Is there anything better than seeing an activity you love and regularly participate in portrayed on the big screen? For outdoors people, this is the thrill they feel when they watch one of the many great hiking movies that have been made, some of which feature the biggest stars of our day.
If you are a hiker or an outdoorsperson, you are simply going to love the following list of Best Hiking Movies. Here we will not only name each movie, we will also provide a brief summary highlighting the major plot, characters, the setting and more.
Movies About Hiking
If you have never hiked before, you might be wondering, “What’s so special about hiking movies? Isn’t hiking just a long walk in the woods?” Well, yes and no.
Yes, hiking movies do tend to cover people as they “walk through the woods,” but the real story lies in what happens to them as they walk in the woods—the people they meet, the stories they hear and the beautiful things they see. More often than not, hiking movies are about soul-searching and challenging one’s self to reach greater heights and to get back to one’s roots.
They are about beauty; the beauty of the great outdoors and the beauty that lies within each of us. And in the end, they also seem to deal with the daily struggle we all face to conquer our fears and reset our limitations. So, without further discussion, here is our top-ten list of Best Hiking Movies.
1. Into the Wild
Released in theaters in 2007, Into the Wild is an American biographical film about hiking and surviving. The movie, which was written, directed and co-produced by Sean Penn, is an adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 non-fiction book of the same name.
It is based on the real-life travels of Christopher McCandless—played by Emile Hirsch—as he makes his away across North America. It goes on to cover his experiences in the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s.
Without giving away too much of the story, Into the Wild begins with Chris McCandless graduating with honors from Emory University. Not long after this, he rejects the hustle and bustle of his everyday life, shredding his credit cards and identification, and sets out to find himself.
He donates nearly all of his savings and sets out on a cross-country drive in his Datsun 210 to experience life in the wilderness. In April of 1992, McCandless arrives in a remote area just north of the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
Noting that he is seemingly unprepared for what lies ahead, the stranger who drops him off lends him a pair of boots—a kind moment that foreshadows all the hardships that lie ahead.
Chris travels into the wilderness and sets up a campsite in an abandoned city bus, which he calls “The Magic Bus.” At first, McCandless is content with the isolation, the beauty of the nature around him, and the thrill of living off the land.
He hunts with a .22 caliber rifle, reads books, goes hiking and keeps a diary of his thoughts as he prepares himself for a new life in the wild. But of course, when living in the wild Alaskan wilderness, not everything goes as planned…
This is a great movie and perhaps even a better book—a must-see for all hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
2. The Way
A 2010 dramatic film that was written, directed and produced by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen, The Way is a film that honors the Camino de Santiago and covers, in detail, the traditional pilgrimage to the holy site.
In The Way, Martin Sheen’s character is an American eye doctor (Thomas Avery) who travels to France to collect the ashes of his dead son, who was killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.
Struggling with grief, Avery decides to finish the walk his son had started, carrying his ashes and meeting people and places along the Way that would change his life forever.
Although not as well known as some of the other hiking movies on our list, Tracks is just as meaningful. The story is essentially about a girl who takes a nearly 2,000 mile walk across the Australian desert with four camels to keep her company.
Released in 2013 to a very limited number of theaters in North America, Tracks is a 2013 Australian film directed by John Curran and starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver.
The film is an adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s memoir of the same name, chronicling the author’s nine-month hiking journey across the Australian desert. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (Special Presentation) and the 70th Venice International Film Festival in 2013.
It also premiered in Australia as the opening film at the Adelaide Film Festival on 10 October 2013. Although not seen by a very wide audience, hikers and outdoorspeople of all ages will love the film Tracks.
Wild is perhaps the best-known hiking movie on this list, one that did very well at awards shows both home and abroad. The film, released in 2014, is a biographical adventure film, whose screenplay is based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, the film Wild depicts her struggles with opiate addiction, relationships and more, and how she came to find her true self along the famed Pacific Crest Trail.
A great movie for hikers and non-hikers alike, this feel-good movie should definitely be at the top of your must-watch list.
Note: Wild opened to very positive critical reviews, with much praise going toward the performances of Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern. Both actresses received Academy Award nominations for their performances, in the categories of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
5. As It Happens: Pacific Crest Trail
A great documentary with film scenes shot by the hikers themselves with GoPro cameras and the like, As It Happens is a movie that chronicles the Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike of Andy Laub and Ian Mangiardi in 2011, which was the last high-snow year before 2017.
The footage of their transit of the High Sierra’s is a sobering picture to any hiker embarking on this treacherous hike.
The special challenge of route-finding, stream crossing, post-holing, and maintaining sufficient caloric intake when battling through heavy snow is certainly captured in this exciting film.
You can watch the full movie on YouTube.
6. A Walk In The Woods
A Walk in the Woods is a lighthearted hiking movie that everyone should see.
The story follows the real-life journey of author Bill Bryson, played by Robert Redford, who decides, in his mid-60s, that he would like to put his writing business on hold for a while and walk the famed Appalachian trail.
Although initially meeting a lot of resistance from his wife, played by Emma Thompson, she eventually agrees to let him go if he can find someone to do the trek with him.
Most think he’s insane for wanting to do this at such a late age, but eventually an old friend, played by Nick Nolte, takes him up on it and the two set off for adventure.
This is a very touching movie that is also gut-busting hilarious at times.
7. Trail Angels
As experienced hikers know all too well, hiking the Appalachian Trail is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s something that many hikers, even the novice ones, have on their bucket lists as an accomplishment they would like to tackle.
This can be very dangerous, as the documentary film known as Trail Angels clearly points out.
Trail Angels is a film that depicts a range of experienced hikers who trek the Appalachian Trail just to help other less experienced hikers realize their dreams.
These people, as the movie points out, are those that hike, not for their own personal reasons, but to help other people figure out and accomplish theirs.
The film features some amazing scenery as the Trail Angels consistently assist people, urging them on and helping them to conquer the most difficult parts of the trail.
The movie Everest is set in 1996, when Robert Hall partnered with Scott Fischer to summit the world’s highest mountain.
This movie is not for the faint of heart, as it shows the real life test of inner strength, and the little bit of madness, needed to embark on such a journey.
It has a truly star-studded cast including Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington and Jake Gyllenhaal.
In the film, the expedition goes all kinds of wrong as the teams work together to try and beat the elements.
And apart from some of the scary action, the landscapes of the Himalayas are magnificently beautiful and diverse.
9. Tell It On The Mountain
Tell It on a Mountain is a documentary film that features a great snapshot of the long and desolate thru-hiking experience.
This film follows a half a dozen hikers as they document their journey along the famed Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
It even introduces audiences to the famous hiker known as “Billy goat.”
10. Mile…Mile & A Half
Last but not least we come to the movie Mile…Mile & a Half, a documentary film about five friends that decide to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind to complete the 211 mile John Muir Trail in 25 days.
As the film progresses, the original group of five grows as they meet other hikers along the way, all of whom add to each other’s spiritual journey and sense of personal fulfillment.