10 Best Climbing Movies

Saturday, March 5 by Tom Gordon

Some of the most tense scenes in films can be found among this list of the 10 best climbing movies ever. The threat of characters falling to their deaths on cliffs or mountains heightens the drama and makes you grip your armrest a little tighter until they reach the top… if they actually do so. This list of the best climbing movies of all time includes movies with just one key climbing scene or with several such scenes, because climbing is at the heart of the story.

  1. "127 Hours." If you can handle the gutwrenching scenes where James Franco cuts off his arm in order to live, you can handle just about anything in the movies. Franco is great in this film, which really puts you on the rocks, cliffs and ravines favored by climbers with a lust for life.
  2. "The Eiger Sanction." This 1975 classic starring Clint Eastwood is a favorite among action movie fans and climbing enthusiasts alike. Eastwood plays a former assassin lured out of retirement to avenge a murdered friend. But much of the action takes place on the Eiger, a dangerous peak in the Swiss Alps.
  3. "Touching the Void." Though a documentary, this movie features re-enactments of a famous incident in South America, where a stranded climber finally had to cut loose a comrade who was dangling from a rope with no way to climb up to safety. The ordeal is gut-wrenching, but this film is considered one of the best by hard-core climbers.
  4. "Where Eagles Dare." Eastwood again is on a mission that takes him up a European mountainside, this time in one of the best  World War II men-on-a-mission movies every made. A hidden Nazi fortress high up in the mountains is the target of a British raid that includes curiously, one American. Lots of plot twists and good old-fashioned popcorn entertainment.
  5. "The Guns of Navarone." To begin their mission to take out two giant artillery cannons, a band of carefully selected commandos must scale a sheer cliff in a driving rainstorm. Led by Major Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck), the team includes no other expert climbers, so the tension is raised even more.
  6. "For Your Eyes Only." Roger Moore plays James Bond, who must climb up a cliff to reach a remote monastery. However, he's not getting much help from the bad guys above him. He finally ends up using shoe laces to rig up a climbing aid to help him reach the top. Even serious climbers give this scene props for ingenuity.
  7. "Cliffhanger." The comic book action may be only-in-the-movies stuff, but this Sylvester Stallone movie is full of great climbs, falls, near-misses and stunts atop an icy mountain.
  8. "K2." Based on the famous play, this 1991 movie starring the always-intense Michael Biehn tells the story of two climbers trapped below the summit of the world's second-highest peak.
  9. "Vertical Limit." Peter Garrett (Chris O'Donnell) races to save his sister (Robin Tunney) and her team, who are trapped on K2. This 2000 movie is all about the action, though the emotional angle of the story will keep you intrigued. Nitpickers may point out that just about every obstacle that could face climbers somehow crops up in the story, but that only adds to the tension as the rescue teams races the clock and the elements to reach the stranded climbers.
  10. "Deliverance." The scene where Jon Voight's character has to scale a cliff on his own because Burt Reynolds' character is lying on the rocks with a busted leg is as intense as any other scene in a movie filled with nerve-wracking moments.