Much like natural disasters, accidents and rescue missions are great at building up intensely thrilling scenarios where the odds are stacked against our heroes as they fight for lives.
Accidents and rescue missions are doubly great because—unlike natural disasters—the situations often arise as a direct result of human actions, meaning these films usually have more emphasis on character development as everyone tries to survive.
These kinds of movies delve into themes like the fear of being left behind, the anxiety of victims, the way we cling to our last hopes and find faith when all seems hopeless. And when the circumstances feel like a situation we might actually find ourselves in? All the better.
Here are our picks for the best movies about accidents and rescue missions, which incorporate unique elements that help them stand out.
7. Curve (2015)
Curve is a horror-thriller film revolving around a betrothed woman who intentionally crashes her car on a deserted highway, all to escape the predatory hitchhiker to whom she gave a ride.
She ends up stranded with the killer lurking nearby, and every minute tests her resolve and her ability to survive the night, with the possibility of getting killed if she lets her guard down.
6. Escape Plan: The Extractors (2019)
Escape Plan: The Extractors is the third film in the Escape Plan film series, starring Sylvester Stallone as security expert Ray Breslin. Unlike the previous films, this one features a rescue mission rather than an outright escape plan to break out of an inescapable prison.
The mission is to rescue the daughter of a tech company's head, who's been kidnapped by someone who has a deep grudge against Breslin. This action-packed film also stars Dave Bautista and Max Zhang (Zhang Jin) as the hard-hitter and badass fighter in the fight scenes.
5. Gravity (2013)
An accident in outer space would be truly frightening. Even if people knew about your predicament, there'd be no rescue operatives or passersby who could lend a helping hand.
In such a scenario, it'd be up to the astronaut to figure their own way out of their zero-gravity environment with limited oxygen and fuel.
That's the premise of Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut who's left stranded in space after some space debris accidentally impacts her shuttle and sends her drifting into nothingness.
4. Sully (2016)
Sully is a biopic drama film featuring the events of US Airways Flight 1549, a passenger plane that emergency landed on the Hudson River. Tom Hanks stars as the titular Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger.
The film not only portrays the miraculous event—in which all 155 passengers were rescued safe and sound—but also the intriguing investigation into the incident that would cost Sully's career as a pilot.
During the investigation, it was found that human error played a major role in the accident according to simulations. But for Captain Sullenberger, those simulations lack the nuance found in real-life factors, including the realness of danger and what's at stake.
3. Mine (2016)
In war-stricken areas, stepping on a landmine would immediately cost you your legs, if not your life. That's the scenario featured in the film Mine, revolving around the story of US Marine Sniper Mike Stevens who stepped on a landmine after a failed mission.
Though he manages to contact his superior officer for assistance and rescue, it'll take days before they reach him—so he has to stand his ground, on his own, until help arrives.
That means fighting off rebels and other soldiers, along with enduring the harsh environment of a barren desert, all while maintaining his position on the mine so it doesn't go off. The combination of physical, psychological, and emotional trauma is overwhelming, to say the least.
2. Tunnel (2016)
Tunnel is a South Korean drama film starring Ha Jung-woo as Lee Jung-soo, a car dealer who ends up trapped inside a tunnel after a cave-in.
With nothing but a couple of bottles and a birthday cake in the car with him, he needs to survive for as long as he can while hoping that those on the outside will do all they can to get him out.
Apart from the cave-in itself, there are other elements that add extra layers of thrill and drama to the film, including the motives of those who can profit from the incident and characters who are—whether unintentionally or indirectly—hindering the rescue operation.
1. Thirteen Lives (2022)
Thirteen Lives is a nail-biting survival film based on the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue incident in Thailand, in which 12 young football players and their coach were trapped deep inside a flooded cave system.
In the film, the group went on a trip and ventured deep into the cave but couldn't get out after heavy rains flooded the entrance.
What makes this rescue mission so suspenseful is the complexity of the process needed to get them out, involving navigating underwater tunnels and making sure there's enough air for everyone.
It was one of the most dangerous rescue missions in history as they needed to traverse 2.5 miles (4 km) to safety, putting the lives of everyone at risk—including the courageous rescue team.