5 Phenomenal Man vs Nature Movies

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

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.


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”

127 hrs
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.

43 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Man vs Nature Movies

    • 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!

    • 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.

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    • 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

      • 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 😀

  7. 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.

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