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The Best Climbing Movies on Netflix (2022 Guide)

Published on: 09/05/2022

Mountaineering movies are experiencing a golden era. Mainstream audiences and the climbing community can’t get enough big-screen action.

And while the adventure documentary has always been a staple for casual viewers, this new breed of climbing movies on Netflix delves deep into the psychology of our sport.

From Jimmy Chin’s thoughtful, oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo, to the moral problem at the heart of Touching the Void, contemporary climbing movies have substance. We’ve selected some of our favorites for this list.

On it, you’ll find talented climbers, true tales of human courage and tenacity, and some of the greatest survival stories ever told—Ready some popcorn, some climbing buddies, and your favorite beverage.

Note: All the climbing movies on our list are available to stream on Netflix. In different regions, they may be available on another streaming service like Amazon Prime.

14 Peaks Nothing is Impossible

Project Possible was the name of Nepali and former Gurkha Nims Purja’s ambitious climbing expedition. He climbed all fourteen of the world’s highest peaks in seven months.

For context, the first person to achieve this feat was Italian Reinhold Messner, who took sixteen years to conquer all fourteen 8000+ peaks.

At the movie’s beginning, the fastest ascent of all fourteen peaks was by South Korean climber Kim Chang.

His record stood at seven years, three hundred and ten days. With the previous record in mind, most experts applauded Nim’s ambition. But few took his idea seriously.

Unlike Messner and Chang before them, Purja and his crew of Sherpas would carry supplemental oxygen into the death zone above 8000m. The “death zone” is aptly named.

Above this height, most people will begin to experience significant high altitude sickness. Some purists criticized this decision, suggesting it invalided the attempt. But Purja’s reasoning went beyond simply looking for a competitive advantage.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Multiple times in the movie, this supplemental oxygen allows Purja to help other climbers who’ve gotten into trouble in the death zone.

This movie’s appeal includes the protagonist’s no man left behind attitude and infectious enthusiasm.

This film has moments of real human drama, and it doesn’t shy away from the potential consequences of mountain climbing.

Nim and his band of Sherpas seem like the kind of people you’d want on your side in a tight spot.

It feels right to see a Nepalese climber, supported by a Nepalese crew taking on the toughest high-altitude challenges on earth.

The genetic gifts of the Sherpa people have helped countless foreign climbers to glory for many decades. Watching Nepalese climbers take this victory lap for their home country is satisfying.

Highlights

We dare you not to smile as the hungover Nims summits Kangchenjunga, bemoaning how much he’d partied in Kathmandu the night before.

The movie does an excellent job of representing the kind of camaraderie forged in challenging conditions.

It’s easy to see why so many people wrote off his project as impossible. But Nims Purja seems to shape his reality with his will. He is a force of nature. And his enthusiasm and joy in executing this plan are genuinely infectious.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

The Dawn Wall

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park featured in climbing films

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson’s 2015 first ascent of the Dawn Wall captured the world’s imagination. There were presidential phone calls, international media outlets, film and TV crews, and spectators.

But things were still pretty basic for the two climbers up on the wall.

Why Climbers Should Watch it

And getting to look into that experience as a fly on the wall is what makes The Dawn Wall movie so compelling. Their nineteen-day ordeal makes for a stunning film about perseverance.

Caldwell’s character, in part shaped by a traumatic kidnapping in 2001, is easy to sympathize with. Even the loss of a finger couldn’t keep him from climbing at the highest level. His determination is rare.

The fact that he managed to return to and surpass his previous level of climbing minus a finger is nothing short of incredible.

The only comparable story we can think of is that of Django Reinhart. He became the world’s greatest guitar player despite losing the use of two fingers in a caravan fire.

The Dawn Wall attempt as a logistical effort was also unprecedented. It’s fascinating for casual climbers and weekend warriors to get a glimpse inside this level of the sport.

Many climbers will never sleep on a portaledge, poop in a tube, or spend nineteen days in isolation, focused almost exclusively on climbing.

El Capitan is such an iconic climbing location. And while Tommy and Kevin’s efforts make for a gripping story, the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park is also a star.

Highlights

The Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is considered by many to be the hardest successful rock climb in history. The entire world tuned in daily to check on their progress.

Part way through the ascent, Caldwell pushes past a section that Jorgenson is struggling with – the now infamous pitch 15.

While Jorgenson takes rest days to let his skin heal between attempts, Caldwell considers moving onward. But like in 14 Peaks, the camaraderie between the climbers makes this more than just another climbing documentary.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

L’Ascension

This feature film tells the (partially) true story of an average man who sets out to climb the world’s tallest mountain.

