Movies are great entertainment, but they can also be excellent teaching tools.
Even when we are laughing at Kevin protecting his home and himself against intruders in the movie Home Alone, we understand the ingenuity of his DIY security measures.
For instance, I learned from this movie how to use Christmas ornaments on the floor as a makeshift security alarm to alert me of intruders. Similarly, I could employ items I have around my shelter to do the same.
In the movie Twister, Bill Paxton’s and Helen Hunt’s characters tie themselves to piping using a leather belt to prevent getting pulled into a tornado. Should I find myself facing a tornado, I now know the importance of tying myself to something sturdy!
While these are far-fetched examples, they show how movies can teach us real-life preparedness skills.
If you are looking for some entertaining and useful content to watch this weekend, check out this list of ten survival movies that teach solid preparedness lessons.
#10 – 127 Hours (2010)
What would you do if you found yourself alone and trapped by a boulder?
The movie 127 Hours is the true retelling of Aron Ralston’s horrific ordeal.
The film uses Ralston’s memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, to tell his story of survival. (Spoiler: Survival came down to Ralston amputating his own arm to escape.)
This award-winning film is intense and powerful.
#9 – Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975)
While most of the movies on our list focus on people or families who find themselves in disaster situations, Adventures of the Wilderness Family starts in a different way.
This family has had enough of city life and decides to live in the wilderness. The movie depicts their various adventures battling wild animals and natural disasters, like storms and rockslides. The family learns how to adapt to their situation, work together, and survive various threats.
The film has an uplifting message that works especially well when introducing preparedness skills to children.
#8 – African Queen (1951)
African Queen is a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. I don’t think I need to sell you on it any more than telling you the main stars!
The movie takes place during WWI in East Africa, where Bogart (a riverboat captain) is convinced to take Hepburn (an English missionary) up a river to attack a German gunship.
#7 – Alive (1993)
Alive tells the true story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash. The plane crashed into the Andes Mountains on October 13, 1972.
The plane had forty-five passengers, and only sixteen survived.
The survivors were stranded in the Andes Mountains in extreme temperatures and scary conditions with no way to reach help. It took them seventy-two days to be rescued!
This movie is difficult to watch because of the extreme lengths people had to go to for survival. It presents many illustrations of what to do—and what not to do—in winter survival situations.
#6 – Cast Away (2000)
Cast Away is the story of a FedEx employee who finds himself stranded alone on an island when his plane crashes into the South Pacific.
The film is ultimately a survival story because Tom Hanks’ character has to learn how to survive on his own for the long term.
While the film captures the importance of fire, food, water, and shelter, one of the most memorable lessons is the importance of companionship as Hanks’ character creates someone to talk to in the form of a volleyball, which he names Wilson.
The award-winning film demonstrates the power of perseverance and ingenuity.
#5 – The Impossible (2012)
The Impossible is based on the incredible true story of one family who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia.
This devastating tsunami occurred the day after Christmas and took the lives of more than 200,000 tourists and locals.
The movie focuses on the Bennet family, who are separated from one another during the tsunami. It follows the family members as they try to find each other in the midst of the destruction.
The film is an intense nail-biter that will make you want to review your family’s emergency plan together.
(Plus, it stars a young Tom Holland before his Spiderman days!)
#4 – Into the Wild (2007)
Into the Wild is an award-winning film that packs a punch.
It tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, who hitchhiked across the United States to the Alaskan wilderness. Viewers witness McCandless overcoming various challenges while doing what he loves.
Even though—spoiler alert—the film also depicts McCandless’ death in the wilderness, many people find the movie quite inspirational.
If you’d rather read than watch, the film is an adaptation of the book (by the same name) written by adventurer John Krakauer.
#3 – Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
No list of survival movies is complete without the classic film Swiss Family Robinson. This beloved film stands the test of time for many reasons—it’s packed with adventure and fantasy!
After a shipwreck, the Swiss Family Robinson finds themselves stranded on a tropical island, where they quickly have to adapt. They build themselves a treehouse home that is still the envy of every child who watches the film.
They learn how to cook in the wilderness, make weapons and booby traps, and interact with a variety of animal predators.
#2 – Thirteen Lives (2022)
In June 2018, twelve soccer players and their coach found themselves stuck inside a cave system in Northern Thailand after a flood—caused by a monsoon—filled the cave tunnels. The boys ranged in age from eleven to sixteen.
It took ten days just for rescuers to locate the boys, and even longer for rescuers to successfully reach and save them. The rescue effort involved more than 10,000 volunteers from around the world, including scientists and divers.
Thirteen Lives is an amazing, true recovery story. It was directed by Ron Howard and released on Amazon Prime Video.
If you prefer TV shows to movies, Netflix released a limited series just this year about this same story titled Thai Cave Rescue!
#1 – Wild (2014)
Wild is the film version of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir also titled Wild. Strayed is played by Reese Witherspoon.
In this film, Witherspoon decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail after some unfortunate life experiences. She has to push herself in a variety of ways—especially since she is not a hiker by nature.
The movie captures the realities of hiking alone as a woman, and the pride one feels when one accomplishes major goals.