10 Best Climbing Movies That You Should Watching Update 04/2024

Best Climbing Movies

Rock climbing is a relatively new sport in the elite sports arena. Even though the sport’s pioneers were pushing the envelope in the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the sport’s legends began to be written about.

In spite of this, the documentation’s quality was at best subpar.

Since then, there have been a number of films and documentaries about rock climbing. We’ve compiled a list of ten of the best rock climbing movies ever made. There is no Hollywood acting in any of these documentaries because they are all based on genuine stories.

Whether you’re an experienced climber or a novice, you’ll find something to inspire you here. These frightening tales from the rock may make you want to chalk up before you watch them!

1. Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo (2018)

MERU filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi have documented Alex Honnold’s generation-defining free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park with absolutely magnificent photography in a documentary called Free Solo.

A terrific athlete with a history of emotional detachment – Alex Honnold in a nutshell – sensitively portrays Honnold’s extraordinary dedication to the lifestyle of dirtbag climbing and addiction to the pursuit of superhuman perfection.

The heart-wrenching film is intertwined with a heart-wrenching love tale that threatens Alex’s stone-solid resolve to fulfill this inconceivable feat.

Get ready for the ride of your life as you witness Alex Honnold preparing to mount 3,200 feet of sheer rock – sans a rope – from the comfort of your own home.

This is not just a film about one man’s journey to prosperity; it is also an example of the human spirit’s tenacity and the ultimate expression of humanity’s longing for spiritual perfection.

Climbers and non-climbers alike will find this film a must-see.

2. The Dawn Wall (2018)

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s seven-year effort to free climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall is the subject of The Dawn Wall, a gripping documentary that chronicles their long journey.

Climber Caldwell’s successful free-ascent of The Dawn Wall is the apex of his career, and sets a new bar for elite climbing.

Caldwell and Jorgeson set a new standard for adventure sports documentaries with their groundbreaking film.

Interviews with Caldwell in the Dawn Wall shed light on Caldwell’s emotional agony following his stint as a hostage in Kyrgyzstan and his divorce from childhood girlfriend Beth Rodden, both of which served as sad motivations for his determination to conquer the Dawn Wall.

In terms of documenting the complex world of professional climbing, the Dawn Wall is one of the best examples.

3. Meru (2015)

Meru (2015)

Meru is both a tale of triumphant survival and a tragic contradiction of defeat. It is a film meant to titillate your senses while depicting the magnificence and agony of alpine climbing and first ascents.

Attempting the 21,000 ft Sharks Fin of Meru, in the Himalayas, by Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk in 2011 began as an icy ascent and evolved into an incredible story about triumphing over insurmountable odds and redemption in the midst of total loss…

Anker, Chin, and Ozturk are alpine expedition climbers who set out on the ultimate test of the master climber by daringly entering as-yet-unclimbed snow-capped glaciers.

In Meru, the three men embark on an arctic adventure with cosmic ambitions that are likely to enthrall novice climbers and experienced explorers alike as they venture into the annals of Arctic exploration and embark on an endeavor of galactic dimensions.

4. Valley Uprising (2014)

Valley Uprising, one of the most renowned climbing documentaries of all time, takes a deep dive into Yosemite’s rich history of rock climbing.

Even from the beginning, climbing has been seen as an anti-establishment, counter-culture sport that attracts those who believe that life should be lived in an unconventional way.

Many of the Valley’s earliest trails were set up by the original Yosemite rock stars, who were known for their wild spirits and raw, carnal energy.

It is also a goal of Valley Uprising to show how rock climbing has evolved over time, beginning with the Golden Age of the mid-20th century (’50s – ’70s) through the Stone Masters of the ’80s and 90s, who first introduced free climbing to the sport, and concluding with the millennial Stone Monkey generation’s final evolution in sport climbing and free soloing.

A must-see documentary for anybody interested in the subversive history of rock climbing, Valley Uprising will leave you with a new perspective on the sport.

5. Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia (2014)

Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia (2014)

A metanoia is “a profound shift of thought; a transforming change of heart.” Metanoia is a Greek term that Jeff Lowe has spent his life to deciphering.

Climbers throughout the world consider him to be one of the finest alpinists and mixed climbers of all time. Lowe is also widely recognized with the development of ice climbing.

