When it comes to action-adventure cinema, there’s one subgenre that always stands out from the rest: the survival film. Whether it be the classic “man vs. nature” storylines, the “game of death” tales or “hunter and hunted” yarns, they are about human beings that must overcome treacherous obstacles and face unusual dangers. Most notably, these kinds of films are full of action, emotion and drama. They can be set in all kinds of atmospheres, from the coldest mountain ranges to the hottest jungles and deserts.

Some of our picks are old, some are brand new, but they all have one thing in common: they tell thrilling tales of ordinary people who must fight the elements (and sometimes each other) to make it out of their predicaments alive.

The Naked Prey
The Naked Prey (1966) – Directed by Cornel Wilde

Survival Mode: Human Prey

In South Africa, a guide (Wilde) is hired to lead a group on an elephant hunt but is later captured by a deadly tribe. After his hunting party are all killed in barbaric ways, he is set free by the tribesman who then chase after him for sport.


Man in the Wilderness
Man in The Wilderness (1971) – Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

Survival Mode: Man Vs. Nature

In the 1820s, Zachary Bass (Richard Harris) a scout for an expedition in the wilds of the US Northwest, is attacked by a bear and left for dead by his companions. Bass manages to survive and recuperate on his own after which he seeks revenge for being abandoned.

The Running Man

The Running Man (1987) – Directed by Paul Michael Glaser

Survival Mode: Game of Death

Adapted from a story by Stephen King, In the year 2017, escaped convicts are rounded up and chosen to be part of a new television show that sets its contestants against skilled hunters. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies (1990) Directed by Harry Hook.

Survival Mode: Children Vs. Nature/Combat

Based on a book by William Golding, this was the second filmed adaptation of the story about a group of disciplined military school cadets who are stranded on a Pacific island. They try to remain civil but soon descend into a primitive state and begin fighting each other.


The Edge
The Edge (1997) – Directed by Lee Tamahori

Survival Mode: Man Vs. Nature

After their charter plane crashes, billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) and his fashion model wife’s photographer Bob Green (Alec Baldwin) must make their way out of the forest and fend off a wild bear that is out to kill them.


Into The Wild
Into The Wild (2007) – Directed by Sean Penn

Survival Mode: Adventure/Man Vs. Nature

Based on a true story, Emile Hirsch plays real life adventurer Chris McCandless, a young man who after graduating high school, decided to leave his family and friends behind to travel alone across the USA. In 1992, McCandless journeyed into the Alaskan wilderness with only a modest amount of supplies and was never seen again.


127 Hours
127 Hours (2010) – Directed by Danny Boyle

Survival Mode: Misadventure

Based on a true story, James Franco stars as Aron Ralston, an outdoor adventurer/adrenaline junkie who faces imminent death when his arm is caught under a boulder in a remote canyon.


Surviving The Game
Surviving The Game (1994) – Directed by Ernest T. Dickerson

Survival Mode: Game of Death

A down on his luck homeless man (Ice-T) is given a new lease on life when he’s hired on as guide for a private hunting party. Only he doesn’t realize he is really being recruited to be the one being hunted.


Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000) – Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Survival Mode: Game of Death

A group of Japanese students are kidnapped and forced to play a game in which they kill each other until there is only one left. The kids are also made to wear explosive collars under the rules that if after three days a winner is not declared the remaining collars will be detonated.


The Condemned

The Condemned (2007) – Directed by Scott Wiper

Survival Mode: Game of Death

A convict (Steve Austin) who is facing death by execution in a Salvadoran prison is given a chance to live, but he must take part in a deadly fighting contest which will be broadcast over the internet. The players are made to wear detonator devices with a 30 hour countdown timer. The lone winner will have the bomb removed and be given money and set free.



We’d like to also recognize these other films, which are favorites but that we purposely left out to make room for some titles not previously covered by us.

Jeremiah Johnson / Deliverance / Hell in the Pacific / The Warriors



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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13 Responses

  1. Picturin' Fingers says:


    • Sebastian says:

      I guess if we had extended the list it might have made it, but personally I would have put it on a hixploitation list…. definitely love Deliverance though

  2. Creighton says:

    Just saw Sands of the Kalahari (1965) and would add that as a great example of Man Vs. Nature/Combat.

  3. Scherpschutter says:

    Would have expected Southern Comfort to be selected among the best survival movies. One of Walter Hill’s finest movies, fine action (as always), but good atmosphere. Haven’t seen The Naked Prey. Seems an omission.

  4. FILMPRO says:

    theres so many classics missed out here, The Way Back is very good i recomend it to everyone, Alive should be up there No 1

  5. Love love love Surviving the Game and Running Man. 

  6. Safi says:

    Good list of movies. I love survival movies. I will suggest some great movies being missed here.
    1.Cast Away 2. Cold Mountain 3. Far North 4. Quest for fire 5. As far as my feet will carry me 6. The Grey. and many more

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