We absolutely love stories of grit, spirit, and human courage. It could be the story of a stranded castaway stuck on an island far from the inhabited lands or the story of a plane crash survivor struggling to survive in extreme temperatures. We love them all. A lot of these movies are also based on real-life stories that make the death-defying acts of the protagonists even more fascinating. It’s inspiring to cheer for people who are stuck in brutal conditions, and it’s even better to watch them survive it with battle scars that they’ll wear for the rest of their lives.
But we must admit that being in a dangerous situation where you’re struggling to light a fire by rubbing two rocks or building your own boat to cross the unmerciful ocean wouldn’t really be a good feeling. In fact, it’ll be more or less of a nightmare for most of us. And that’s why we prefer to watch all of that instead of actually experiencing it. Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t survive a day without our privileged lifestyles. With that said, it’s great to sit and watch survival movies, and Netflix has got an incredible collection of them. So, here’s the list of really good survival movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now!
20. Time to Hunt (2020)
Originally titled ‘Sanyangeui Sigan,’ ‘Time to Hunt’ is a South Korean action thriller film. The film is set in the near future, where a severe financial crisis turns South Korea into the definition of dystopia. A group of youngsters from the slums lives on crime to support themselves. However, after a messy but successful heist at a gambling house, their problems snowball into much more when they start being hunted down by a mysterious killer. With action-packed sequences and a dystopian setting, the movie has all the elements that genre lovers usually look for!
19. Circle (2015)
‘Circle’ is a psychological thriller set in a single location where fifty strangers find themselves arranged in two concentric circles in a room. The science-fiction movie is inspired by the 1957 drama ‘12 Angry Men.’ The extraterrestrial experiment is a matter of life-and-death as people vaporize every two minutes or if they try to leave.
The participants soon realize that they can vote to nudge the danger away from themselves. Although set against a fictional backdrop, the film does not skimp on the existential questions that we as human beings face. How we evaluate life when it comes down to the bare basics and our will to survive is captured with haunting accuracy.
18. #Alive (2020)
Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, this film builds on the fear of viruses with an extra dose of zombies. Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in) is a teen gamer who is left alone in his parents’ apartment as a zombie outbreak takes over the city of Seoul. Joon-woo fights to survive and finally learns to fend for himself.
The film also captures the budding romance amidst the apocalypse between Joon-woo and another survivor isolating herself in her apartment, Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye). As the internet services shut down, it gets harder to survive and seek help. Although highly dramatized for the current situation we are living in, the film is relatable when it comes to dealing with topics of loneliness, decisions that question ethics, and even the importance of communication, albeit through social media.
17. IO Last on Earth (2019)
The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth where almost all of the human population has left our planet and moved to Jupiter’s moon, IO. Earth has been declared toxic, but scientist Sam Walden believes otherwise and still wants to find a way for humans to live on their home planet. She sends out a broadcast message one day to see if anyone who is still on Earth will come to find her.
A man named Micah hears the radio transmission and visits Sam. But Micah is not at all convinced by her notions and believes that there is no scope for survival on Earth anymore. They both have a tough decision to make — should they take the next shuttle, which is the last one to IO, or stick around and find a solution?
16. Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)
‘Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight’ is a Polish supernatural slasher film that is originally titled ‘W leslie dziś nie zaśnie nikt.’ The movie follows a group of teenagers whose lives revolve around technology. Therefore, they attend an offline rehabilitation camp in the forest with no access to their cell phones. While this might sound like bliss to many of us, that is not the case with the group, as a sinister force lurking in the forests threatens their existence. Directed by Bartosz M. Kowalski, the horror flick was among the most rented titles on Netflix USA shortly after its release.
15. The Ritual (2017)
Based on the novel by Adam Nevill, ‘The Ritual’ is a British horror film that tells the story of a group of college friends who reunite for a hiking trip in the forests of Sweden to honor their friend who was killed in an armed robbery. An ancient evil presence stalks them in the forest as the characters are seen staring into the darkness. Director David Bruckner leverages the landscape to build the spine-chilling experience. The film, shot in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, stars Rafe Spall (Luke), Arsher Ali (Phil), Robert James-Collier (Hutch), Sam Troughton (Dom), and Paul Reid (Robert).
