37 Best Outdoor Movies of All Time for All Ages

Do you ever feel compelled to enjoy nature, but you just can’t get outside? Sit back, relax, and enjoy one of these 37 best outdoor movies. Choose from animated movies for the whole family, thrillers that bring light to being outside, and even some comedies! There’s even a number of documentaries highlighting wonderful recreation opportunities to inspire your future adventures as well. No matter your style, you’ll find an outdoor movie for you.

Top Animated Outdoor Movies

Who doesn’t love a good animated outdoor movie!? The following 5 films are suitable for children and have strong messages regarding the outdoors.

1. Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1h15min, 1992)

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Think Avatar for kiddos with this one. This 1992 animated film depicts a magical rain forest inhabited by fairies that is threatened by loggers. To add to the destruction, the loggers cut down a tree that releases an evil fairy spirit.

The fairies must find a way to defeat the pollution-loving demon and save their home. The movie’s message is that of conservation. It urges viewers to do what they can to preserve the wilderness areas still left on Earth.

2. The Lorax (1h26min, 2012)

The Lorax is a Dr. Seuss classic! You can even connect some reading into this one for the whole family if you choose.

The Lorax is a light-hearted but cautionary tale with a critically important message and wonderful music. Our world will soon be like the one that the Lorax left behind if we do not collectively take responsibility for the stewardship of the environment. One of the best outdoor movies for teaching our youth about the importance of conservation.

3. WALL-E (1h43min, 2008)

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At first thought, you might not group WALL-E into the outdoor movies category. As the gears start turning you realize just how much this movie is about nature.

This hit film takes place in the future after Earth is reduced to a deserted, trash-covered ghost town. All humans have fled to gigantic space ships that hover in outer space. WALL-E, a robot, seems to be the last sentient being on the planet. When a ship comes to Earth and deploys advanced robot EVE, the two fall in love. Follow their adventures for a first-hand look at how human actions are negatively impacting the environment.

4. Over the Hedge (1h25min, 2006)

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When the forest animals wake up from hibernation they realize that half of their forest is missing. Hidden behind a giant hedge is a new neighborhood. The animals try to survive by stealing food from the humans who live on the other side of the hedge.

The plot revolves mostly around the interactions among the animals with a subtle environmental message. Human over consumption as a theme is shared throughout the film. A lot of humor that only adults might catch in this one!

“That is an SUV,” says RJ.
“It’s so big!” respond the animals. “How many humans fit in there?”
RJ’s reply is priceless: “Usually…one.”

5. Open Season (1h25min, 2006)

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After spending the better part of his life as a star attraction of a Timberlines’s nature show, a grizzly bear finds himself lost in the wild after a slew of unfortunate events. He befriends a deer who claims to be able to get him back to Timberline.

Watch their story unfold through this film and several sequels as they highlight the importance of leaving wild animals wild.

Thriller Outdoor Movies to Keep You on the Edge of your Seat

I wouldn’t watch these outdoor movies before heading out into the wilderness for a weekend, but they’re sure to provide you a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation!

6. 127 Hours (1h34min, 2010)

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127 hours tells the true story of a man’s determination to survive after a hiking accident. A mountaineer and adventurer becomes trapped when a boulder falls on his arm. The hiker examines his life and considers his options. 5 Days in a remote canyon in Utah leads him to an agonizing choice. Will he amputate his arm so that he can try to make his way back to civilization or remain pinned to the canyon wall and likely die.

This is one of those outdoor movies that will leave you more cautious on your next big adventure!

7. Survival Quest (1h36min, 1988)

In this 1988 intense outdoor action film, two very different groups of people find themselves camping near one another in the Sierra Madre Occidental. One group winds up having to use all of their skills to survive when they find themselves hunted by a pack of crazed mercenaries. Who will survive, the gun-happy squad of teenage boys under the command of tyrannical survivalist or the backpacking self-help group?

8. The Forest (1h33min, 2016)

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The Aokigahara Forest in Japan known as a popular destination for those wanting to commit suicide. This is the setting for the vast majority of this film. In true thriller fashion, you won’t know who to trust or what to expect next as sisters search for each other in these haunted woods.

I highly suggest this psychological thriller for all outside living, scary movie-loving individuals.

