Last Updated on November 7, 2020
I love a good movie and when that movie makes me think it’s even better. One of my favorite movie genres is survival movies. I really enjoy seeing how others envision and then react to survival situations. Yes, there is an element of disbelief you have to suspend in some cases, but if you are looking for it, the best survival movies can teach you things.
Even if the situation the actors are placed in is somewhat dubious, like a zombie invasion in the Walking Dead, when done right you see how the actors deal with topics we discuss all the time on the Prepper Journal. They have to find and sometimes fight for food and resources to survive. Some prepper movies go into the prepping plans that one or more group has made and the problems they run into when those plans fall apart.
The 50 best survival movies (actually over 60 now) allow you to see some of the very situations you have been preparing for in a visual, emotional way. For me, it gets my brain into a mode of imagining what I would do if I were in the same predicament the survival movie is presenting. How would I act, feel, behave, and does that differ from the person on the screen?
Most of the movies about survivalists are pure escapism, some movies are even a little campy but the list below of the 50 best survival movies gives you a wide variety to choose from. There is a survival movie here for anyone and we are always looking to add to the list.
There are links to more information about each movie below and I hope you enjoy. Presented in no order whatsoever…
“Why We Prepare” Survival Movies
- The Martian – A story about Grit and working the problem…An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. IMDB
- Trigger Effect – A blackout leaves those affected to consider what is necessary, what is legal, and what is questionable, in order to survive in a predatory environment. IMDB
- Deep Impact – A comet is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. As doomsday nears, the human race prepares for the worst. IMDB
- Panic in the Year Zero – A family leaves L.A. for a camping trip – just before a nuclear bomb destroys the city. As the city descends into chaos, the father must fight to keep his family alive.
- Contagion – You will not find a more eerily similar movie to the real-life fear, situations (real and imaginary) that we went through with Coronavirus. Healthcare professionals, government officials, and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a pandemic as the CDC works to find a cure. IMDB
- A Quiet Place – In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing. IMDB
- Phase 7 – Inside a quarantined apartment building a man must protect his pregnant wife from his new neighbors. IMDB
- Defiance – Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village, in order to protect themselves and about one thousand Jewish non-combatants. IMDB
- Children of Men – In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea. IMDB
- American Blackout – What if the Doomsday Preppers were right all along? Hacking into urban infrastructures isn’t science fiction anymore – it’s in the news every day. A 90-minute docu-drama, “American Blackout” reveals in gritty detail the impact of what happens when a cyber attack on the United States takes down the power grid. The question is: when the lights go out, what do we do next. IMDB
- The Happening – A science teacher, his wife, and a young girl struggle to survive a plague that causes those infected to commit suicide. IMDB
- Red Dawn 1984 – I’m kind of partial to this one because I was in high school when it came out. Pretty much at the height of the cold war with the USSR. This movie was probably pretty instrumental in planting the seeds of prepping in my mind. Synopsis – It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces. IMDB
- Red Dawn 2012 – A group of teenagers looks to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers. IMDB
- Invasion USA – A one-man army comes to the rescue of the United States when a spy attempts an invasion. IMDB
- The Day After – The effects of a devastating nuclear holocaust on small-town residents of eastern Kansas. IMDB
- It Comes At Night – Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son. Then a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge. IMDB
- Threads – The effects of a nuclear holocaust on the working-class city of Sheffield, England, and the eventual long-term effects of nuclear war on civilization. IMDB
- Take Shelter – Good prepper movie that leaves you guessing until the end. Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father question whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself. IMDB
- Dawn of the Dead 1978 – Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall. IMDB
- Dawn of the Dead 2004 – A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall. IMDB
- 28 Days Later – Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary. IMDB