14. Extinction (2018)
This one’s kind of like a Noah’s Ark adaptation with a dash of extraterrestrial hauntings in it. ‘Extinction’ is the story of Peter, who is a great father and husband. He suddenly starts getting haunted by reoccurring dreams where his family dies. Everyone gets troubled by his paranoid behavior that follows his dreams.
But soon after that, the world gets attacked by alien forces that have come with an intention to invade us. Peter needs to find the strength to protect his family from these alien forces but let me assure you that this is not your typical sci-fi invasion film about survival. It holds a big twist that makes you jump out of your seat. A must-watch for all survival sci-fi lovers as this one holds an amazingly unique concept that has been executed almost perfectly.
13. Adrift (2018)
Set in 1983 against the backdrop of Hurricane Raymond, ‘Adrift’ is based on a true story of a couple who find themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after the hurricane. The film tells the story of how they make it to Hawaii on a damaged boat with no radio. This film adaptation, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, relives the account of Tami Oldham Ashcraft (Shailene Woodley) and her fiancé Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) as they sail from Tahiti to San Diego. With various chilling shots of the small yacht surrounded by the blue waters, cinematographer Robert Richardson has done a tremendous job of capturing the loneliness of survivors in the open sea.
12. Red Dot (2021)
Apparently, the first Netflix original movie from Sweden, the thriller drama centers upon a couple – Nadja and David – as they go on a camping trip to see the Northern lights. However, things don’t go as planned as consequences of the decisions made in the past start to haunt their present. The snowy landscape and remote settings highlight the sense of danger and anxiety that the couple deals with. From being shot at by various people to encounters with a wild bear, Nadja and David go through a lot in order to ensure that they survive.
11. The Platform (2019)
This Spanish film is a dystopian thriller, originally titled ‘El Hoyo’ meaning ‘The Hole.’ A hundred floors tall vertical prison or “Vertical Self Management Center” houses two inmates per cell, with one cell on each floor. Every day a platform with food descends to every floor for a very brief time to provide the left-overs from the topmost floor. As one descends to a lower floor, the availability of food decreases as it depends on how much the people on the floors above them eat.
The story is told through the eyes of Goreng (Iván Massagué), who wakes up in cell number 48. Every month, the inmates change floors, and we see the shift in the characters’ personalities as they move up and down ‘The Hole.’ Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and the writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero draw a very relatable yet haunting parallel to the current society we live in.
10. Defiance (2008)
‘Defiance’ is essentially based on a true story of a group of Jewish survivors who defied Nazi rule and set up a self-sustained community in the forests of Belarus. The American film directed by Edward Zwick is filmed in Lithuania and deals with the ethical questions the group faces and how they govern themselves.
Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) along with his brothers, comes across other Jewish escapees hiding in the forest and take them under their leadership. The “Bielski Partisans” went on to become the most successful group of Jewish resisters. Set against the backdrop of Nazi atrocities, the storyline focuses on the survival of this community as they combat harsh weather conditions, famine, and even an epidemic.
9. Army of the Dead (2021)
If you are a fan of Zack Snyder’s work, ‘Army of the Dead’ is an interesting film that you can add to your list. With an epic combination of elements from zombie flicks and heist dramas, the movie is supposedly a spiritual successor to ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ The movie follows a group of assassins-for-hire who plan to rob a casino in Las Vegas, all amidst a raging zombie apocalypse. With sharp and impressive action sequences and Snyder’s name associated with the project, the movie drew in more than 75 million viewers.
8. Sand Castle (2017)
Based on a true story, Sand Castle is a war drama that tells the story of a group of soldiers who were sent to a nearby village to fix a problem with the water supply there. But the simple task of water transportation and providing plumbing and infrastructure that supports the cause becomes a struggle for survival in a brutal war zone. The movie is a raw and accurate representation of an actual war scenario without the overdramatization of self-reflection and problems of the main characters, which most war dramas do.