9. Everest (2h1min, 2015)

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This film is based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. It is a heart-wrenching story highlighting the survival attempts of two expedition groups as they attempt to summit Mount Everest.

Feelings of impending doom hang in the air as the story evolves. Who will survive? And who will stay on the mountain forever?

10. The Mountain Between Us (1h52min, 2017)

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Stranded on a mountain after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must work together to endure the extreme elements of the remote, snow-covered terrain. Realizing that help is not on the way, they embark on a perilous journey across hundreds of miles of wilderness.

Will these two strangers find their inner strength and push each other enough to survive?

Only the Best Outdoor Dramas

A typical drama film portrays realistic characters in real-life settings. In all of these dramas, characters will find conflict with themselves, others, and forces of nature while in a natural setting. These dramatic outdoor movies will show how being outside can bring out the best, worst, and everything in between in humankind.

11. A Walk in the Woods (1h44min, 2015)

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A very popular book and awesome film. Based on a true event, it tells the story of a 60-year old celebrated travel writer. He returns to the USA from Britain and settles in the North-Eastern state of New Hampshire. Instead of announcing his retirement, he announces that he wants to take on the Appalachian Trail.

You can’t help but appreciate the comedic adventure that unfolds as he travels from Georgia to Maine.

12. Wild (1h55min, 2014)

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If you’re all about girl power and the outdoors – here is a film for you! This popular book was made into a movie in 2014. Watch as a young woman, played by Reese Witherspoon, ventures into the great outdoors with no outdoor experience.

This young woman decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a means to stop her downward spiral of unfortunate life events. Watch all of her trials and tribulations on the trail as she puts her life back together one step at a time. Be prepared to be inspired by one of the best outdoor movies featuring thru hiking.

13. Into the Wild (2h28min, 2007)

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An American biographical adventure drama film adapted from the 1996 non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer.

Chris McCandles graduates from Emory University as a top student and athlete, destined for greatness. Instead of embarking on the prestigious and profitable career he had lined up, he gives his savings to charity, rids himself of his worldly possessions, and sets out on a journey to find himself. Without telling anyone from home where he is going or what his plan is, Chris heads off on a true adventure to the Alaskan wilderness.

One of the hardest-hitting outdoor movies for those with an adventurous soul.

14. The Way (2h3min, 2010)

The Way is an American-Spanish drama that delivers great laughs, beautiful scenery, and top-notch performances. An American father travels to France to retrieve the body of his estranged son. His son died while attempting the pilgrimage to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela on what is known as the El Camino. In his despair, dad decides to take the journey himself, in an effort to gain a better understanding of both himself and his son.

15. The Revenant (2h36min, 2015)

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A frontiersman (Leonardo Dicaprio) sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack while exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823. After the bear attack, a member of his hunting team kills his young son and leaves him for dead. Leo utilizes his survival skills to find a way back to civilization.

The legendary fur trapper treks through the snowy terrain to track down the man who betrayed him fueled by grief and vengeance.

Top 10 Documentaries About the Outdoors

If you’re looking for a factual report of some of your favorite outside activities, look no further! These 10 outdoor documentaries will have you itching to pick up a new hobby or at least pick up where you left off with an old one.

16. 180 South (1h25min, 2010)

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This 2010 documentary covers the journey of Jeff Johnson as he travels from Ventura, California to Patagonia, Chile. He plans to emulate the 1968 trip that Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins took in their van. After watching footage from the 1968 trip, climbing the Corcovado Volcano in Patagonia became Johnson’s life goal.

After speaking to Chouinard and Tompkins, he finally had the inspiration and information needed to plan his own journey and this is the story.

17. Maidentrip (1h25min, 2010)

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Maidentrip will have your mouth hanging open for a full hour and a half. It’s an absolutely beautiful documentary about Laura Dekker’s year and a half voyage around the world. What’s so amazing about it is that she’s aiming to be the youngest person ever to sail around the world. Dekker, who is Dutch, set sail from Gibraltar in 2010 and made the journey in a year and half… alone.

She finished just a few months after her 16th birthday and was absolutely amazing throughout the entire film.

18. Losing Sight of Shore (1h32min, 2017)

Four brave women set out to row from America to Australia. Follow them as they row over 8,000 miles (ca. 12,875 km) across the Pacific Ocean. During their nine months at sea they overcome extreme mental and physical challenges to make history. This story is one of perseverance, friendship, and the power of human spirit; everyone has a Pacific to cross, let the Coxless Crew inspire yours.