- Signs – A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come. IMDB
- Toxic Skies – Anne Heche stars as a World Health Organization doctor who uncovers the real cause of an epidemic is the government’s secret chem-trail program. IMDB
- Outbreak – Army doctors struggle to find a cure for a deadly virus spreading throughout a California town that was brought to America by an African monkey. IMDB
- The Stand – After a deadly plague kills most of the world’s population, the remaining survivors split into two groups – one led by a benevolent elder and the other by a malevolent being – to face each other in a final battle between good and evil. IMDB
- The Sum of All Fears – CIA analyst Jack Ryan must stop the plans of a Neo-Nazi faction that threatens to induce a catastrophic conflict between the United States and Russia’s President by detonating a nuclear weapon at a football game in Baltimore, Maryland. IMDB
- 10 Cloverfield Lane – After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. IMDB
- The Patriot – Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son. IMDB
- Dante’s Peak – A vulcanologist arrives at a countryside town recently named the second most desirable place to live in America, and discovers that the long-dormant volcano, Dante’s Peak, may wake up at any moment. IMDB
- Enemy of the State – A lawyer becomes targeted by a corrupt politician and his N.S.A. goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a politically motivated crime. IMDB
- Pandemic – A New York doctor travels with her team to Los Angeles to find survivors of a worldwide pandemic. IMDB
- Soylent Green – In the world ravaged by the greenhouse effect and overpopulation, an NYPD detective investigates the murder of a big company CEO. IMDB
Best Survival Movies About The End of the World
- Knowing – M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. IMDB
- 2012 – A frustrated writer struggles to keep his family alive when a series of global catastrophes threatens to annihilate mankind. IMDB
- The Day After Tomorrow – Jack Hall, paleoclimatologist, must make a daring trek from Washington, D.C. to New York City to reach his son, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age. IMDB
- The Day the Earth Stood Still – A remake of the 1951 classic science fiction film about an alien visitor and his giant robot counterpart who visit Earth. IMDB
- War of the Worlds – As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival in this sci-fi action film. IMDB
- When Worlds Collide -As a new star and planet hurtle toward a doomed Earth, a small group of survivalists frantically work to complete the rocket which will take them to their new home. IMDB
Surviving ‘TEOTWAWKI’ Movies
Good rationale for why we stock more than three days of food storage for our families. This is when it’s really bad and some of my favorite survival movies are in this list below.
- The Postman – A nameless drifter dons a postman’s uniform and a bag of mail as he begins a quest to inspire hope to the survivors living in post-apocalyptic America. IMDB
- I AM Legend – Get the alternate ending. You will thank me…Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure in this post-apocalyptic action thriller. IMDB
- The Road – In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea. IMDB
- The Book of Eli – A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind. IMDB
- Hunger Games – Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games: a televised competition in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to fight to the death. IMDB
- Mad Max – In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang. IMDB
- 20 Years After – Everything that could go wrong did go wrong: War, Terrorism, Natural Disasters. Evacuees were ushered from the cities to refugee camps in the surrounding counties. In-fighting, famine, and disease took their toll on the survivors. IMDB
- Waterworld -In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land. IMDB
- District 9 – Violence ensues after an extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth finds a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology. IMDB
- Babylon AD -Veteran-turned-mercenary Toorop takes the high-risk job of escorting a woman from Russia to America. Little does he know that she is host to an organism that a cult wants to harvest in order to produce a genetically modified Messiah. IMDB
- Reign of Fire -A brood of fire-breathing dragons emerges from the earth and begins setting everything ablaze, establishing dominance over the planet. IMDB
- Stake Land – In a world of vampires, an expert vampire hunter and his young protégé travel toward the sanctuary. IMDB
Best Survival Movies – Living off the land
- Cast Away – A FedEx executive undergoes a physical and emotional transformation after crash landing on a deserted island. IMDB
- Into the Wild – After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life. IMDB
- 127 Hours – A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. IMDB
