We may be living in the golden age of the action sports documentary. There are so many inspiring and entertaining films available to stream, you’re spoiled for choices.
Below is a roundup of my favorite mountain films to stream, to entertain and motivate.
Rock Climbing Films
Free Solo (1h 40min) – 2018
Probably the world’s least likely sports superstar, Alex Honnold is the subject of Oscar winning documentary directed by husband-and-wife team Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi. If you’ve managed to avoid the hype and not see the film, there is no better time than now. The cinematography is stunning, and the climbing is chilling. While Honnold is neither a sympathetic nor relatable subject, for me the real drama (as we know he will live) lies in the crew’s decisions centered around filming their friend’s potential death.
Dawn Wall (1h 40min) – 2018
$2.99 – Amazon Prime
As the Tom Sawyer to Honnold’s Huck Finn of Yosemite big wall climbing, Tommy Caldwell displays both his emotional fragility and grit on what is to-date the hardest route up el Capitan. If you don’t know Caldwell’s backstory, be prepared for an interesting trip.
Valley Uprising (1h 38min) – 2014
Free on Amazon Prime
Retrospective film recounting the history of rock climbing in Yosemite valley. From the golden age of climbing through multiple generations, the film provides an entertaining and informative look back at the movements which paved the way for the current generation of climbers.
Hilarious and uplifting film following a bunch of climbing buddies as they set sail on the eponymous boat, goofing off, jamming, and making first ascents on epic Arctic granite.
Splitboarding / Ski-Mountaineering Films
Deeper – (1h 16min) -2010
Further (1h 31min) – 2012
Higher (1h 40min) – 2014
Big mountain freerider Jeremy Jones’ three-part trilogy, Jones shunned heli-accessed lines in Alaska for a splitboard and sweat. Deeper seeks to push further into familiar mountain ranges, further sees Jeremy travel to distant locations, and higher culminates in a first descent of the Shangri-la line in the Himalayas.
The films have aged exceptionally well, as they coincided with Jeremy departing long-time sponsor Rosignol to start his own brand. Splitboarding has surged in popularity, in part thanks to Jones, his company, and these hugely inspiring films.
Mount St. Elias (1h 40 minutes) – 2012
Free on Red Bull TV
While never-ending summit to sea ski descent is what dreams are made of, this ski-mountaineering trip certainly has shades of nightmare. A duo of Austrians and an American attempt to ski the longest line in the world in Alaska. Either this film will motivate you for the big mountains, or have you longing after mellow low-angle powder turns.
Lhotse (23min) – 2019
Free on Youtube
Ski-mountaineers Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison hike past a little-known peak on climbers’ left (Everest) to summit Lhotse (world’s fourth-highest peak at 27,940 ft (8,516 m) and descend the epic Lhotse couloir and Lhotse face.
Messner (46min) – 2012
$1.99 on Amazon
Documentary telling the life-story of Reinhold Messner, alpine legend and pioneer of light-and-fast alpine style. Known for his famous solos and for being first climber to summit the 14 mountains in the world above 8,000m without supplemental oxygen. While his place in the history books is clear, he was also a profoundly controversial character. Informative and entertaining, if slightly goofy, documentary.
Meru (1h 20min) – 2015
Free on Amazon Prime
Another Chin / Vasarhelyi masterpiece, this time Chin is in front of the camera. Conrad Anker leads a team of determined alpinists up the shark’s fin. Watching this film, we can be glad we are warm inside, and not strapped to a port-a-ledge on a Himalayan big wall.