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Can movies help you prepare for an SHTF situation, even if they are the very best survival movies?

Alas, not really. Survival and preparation are serious things and you can’t learn it from movies. Some documentary films can offer some valuable knowledge and skills, but it can only be an additional and fun part of your prepping.

Even the best survival movies and documentary films are made to entertain a wide audience. For that reason, they often go over the top and add drama, action, and twists to keep us entertained.

Nevertheless, there are some lessons to be taken.

Firstly, it’s easier to visualize possible SHTF events when you see them in movies. It’s a rare opportunity to understand the mental state of protagonists and think about how you would make a decision in a critical situation. But, it’s mostly fun.

So, when you are taking a break, get yourself a bag of popcorn and enjoy a prepper movie or two. You can’t accurately measure entertainment, so here’s the list in no particular order.

Top 16 Best Survival Movies of All Time

1. Contagion

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While the order of this list is pretty random, I put this one on the top of the list for a reason.

Obvious similarities with the COVID-19 pandemic make this movie even more interesting.

The movie was released in 2011 and it was immediately praised as very realistic. Even though it’s pretty much a medical thriller, this movie touches all essential perils of catastrophic events.

You’ll see a breakdown of social order, malicious and incompetent authorities, food shortage, plundering, conspiracy theories, and many different people coping (or not) with the situation.

The all-star cast includes Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and Bryan Cranston.

2. 127 Hours

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It’s not the movie about prepping but it is a compelling survival story.

Based on a true story of mountaineer Aron Ralston, the movie follows his struggle to survive. I don’t really want to reveal any details because it could spoil the fun. Anyway, Ralston said that “ the movie is so factually accurate, it is as close to a documentary as you can get.”

James Franco plays a lead role and he performed brilliantly. Directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle, the movie earned 6 nominations, and it was well-received by both critics and the audience.

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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After a car crash, a young woman wakes up in a bunker with two men.

Howard, the owner of the bunker explains that he found her in the ditch and that there’s radiation out there due to nuclear or chemical failure.

That’s how it starts. Howard is played by John Goodman and he is a hard-line prepper. It is the second installment of the Cloverfield franchise. If you like it, you can also watch the other two movies of the franchise: Cloverfield, and Cloverfield Paradox.

4. Children of Men

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Filmed in 2006, the movie depicts a collapse of society in 2027.

Besides wonderful cinematography and directing, the movie is still thought-provoking and interesting. It features Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine among others.

There isn’t much prepping in the movie, but it’s about survival, hope, and faith.

5. Arctic

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What to do if you get stranded in the wilderness? And the wilderness is all white.

Well, an ordinary person wouldn’t last more than a couple of hours. Mads Mikkelsen plays a pilot who crashed somewhere in the Arctic. But, he is a prepper. Well, at least when it comes to survival skills.

He seemed to be doing quite fine when a helicopter appeared and a pilot tried to land it. It crashed killing the pilot and inflicting severe injuries to the pilot’s wife. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, does it?

6. A Quiet Place

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Silence can speak volumes.

This great movie is about trying to survive an extraterrestrial invasion. It doesn’t sound very fresh or innovative, but it is a distinctive and original movie.

Outstanding acting performances of Emilly Blunt, John Krasinski, and Millicent Simmonds show all fears, responsibilities, and will to survive against all odds.

There’s also a sequel that was supposed to be released in late March 2020, but it was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

7. The Survivalist

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There are so many things a man can do to be prepared.

But when a disaster event happens, one may be forced to make tough choices and decisions. And that’s probably the hardest part.

The Survivalist is a great post-apocalyptic thriller that deals with these dilemmas and basic human instincts. 

8. The Purge

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The Purge is a dystopian action horror movie.

Set in 2027 (there it is again), we see a new thriving world with record low unemployment and crime rates. All thanks to New Founding Fathers, a totalitarian political party, and their invention of The Purge. Annually, all crimes are legal and allowed for 12 hours.

It’s a thought-provoking movie and if you happen to like it, there are three more installments of the franchise and TV series based on the same premises.

9. The Grey

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The story follows a group of oil company workers after their plane crashed in the Alaska wilderness.

But, it’s not a conventional survival movie. These guys are social misfits, ex-cons, and fugitives. They stumbled upon the wolf pack territory and a vicious fight for survival began.

As the movie progresses, it’s difficult to tell who is their worst adversary: is it nature, wolves, their personal flaws, or even God? Watch to find out.

10. Buried

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If you love Ryan Reynolds and survival movies, this is a great movie for you.

Ryan Reynolds plays a civilian truck driver in Iraq. The movie is neither about prepping nor about survival skills, but it’s a thrilling and amazing story about a man buried alive in a coffin with a phone.

It received positive reviews and won several important awards.

11. The Way Back

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What’s worse than being imprisoned in a foreign country?

Well, our protagonists are inmates in the Soviet Union in a Siberian Gulag. A colorful group coming from several different countries tries to escape. To reach Mongolia and freedom, they need to walk more than 1,000 miles.

They managed it somehow, only to find out that Mongolia fell under communist rule as well. India seems to be the closest safe location, but to get there they need to cross Mongolian deserts, Tibet, and the Himalayas!

Is it too much? By the way, the movie is based on an allegedly true story of a Polish army officer, even though many people doubt his claims.

12. The Road

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The Road is a post-apocalyptic survival movie.

The story follows a father and young son on their quest to survive. On their way, they encounter cannibalistic mobs, roaming thieves, and more.

The movie is brutally realistic and it never plays to the audience. It seems like every survivor is either evil or too fearful.

As a counter-balance, there’s only the father’s boundless love for his son and breath-taking landscapes. 

13. Zombieland

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After a couple of dire and brutal movies, maybe it’s time to lighten up a little bit.

While a zombie comedy doesn’t sound very promising, you’ll be sorry if you miss this movie. It’s an entertaining and witty horror comedy.

14. 28 Weeks Later

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This is a double treat: before you watch this movie you should see Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later.

This British classic revitalized the zombie genre. While it wasn’t the first movie featuring fast-moving zombies, the concept became widely popular after this movie. It all starts with a highly contagious virus (!) that induces hysterical uncontrollable rage.

28 Weeks Later is an excellent sequel. While I usually don’t expect too much from sequels, this one lives up to the high standard set by the first movie.

15. Into The Wild

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This is a survival movie that became a classic.

It is based on a true story and an adaptation of the boog of the same name, written by Jon Krakauer.

The story follows a young man who feels corrupted by modern society. He rejects conventional life and leaves to experience life in the wilderness.

While his criticism of society looks pretty reasonable, he is anything but prepared

16. Rescue Dawn

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The film is based on a true story.

An American pilot was shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. After six months of barely surviving in a prison camp with several other prisoners, they try to escape.

Conclusion – Can You Learn About Survival While Having Fun?

Some survival movies are pure fiction, others are based on true stories.

Whatever the case, they show possible worst-case scenarios that might happen to anyone.

You can learn a few tricks from some of these movies, but not too many, to be honest. But, you can get some lessons on how people deal with crises and the importance of rational thinking and small steps.

While entertainment isn’t a crucial part of prepping, it won’t hurt. So, sit back and enjoy the list.