My original plan for this week’s Phenomenal 5 was to look at survival movies. But as I thought on it I quickly realized it’s such a broad category. There are so many different variations of survival throughout many different genres. Instead I’ve decided to look at movies pitting humans against nature. This too encompasses a lot and I wanted to include as much variety as possible. So each movie offers a different look at nature but each has that element of human survival in the face of some of the harshest or most rugged conditions. Now with so many movies to consider it would be pretty lame to call this the definitive list. But as I look at these five choices I have no problem calling them phenomenal.
#5 – “DELIVERANCE”
Okay I know “Deliverance” may be a stretch for this list but I think it certainly deserves a place here. Four men on a canoeing trip in the wilderness end up with more than they bargained for. After a deadly run in with a couple of hillbillies, the four set out to escape the forest. But the rugged and isolated territory has different plans. The jagged rocks and raging rapids get the best of them and their paranoia begins to eat away at their psyche. Now an argument could be made that the real threat are the hillbillies and not nature. But I think the hillbillies are a part of the specific nature we see and it’s the environment that takes the biggest toll on the four men. That’s why it’s on this list.
#4 – “127 Hours”
In the sensational “127 Hours” James Franco plays a free-spirited adventurer who with one slip of the foot ends up trapped inside a narrow crevice with his arm wedged under a boulder. He’s left alone with seemingly no way to get out of this predicament. The unforgiving terrain of Blue John Canyon in southern Utah is brilliantly portrayed by director Danny Boyle. The heat of the day, the cold nights, the dry climate, and the torrential rain all play a part of this area’s unpredictability. I found “127 Hours” to be a powerful story and this man’s struggle against the elements and nature are a big part of that.
#3 – “SAHARA”
No, I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey action cheesefest. This is the 1943 Humphrey Bogart World War II action picture about a tank crew separated from their unit In the middle of the harsh and punishing desert. They pick up an assortment of people along the way but soon they all face the brutality of the conditions. Add to this a Nazi unit that’s hot on their trail and things couldn’t get worse. But even the Nazi’s themselves aren’t above nature and ultimately it’s the desert that ends up with the upper hand throughout the entire movie.
#2 – “CAST AWAY”
So far on the list we’ve seen a dense forest with a raging river, canyon territory, and a desert. In “Cast Away” nature is presented in the form of a beautiful deserted island. Tom Hanks washes ashore the remote island after a terrible plane crash. It’s undeniable and relaxing beauty is deceiving especially when you have no food or shelter. The hot sun, the high tides, and the heavy rains flex their muscles but after four years on the island it’s Hanks who almost tames nature. Director Robert Zemeckis does a sensational job of bringing this incredible story to life and the sheer beauty and force of nature are both on display.
#1 – “ALIVE”
The 1993 survival drama “Alive” is a movie that has fascinated me since I first saw it. It’s based on the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team who are onboard a plane that crashes high in the snow-covered Andes mountains. Their plane is tore apart and many are hurt or killed. The dwindling group of survivors attempt to live on limited supplies in the face of blizzards, snow drifts, and bitter cold temperatures. Of all the movies on this list, I don’t think nature ravages the people or drives them to the edge more than in “Alive”. And to know that it was based on real life events makes it even more intense. This is a great movie but also a tough one to watch.
So there’s my list of phenomenal man versus nature films. Agree or disagree? Please take time to leave your thoughts below.
I haven’t seen all of these but very good call on Deliverance! I watched that film a couple of nights ago and was very impressed with it.
Thanks man. I’m really found of each of these films. Hopefully you can catch up with the others especially Alive.
Good picks. I like the inclusion of Castaway.
Gotta put Cast Away on here! LOVE that film.
Good choices mate. Not heard of Alive but sounds very much worth a watch. I also have Deliverance sat at home waiting to be watched so hopefully I’ll get round to that one soon, too.
Oh you really, really should see Alive. In fact if you’re unfamiliar with the story don’t read anything about it. I intentionally left out some of the more alarming true story details that the film is known for. You gotta see it!
Great choices. I must watch Alive!
Yes, yes, yes! It’s very well done and like I said in another comment, I intentionally left out a true story twist that the movie is known for. Great film.
I think I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t like 127 Days. Alive would have to be one of my favs though. Great piece!
Isn’t “Alive” great. I bet I’ve watched it 10 times although its been several years. Time for a catch up!
Nice list. Have you seen the documentary Touching the Void? Check it out if you haven’t. That is one intense story. I can also recommend Werner Herzog’s Little Dieter Needs to Fly and the accompanying Rescue Dawn.
