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10 Great Stories of Survival

Things to keep in mind when the person in front of you is paying with pennies

10 Great Stories of Survival.

Everyone has a bad day now and then. When I'm having a particularly bad one I like to be reminded that no matter how bad it may seem at the time there are plenty of people who have had it worse. Being stuck in traffic pales in comparison to walking through Mongolia in improvised footwear, or crossing the Rocky Mountains in a covered wagon.

The Donner Party
The story of the Donner party is one of the greatest American tales of survival, and a true testament to the what it took to tame the wilderness. It is a tale of heartbreaking losses, tragic mistakes, and desperate measures - but it is also the  story of the people who managed prevail against overwhelming odds. This is the film which inspired me to create this section.

The Edge
What do you get when you cross a book-smart multi millionaire, a pretty boy fashion photographer, and a grizzly bear with a taste for human blood? You get David Mamet's wilderness survival film "The Edge".  After a plane crash in the isolated Alaskan wilderness, two men must fight the elements and each other in order to survive. This film features top notch performances by Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, and a bear named Bart.

The Endurance
"Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success." The men who answered this advertisement were ordinary people, they weren’t heroes and they weren’t madmen. This film paints a harrowing picture of early Antarctic exploration. The idea of hiking across Antarctica, even under ideal conditions (are there ideal conditions in Antarctica?) is ridiculous. Nobody can do that! They did - and some of them lived to tell about it, it is as hard to believe today as it must have been when it happened.

Flight of the Phoenix
This is one of my all time favorite survival/ adventure films. A cargo plane crashes in the desert, and the disparate survivors driven by starvation and thirst concoct a desperate plan for escape. James Stewart, in a performance reminiscent of 12 Angry Men, is magnificent as the visionary ringleader who must convince his fellow passengers to join him in an unforgettable escape plan.

The Red Tent
In 1928, the airship Italia, under the command of Umberto Nobile crashed during an arctic expedition. Airships were very fragile. and the Italia had been plagued with problems before reaching the arctic. On May 25th the Italia crashed onto the ice, nine survivors were left on the ice, six other crewmen were left in the drifting body of the airship and were never found.  This film tells of those events in flashback as the Nobile remembers those fateful events, and tries to find a way to forgive himself.

Rescue Dawn
This film is based on Werner Herzog's documentary Little Dieter needs to fly, Rescue Dawn tells the true story of several soldiers trying to survive in a Vietnamese prison camp.  Christian Bale and Steve Zahn give exemplary performances as men who have been driven to madness by the insanity of the world around them. Steve Zahn, in particular, shines in a rare dramatic performance.

Secrets of the dead: The Airmen and the Headhunters
When a U.S. plane is shot down over the jungles of Borneo, the survivors are at first terrified of the cannibal tribesmen who rule the area. As time passes, they learn to trust these unlikely rescuers and forge long-term friendships among the Dayek tribe. Featuring interviews with the lone survivor of the crew, as well as with members of the Dayek tribe, this amazing true story is uniquely unforgettable.

Stranded: I have come from a plane that crashed on the mountain
In 1972 the Chilean national football team's plane crashed onto an icy mountaintop. As the survivors fought frostbite and starvation, two men braved the icy wilderness in a desperate bid to walk to safety. In this documentary several of the survivors return to the crash site and tell their story. The resulting documentary focusses on their lives, rather than on the gruesome details of the crash. It is an emotionally haunting tale of faith, friendship and perseverance.

Touching the Void
Touching the Void recounts the story of two mountaineers who set out to climb a particularly nasty Peruvian Alp. On the way down, one of the climbers shatters his leg. His climbing partner has no choice but to cut the rope between them, leaving his injured friend for dead. The story of how both men make it out of the mountains is amazing.

The Way Back
In Peter Weir's visceral  film "The Way Back" a group of men escape a Siberian prison camp, and walk through the worst  terrain in the world in an effort to find freedom. Along the way they discover their own capacity for strength, compassion, and courage.

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