The Most Popular Climbing Films – Part 1

The excitement and the danger that come from climbing make it easy to turn into something millions can sit down and enjoy. With plenty of real life stories to adapt and of course an infinite amount of fictionalised climbing escapades to put into a screenplay, the simply fight between a climber and the very real prospect of falling has kept plenty of audiences on the edge of their seats. The trend still continues to today even though the all out action genre has shifted into personal drama, regardless the backdrop is one with extreme heights and hazardous verticality. Here are the biggest hitters on screen that showcase climbing at its best, worst and most imaginative.

Touching the Void

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are both experienced climbers and decide to take on a new challenge, the Peruvian Siula Grande which anyone is yet to climb. Unlike most films, which focus on the ascent being fraught with dangers and the climbers wondering if they will ever make it to the top, here reaching the summit is actually the least of their worries. When a storm hits them at the highest altitude things start to go wrong, bones are broken and spirits follow suit. Struggling to find a way to get back to civilisation many metres below them desperate measures are taken as each climber puts their friends life ahead of their own in hope that one of them will make it out alive. This docudrama is one of PBS’s most successful documentaries and shows that even with experience climbing can be deadly.

The Eiger Sanction

This Hollywood hit from 1975 stars well established leading man Clint Eastwood as an assassin gone straight who is pulled back into the game by blackmail for one last hit. A classic convoluted plot for big screen flicks of the time takes this film to the mountains of Switzerland where actual footage of the environment were shot. This was a fairly big deal at the time since most expensive or dangerous locations were fabricated in the studio. Here however Eastwood did his own stunts (not so impressive beside climbers actually ascending mountains onscreen today, but still) and the genuine footage was applauded by audiences, meanwhile the moral of the story was be wary of rocks and hitmen.


This documentary and winner of the U.S. Audience Documentary Award at 2015’s Sundance film festival is a much more intimate telling of what it means to be a climber. Despite a previous failed attempt to climb what is known as the Shark’s fin in the Himalayas this team of three decide to tackle it again and suit up to go all 4000 feet up. With the mountain becoming an allegory for their personal demons, the film shows that even though physically they may be crawling up a rock, mentally it can mean so much more. As disaster strikes one of the team just before their planned climb its all up in the air whether the crew will be able to conquer the mountain and at the same time conquer their fears.