There really is no substitute for being out in the wild, device-free, in the thick of it. But, with lockdowns, family commitments, too many working hours, and everything else life throws at us, sometimes taking that first step into the natural world just isn’t possible.
Society’s trappings can be escaped in another way though, rather than physically leaving your home city, you can opt for the outdoors to join you in your house. Streaming services cater to every taste, and now the top dons such as Netflix and Amazon Prime offer hundreds of hours of outdoor movies and shows.
Read on to discover in no particular order the best outdoors movies out there, past and present. These will just be documentary movies, so no John Candy classics in this post!
Ar Gefn y Ddraig | Riding The Dragon
There’s a handful of documentary films out there about the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race, but this one is the most wholesome. Known to most as the world’s hardest mountain race, this film showcases the beauty and pain the mountains of Wales have to offer.
Starting at the ancient Conwy castle, it’s very likely you’ll need subtitles on for this one as we follow a very patriotic Welshman Huw Jack Brassington as he attempts to run five ultra-marathons in five days, having never before run a single ultra. This could well be many viewer’s first experiences of watching a film that predominantly features dialogue in the Welsh language.
The scenes will fly by, though, mainly due to the lovable character of Huw. This occasionally self-deprecating man has big dreams but doesn’t have any arrogance to go along with them.
No matter how awful the challenges of the day are, when faced with extreme levels of exhaustion, he still treats his fellow man and woman with the utmost respect. For a motivational movie, it’s a pleasure to watch the struggles of triumphs of a man that’s much easier to relate to when compared to the David Goggins type goliaths of the world we see a lot of today.
This one is still available for free on Prime and really shouldn’t be missed. There are no big egos (except a moment where an Englishman throws a hissy fit after missing the cut-off time) on show here, considering the event’s magnitude.
At just 56 minutes, it offers a brief yet informative insight into the camaraderie of the ultra community.
Alone In The Wilderness
Richard Proenneke is a household name in the world of preppers and survivalists. He was a man who lived alone in the Alaskan wilderness for almost thirty years, starting in the late sixties. Thankfully for us, Dick filmed a fragment of his decades spent alone on 8mm film.
This film would probably be regarded in our modern times as unintentional ASMR. It sure is a very relaxing experience. Beyond that, though, there is real knowledge on show from a man who had a deep understanding of the natural world around him.
Dick brought only the metal parts for most of his tools, making the handles for himself out of local timber. He also shows why he picked the location for his cabin and how he made it from scratch, completely alone.
One of the most impressive features is the bear-proof front door, which has ornate wooden hinges hand-crafted by our protagonist.
To get the full Alaskan experience, this film has to be seen in its entirety, and it would appear that finding it online without using torrents is becoming increasingly difficult. You can purchase it physically here or enjoy sections of it here.
The Race That Eats Its Young
Like our previous running entry, there are plenty more movies out there about the subject of the Barkley Marathons. Still, this one is the Godfather in regards to storytelling and production value.
This film covers the 2012 Barkley Marathon in great detail, capturing some finishes that need to be seen to be believed. The USP of our previously mentioned ultra movie was its setting. In this case, it’s the race culture and strange rules thought up by its creator Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell.
Laz keeps his sadistic spectacle small despite its huge cult following. There are only 40 runners per year. Applicants must submit an application and receive a letter of condolence if they are accepted.
They then enjoy running five 20-mile unmarked loops with only two “aid stations” (water on a table that often freezes). The race has 54,200 feet of vertical climb and is considered one of the world’s hardest ultramarathons.
The loop’s distance is contested by participants, many saying it is as long as 26 miles (which makes more sense considering the race’s title). The quirky race starts with a very unique signal. Once a fit runner himself, Laz starts the race by lighting one of his preferred Camel cigarettes.
Racers must then navigate their way around the course, which features many off-road segments. Then they must complete a mission of finding between 9 and 14 books (this varies each year) along the route and remove the page that corresponds to their race number. To confuse matters more, their race number changes each lap.
The psychological and physical pain this race causes is clear, and this film displays it clearly. Watch as people who quit this hellish race are greeted by a patronizing rendition of taps on the bugle.
This film is about a sadist who has designed a race or masochist. It’s a serious undertaking, but to enjoy it, it would appear that one mustn’t take themselves too seriously.
This movie featured a long run on Netflix but is now, unfortunately, part of Prime’s pay-to-watch ensemble.
So there are three movies to escape from gridlocked traffic, social media trends, and daily COVID-19 news updates. I picked movies from a while back to ensure no mention of the world’s current problems. What’s the point of escapism if you can’t escape?