It’s loosely based on an autobiographical book by Nadir Dendoune, a French-Senegalese journalist who reached the summit of Everest in 2008 without prior mountaineering experience or training.

In the film, the fictionalized character tells a young lady at his local supermarket that he’d climb Mount Everest for her. She thinks he’s simply boasting and doesn’t want to be let down by a fickle young man.

This begins what is perhaps the most casual take on Himalayan Big wall climbing ever committed to film.

Why Climbers Should Watch it

You won’t find many options in the climbing-romantic comedy crossover section. Unlike many of the completely true stories on our list, L’Ascension is a lighthearted, entertaining affair. It might make a good choice when sharing the sofa with some non-climbing friends or family.

If you want to keep the non-climbers entertained while enjoying scenes of the world’s tallest peak, L’Ascension might be your poison.

Highlights

While this movie mostly keeps the tone breezy, it reminds you of Mount Everest’s harsh realities. A scene when the protagonist first sets out on the mountainside stands out.

Two sherpas pass him, carrying a large bundle wrapped in blankets. Inside is the body of a climber who failed to climb Everest and paid the ultimate price. The look of realization and fear on the actor’s face is convincing.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

Touching the Void

Touching Void climbing Siulla Grande (one of the best mountaineering films)
© IMDB – Touching the Void

Touching the Void tells the true story of climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ fateful climb of the West Face of Siulla Grande. Or, more specifically, it tells the harrowing tale of their descent.

They were the first to top out this peak in the Peruvian Andes. And the rock climbers’ success made what was to come even more devastating.

As they deal with stormy weather and difficult conditions on their descent, Yates falls through a cornice. He plummets down the face, finally arresting his fall with their climbing ropes.

After they bivouac that night on the mountainside, Simpson suffers a fall the following morning. He lands awkwardly, breaking his leg. The men begin a self-rescue with Yates lowering his climbing partner down the three-hundred feet their rope allowed before repeating the maneuver.

They are close to the relative safety of the glacier when Simon Yates inadvertently lowers Joe Simpson over a cliff, leaving him suspended in thin air. With howling winds and snow, Yates cannot grasp the situation his partner is facing.

The dead weight of Simpson begins to pull Yates towards the cliff and certain death. He makes the painful decision to cut the rope. He survives another night on the mountain, completes his descent, and searches for his partner at the bottom.

Here, he concludes that Simpson must have fallen into the crevasse at the base of the cliff. He searches and calls out to his friend but receives no response. Yates returns to base camp to recover.

Simpson, however, has survived the fall and is now trapped in the crevasse. With a broken leg, he must find his way out of the crevasse and make his way to base camp before his friends depart.

scene from Touching the Void movie
© IMDB – Touching the Void

Why Climbers Should Watch It

The Guardian considers Touching the Void to be “the most successful documentary in British cinema history. PBS featured the film in their list of the 100 greatest documentaries of all time.

And with a 94% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say that this is amongst the most critically acclaimed climbing movies on Netflix.

And it’s easy to see why. The situation it describes is such a compelling and relatable story (so good that the feature film Vertical Limit uses a similar setup).

The dramatic backdrop of South America, the fascinating drama, and the excellent direction combine to make this one of the few climbing documentaries with broad, crossover appeal. Mountaineering films are rarely this relatable.

Touching the Void climbing documentary
© IMDB – Touching the Void

Highlights

Unsurprisingly, the recreation and explanation of the moments surrounding Yates’s decision to cut the rope stand out. Yates and Simpson both traveled back to Peru to shoot the film. The result is one of the best climbing documentaries ever made.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

Beyond the Edge

This docudrama (we didn’t make that term up – honestly) tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ascent of the world’s tallest mountain.

It earns its “docudrama” status by mixing dramatic recreations using actors with authentic archival footage. Also included are interviews with Hillary and the expedition’s leader Baron John Hunt.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

The film tells the story of one of the most monumental expeditions in mountaineering history. But it’s also artfully directed, well-paced, and an enjoyable watch. Hillary and Norgay’s feat is the most celebrated story in climbing history.

But it hadn’t been done justice on celluloid since the 1953 documentary The Conquest of Everest (which supplies some of the old footage seen in Beyond the Edge).

Highlights

We’ve all seen footage from Everest at this stage. But there is something magical in the old film from the 1953 expedition.

Their primitive (relative to today) clothing and equipment would be quaint if they weren’t taking on such a terrifying challenge with it. Hearing Hillary’s voice set to images of archival footage is another highlight.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

The Summit

Everest is the highest mountain on earth. But most mountaineers agree that K2, on the border of Pakistan and China, is the world’s most dangerous peak.

This film documents the 2008 disaster that led to the deaths of eleven people. It uses dramatic reconstructions, documentary footage, and interviews with survivors to paint a vivid picture of this tragedy.