7. The Decline (2020)
The Canadian action thriller is filmed in French and directed by Patrice Laliberte. A group of people joins a survivalist training camp to prepare for any eventuality should it occur, such as war, epidemic, or a societal breakdown. A fatal accident in the camp sends the participants into a frenzy, as they get polarized into two. The film ultimately turns into a hunting game due to the difference in opinions of the two camps that emerge due to the accident.
Alain (Réal Bossé), the organizer of the camp, does not want to deal with the legal authorities who might be accused of manslaughter or “domestic terrorism.” The fast-paced thriller keeps it real and does not takeoff from supernatural events or a villain with twisted motivations. The villains here are people themselves.
6. Solo (2018)
The plot of this one is very similar to that of ‘127 hours.’ This film, too, is a true story of the survival and near-death experience of a surfer who accidentally slides down a dune and crashes into the ocean, breaking his hip and injuring his head. I believe that the people who know that they’re going to die soon start looking back and contemplating life to reflect upon all the things and people they took for granted. This is also a common stature for most “do or die” situation kind of films, and that’s why it feels so familiar.
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5. Cadaver (2020)
‘Cadaver’ is a Norwegian film, directed by the young director, Jarand Herdal. Survival is one of the biggest themes in the film that also makes us question, what does surviving mean to us? Could it cost us our humanity? In a city torn down by a nuclear disaster, people are barely surviving. With no food, no shelter, and no security, people preferred death over life.
Art is what keeps us sane at times like this as it provides an escape; it gives us hope. It is with this hope that a family goes to see a play called ‘The Hotel’ which also includes a sumptuous meal as a part of the experience. This unusual play invites the participation of the audience- but no one would have thought that it would become a battle for survival. Not much of an escape from reality!
4. How It Ends (2018)
Starring Theo James and Forest Whitaker, this one cannot really be ranked as one of the best, but it’s still there on Netflix if you’re in the mood for some survival action movies and have watched almost all the others. The movie is slow and light, unlike other movies of this genre, and will not make you anxious at all. It’s just a time-killing story of a man who tries to reach home in a post-apocalyptic world so that he can be with his fiancee again. Watch this one with no high hopes and also with the sole intention of passing your time.
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3. The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
Inspired by true events in the 80s, ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’ shares the story of a fake holiday destination in Arous (in Sudan) by the same name, which was a front for Israeli agents’ humanitarian mission. The Mossad agents were rescuing Ethiopian Jews held in refugee camps in Sudan by smuggling them out of the country.
Chris Evans plays the Israeli Mossad Agent Ari Levinson, while Michael. K. Williams essays the role of Kedebe Bimro, an Ethiopian Jew. Ari and Kedebe work together to evacuate the Jewish-Ethiopian refugees to Israel. Directed by Gideon Raff, the film was made with some big names on board, such as Ben Kingsley, Greg Kinnear, Alessandro Nivola, and Haley Bennett.
2. Bird Box (2018)
‘Bird Box’ is based on a novel by the same name, written by Josh Malerman. This post-apocalyptic thriller follows a mother, Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock), who tries to protect herself and her two children from the malevolent forces that drive people to insanity if they look at these entities. The unseen supernatural forces take the form of people’s worst fears and manipulate them into committing suicide.
The film goes back and forth between two timelines, five years apart. No survivor has ever seen these entities, but the people must stay blindfolded for their safety and survival. The story is about how Malorie completes a dangerous journey with her children to the only place that can offer them security. What is appreciated about the film is that it relies on the fear of the characters rather than the supernatural interactions itself.
1. Awake (2021)
Directed by Mark Raso, the science-fiction thriller can easily be among the top titles on your list if you are a fan of survival dramas and thrillers. In the movie, a global phenomenon wipes out all electronics and causes people to experience severe insomnia. In the wake of the catastrophe, people become increasingly irritable, violent, and irrational. However, a former army medic and a single mother of two, Jill, may have found an answer to the problem. She believes that her young daughter may have a cure. But while humans across the globe are struggling to survive, she must keep her kids safe.
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