19. Art of Flight (1h20min, 2011)

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This Red Bull sponsored documentary about snowboarding redefines what is possible in the mountains.

The passion behind this film alone is enough to inspire you to get outside, but just in case it doesn’t… the scenery should do the trick. And if the scenery doesn’t make you say wow, the skill level and fearlessness of these Red Bull athletes most certainly will. As far as best outdoor movies go, this one’s a winter-loving outdoor enthusiasts dream.

20. The Dawn Wall (1h40min, 2017)

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In January 2015, American rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson earned the world’s attention with their effort to climb the Dawn Wall.

Tommy Caldwell spent years studying the Dawn Wall as a release from a number of unfortunate life events. Tommy and Kevin lived together on the sheer vertical cliff for weeks in their attempt to climb the 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite National Park. Watch the pair as they make their final attempt after 6 years of meticulous planning and practice.

21. Free Solo (1h40min, 2018)

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This is probably one of the most well-known outdoor documentaries to date. Watch professional rock climber Alex Honnold attempt to conquer the first free solo climb El Capitan’s 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park. An amazing feat of athleticism and a bit of crazy for sure – Alex climbed the whole rock face without any protective equipment.

22. Meru (1h30min, 2015)

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Watch three elite climbers as they fight through feelings of obsession and loss as they struggle to climb Mount Meru. This 2015 documentary film chronicles the first ascent of the 4,000 foot “Shark’s Fin” route on Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas.

After attempting but failing to summit Meru in 2008, three determined climbers return to the mountain in order to conquer its peak in 2011.

23. As it Happens: Pacific Crest Trail (1h27min, 2014)

As It Happens: Pacific Crest Trail captures the challenge, struggle and ultimate triumph of a journey from Mexico to Canada. Nothing is scripted on this hiking trip. Nothing is planned on this 2500 mile trail. Anything can happen as two friends trek along one of the most remote corridors in the continental United States.

Together, they’re determined to test the limits of their endurance, soak in the majestic natural environment, and capture every step of their journey to share with the world.

24. Made to Be Broken (42min, 2017)

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Another Red Bull sponsored documentary on ultra-running. Ultrarunner Karl Meltzer has has his eyes set on setting the speed record for crossing the Appalachian Trail. In this film he sets out for his third and final attempt to run the 2,188 mile trail in less than 46 days, 8 hours, and 6 minutes.

Watch in awe as his crew works day and night to help Karl’s success as he runs, walks, and stumbles from Maine to Georgia.

25. The Long Journey to the Start (1h10min, 2015)

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Follow filmmaker Chris Gallaway on his personal attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. You’ll also learn what the trail means to the individuals he meets along the way. Chris meets and interviews hikers young and old with wildly different backgrounds. He depends on trail angels who provide food and support along the trail. And, he comes in contact with an assortment of wildlife. All of these occurrences make the journey all the more exciting.

This is both a personal story of struggle and perseverance as well as a historical account of the origins and cultural relevance of the Appalachian Trail.

Classic Films With Beautiful Natural Settings

These distinguished works of cinema have transcended time and trends, with their indefinable quality. These outside-based movies have withstood the test of time and their unique storylines and settings prove to be fan favorites.

26. Dances with Wolves (3h1min, 1990)

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A Civil War Lieutenant assigned to a remote western outpost develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind for something new.

This classic film combines a drama, adventure, and western all into a film worthy of 7 Oscars.

27. 7 Years in Tibet (2h16min, 1997)

7 Years in Tibet

This is the story of an Austrian mountaineer whose attempt to scale a Himalayan peak is interrupted by the Second World War. After many harrowing adventures, he finds himself in Tibet where he befriends the Dalai Lama. Here, he becomes absorbed into an unfamiliar way of life during China’s takeover of Tibet.

Enjoy the beauty of Tibet while learning the importance of Peace and selflessness.

28. Cast Away (2h23min, 2000)

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A well-known and heavily decorated American survival drama starring Tom Hanks. While en route to an assignment in Malaysia, Tom Hanks’ plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm. He washes ashore on a deserted island as the sole survivor of the flight. After efforts to sail away and contact help fail,  he remains for years.