A steep, narrow gully called the Bottleneck presents the most challenging mountain climbing section. It’s overhung by seracs from an ice field to the east of the summit.

It’s believed that an ice avalanche is primarily responsible for the incident. It destroyed, moved, or obscured the ropes that had been set for the crew’s descent.

The reality of what happened and in what order is complex and still disputed. The film attempts to make some sense of the accident by recreating the timeline and interviewing multiple witnesses.

It’s an important document of a tragic situation and a sobering reminder of the dangers of high-altitude climbing.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

This is a great climbing movie. But many of us watch climbing to get motivated for our next session at the gym or crag.

This is not that kind of climbing film. It’s worth watching to get a sense of the scale and difficulty of K2. But don’t expect a triumphant, happy ending.

Highlights

Chhiring Dorje Sherpa is downclimbing the Bottleneck when he comes across fellow climber Pasang Lama. Pasang had lost his ice ax and was effectively stuck with no way up or down. Another climber had already passed him. But to offer him help must have seemed like a suicide mission.

Chhiring Dorje Sherpa tethered Pasang to his harness despite the risk of added weight and completed the downclimb. It might be the most courageous and selfless act in any climbing movie on our list.

Dorje was awarded the Tenzing Norgay award for his bravery. This quote from him to his countryman before the attempt says it all:

“If we are lucky, we will both see our families again. If we have bad luck, we die together. Okay?”

Find out more about those featured in the movie on Wikipedia.

Meru

members of the expedition, Meru movie
Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk celebrate the summit and their ascent of the Shark’s Fin after 11 days of climbing. © Meru

This 2015 film chronicles the first ascent of the Shark’s Fin route on Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas. It was co-directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

Chin is also a member of the expedition, which makes for an interesting, behind-the-scenes perspective. He and his two partners had unsuccessfully attempted to summit the peak in 2008.

This film is composed of a mix of the groups’ 2008 failed ascent and their 2011 successful one. The drama is ramped up by one of the group desperately trying to recover from an accident in time for the attempt.

Chin is also caught in a catastrophic avalanche which he miraculously survives.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Scene from Meru (climbing movies ranked)
Jimmy Chin leading an ice pitch during the 2008 Meru attempt. © Meru

Jimmy Chin is responsible for several of the biggest climbing documentaries of the last decade. Free Solo, chronicling Alex Honnold‘s climb of El Cap, is probably the best-known of these. But this one feels a little different. Chin and fellow climber Ozturk share a Canon 5D Mark II and a Panasonic TM900 as they ascend.

This doesn’t have the massive-budget feel of some climbing movies on Netflix. But it does offer a fascinating glimpse into Himalayan big wall climbing.

Highlights

Meru Peak at night
© Meru

The Shark Fin is the star of the show here. It’s more of a wall than a mountain peak, standing flat, straight, and tall, as its name suggests. This movie’s best parts are the handheld footage on the mountainside.

Inevitably, this kind of documentary will feature lots of talking heads and analyses. But its best moments are when you can appreciate the cold, wind, and generally inhospitable conditions the trio endure.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at the links below:

https://jimmychin.com/

Sherpa

Sherpa is a 2015 documentary filmed during the 2014 Mount Everest ice avalanche. The film follows Sherpa Phurba Tashi, a guide who has made twenty-one summits of the world’s tallest mountain.

scene from Sherpa documentary
© Sherpa

His parents and wife worry about the dangers of his occupation, but Phurba both likes the work and depends on it to feed his family.

The film explores the Sherpa peoples’ relationship with the mountain. But its main focus is on the great risk and effort undertaken by the Sherpa to facilitate international climbing parties. When an avalanche kills 16 Sherpas, tensions rise at the camp.

Many guides no longer want to climb that season: some demand better working conditions and an increase in compensation for the families of the deceased.

Some foreign tour operators believe that a small number of agitators have threatened any Sherpa who continues to climb.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

This climbing film offers a rare glimpse into the lives of the (largely) unsung heroes of Himalayan mountaineering. Mountain climbing at that level is beyond the wildest dream of most of us.

To watch these high-altitude porters practically jog up steep slopes carrying loads that can exceed their body weight is humbling.

Mount Everest, Sherpa people
© Sherpa

Highlights

Watching Phurba’s family making dumplings and discussing the role the mountain plays in their life is fascinating. Climbing is a hobby for the overwhelming majority. And even among talented professionals, passion is what led them to their vocation.

