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The Green Life: The 5 Best Climbing Movies of All Time

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August 01, 2013

The 5 Best Climbing Movies of All Time

Mount everestClimbing, whether you’re watching a movie or actually doing it, is always a thrill. Our favorite climbing movies look so spectacularly dangerous, we feel exhilarated even when we're sitting on the couch. All these films are based on real stories from real people, which makes these films even more impressive. 

Touching the Void (2003)
This heart-stopping film is a reenactment of two mountaineers' experience of climbing the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Narrated by the two British climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, the plot focuses on how Simpson broke his leg and then (spoiler alert!) miraculously survived a long fall, only to make it back to base camp despite all the obstacles. It’s guaranteed that you will hold your breath the entire time, in disbelief that this is a true story and that Simpson actually survived.

North Face (2003)
Based on real events from 1936, North Face (or Norwand) is a German film about Nazi propaganda that challenged climbers to attempt to climb the north face of Eiger in the Swiss Alps. This is the story of two German friends who dared to accept this challenge. Other than being extremely suspenseful with several twists around every corner and crevice, this work of historical fiction has spectacular scenery that will make you shiver with fear.

The Wildest Dream (2010)
This documentary is a tribute to the story of George Mallory, the first person thought to have reached the top of Mt. Everest but who disappeared before reaching the base, and mountaineer Conrad Anker, the person who found his body 75 years later. Their stories are shown through reenactments with incredible visual detail. With the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman doing the voiceovers for Mallory and mountaineer Noel Odell, the gripping narration pulls you into this history-changing movie.

Cold (2011)
Want to know what it’s like to climb extraordinary heights during severe weather conditions? This short documentary is freakishly raw and authentic. It was taken Cory Richards’s small camera, highlighting the painfully honest trek up one of Pakistan’s 8,000 meter peaks during the extreme winter. In a measly 20 minutes, there may not be a lot of drama, but it draws on the basic humanity of the mountaineers and a constant reminder of the freezing temperatures. Richards has since become the first American to successfully reach an 8,000-meter peak in winter.

127 hours (2010)
Though this James Franco film isn’t exacting about mountain climbing, it is the story of a man who goes canyoneering (which involves climbing) without telling anybody where he’s going. Out in the deserted edge of a canyon in Utah, he gets stuck under a boulder for 127 hours and eventually is forced to amputate his arm with a dull pocketknife. This film is based on the true story of Aaron Ralston who then wrote a book called 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The entire movie is incredibly heartfelt and intense, not because you don’t know what’s about to happen but because you’re waiting for the climactic amputation.

-Image by iStockphoto/Anton_Sokolov

Ailsa_SMAilsa Sachdev is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College and spent the last semester reporting on witchcraft in Morocco. She is passionate about food and travel, and knows how to say "I'm hungry" in over 10 languages.

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