Tis the season for rubbish Christmas movies… back to back on the telly box. I admit it, I’ve been drawn in, watching romcoms and silly comedies galore instead of doing anything particularly productive already this year. But the problem with Christmas films? They are hardly inspiring. In fact I might go as far to say that they actively lead to low moods and lethargy…
There are some classics, of course, but the sickly sweet lovey-dovey always-snowy Christmas film genre shouldn’t be touched with a barge pole. If you’ve got time to spare in front of the tellybox this winter, whether it’s cosying up after a day enjoying the countryside, or just because you fancy an hour or two with your feet up treating yourself to some down time, why not try one of these films to inspire your outdoors life instead?
A chronicle of one woman’s one thousand one hundred mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.
I dream of doing a big American through-hike such as the Pacific Crest Trail and so any film that depicts someone heading off for several months gets my attention. This tale, based on a true story, made me smile as well as think, and I’d highly recommend giving it a watch. I certainly likened myself to Cheryl, played by Reece Witherspoon, when I first picked up my pack for the West Highland Way. And I could see myself throwing my hiking boot down a mountain in anger. But I guess I should point out that the similarities stopped there! I recently listened to the audio book on which the film was based and, well, wow.
83 year old Edie believes that it is never too late – packing an old camping bag, leaving her life behind and embarking on an adventure she never got to have – climbing the imposing Mount Suilven in Scotland.
This is probably my favourite Hollywood style film in this list, and I can’t deny that Suilven went on my list when I was not even halfway through it. Although Edie can certainly be described as stubborn and more than a little naïve, even in her advanced years, I totally loved the depiction of her sheer determination to get up that mountain, and how she touched the lives of those around her in different ways.
127 Hours (2010)
A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.
I appreciated the light-hearted touch this otherwise difficult to stomach story was given in the movie. The against-the-odds story of an underdog nature of the drama can’t be denied, nor the fact that it’s going to make you wince more than once, but it is upbeat and thankfully isn’t full of clichés. I can’t tell you how close to reality the film-version of the story is, of course.
Into the Wild (2007)
After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
One of the strangest films I think I’ve ever watched, the use of silence gave it a real eeriness and creepiness. I’m told the storytelling is far from accurate, but the story was fascinating all the same, and it’s a tale I’ll not forget in a hurry. Remember to learn your edible flowers and plants, friends!
The Edge (1997)
An intellectual billionaire and two lesser men struggle to band together and survive after getting stranded in the Alaskan wilderness with a blood-thirsty Kodiak Bear hunting them down.
I’ll admit I watched this film because I was told it had some amazing scenery in it, and it does. I also enjoy stories of challenge, of what can be accomplished in a do or die situation, and this is indeed a survival movie. Needless to say, I’m glad I saw this film after I camped in bear country over in the USA.
Free Solo (2018)
Alex Honnold attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan.
Would you trust your life to your big toe? I admit I’ve never really seen the pull of free solo climbing, but I do admire those who take their sport to its limits. This documentary film is utterly fascinating, and incredibly hard to watch in places. The cinematography is breath taking, as is the climb itself. What got me, though, was how fascinating I found Alex Honnold – dry, intelligent, and deeply confident in his own strength.
A Walk in the Woods (2015)
After spending two decades in England, Bill Bryson returns to the U.S., where he decides the best way to connect with his homeland is to hike the Appalachian Trail with one of his oldest friends.
The best comedy is relatable, and so hikers will certainly smile at this one. The two hikers at the centre of the story get rain, snow and mud, they annoy other hikers, they meet a hungry bear, and they have to deal with tricky ledges. It won’t get the top billing, but is a lovely Sunday afternoon watch, especially thanks to the quiet moments that remind us of what it means to be alive.
The Bucket List (2007)
Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
This is a buddy movie through and through, but it’s easy to watch and I enjoyed the friendship depicted, along with the choice of activities that were on their lists. The film is less morbid than you might imagine, but it did make me think; I did go back to my own bucket list at the end, and made a few changes – and a few plans on how I could make sure I didn’t leave my dreams quite so late in life.
Life of a Mountain: A Year on Scafell Pike / Blencathra (2014 / 2018)
England’s highest mountain(s) as seen by its farmers, climbers and conservationists.
Terry Abraham is an incredibly talented outdoors photographer and storyteller, and I thoroughly enjoyed both his Lake District based documentaries. Following the people who live, work and play around Scafell Pike and Blencathra, the cinematography is beautiful and poetic, and they are a delight to watch. If you’re less about Hollywood stories and more about nature documentaries, then you need to see these. I am very much looking forward to the third film in Terry’s trilogy – Hellvelyn – which comes out in May.
Whether these films inspire your next outdoors adventure, or put you off, is up to you. But what I can say is they all tell the stories of people who went off and did some amazing things, and I definitely want some of that.
I’d love to hear what other films – fiction or documentary – have inspired your outdoors adventure. And dare I ask which Christmas movies sit in your “classics” category?! I might consider sharing mine if you do…
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