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The Best Survival Movies and TV Shows

For many preppers, trying to convince them of the need to be prepared without sounding like a paranoid maniac can be challenging. One way to very subtly introduce the topic of preparedness to your spouse, family members, or close friends is to watch some survival movies and TV shows together (without disclosing the real reason you’re doing it).

As you start watching, you can occasionally point out or mention the kinds of natural disasters or events that could be relevant to your location. It’s better if you use real events that occurred in your area for example, “remember when we had that little earthquake a couple years ago?” or “this is a lot like when the power was out for a week after that big ice storm last winter”.

Reminding your family of smaller events that have already occurred in your local area makes the connection for them between fiction and reality.

So, without further ado, let’s see what shows, TV series and movies are the most interesting to watch. Just keep in mind that many are full of errors and, in reality, you should do the exact opposite of what they teach you.

The Best of the Best Survival Movies and Shows

Doomsday and End of the World Movies are the extreme examples of what we may need to prepare for in the future. While watching these types of movies with your family, watch for opportunities to point out or comment on how dangerous desperate people can be, how easy it is to get separated from other family members, and the importance of having one or more established rendezvous points.

worm farming

2012 (2009)

A series of global catastrophes threaten to wipe out the human race. When it’s discovered that the government and wealthy elite predicted this event and have secretly been preparing to leave most of the world to die, a small group must fight for their right to a chance at survival. (John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet)

Doomsday (2008)

A virus outbreak in the UK results in the infected population being walled into Scotland and left to die. Years later the virus returns to threaten London and when it’s discovered that there are actually survivors in Scotland, a team is sent back through the wall to find a cure and bring it back. They find a strange Mad Max meets Narnia type world who is not exactly eager to help those who left them to die. (Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Alexander Siddig, Lee-Anne Liebenberg)

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Global warming sets off an international ice storm that deep freezes the entire planet.  (Dennis Quaid, Jake Byllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Dash Mihok)

The Omega Man (1971)

Based on 1954 novel, I Am Legend, Charlton Heston stars as an army doctor who battles mutant humanoids in an attempt to create an antidote serum for a plague that wiped out most of the human population. (Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo)

Doomsday Preppers (2011 TV Series)

Every prepper has their own idea of what might be coming. While some of the people and stories presented seem far-fetched and extreme, there are some good ideas to be found in this series. Would not recommend this one to watch with skeptical family and friends as at times the preppers in this show are made to seem paranoid and crazy.

Wilderness Shows and Movies

127 Hours (2010)

The true to life tale of Aron Ralston whose day trip into the National Park Canyons of Utah turns into a horrific test of bravery and endurance. (James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara)

Alone in the Wilderness plus Alaska Silence & Solitude & The Frozen North (Documentary Series)

Probably one of the best series of wilderness survival documentaries ever made. Shows Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke, a survivalist and naturalist, who lived isolated at Twin Lakes, high up in the Alaskan mountains, from 1968 through 1999. Plenty of footage of him building his own log cabin, canoeing, and great footage of wildlife.

The Grey

Liam Neeson as oil man, John Ottway, is stranded in the wilderness of Alaska with his team after a plane crash. In addition to the unforgiving wilderness environment, they must fight off a hungry pack of wolves. (Liam Neeson, Joe Anderson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts)

Into the Wild (2007)

A tale based on the real life journey of Christopher McCandless who sells everything after graduating from Emory University and journeys to the wilderness of Alaska. He goes in unprepared and without maps, man unprepared faces nature. This movie is more of a what NOT to do lesson when it comes to survival. (Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden)

Snowshoes and Solitude: A Year in the Wabakimi Wilderness

Renowned survivalist, Les Stroud, and partner Sue Jamison bid adieu to modern life. They head to Canada where they chronicle their year spent in the Wabakimi Wilderness. While there they attempt to live life as people did in 500 years ago by creating fire sans matches and using a stone axe to build a shelter.

