The Most Popular Climbing Films – Part 2

Cliffhanger

This one is probably one of Hollywood’s biggest climbing films of the 90’s. With the screenplay by action hero Sylvester Stallone and starring him too, this feat of climbing was always going to be over top. Here drama and stunts run wild as the story follows a mountain climber who becomes entangled with a failed heist. Troubled by the events of the past where he failed to save his best friends girlfriend, Stallone once again plays a psychologically damaged character who chooses feats of intense strength and stamina as his choice of catharsis. Actual climbers aren’t generally a fan of this film since it takes too many liberties in trying to execute jaw dropping leaps, climbs and general action tropes. What’s interesting is that the original cut had even more exaggerated content that was seemingly so unbelievable audiences just didn’t like it, the final film (still ridiculous in some respects) is actually the modest version of what could have been. Despite this the film made over 250 million at the box office and became a lot of peoples entry into climbing as an intense sport.

Vertical Limit

This film from 2000 shows that the appeal and adrenaline that comes with climbing hadn’t been all used up by Stallone’s outing years earlier. Here New Zealand director Martin Campbell takes the drivers seat and seeks to show viewers another internal struggle brought about by mountain climbing. This time the angle is a family unit that is torn apart by the failings of a climb, as the main characters lose their father in an accident early on in the film. This sets the premise for some deep seated blame and a reluctance (for at least one of them) to climb again. Brought together once again by a mountain the pair must overcome their past fears and the immediate dangers in their path in order to succeed. The storms, avalanches and unreliable equipment that hit them on the way however make this far from a walk in the park.

The Dawn Wall

This close up portrait of a pair of ambitious climbers shows the preparations needed to tackle such an enormous feat of strength and durability. With their eyes and minds set on the summit of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson spent six years plotting and planning their route to the top. This film does a fantastic job of showing the psychology behind the concept of climbing. Caldwell himself has been through some trauma before including being held hostage by rebels on a previous climb, losing a finger and now with his marriage on thin ice its clear that conquering the wall means more than just credibility for him. As the film progresses these issues come to the surface as do the efforts of them both as they attempt to be the first to free climb this wall. With just their hands and feet helping them upward The Dawn Wall is a celebrated film that really puts the human side of climbing into perspective.