Best Outdoor and Adventure Movies

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Lately we are all spending more time indoors due to the COVID-19 crisis. So, if you’re looking for a way to partially replace your outdoor adventures, consider living vicariously through quality adventure movies. To help begin a quality adventure movie binge watch, this article compiles a list of what we think are some of the best outdoor and adventure movies. Almost all are Oscar winners/nominees and you’ll find these via streaming services like Amazon Prime. Enjoy!


What Makes a Good Outdoor/Adventure Movie?

Outdoor/adventure movies give us an opportunity to escape to another world and experience the thrill of the outdoors while indoors. But what makes a good adventure movie anyhow? For some, it’s just a matter of personal taste. Though we think the best outdoor and adventure movies have the following attributes:

  • Relatable Characters: If you can associate with a movie’s characters, their dilemmas, their lifestyle, etc., that usually enhances emotional appeal. Therefore, all of our top five movie recommendations feature stories about actual events and people.  
  • Realistic Situations: Some adventure movies are just unrealistic (e.g., think CliffhangerThe Edge, and others). Although adventure movies that lack realism are often fun entertainment, we think realistic situations enhance the storyline and make for a better movie. 
  • Impeccable Storytelling: Each movie on this list was an adaptation of a renowned memoir or book. A quality screenplay is as essential to a good movie as is acting and directing. Indeed, the plot line of a good adventure story should leave you on the edge of your seat and these movies do just that.

Top Five Adventure Movie Recommendations

Into the Wild

“Into the Wild” takes top billing as our favorite outdoor adventure movie. Sean Penn directs and Emile Hirsch stars in this awe-inspiring story about Chris McCandless and his relentless quest to live a life full of adventure. The movie adapts John Krakauer’s immensely popular book “Into the Wild” for an on-screen retelling of McCandless’s life and adventures.

The plot follows McCandless in the early 1990s when he decides to “leave it all behind” for a more minimalist and exciting approach to life. McCandless travels and hitchhikes throughout the western US, embarks on a Colorado River rafting trip to Mexico, and eventually hitchhikes to Alaska, his ultimate destination.

Bottom line, “Into the Wild” is a must-see adventure film, particularly for likeminded nomadic travelers and dreamers of Alaskan adventures. In addition, on top of the amazing story, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam contributes an absolutely stunning score. We give “Into the Wild” a 10/10.

127 Hours

“127 Hours,” is another one of our go-to outdoor adventure movies. Danny Boyle directs this film, which tells the true story of Aron Ralston and his tragic canyoneering accident. Using Ralston’s autobiography “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” as source material, this film is an ode to adventure and determination.

The plot follows Ralston (played by James Franco) into the southeastern Utah desert and on his way to Bluejohn Canyon, a slot canyon not far from Moab. While making his way down a slot, Ralston slips and a boulder pins his arm against the canyon wall. After over five days of being unable to free himself, Ralston finally makes the brave decision to amputate his arm. 

With Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay, “127 Hours” is a fantastic adaptation of Ralston’s harrowing adventure. Accordingly, we give “127 Hours” a 9/10.

The Revenant

Why can’t all adventure films be this good? “The Revenant” is an adventure thrill ride with non-stop action. Alejandro Iñárritu adapts “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge,” which details the saga of Hugh Glass, a 19thcentury frontiersman. After a grizzly bear attack severely injures Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), his fellow trappers leave him for dead. Miraculously, Glass survives and attempts to track the men and exact revenge for their betrayal. “The Revenant” is an extreme survival story and ruggedly depicts life on the American western frontier.

With Oscar wins for Best Actor and Cinematography, along with nominations for Best Picture and Supporting Actor, “The Revenant” is the most successful movie on our list. Iñárritu’s visionary direction make this film an instant classic. We give “The Revenant” a 9/10.


“Tracks” is a 2013 movie that slipped under the radar since it had a fairly small US release. The movie adapts Robyn Davidson’s fantastic memoir, “Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback,” which follows her trek through Australia in the 1970s. Mia Wasikowska delivers a commanding performance as Davidson as she carefully navigates her way through dangerous desert terrain. In addition, Adam Driver shines as photographer Rick Smolan, who connects with Davidson along her journey and contributes photos for her eventual article in National Geographic magazine.

Although “Tracks” did not receive any Oscar recognition, the movie did win a number of accolades in other countries, particularly Australia. In our opinion, “Tracks” is a true gem of an adventure story, with superb acting by Wasikowska and Driver, and give this film a 7/10.


“Wild” adapts Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” for the big screen. Reese Witherspoon stars as Strayed and the movie recounts her arduous journey along the Pacific Crest Trail during the mid-90s. Following the death of her mother, in addition to other personal struggles, Strayed seeks peace and understanding in the wilderness. Though Strayed runs into various problems along the trail, her determination and commitment keep her in pursuit of her goal. “Wild” is an inspirational adventure story and illustrates that even seemingly insurmountable goals are attainable. 

Masterful performances by Witherspoon and co-star Laura Dern (as Strayed’s mother), make “Wild” a joy to watch. Indeed, both Witherspoon and Dern earned Oscar nominations for their work. We give “Wild” a 7/10.

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