Survival movies may not always be for everyone, but they are loved by many because they show the raw power of humanity. Some of the most iconic moments in cinema have come from survival movies, and some of them are the most critically-acclaimed movies in film history. Perhaps there’s something innate to us that makes us relate to scenarios of people wanting to stay alive. Or perhaps we just find inspiration in them to overcome our own challenges. In any case, in no particular order, here are 20 of the best survival movies of all time.

North Face (2008)

The film is based on an actual 1936 expedition to climb the north face of the Eiger, a mountain in Switzerland notorious for its difficulty. Although the mountain had been ascended multiple times before, its north face was so difficult to climb that no climber had reached the summit via this route. A four-person expedition team from Germany sought to become the first successful expedition via the north face, a feat that would have served as a major propaganda win for Hitler’s regime.

The film focuses on two members of the expedition team: Andreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz. Ultimately, the expedition is unsuccessful and all four members die from the harsh conditions of the mountain. Kurz notably dies just as a rescue team is attempting to save him.

Despite taking some creative liberties, the film received multiple awards and nominations in Germany. It also currently has an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ultimately, a joint German-Austrian team would be the first to conquer the Eiger’s north face in 1938.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Written, directed by, and starring John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is notable for being one of the most critically and commercially acclaimed horror films of 2018. It earned over $300 million at the box office against a budget of $17 million. It also currently has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is about a family living in a post-apocalyptic world in which aliens have killed most of humanity. Notably, the aliens use a strong sense of hearing to find victims. Thus, the family has to use sign language and other soundless techniques to avoid being slaughtered. A sequel titled A Quiet Place II was released in 2021.

Predator (1987)

Predator is one of the Governator’s most iconic films. And in case you don’t know who the Governator is, it is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Long before he was California’s governor, he was best perhaps best known for his physique and iconic appearances in films such as Terminator. Predator is a science fiction film much in the same vein as Terminator when it comes to oozing testosterone. Its main character, Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, and his colleagues embark on a mission to save guerrillas from an alien that is hunting for sport.

Although the film originally had a mixed reception, its critical standing improved over the years. Today it has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also spawned a long-running multimedia franchise that includes sequels and prequels, as well as merchandise and video games.

Dunkirk (2017)

Another survival film based on real events, this time Operation Dynamo during World War II. Dunkirk tells the story of the mass evacuation of over 300,000 Allied troops from the town of Dunkirk in France. The event is considered one of the most impactful events in the early years of the war, as the decimation of the troops would have been a major blow both tactically and in terms of morale. The characters were largely fictional, although things that happened in the films were based on real events.

Dunkirk proved to be a major critical and commercial success, and as of 2022 is the highest-grossing film about World War II internationally. It won three Oscars and has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

A 2015 reboot of the long-running Mad Max series, the film stars Tom Hardy in a post-apocalyptic Earth where precious resources are few and far between. Hardy plays Max Rockatansky who teams up with Imperator Furiosa, a war captain, who goes on a run from an evil leader named Immortan Joe.

Despite grossing over $375 million at the box office, the film ultimately lost as much as $40 million. Sources claimed its $150 million budget and additional expenses contributed to this loss. Nevertheless, the film became a critical darling. It won six Oscars and scored a Best Picture nomination. As of 2022, the film has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%. A prequel focusing on the character Imperator Furiosa is currently in production for a 2024 release.