So, it happened! ‘Dunkirk’ happened! Most of the people seem to love the film, but there are also some who were not impressed by it. The only thing I would want to say to those who didn’t like the film is: ‘DUNKIRK’ IS A SUSPENSEFUL SURVIVAL STORY FIRST AND WAR MOVIE SECOND. The moment you start comparing ‘Dunkirk’ to war movies of the past like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ you are on the wrong track. Yes, ‘Dunkirk’ is a film in a war setting. But, Christopher Nolan used that war setting to make a suspense film. And that’s GROUNDBREAKING!
Having said all of that, today we will list down survival movies that are gripping to watch — exactly, what ‘Dunkirk’ is. So, here is the list of movies similar to Dunkirk that are our recommendations. You can watch some of these movies like Dunkirk on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
12. Buried (2010)
Survival story. Check. Suspenseful. Check. ‘Buried’ is a nausea-inducing story of a truck driver (Ryan Reynolds) who wakes up inside a coffin with only a lighter, a dying cell phone and a little air to breathe. A movie that promises a dose of panic, anxiety, and disorientation combined, without a pill.
11. Defiance (2008)
During WWII, in Nazi-Occupied Eastern Europe, the three Bielski brothers escape to the Belarussian forests along with many other Jews in order to survive. Craig played one of the brothers, eldest that is. The true story about the escapade from the gory clutches of Hitler, it is a fitting homage to bravado and undying courage. Even though ‘Dunkirk’ is a better film, this one closest to what a survival story set in the backdrop of war looks like.
10. Panic Room (2002)
It’s called a ‘Panic Room’, says a reassuring voice. A movie all about a fad called the ‘Panic Room’ which is nothing more than a safe room. With a buried phone line, concrete walls and steel doors, the room has been fully equipped to “protect” the residents in case of an intrusion. And guess what happens when such a room is there in a house? Exactly, an intrusion. A group of three intruders enter the house, looking for multi-million in bearer bonds. And a divorced woman Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) are caught up inside the ‘Panic Room’ of their newly purchased four-storeyed house in NYC. As they say, technology quits being on your side when you’re in danger, so it happens. A survival story that’s gripping from start to finish.
9. 127 Hours
One of the most truthful retellings of a true survival story, ‘127 Hours’ tells the story of the life-or-death ordeal of Aaron Ralston after becoming trapped by a boulder in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Ralston spent more than five days trapped with only a small amount of food and water plus a pocketknife and a camcorder, which he utilised first as a journal and later as a last will and testament. Realizing that he was going to die, Ralston knew he had just one option to break free; to amputate his own arm. With a true story like that, I think there was very little scope of fictional dramatisation! And Director Danny Boyle did it faithful justice, even shooting the film at the actual spot of occurrence. The climactic scene actually caused a few people to faint in theatres. That is a hefty testament of the chops of the film I’d say!
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8. The Grey
A group of oil-men in Alaska survive a plane crash, but that is just the beginning of their troubles, as they find themselves in the midst of the territory of grey wolves, who begin stalking them without mercy. But unlike most survival films, it isn’t just a gore-fest showing a group of victims being killed in gruesome ways. It involves conversations between nuanced characters and a welcome philosophical angle. The thrill only rises as the numbers of survivors thin; only one remains by the end, but does he survive? I’ll leave you to find out. Watch it till the very end of the credits though.
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7. All is Lost
From the mountains, to the sea. ‘All is Lost’ is a one-man survival drama starring Robert Redford as an unnamed old man who finds himself alone on a boat with a ripped hull, staring death in the face. He patches the broken hull with a strength that defies his age but then sails into the path of a storm, further elevating his struggle to survive. The film has very few spoken words (naturally!) but that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely compelling. Redford never lets the viewer leave the edge of his seat as he winces, growls, shouts for help or utters the occasional expletive. The film showcases how much one actor can do with a simple idea. The music, sounds of nature and lack of dialogue make ‘All is Lost’ a meditative watch.
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6. The Pianist
The second WWII movie on the list! Some survival stories occur against forces more brutal than nature itself – like fellow humans. ‘The Pianist’ is one such story. It is n adaptation of the autobiographical book The Pianist, a World War II memoir by the Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman, who is forced to survive in the Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. Roman Polanski (who managed to escape from the Kraków Ghetto as a child, and thus experienced the horrors of WWII firsthand) holds nothing back in his depiction of the Holocaust’s extreme atrocities. The camera doesn’t flinch when young children are beaten to death, innocent men and women are gunned down and executed in the streets, piles of dead bodies are set afire and a man in a wheelchair is hurled off a balcony, fatally crashing into the ground below. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a powerful one.
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5. Platoon (1986)
Platoon is loosely based on director Oliver Stone’s own experiences during Vietnam War. The movie is not only a anti-war film but also a social commentary. The story is told from the perspective of a young idealist soldier named Chris Taylor, (Charlie Sheen), who volunteered for the war and is serving under the command of Sgt. Barnes, played by Tom Berenger. Sgt. Barnes and his followers are the true products of war. They do not flinch at torturing innocent civilians, raping young children and killing the old and the disabled. They were drafted because they are the unwanted and were not born with a silver spoon. The village assault scene in the movie is a reference to the infamous Mai Lai Massacre, where U.S Troops indiscriminately killed 300-400 unarmed civilians including men, women, children and infants.
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4. Lone Survivor (2013)
The third war film on the list is also the closest cousin of ‘Dunkirk’. ‘Lone Survivor’ is one of the most viscerally thrilling survival stories. Featuring a cast that fits like a glove and works like a charm, the film’s vividly realistic handling of the subject matter is impressive. It chronicles the infamous US Navy SEAL’s counter-mission Operation Red Wings, which saw a four man renaissance team track down and kill Ahmad Shaw amidst enemy gun-fire. A truly riveting homage to the brave warriors of the country.
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3. Children of Men
It is the year 2027. The human race has become infertile and is nearing its own extinction, leading to a barrage of madness. In these chaos, a Civil servant must protect a lone miraculously pregnant woman and take her to a sanctuary at sea. While narrating the story in a newsreel documentary-style cinematographic angle, ‘Children of Men’ explores the themes of hope and faith in the face of overwhelming futility and despair. Then again, there are epic battle scenes (though the central character never picks up a gun) and riveting car chases to keep the thrill alive. Action as well contemplation in healthy doses.
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2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The hallucinatory adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, by Francis Ford Coppola, is considered not only as one of the best films of 20th Century but also one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. Martin Sheen portrays Capt. Captain Benjamin. L. Willard, a cynical and battle-hardened soldier, who is tasked to find and kill Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando. Colonel Kurtz has become a Demi-God for Montagnard troops and fighting his own war. He is a perfect example of how the hunger for power can make someone go fully insane. During the journey of finding Kurtz, Willard encounters horrific accounts of human slaughter and destruction. The movie does not showcase the war on the battlefield as much as it depicts the war within the human soul.
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Yes, believe it or not, but ‘Gravity’ is built with the same fabric that ‘Dunkirk’ is. Both are survival stories riddled in suspense. Perpetual state of mortal danger and how the characters respond to the same makes for an engaging survival drama. In ‘Gravity’, two astronauts (played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) attempt to save themselves from a destructive chain reaction of debris in space. This most prominent feature of this film, of course, are its mind-blowing visuals courtesy of Chivo (who began his troika of Osca wins with this film in 2013). But apart from being a ridiculously luxurious visual fest, the film boasts of crisp writing which is poignant at points but never gets too schmaltzy and stellar performances by both the leads, Bullock in particular. A treat for the eyes. A treat for the mind.
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