- Alive – A Uruguayan rugby team stranded in the snow-swept Andes are forced to use desperate measures to survive after a plane crash. IMDB
- Lord of the Flies – Stranded on an island, a group of schoolboys degenerates into savagery. IMDB
- The Edge – An intellectual billionaire and two other men struggle to band together and survive after getting stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with a blood-thirsty Kodiak Bear hunting them down. IMDB
- The Village – A series of events tests the beliefs of a small isolated countryside village. IMDB
- Jeremiah Johnson – A mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by the Crow tribe and proves to be a match for their warriors in single combat on the early frontier. IMDB
- Sniper – A US Marine sniper is partnered with a SWAT member to take out rebel leaders in the jungles of Panama. IMDB
- The Way Back – Siberian gulag escapees travel four thousand miles by foot to freedom in India. IMDB
- Rabbit-Proof Fence – In 1931, three half-white, half-Aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their houses to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a journey across the Outback. IMDB
- Rescue Dawn – A U.S. fighter pilot’s epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War. IMDB
- The Endurance – A retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914-1916, featuring new footage of the actual locations and interviews with surviving relatives of key expedition members – IMDB
- Snow Walker – A pilot and his passenger struggle for survival after crashing in the Arctic tundra. IMDB
- Behind Enemy Lines – A Navy navigator is shot down over enemy territory and is ruthlessly pursued by a secret police enforcer and the opposing troops. Meanwhile, his commanding officer goes against orders in an attempt to rescue him. IMDB
- The Grey – After their plane crashes in Alaska, six oil workers are led by a skilled huntsman to survival, but a pack of merciless wolves haunts their every step. IMDB
- Into the White – Norway, WWII: A group of British and German soldiers finds themselves stranded in the wilderness after an aircraft battle. Finding shelter in the same cabin, they realize the only way to survive the winter is to place the rules of war aside. IMDB
- The River Wild – Rafting expert Gail takes on a pair of armed killers while navigating a spectacularly violent river. IMDB
- Rambo First Blood – A veteran Green Beret is forced by a cruel Sheriff and his deputies to flee into the mountains and wage an escalating one-man war against his pursuers. IMDB
Bonus List of Prepper Minded Documentaries / Docudramas
- After Armageddon: Highly acclaimed docudrama about a runaway flu pandemic has swept the nation and killed a large part of the population, one family must learn to survive to make it to a safe haven. A couple of ‘doomsday preppers’ are featured in this special.
- Yukon Passage: Older documentary of four young men retracing the footsteps of gold stampedes through the Yukon Territory surviving off of minimal supplies and the natural world around them.
- Collapse (Michael Ruppert): Documentary about a former Los Angeles police officer, author, investigative reporter, and radical thinker. He is interviewed about his beliefs that unsustainable energy and financial policies have led to an ongoing collapse of modern industrial civilization.
- Collapse (Nat GEO): Docudrama on how societies succeed or fail and how our own society may fail.
- Earth 2100: Docudrama, a future look at our planet and society through the life of Lucy, and the input of experts. Good quality and chilling reality.
- There is No Tomorrow: A fantastic 34 minute animated youtube documentary on how our “growth-based” society is unsustainable even with ‘green energy’ and the future we will face. Full of facts; author unknown.
- Aftermath: World Without Oil: A docudrama that poses the question “what if the world ran out of oil?” and theorizes about what would happen. There is a youtube link here as I have not found an available DVD.
- Aftermath: Population Zero: A docudrama that poses the question “what if all humans disappeared” and follows what would happen to the planet, our homes, structures, and pets…
- Evacuate Earth: A fascinating docudrama that theorizes how we would evacuate the earth in the face of impending doom, and how society would react. There is a youtube link here as I have not found an available DVD.
- Super-Volcano: A highly acclaimed docudrama on what would happen if the Yellowstone super-volcano erupted.
- Perfect Disaster: Anatomy of a Solar Storm: Docudrama that theorizes what might happen to our civilization and technology if we are hit by a massive solar storm. This is part 1 of 5 all parts featured on youtube as I could not find an available DVD.
- Apocalypse Man: History Channel special hosted by former U.S. Marine and martial-artist Rudy Reyes on how to survive the aftermath of “TEOTWAWKI” in an urban setting. This is a youtube link, as there was no available DVD.