Alive (1993)

In October of 1972, a Uruguay rugby team who crash landed in the Andes mountains. In order to survive this two-month trial, they resort to cannibalism. (Ethan Hawk, Josh Hamilton, Vincent Spano, Bruce Ramsay)

The Way Back (2010)

This movie begins in Siberia, known for being one of the planet’s most unfriendly places. The daring escape of Polish POW Janus Wiexzczek and a trio of inmates leads to a survival tale infused with measured political undercurrent. (Jim Sturgess, Dragos Bucur, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan)

Out of the Wild (Discovery Channel series)

Nine people are plucked from their comfortable modern lives and dropped into the wilderness of places like Alaska and the summit of Mount Roraima in Venezuela with very few supplies. No personal toiletries like toothpaste, deodorant, etc. They can opt out at any time by pressing their GPS locator.

Les Stroud “Survivor Man”

Renowned survivalist, Les Stroud, shows what it really takes to survive in the wilderness by yourself with less than ideal supplies. In environments that range from desert, swamp, artic, and mountains, he has to survive seven days all on his own.  Great way to be introduced to ancient survival techniques passed down from the natives of each area.

Surviving Disaster (2009 TV Series)

Former Navy Seal, Cade Courtley, takes viewers through simulated catastrophic situations (Fire, Hurricane, Home Invasion, Mall Shooting, Nuclear Attack, Pandemic, etc) in an attempt to arm them with what they need to learn to survive the unthinkable. Courtley provides helpful tips, hands on instruction, expert interviews, and debunking of myths and common misperceptions.

Historical Documentaries

American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl

This PBS documentary tells the heart wrenching story of how people survived almost a decade of dust storms, hunger, and disease brought about by drought.

American Experience-Influenza 1918

The flu epidemic of 1918 killed over 675,000 people. PBS takes a historical look at how this happened and the impact it had its people.

The Revenant (2015)

A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left to die by his own hunting team (Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson)

Touching the Void (2003-Documentary)

An tale of survival that follows two mountain climbers and as they make a dangerous trek up the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. (Simon Yates, Joe Simpson, Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron)

Nuclear Attack/Terrorism or War Movies and Shows

Children of Men (2006)

Set in 2027 in a world filled with nuclear fallout and horror, women are infertile. A former activist and a small group of sympathizers helps one miraculously pregnant woman travel to a sanctuary at sea. (Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine)

World Trade Center (2006)

Two Port Authority officers become trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center (Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal)

Right at Your Door (2006)

A dirty bomb explodes in L.A. clogging the freeways and dispersing a cloud of toxicity over the area. (Mary McCormack, Rory Cochrane, Tony Perez, Scotty Noyd Jr.)

Jericho (2006 TV series)

A mushroom cloud over Denver, Colorado results in lights out for a little Kansas town. The residents struggle to survive as they seek answers about the blast without the benefits of modern communication systems. (Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, Ashley Scott, Kenneth Mitchell)

Defiance (2008)

This movie is a real life tale of the Bielski brothers, who escaped into the forest following the murder of their parents at the hands of Nazi’s. The brothers team up with other to not only create a rebellion but to protect and care for over 1,000 civilian Jewish people in makeshift shelters throughout the woods. (Liev Schreiber, Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell)

Weather Related and Geological Disasters

When watching these weather related and geological event shows, even though some of them are extreme fictional situations, use them to talk about important safety issues, especially when chaos is all around you. Stress the importance of remaining calm and taking calculated actions, having situational awareness, and how to find resources that most people will overlook. It’s also important to talk about how to handle making tough decisions about when you can help another person or family member and when doing so actually jeopardizes your own life.

San Andreas (2015)

A series of earthquakes along the San Andreas fault wreak extreme havoc on California coastline. Great display of situational awareness and how to find and make use of overlooked resources. (Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Carla Gugino)

Volcano (1997)

A volcanic eruption in downtown L.A. threatens to destroy the city. (Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gaby Hoffmann, Don Cheadle)

Twister (1996)

A couple on the verge of divorce must work together to refine a data driven advance tornado warning system. (Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz)

NWAWKNI Scenarios

Revolution (2012 TV Series)

The story of survival fifteen years following a global blackout. This series demonstrates not only how quickly the world as we know it can change but also that sometimes the most perilous enemy you may fight while trying to rebuild society are other people hungry for power.