The Sherpa people are uniquely suited to high-altitude climbing. And while they do have a spiritual connection to the mountain, their reasons for climbing are more based on simple economics than passion.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at https://www.filmjabber.com/movie-synopsis/sherpa.html

The Porter

The Porter is a short documentary about American Nathaniel J. Menninger, who decides to become a Himalayan porter. And it’s undoubtedly unique amongst climbing movies on Netflix.

Like the movie Sherpa, it offers a glimpse into the less commonly seen part of Himalayan climbing. The strength of the porters and the standard that Nathaniel must rise to are extraordinary.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

This climbing movie will shame you into upping your cardio game and climbing strength. The best climbing films have the power to motivate us to send harder on our next session. This one will have you reevaluating your entire training regime.

Highlights

Watching Nathaniel sing along to the porters’ favorite Nepalese ballads is a classic moment. His attitude towards the porters’ work, culture, and language is respectful.

Follow Nathaniel’s adventure on his Instagram page.

Shifting Dreams

In 2015, climber Caroline Ciavaldini set herself the goal of free climbing Voie Petit. This 450m granite face on Mount Blanc is rated at 8b and was first free climbed by Alex Huner in 2005.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Rock climbing is all about challenging ones’ self. Caroline Ciavaldini’s transition from competition climber to trad climber/alpinist is captivating. Climbing movies on Netflix often focus on a single event.

This is a broader portrait of a climber from their early years to their competitive peak and then to the changes in their life after the death of a parent. It still contains one big, iconic rock climbing moment. But there’s a lot to see here.

Highlights

This route up Mount Blanc is visually stunning. The Alps are a gorgeous backdrop for rock climbing. Shifting Dreams is a treat for the eyes and a fascinating portrait of an elite athlete.

Find out more about those featured in the movie on Ciavaldini’s IG account.

First Ascent

This 2006 film is an absolute classic. It features climbing from Dean Potter, Timmy O’Neill, Sonnie Trotter, and Didier Berthod in locations from Thailand to Utah.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Legendary figures such as Potter and Berthod are in rare form in this film. This is elite-level climbing at some of the most challenging routes on the planet. And unlike some of the weightier climbing movies on Netflix, this one is a lot of fun.

Highlights

Undoubtedly, Didier Berthod’s first ascent of Cobra Crack in British Columbia is the highlight of this journey. It’s an exhilarating scene.

Find out more about those featured in the movie on Dean Potter and Didier Berthod‘s Instagram pages.

Valley Uprising

Pro athletes are the thin end of the wedge in the climbing world. For many people, the more interesting part of the culture exists on the slightly grimier, dirtbag underbelly.

Valley Uprising is a look at climbing counter-culture in the climbing mecca at the National Park in the Sierra Mountains.

The documentary takes viewers through incredible Yosemite Valley scenery and sixty years of climbing history. The iconic El Cap also makes an appearance.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

For many climbers, this is among the best climbing movies on Netflix – or anywhere for that matter. The legendary characters will make you smile, the locations will make you gasp, and the respect shown for climbing history is palpable.

Highlights

Lynn Hill discussing her first free ascent of the Half Dome of El Cap was a highlight for us. Though, to be fair, this film made the hair on our arms stand on end several times. The film focuses on three generations of climbers and features some of the most compelling characters in the climbing world.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at: https://www.redbull.com/ie-en/films/valley-uprising

The Man Who Skied Down Everest

This Oscar-winning, big mountain skiing film follows Yuichiro Miura in his attempt to ski down Everest. While we might be stretching the criteria a little to put this on our best climbing movies on Netflix list, it is a classic.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Extreme skiing inevitably requires some serious alpine skills. Yuichiro and his crew battle adverse weather, frostbite, icefalls, altitude sickness, and even death in their quest to slalom down the mountain. It makes for compelling viewing.

Highlights

The imagination to come up with this kind of idea is one thing. But the dedication, perseverance, and madness to turn it into reality are rare. This is a classic in the sports documentary genre for a good reason.

Find out more about those featured in the movie at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-godfather-of-extreme-skiing-7744831/

Everest

Everest 2015 netflix movies

This 2015 picture is not unique among climbing movies on Netflix in that it deals with a catastrophic event. This true story is based on a book of the same name by John Krakauer. It tells the story of a tragic Everest expedition in which eight people lost their lives.

Why Climbers Should Watch It

Maybe you shouldn’t watch this one if you’re just about to embark on a mountaineering trip. But for the rest of us, this is one of the better mountaineering films of its time with an amazing cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Jason Clarke, to name a few). We’re not sure such serious subject matter produced any notable highlights. Though, we did feel good when the surviving members of the expedition make it to safety.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the events and the climbers depicted in the movie, we recommend reading Into Thin Air or watching the 1997 documentary Into Thin Air: Death on Everest, which features many gripping interviews.

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