The 10 Best Movies About Mountains and Mountain Climbing

Mountains are nature's ultimate challenge. These movies capture the most thrilling stories about people climbing mountains.
The 10 Best Movies About Mountains and Mountain Climbing

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Mountains are inherently thrilling. Between the heights, the conditions, the mortal danger present in every move, it's hard not to feel at least a little scared when you're scaling a summit.

And that's why mountains are a great subject for cinema. Not only does the act of climbing pose a physical challenge, but mountains are one of the most classic metaphors known to man.

Here are my picks for the best movies that capture the majesty of mountains, the bravery of those who climb them, and their death-defying stories. Some of these are even based on true events!

10. Vertical Limit (2000)

Directed by Martin Campbell

Starring Scott Glenn, Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton

Action, Adventure, Drama (2h 4m)

5.9 on IMDb48% on RT

Vertical Limit is far from the best film on this list, but it was certainly influential when it came out. Indeed, it set a new standard for mountain climbing movies until better movies came along (but don't let Alex Honnold hear you say that).

The film follows Peter, a retired climber who's pulled back into the thrill-seeking game in order to save his sister, who went out on a climbing expedition that went awry.

It won't be easy for him, though, because he's haunted by the memory of his father, who died while on a climb with him. It'll take all of his resolve to do what's needed.

While the opening sequence to Vertical Limit is admittedly a bit over-the-top, the overall film is certainly worth watching.

9. A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

Directed by Julian Gilbey

Starring Melissa George, Ed Speleers, Sean Harris

Action, Adventure, Crime (1h 39m)

6.2 on IMDb74% on RT

A Lonely Place to Die is an indie film that packs enough tension to rival any big-budget blockbuster production.

When a group of mountaineer friends are climbing through the Scottish Highlands, they come across a girl who's been buried alive in a small chamber out in the vast expanse of wilderness.

Immediately, they free her—but this creates a whole number of consequences they never could've anticipated. Mercenaries are now determined to track them down, and so begins a terrifying chase through the mountains.

A Lonely Place to Die is one of the most adrenaline-pumping mountain movies ever made, and you ought to see it if you're looking for maximum thrills.

8. Cliffhanger (1993)

Directed by Renny Harlin

Starring Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker

Action, Adventure, Thriller (1h 53m)

6.5 on IMDb68% on RT

In Cliffhanger, Sylvester Stallone takes a break from his iconic boxing role to play Gabe, a mountain climbing rescue ranger who has to take out terrorists one at a time and rescue some hostages.

But Gabe is traumatized by the one failed rescue mission in his past, when he couldn't save his best friend's girlfriend and watched her fall to her death right in front of him.

Not only does all of that raise the stakes, Cliffhanger makes good use of Sylvester Stallone's image to bring us a mountain climbing movie that feels like a full-blown action-adventure flick.

7. 127 Hours (2010)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

Biography, Drama (1h 34m)

7.5 on IMDb93% on RT

When 127 Hours first released, it made everyone around the world collectively gasp, such was its impact.

Based on a true story, 127 Hours features James Franco as mountaineer Aron Ralston, a man who survived against impossible odds while hiking in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

After his hand is pinned under a giant boulder, he tries his best to remain calm and wait for help. But when it becomes clear that time isn't on his side, panic sets in.

Then, finally, cold and steely resolve. In one of the most jaw-dropping scenes in film history, we watch as Aron cuts off his own arm with his pocket knife, freeing himself so he can make his way to salvation.

And yes, all of this really happened!

6. Meru (2015)

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Starring Conrad Anker, Grace Chin, Jimmy Chin

Documentary, Sport (1h 30m)

7.7 on IMDb88% on RT

Meru is a bit of an outlier on our list because it's a documentary film about mountain climbing. But a film is a film, and it won't be the last documentary you'll see here!

In extraordinarily vivid detail, Meru shows us the first-ever ascent of the "Shark's Fin" route of the famous Meru Peak.

All of the filming was done by the climbing couple—Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi—in the Indian Himalayas. To say that this film is breathtaking would be an understatement!

5. The Dawn Wall (2017)

Directed by Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer

Starring Tommy Caldwell, Kevin Jorgeson, John Branch

Biography, Documentary, Sport (1h 40m)

8.1 on IMDb100% on RT

Tommy Caldwell has been called the best climber on the planet. He's also the subject of The Dawn Wall, a documentary that tracks his ascent of El Capitan's Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park.

The scenes are not only visually stunning, but also damned unnerving. It's one thing to know that free climbing is dangerous; it's another to see it play out right before your eyes.

Tommy had a bit of heartbreak to get over, so his way to move on was to free climb over one of the hardest rock faces in the world. Not my first choice, but to each their own...

4. Everest (2015)

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes

Action, Adventure, Biography (2h 1m)

7.1 on IMDb73% on RT

If the name Everest has become synonymous with insurmountable challenge, the film Everest—which is based on a true story—shows us how unforgiving Mount Everest can really be.

What starts out as a normal ascent up the tallest mountain in the world quickly devolves into chaos, calamity, blizzards, altitude sickness, pulmonary edema. It's one crisis after another.

Based on the real tragedy known as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Everest is a cautionary tale about the risks and dangers involved when climbing mountains. Everything can go wrong in just a blink.

3. Free Solo (2018)

Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Starring Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin

Adventure, Documentary, Sport (1h 40m)

8.1 on IMDb98% on RT

Three years after Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi gave us the heart-pumping documentary Meru, they topped themselves with one of the greatest documentaries ever made.

Free Solo focuses on Alex Honnold's free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

In what has since been described as "one of the great athletic feats of any kind," Honnold manages to scale 3,000 feet of rock face without any equipment, always an inch from certain death.

It's the kind of spectacle that must be seen to be believed.

2. Touching the Void (2003)

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

Starring Simon Yates, Joe Simpson, Brendan Mackey

Adventure, Documentary, Drama (1h 46m)

8.0 on IMDb94% on RT

There's no reward without risk, they say. But Simon Yates and Joe Simpson really took a risk when they attempted to become the first men to reach the top of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.

Even though they succeed at the climb, disaster strikes when Joe falls on their way down, breaking his leg in the process.

It's now up to Simon to try getting Joe down one of the most arduous climbs, all on his own, right before a big storm hits.

With disastrous weather conditions right around the corner, Simon is faced with a tough choice, and Touching the Void captures the true story on camera. It's one of the best movies about climbing, ever.

1. North Face (2008)

Directed by Philipp Stölzl

Starring Benno Fürmann, Florian Lukas, Johanna Wokalek

Adventure, Biography, Drama (2h 6m)

7.4 on IMDb84% on RT

For the very top spot on our list, I'm going with a much-acclaimed-but-little-known movie called North Face.

Based on a true story, it tells us about two German mountaineers—Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser—who attempt to climb the Eiger North Face in 1936.

To this day, the Eiger North Face is one of the most formidable challenges any mountaineer could ever encounter. Easily the hardest climb in the entire Alps, it's no walk in the park.

North Face is a spectacular dramatization that captures every nausea-inducing moment. If you're looking for the very best movie about mountains and climbing, I put my money on this one.