On the North Face of the Eiger, Switzerland, Jeff Lowe made history by completing a solo ascent of Metanoia, one of the world’s most difficult climbs.

Amid a mid-life crisis, he accomplished the seemingly insurmountable ascent in 1991.

Prior to this journey, Lowe had no idea what was ahead of him, but now he has a better understanding of what he’s going through and how to deal with it.

Metanoia is one of the greatest biographical-style documentaries about a climber to date, inspiring and thought-provoking.

6. 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010)

Yvon Chouinard (creator of Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins, two of Jeff Johnson’s favorite climbers and conservationists, are featured in a stunningly recorded film on their 1968 trip to Patagonia (founder of The North Face).

A six-month journey that begins on a boat and finishes with an effort to climb the Cerro Corcovado, an amazing peak located in a park built by Tompkins and his wife, Conservacion Patagonica, is Johnson’s attempt to replicate the trip of a lifetime.

Environmental conservation projects are interspersed with Johnson’s magnificent cinematography and storytelling, making the film more than just a documentary about outdoor adventure, but also an emotional call to action to preserve the natural environment.

7. King Lines (2008)

King Lines (2008)

Sharma’s name became synonymous with climbing at the beginning of the 21st century.

The semi-autobiographical film King Lines features Chris Sharma’s innovative climbing and route-finding methods.

His life has revolved around the pursuit of the “royal line”—the most difficult, seductive line of rock that demands extraordinary inventiveness to climb—since he was a child.

Chris Sharma’s “ultimate global mission to reinvent the achievable in the vertical world” is chronicled in King Lines.

To honor one of the greatest climbers in history, King Lines is the best climbing documentary ever made.

8. Higher Ground (2007)

Who decides to become a mountaineer? Interviews with climbers from a number of disciplines are used in the film Higher Ground to try to address this topic.

This incredible rock climbing montage includes both traditional and sport climbing, as well as huge wall climbing, ice climbing, and alpine climbing. Women ice climbers in British Columbia are included in the documentary Higher Ground, unlike earlier climbing documentaries that have concentrated primarily on men.

Furthermore, it provides a unique viewpoint on non-professional climbing and the “why” of why climbers do what they do.

It’s a joy to watch even if you’re not a climber because of the stunning surroundings and fantastic soundtrack, which showcase famous routes around North America.

9. The Sharp End (2007)

The Sharp End (2007)

A mix of stories from extreme climbers, from highball bouldering to wingsuit BASE flying, are included in this compelling documentary.

Discover the world’s most accomplished climbers as they tackle some of the most dangerous challenges on the planet. This includes the likes of Alex Honnold and Alex Potter, as well as the likes of Lisa Rands and Steph Davis.

In this film, the breathtaking landscapes are complemented by engaging interviews and nerve-wracking rock-climbing sequences from all around the world. An fascinating mix of madness and unwavering determination allows the climbers portrayed in The Sharp End to achieve seemingly impossible feats.

If you’re interested in learning more about the severe parts of climbing, this is a must-see film.

10. Touching the Void (2004)

When Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out in 1985 to make the first ascent of Siula Grande’s west face, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

When it comes to climbing, and especially mountaineering, the ascent is usually less dangerous than the inevitable drop. This lesson is learned the hard way, and Simpson and Yates are put to the test of their lives.

Extreme alpine climbing has grown exponentially in recent years, but few have been able to match the incredible account of a climber who survived a near-fatal fall.

There are few single-handed mountain rescues that can compete with Simpson and Yates’ feats on Siula Grande’s 21,000-foot summit, which they accomplished in record time.

Touching the Void is a film that will leave you with nightmares of epic descents for years to come if you’re in the mood for a nail-biter.

Bonus: Pretty Strong (2019)

If you’re a female climber who’s puzzled at the lack of female characters in the documentaries listed above, don’t be!

In the spring or summer of 2019, a Kickstarter-funded documentary called Pretty Strong, which features entirely female climbers, will be released.

Ex-Climbing Magazine Editor-in-Chief Julie Ellison teamed with the Never Not Collective, a female-led, grassroots media group, to produce this feature-length film about female rock climbers.

Be on the lookout for screenings of Pretty Strong next year, as it will be a must-see for climbers! You can also check out REI’s Within Reach, a short documentary-style film that examines the benefits of women climbing together before Pretty Strong comes out.