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8 of cinema’s most inspiring survival stories #OnlyTheBrave


With the true life drama Only The Brave out this Friday, one focusing on the valiant men who fought the Yarnell Hill Arizona wildfire in 2013, we look at some of cinema’s most amazing stories of survival...

Cast Away

When FedEx employee Chuck Noland’s (Tom Hanks) plane crashes onto a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, he ends up stranded for four years, with only an inanimate volleyball whom he nicknames Wilson for company... 

So dedicated was Tom Hanks to the role of Chuck Noland that production was shut down for an entire year so the actor could shed 50lbs. The effort paid off as Hanks was nominated for a Best Actor gong at the 2001 Academy Awards and the movie went on to gross a whopping $429 million.

The Revenant

Hollywood loves an actor willing to go that extra mile for movie verisimilitude. So it was with Leonardo DiCaprio in this agonisingly realistic true-life tale of a 19th century frontiersman who is left for dead after being mauled by a bear. With revenge in his heart, he attempts to cross the bleak, wintry wasteland in order to track down the men who betrayed him.

Not only did the stridently vegetarian DiCaprio eat a raw slab of bison's liver for the movie but he also learned to shoot a musket, build a fire and master two Native American languages (Pawnee and Arikara).

The actor has called the role of Hugh Glass the hardest performance of his career, but the efforts paid off as he won a staggering 32 awards for his performance, including his first Oscar for Best Actor.

127 Hours

Could you cut your own arm off if that was the only way to survive? That was the question on the lips of everyone who saw Danny Boyle’s electrifying 2010 drama.

It’s the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco), a canyoneer who became trapped by a boulder in south-eastern Utah in April 2003 and who only managed to escape by slicing his right arm off with a pocket knife.

127 Hours isn’t one of those survival stories that could happen to any of us – what happens to Ralston is partly his fault; he didn’t tell anyone where he was going, he went to areas in Blue John Canyon that he was advised against, and he didn’t take a mobile phone. 

Still, it’s hard not to feel admiration for him as he summons up the courage to perform the unthinkable. As memory-scaring as anything in the Saw series, it’s made even more powerful by the knowledge that Ralston actually did this for real.

Lord of the Flies

There have been two big screen versions of William Golding’s literary classic, but we’d advise you check out the 1963 original as the purest vision of this story of a group of schoolboys who find themselves stranded on an uninhabited island. While they start off civilised, the growing hostility between different factions eventually turn the boys into savages…

When it was released in 1963, Peter Brooks’ fiery adaptation of Golding’s novel was so controversial it was granted an 18 certificate by the BBFC, meaning that none of the cast were able to actually to see it.

It’s very much an allegory about the British public school system, a point that was sadly lost when the 1990 version recast the lead characters as a bunch of juvenile American military school cadets.

Swiss Family Robinson

Based on Johann David Wyss’ 1812 novel, this kiddie-friendly drama from the House of Mouse stars John Mills as the head of a Swiss family shipwrecked in the East Indies.

All told, it makes being marooned on a desert island look less like the worst thing ever and more like something you'd book at Center Parcs, so much so that the film is, to this day, of one of the most successful family movies ever released.

The Way Back

The Proclaimers famously boasted that they would walk 500 miles, but imagine doing that for 4,000… That’s what a group of brave, resourceful POWs did when they escaped – during a snowstorm! – from a Soviet Gulag during World War II.

Determined to reach freedom, the men faced a range of challenges from a lack of food and water to freezing nights and boiling days. It’s no Summer Holiday for sure.


It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point – if it really came down to it, if it was the ONLY way to survive, all everything else had failed, could we eat human flesh?

That’s the horrific reality at the heart of Alive, the shockingly real story of a 1972 plane crash where the survivors ate the bodies of the dead in order to stay alive.

Though it sometimes takes a bit of suspension of disbelief (after two months of near-starvation, the actors don’t look much different), it’s still a gripping and thought-provoking drama that’ll have you heading to Google soon afterwards.


With most of these survival stories, we have some kind of reference for them, to at least begin to imagine what it must feel like to be stuck in the Andean Mountains or marooned far from civilisation.

But what must it be like to be stranded in the nothingness of space? That’s the juicy premise at the heart of Alfonso Cuarón’s awards-guzzling Gravity, as a space-walking Sandra Bullock finds herself the only astronaut left alive after an explosion kills the rest of her crew.

With its eyeball-wowing, state-of-the-art effects and a bravura performance from Sandra Bullock, Gravity is a beautiful, but gut-wrenching watch, as Bullock’s character not only struggles to survive but also keep hold of her sanity.

Only the Brave arrives at Cineworld this Friday.