The Best Survival Movies Based on True Stories 

Ranker Film
Updated December 20, 2019 1.7k votes 377 voters 27.9k views 24 items

List Rules No straight horror movies.

There are hundreds if not thousands of movies about survival, but only a choice few are based on true events. The survival movies based on true stories can offer harrowing examples of people performing extraordinary feats in the most desperate of circumstances, but those films are few and far between. Survival films often depict what really happened to people whose life is told in a story that could be inspirational or end in disaster.

You may think a survival movie like Tom Hanks' Castaway would wind up on a list like this one, but that film was based on multiple survival accounts of people who survived that sort of situation instead of a single, true event. The strict criteria for this list means you'll find the best survival movies - if and only if they are based on true events! Real stories about people surviving or struggling to overcome obstacles offer an interesting and sometimes difficult viewing of struggle, perseverance, and the will to overcome... but not everyone survives and often, these movies end in ways you may not desire...

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The Mercy is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Survival Movies Based on True Stories
Photo: BBC Films

The Mercy is a 2017 British biographical drama film directed by James Marsh. Amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) attempts to circumnavigate the globe alone as his family awaits his return. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott

Released: 2018

Directed by: James Marsh

Is this the best true tale of survival?
Togo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Survival Movies Based on True Stories
Photo:  Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

Togo is a 2019 American drama film directed by Ericson Core. Leonhard Seppala (Willem Dafoe) and his sled dog Togo are two key figures that participated in the 1925 serum run to save the town of Nome, Alaska, from an epidemic. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Willem Dafoe, Julianne Nicholson, Christopher Heyerdahl

Released: 2019

Directed by: Ericson Core

Is this the best true tale of survival?

More Togo 

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The Great Alaskan Race ... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Survival Movies Based on True Stories
Photo:  P12 Films

The Great Alaskan Race is a 2019 American action-adventure film directed by Brian Presley. Set during the 1925 great race of mercy, a group of mushers travels 700 miles to save the children of Nome, Alaska from a deadly epidemic. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Brian Presley, Treat Williams, Brad Leland

Released: 2019

Directed by: Brian Presley

Is this the best true tale of survival?
The Aeronauts is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Survival Movies Based on True Stories
Photo: The Aeronauts/Amazon Studios

The Aeronauts is a 2019 independent biographical action-adventure film directed by Tom Harper. A Pilot (Felicity Jones) and scientist (Eddie Redmayne) find themselves in an epic fight for survival while attempting to make discoveries in a gas balloon. ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Phoebe Fox, Himesh Patel, Vincent Perez, + more

Released: 2019

Directed by: Tom Harper

Is this the best true tale of survival?