Thanks! I’ve intentionally avoided Rescue Dawn until I can catch up little Dieter. Heard great things about it. Also have been wanting to see Touching the Void. You just encouraged me to bump it up on my list a little higher.
I actually never watched 127 hours. I should. But I know the dude lives, and I know he cuts his leg off… which didnt sound appealing to watch. So I bailed. LOL 😀
Oh it’s really good. Even though I knew the basic story, Danny Boyle really made it interesting. Fantastic score and a strong James Franco performance. If you lived closer I would loan you my blu-ray copy.
I’m surprised how many people haven’t seen ALIVE. Isn’t that like one of the classic, stranded against nature, type of movies?
THE GREY at times reminded me of ALIVE… without the… well, you know.
LOL! Yes, the ‘you know’. I’m with you. It’s a great movie that was the topic of a lot of conversation when it was released.
Great post! I think of “The Flight of the Phoenix”. “The Grey” was good, but not deserving of a top 5 spot. Love your choices…..It’s hard to limit to 5, isn’t it!
It sure is Cindy. It’s funny you mentioned Flight of the Phoenix (the original) was so close to making the list. Really loved that film.
Great list here keith. I couldn’t argue with any of them. Although not the best film of the bunch, Alive certainly deserves it’s place.
Thank buddy. Not a fan if Alive? It’s funny, if I were rating these in terms of which was my favorite MOVIE of this bunch Alive probably would be #3. But from the survival/man vs. nature angle it’s hard to beat.
Great post Keith. Alive is fantastic!
Thanks bro. I’m quite a fan of Alive.
Nice picks, Keith! I haven’t seen Sahara in a loooong time. I have yet to see the James Franco flick too. I saw Alive only once but I recall it being very intense. Cool post, bro!
Thanks Vic! Really appreciate you checking it out. Watch 127 Hours if you have a chance. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Good Choices, How bad was the Sahara remake? haha 😀
Sigh… That’s the one with Jim Belushi right?
I can’t really remember but it was awful 😀
Agreed! I’m fairly certain that Belushi was in it. That should tell you all you need to know. LOL
This is one of my favourite genres. I’m glad to see some appreciation for Alive; I dont think it’s talked about very much nowaday. Also a big fan of 127 hours! If you haven’t seen The Way Back, it might be up your alley.
Hey thanks Jessica! No arguments here, I love “Alive”. It’s a heart wrenching but inspirational film that also causes you to question what you would do in that situation. Love it.
And you mentioned “The Way Back”. I absolutely adore that film. I saw it in the theater and left wanting to see it again immediately. It’s a permanent fixture in my Netflix queue. LOL. The ONLY reason it isn’t on this list is because it will be appearing in another Phenomenal 5 very soon. *hint *hint
What a great list, Keith! I have only seen the last two but they absolutely deserved to be here. Oh man ALIVE is so heartbreaking… and it’s based on a true story!! I second Jessica about The Way Back, that’s kind of overlooked for some reason but definitely worth seeing. One of the best survival movies and well-acted all around.
Thanks Ruth! The Way Back is tremendous and what a great cast. You’ll be seeing pop up on a different list pretty soon! 😉
Oh so you have seen that one then? I always like Ed Harris and Jim Sturgess is especially good here as well.
Yep, saw it in the theater. It has a permanent spot on my Netflix instant queue LOL. It’s a fabulous picture that somehow flew under so many radars. Ronan was also very good in it. It’s perfect for this list but since I’ll be using it again in a couple of weeks I figured I would leave it off.
Oh indeed she was in a supporting role. Btw, I’ll be linking to this post on tomorrow’s Five for the Fifth. Stay tuned 😀
Sweet! You’re awesome, thanks Ruth!
Unfortunately, i only watched 127
Hours and Alive both were great and outstanding , i have yet to see the rest. 🙂
You have to give Cast Away a watch! And I’m the biggest Bogart fan and Sahara is a real gem as well. Thanks for checking out the list! 🙂
Excellent post, I always find thes kind of films interesting as they examine how people react differently in certain situations.
Thanks Vinnie! I’m with you. I’ve always gravitated towards these kinds of movies! Love them!
Great picks. I love 127 Hours; I was a WRECK, sobbing and everything, lol. I also thought of “The Way Back”, which fits the theme of this post, but was awful and boring.
127 Hours was so good and hats off to Boyle for making such a small confined space do riveting!
Yes! Franco was very effective as well.