Jeremiah

A fatal virus wiped out almost every human over the age of thirteen. Fifteen years later, Jeremiah and friend travel the country in search of the Valhalla Sector where they believe a viral researcher who is also Jeremiah’s father, may have survived.

Hunger Games Series (Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay I & II)

A series of movies based on the bests selling novel trilogy by Suzanne Collins. In the dystopia world of Panem (post disaster North America), there are twelve districts and the elite Capitol city. The Hunger Games are a mandatory survival of the fittest competition using children from each district. The Hunger Games series once again proves that when rebuilding post-disaster, the most dangerous thing you will face are other people, hungry for power. (Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks)

The Road (2009)

An ill father and his son travel to the sea in a dangerous post-apocalyptic world. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling novel, The Road.  A survival story set in a dark post-apocalyptic world. (Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Robert Duvall)

Zombies and Alien Invasions

The Walking Dead TV Series (2010)

Now nearing the close of its 6th season, this popular TV series is so much more than a “zombie” show. If you pay attention and ignore the zombies, you can find perfect examples of how to survive in a world gone crazy. Sometimes the most dangerous thing you face post-SHTF are other desperate, hungry people. (Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Danai Guirira, Chandler Riggs, Lauren Cohan

War of the Worlds (2005)

The earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines. (Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Several survivors of a worldwide plague that turns people into zombies take refuge in a mid-western shopping mall. (Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Jake Weber)

Fear the Walking Dead (2015 AMC TV Series)

This series starts off in a typical suburban/urban area where a virus of as of yet unknown origin is turning humans into zombies. Entire communities are quarantined and patrolled by military personnel. Family members are separated several times through no fault of their own and must figure out how and where to reunite. Great for pointing out what can happen in a crisis. (Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie)

Kids Movies with a Survival theme

My Side of the Mountain (1969)

The story of Sam, an intelligent child who is disappointed when his family’s summer excursion is cancelled. He leaves home and this story shows his journey as he tries to establish his independence while battling mother nature. Great way to get kids interested in survival topics. (Teddy Eccles, Theodore Bikel, Tudi Wiggins, Paul Hebert)

Wilderness Family Triology

Follow along on the adventures of this modern family who leaves behind the conveniences of the big city for a new life in the wilderness mountains.

Wrap-Up

It’s so important to bring out spouse, family members, and friends into the fold when it comes to being prepared. Watching some of the movies or TV shows on the above list is one way to drive home what kinds of disasters can occur, how quickly chaos rears its head, how easily families can be separated, and just how dangerous other people can be.

What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

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About Megan Stewart

Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart. For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared for whatever may come along. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of six grandsons, is learning everything she can about preparedness, basic survival, and self-sufficient homesteading. She is passionate about sharing that knowledge so that others can be increasingly prepared to protect their families.

8 comments

  1. Pretty good list. I have seen most of them. War of the world’s was kinda like a.how to
    be a looser. Staring Tom cruse!

  2. I would like to see an update including those from National Geographic Channel Shows.

    • I would gladly add them to the list Nana, I’m just not familiar with them at all. I see there are quite a few, I honestly was unaware. Would you mind letting me know which ones you feel are particularly good for survival techniques and concepts? I see the Remote Survival Series–are you familiar with those? Anyone else have favorite survival episodes from National Geographic? Please weigh in and I’ll update the article. Thanks!

  3. PANIC IN YEAR ZERO with Ray Milland.

  4. To bad you did this before 10 Cloverfield Lane it is the best prepper movie so far and I am hoping that Amerigeddon will be even better but San Andreas was just a poorly made hack of three different movies combined

  5. What does “NWAWKNI” stand for (as in “NWAWKNI Scenarios”)?

  6. A Boy And His Dog. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAPLJRKyJLk Rarely posted anywhere 😉

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