terrorist attack causes chaos in the cities, a group of friends take refuge in their countryside cabin. But the challenges of living in a post-apocalyptic world soon take their toll on relationships within the group.”