As the world of climbing grows, so does the amount of movies, books, and general media about rock climbing. We've compiled a list of our favorite climbing movies (in no particular order) that make for a great movie night. So grab your climbing partner and some popcorn, and dive in!
An American Ascent (2014)
This film follows the first African American expedition to summit Denali, the highest peak in North America. Ascending almost 20,000 feet over multiple weeks, the team documents their experience as they climb. Each climber shares their background in the outdoors and what the journey means to them or as they or experience the beauty and brutality of such a mission.
The film addresses issues of racism, inequality, and inaccessibility within the outdoors and discusses what it means for the team to make such a trip. An American Ascent tackles what it will take to break down the barriers between so many individuals and the outdoors while displaying how life-changing the experience of nature can be.
To learn more about this expedition and how underrepresentation in the outdoors is being challenged, check out the book The Adventure Gap by James Edward Mills (a climber on the trip).
Valley Uprising (2014)
Valley Uprising tells the story of three generations of early Yosemite climbers starting in the 1950s and working up to today. The film shows off the first accents of some of the most prominent rock faces in the national park, with big climbing names like Warren Harding, Jim Bridwell, Tommy Caldwell, and Alex Honnold taking the stage.
As the history of Yosemite climbers is told, this movie highlights the cultural conflicts between climbers and non-climbers. With this history, Valley Uprising encourages consideration of how and why climbing exists the way it does today. It also reflects the lens climbing has been viewed through for so long and perhaps even leaves room for future adventurers to challenge just what it means to be a climber.
This documentary follows Lor Sabourin as they work through the most challenging multi-pitch of their career– a climb left unnamed, perhaps not unintentionally. Lor speaks on their experience as a trans climber both growing up and today and discusses issues of inclusivity and accessibility within the climbing world.
This film directly challenges how value has traditionally been defined in climbing. Lor asks the viewer to consider what is gained from being the first, best, or most challenging when that form of success is so short-lived. Instead of continuing to endure traditional expectations, Lor offers their alternative– one where health and community care are prioritized in climbing.
They/Them explores lessons of growth and compassion through Lor's journey of understanding vulnerability and the importance of self-care. But, more importantly, it sheds light on the changes future generations of climbers are making space for in the outdoors.
Suppose you're searching for something more eye-catching than your average climbing film. This one is for you. Cholitas is the story of five Bolivian indigenous women who aspire to climb the highest mountain in America. This group, all in their 40s and 50s, stands out in more than one way– they wear brightly colored traditional dresses as they summit. These climbers symbolize liberation and empowerment for all women who wish to challenge expectations, especially those who want to climb regardless of what rules they've been told.
As you hear each climber's story and know what mountaineering means to them, the importance and joy of this journey for the Cholita climbers grow clear. This movie won't just make you laugh and cry. It will challenge your assumptions, demand you pay attention, and help guide you to a better understanding of all that climbing can be.
Touching the Void (2004)
If you're looking for a movie that will inspire you to keep going in the face of any odds, Touching the Void is the film for you. This docudrama is based on the book by Joe Simpson, documenting his and climbing partner Simon Yates' almost perilous descent of a 21,000-foot peak in the Peruvian Andes. After Simpson takes a terrible fall and breaks his leg, Yates is forced to cut the rope, killing Simpson but saving himself or letting them both die. Yates cuts the rope and returns to camp, thinking his friend is dead. Little does he know that Simpson is still alive and fighting for his life to make it back to camp before it's too late. An incident that sparked climbing-world-famous controversies for years to come, this story is packed with twists so insane you won't quite believe them until you remember it's real.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!