- American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl: Highly acclaimed documentary about the American Dust Bowl and how they survived it.
- American Experience: Influenza 1918: Documentary about how America was ravaged by the flu epidemic of 1918 that killed 675,000 people–more than died in all the wars of this century combined–before disappearing as mysteriously as it began.
- American Experience: The Crash of 1929: A documentary about the start of the Great Depression and what it meant to America.
- The Day After Disaster: A docudrama about what would happen if a nuclear bomb exploded in the heart of Washington, D.C.
- Training for the Apocalypse: A History Channel special about the personal stories of two men and what prompted them to prepare.
- Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure: A highly acclaimed documentary about America’s beginnings and how that relates to where we are headed now.
Prepper TV Shows
- The Best Defense: An excellent current Outdoor Channel educational series teaching self-defense through knowledge, skill, practice, and emergency preparedness.
- Dual Survival: Current Discovery Channel TV series featuring survivalist instructor Cody Lundin and his partner as place themselves in various locations to demonstrate how to get home alive.
- Doomsday Preppers: Part of Nat GEO’s current ‘American Outliers’ group of shows featuring preppers from around the country.
- Doomsday Bunkers: Discovery Channel Series focusing on a company that builds bunkers for those who prepare.
- Meet the Preppers: APN’s own Phil Burns goes into depth on prepping with his family in this Animal Planet special.
- Jericho: A CBS fictional series about a small town’s efforts to survive following a national terrorist attack and the collapse of the United States.
- Survivorman: Discovery Channel series, survival expert Les Stroud strands himself in the wilderness for days on end in order to demonstrate how to survive and get home.
- Man, Woman, Wild: Current Discover Channel series featuring special forces survival expert, Mykle Hawke, and his wife Ruth as they strand themselves in random locations to demonstrate how to get along, survive, and get home alive.
- Alaska The Last Frontier: A fantastic Discovery Channel series about the Kilcher family and their homesteading off-grid way of life in Alaska.
- Revolution: NBC’s current post-apocalyptic science fiction drama series that follows a group of people who are trying to figure out how to turn the power back on, after losing planet-wide electricity 15 years earlier.
- The Walking Dead: A current AMC original fiction horror series about a zombie virus has infected most of the human population, those left fighting to survive battle the zombies and themselves.
- Life After People: A History Channel series spin-off from their ‘Aftermath: Population Zero’ docudrama. See what happens to the cities and the structures we built after humans are not around to maintain them any longer. As a side note, this series does cover some interesting information on the fate of un-maintained nuclear facilities and dams.
- The Colony: A Discovery Channel series that is a reality hybrid show that challenges 24 very different people, to rebuild their own civilization in a post-apocalyptic world created for them.
- The Alaska Experiment: Discovery Channel reality series, four teams of urbanites attempt to survive the wilds of Alaska for 3 months.
- Alone in the Wild: A three-part series featuring extreme photographer, Ed Wardle, as he is dropped off in the middle of the wilderness and attempts to survive three solo months. Link to youtube provided as I could find no available DVD.
- Survivors: A British sci-fi drama about a plague of global proportions. Anarchy in the streets. The collapse of government and the rule of law–perhaps even the end of civilization itself, followed by the rise of tyranny and vigilantism.
- Out of the Wild: Nine ordinary people are given a three-day crash course in survival, then are dropped off in the depths of the rugged Alaska wilderness with minimal equipment and map to make it back to civilization.
- 2012: Countdown to Armageddon: A five-part History Channel series that covers many different views of how the world will end. It features several different preppers in the series including APN’s own CEO, Hugh Vail.
- I Shouldn’t Be Alive: An extremely well made and highly acclaimed series by the Animal Planet of harrowing reenacted survival stories from around the world. This is linked to one season, but there are 5 others available.
- Little House on the Prairie: An American pioneer drama series about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, MI. Based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books. The family appropriate show ran for nine seasons from 1974-1982, all seasons have been released to DVD.
The original list of the best prepper movies originated on The Home Front. It has been significantly revised and amended.