There's something that defies the ephemeral about the wild - it beckons with a primordial agelessness that promises to reveal all of life's answers away from civilization. Amidst its harsh environs, with its inhospitable weather conditions, it is often wholly unpredictable, and offers just as much dangerous truths as it does bucolic lessons. Those that go in search of it, or those that find themselves trapped in it, often emerge the greater for having done so if they make it through.
Throughout cinema, there have been many films that tackle humankind's relationship with the wilderness that surrounds it. There are survival films about humanity's triumph over nature, as well as its defeat by it. With the announcement that The Call of the Wild will be made into a film based on Jack London's classic Yukon adventure starring Harrison Ford, we look at 10 of the best movies about taking on the Wild.
10 INTO THE WILD
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) and his journey into the Alaskan Wilderness, Into The Wild is a searing showcase of what one man will go to in order to become one with nature. The son of wealthy parents, McCandless graduated Emory University with honors and athletic scholarships, but abandoned it all to go off the grid.
With very little survival training, or basic understanding of orienting himself in the absence of a guide, he eventually wandered into regions that were inhospitable. Without proper preparations and supplies, McCandless eventually succumbed to the hostile nature of his quest. He ate a plant he shouldn't have, and his body was later found in his van.
After the loss of her mother, her marriage, and her sense of purpose, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides she has to do something about her life before she lets it crash and burn through self-destruction. She purchases a huge backpack, gear, and decides to head out on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The PCT begins at the border of Mexico and ends at the border of Canada, hugging the entire length of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. It includes the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is one of the longest through-trails at 2,650 miles. It can take up to 5 months to complete, which gives Cheryl the time to test herself in more ways than one.
When the members of Uruguay's rugby team are stranded in the Andes mountains, they think that surely a rescue mission will be mounted. Little do they know that their plane veered so far off course, no authorities would know to look for them. Many people die on impact, but those left over must learn to survive in an inhospitable environment.
As the cases of frostbite and gangrene mount, Nando (Ethan Hawke) tries to improve morale, but soon the entire team realizes they may die encased in ice and snow. A team is sent to try to get help (which could take weeks), while the remaining group have a terrible choice to make once the food runs out; consume the frozen flesh of their deceased teammates, or become them.
7 NEVER CRY WOLF
When a research scientist goes to the Canadian tundra to observe the herds of migrating Caribou, his mission involves determining whether or not the local wolf population is responsible for their dwindling number. As the weather grows colder and his post more desolate, he must turn to the animals for comfort.
A film with the engrossing cinematic qualities of a film but the authentic-feeling footage of a documentary, spending time with Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) feels like being embedded with a wolf pack for months. The family he observes become as close to him as any human.
6 HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY
Just because this film features a trio of furry survivalists and not humans doesn't make it any less exciting. When the Seaver family goes on a trip to San Francisco, they leave their three pets at a friend's ranch; Shadow (Don Ameche) a golden retriever, Chance (Michael J. Fox) an American bulldog, and Sassy ( Sally Field), a prissy cat. After the pets feel that something is wrong with their owners, they break free and set off on a quest across California to find them.
Featuring spectacular views of the California wilderness, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the deserts of the Central Valley, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is both heartwarming and exhilarating as the three friends tough out the worst conditions to be reunited with their family.
5 THE REVENANT
The Revenant is the brutal tale of one man's search for redemption and revenge across America's most wild frontier. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a frontiersman in the early 19th century mapping out the uncharted parts of the United States and making a living from harvesting its bounties.
After a near life-ending bear attack and the loss of his young son by another member of his hunting party (Tom Hardy), Glass ends up facing the only thing more unconscionable; a solitary trek across the wilds of America to civilization. The depiction of the legendary fur trapper fueled by vengeance earned DiCaprio his Academy Award for Best Actor.
When four city slickers (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) head to rural Georgia, they plan to do a little hunting and canoeing to get away from the pressures of their families and jobs. The backwoods people don't like city folk, and after stalking their journey along the trees, savagely attack them.
The four friends have to band together and pool their skills to fight off ambushes by the crazy locals, as well as face wild animals and dangerous white rapids. It will take all of their physical strength and mental fortitude to keep themselves alive as their innocent canoe trip turns into man vs man vs wild.
3 THE EDGE
When a small passenger plane carrying a wealthy businessman (Anthony Hopkins), a photographer (Alec Baldwin) and his assistant (Harold Perrineau) crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, they have to work together to survive the inhospitable temperatures, rough terrain, and each other's pettiness.
A Kodiak bear has picked up their scent and begins tracking them, but that may be the least of the worries of the three men. Affluent Charles Morse believes the photographer is having an affair with his wife, and may try to make sure he never reaches civilization alive.
2 THE GREY
When an airplane carrying Alaskan oil refinery workers crash lands in the frozen wilderness after a freak storm, it's up to sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson) to lead the men to safety. Gathering supplies, the eight survivors begin to make their way towards civilization.
Along the way, they battle frostbite, mortal wounds, and incredibly harsh terrain. Their scent is soon picked up by a wolf pack, and they come to the terrifying realization that they have wandered into the wolves' hunting grounds. It's man versus beast as they try to stay one step ahead of the wolves and make it out of The Grey.
1 THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US
When a neurosurgeon (Idris Elba) and a photojournalist (Kate Winslet) get their flights delayed, they find any alternative way to get to Denver. Dr. Bass has an emergency surgery to get to and Alex has her wedding to make, so they hire a private plane to make the trip without a flight plan.
When the pilot suffers a stroke mid-flight, they crash land in the High Uintas Wilderness. The pair (along with the pilot's dog) must now chart a way to civilization, afflicted by injuries and dangerous weather conditions. A close bond forms between the two, and the movie suggests that the relationship that develops from adversity is the reason they find the strength to press on.