Watch as he learns how to survive on the island accompanied only by his handmade volleyball friend, Wilson. Will Chuck ever return to civilization and reunite with his loved ones? There’s only one way to find out!

29. The Last of the Mohicans (1h52min, 1992)

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This epic American western historical drama is based on a novel from 1826. The last members of a dying Native American tribe live their lives in peace alongside British colonists. Follow them on a breathless romantic adventure as they rescue the daughters of a British colonel.

This story’s loose play on history makes for a fierce action-packed film that takes place during the French and Indian War.

30. A River Runs Through It (2h3min, 1992)

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Follow the arc of human life as a river flows in this motion picture. It tells the story of two brothers who spend their childhood fly fishing on the banks of Montana. As usual, these siblings differ greatly in personality, hopes, and dreams making each of their stories uniquely their own despite all the similarities of their lives.

The absolutely breathtaking cinematography and scenery more than makeup for a less-than riveting storyline of two brothers.

Outdoor Comedies Sure to Make You Laugh

If you need a good giggle but still want those good outdoor vibes, be sure to check these out. A few of these are even family-friendly so you can enjoy them alongside the whole crew! There’s nothing quite like outdoor movies that can make you laugh. Whether you’re belly-laughing because you can relate or because what they’re doing is just absolutely ridiculous, be sure to watch these 5 less serious films.

31. Without a Paddle (1h35min, 2004)

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After their friend dies, three men go on a camping trip to honor his memory. Billy believed that famous airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper hid money in the area near their campsite.

To honor his memory, his friends aim to find it. Unfortunately, they are not prepared for the adventure and that is where all the fun starts.

32. The Great Outdoors (1h31min, 1988)

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Things start to get heated when one Chicago family’s Vacation at a lakeside cabin becomes ruined by another. And when I say heated, I mean funny.

This classic 80’s PG comedy should have the whole family laughing and feeling thankful for the loved ones they enjoy spending time with. For some of us, this film might just hit too close to home.

33. Camp Cucamonga (1h33min, 1990)

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Famous actors from the ’80s will have parents reminiscing while their kiddos are laughing over the hilarious antics these characters go through as they enjoy their summer vacation in the great outdoors! Let’s just leave it at, running a co-ed summer camp for teens is no joke.

34. Camp Nowhere (1h36min, 1994)

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An awesome film for the whole family!  Four kids who are unhappy about their respective camp prospects devise a plan to finally have a fun summer.

Somehow, they convince their ex-teacher to pose as a counselor for their kids-only camp, and they all ship away for the summer. The antics really ensue when their parents all want to visit…

35. Wet Hot American Summer (1h37min, 2001)

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Join a group of counselors who are each trying to complete their unfinished business before the day ends. Set on the last day of camp, in the hot summer of 1981, these counselors have goals they need to accomplish before they leave.

Not a family-friendly movie by any means but one that will have you laughing for a full hour and a half.

Two Underrated Outdoor Films

These two had to be mentioned but didn’t quite fit into any of the above categories. Be sure to give them a watch.

36. Avatar (2h42min, 2009)

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Can’t talk about the great outdoors without including this amazing sci-fi film. Although the only place you can truly experience this gorgeous landscape in real life is at Disney, the moral of the story is one we could all benefit from.

It’s not only important but incredibly relevant to the climate crisis we’re experiencing today. All life shares a connection. You work alongside one another to achieve balance and on Pandora that statement is much more extreme.

37. Leave No Trace (1h49min, 2018)

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Although this sounds like a movie that might come from the Center for Outdoor Ethics, it does not. This drama became a critical darling after its premiere at Sundance in 2018.

An Iraq War veteran and his daughter live in an Oregon park until an incident forces them to emerge into society. What happens when you come to town after living the majority of your life invisibly? Watch and find out.

Choose Your Favorite Outdoor Movie

Now it’s time to choose from some of the best outdoor movies entertainment has to offer. Let’s start that movie marathon! You can even cozy up in your sleeping bag or camping chair with a campfire-style snack for authenticity. It is our hope that one of these movies brings you back to nature from your very own living room and inspires you to get outside and continue to be a steward of the land.

What is your favorite outdoor movie?  Please let us know your favorite outdoor movies in the comment and we would like to watch it too!


Smithsonian Magazine