Top 5 Climbing Movies of All Time

It seems that every couple of years, Hollywood gets the idea to make a movie with climbing as the main theme. For real climbers, these are usually amusing affairs with all kinds of technical blunders, improper use of gear and lingo, and general mayhem. God only knows what kind of impression it gives the general public. After watching a couple of these recently, I put together this list of the top climbing movies ever made. Leave a comment if you’ve got any good ones to add to the list!

#5 – Take it to the Limit

A recent entry, I don’t know how this one went under the radar for so long. Rappelling off tunnels, water towers, and speed climbing up 5.4 slabs really keeps the excitement going. Suffice it to say that if you aren’t pumped to “Screw this, let’s go top roping” by the end of the movie, you may not have a pulse! You can read Tracy’s full review here.

#4 – Vertical Limit

I remember seeing this in the theater with a couple climbing buddies when I was in college. The opening scene depicts a ridiculous and overly dramatic sequence in which a climber decks from high on a desert tower after the rope had to be cut to save the rest of the party. We all burst out laughing, while the rest of the audience sat there in silence (and no doubt disgusted at our lack of decency.) The rest of the film was held to this same high standard, with plenty of nitro explosions and incredibly huge dynos with ice tools. Maybe this is what a climbing action comic book would be like.

You can watch the incredible bad opening here.

#3 – Cliffhanger

Maybe one of the most widely viewed of the mainstream climbing movies due to the presence of actor Sylvester Stalone. It gave folks a lot of wrong impressions about the sport, like a harness buckle being able to bend like silly putty, or bolt guns that instantly set an anchor in any stone (Don’t we wish we could get our hands on one of those!). Of course its got the terrorist element, so some fun action makes it worth checking out.

#2 – K2

I have to admit, we watched this movie almost weekly when I first got into climbing in high school. From the opening late night buildering to splitter granite cracks way off the deck to the intensity of climbing K2, we were hooked! Add in some witty banter, and this is a sure fire winner. It appears they did a decent amount of research for this one, as you wont find too many criticisms, like hey why is he clipped to this or doing it like that (See Take it To the Limit for that!)

#1 – The Eiger Sanction

Clint Eastwood and mountain climbing, how can it get any better? Clint Eastwood is an agent sent to “sanction” a climber in Europe. His training takes him up desert towers in Zion and Monument Valley and his mission comes to an exciting climax on the north face of the Eiger. This will probably stand forever as the best climbing related movie to ever come out of Hollywood. Enough said.

UPDATE: As many have pointed out in the comments, this list is only Hollywood style movies, not actual “climbing” movies.

80 Responses to Top 5 Climbing Movies of All Time

  1. Cliffhanger – best film, without a doubt!

    Movies May 14, 2008 at 8:31 am Reply
  2. You left out this classic, the James Bond thriller, For Your Eyes Only. It’s got a great climbing scene in it that takes place in Greece. Super classic. It’s perhaps only a little better than Take It To The Limit. Check out the trailer on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqLngSOGuTQ

    Mike May 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm Reply
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  4. What? No nod to “The Climb”, featuring the stunt talent of Michael Freeman?

    Matt Stanley May 14, 2008 at 4:55 pm Reply
  5. I forgot about that one! I wonder if there is a trailer online anywhere?

    BJ Sbarra May 14, 2008 at 4:59 pm Reply
  6. Heh heh, I’ve never seen K2 before, but it looks fun! Can’t go wrong with hot-pink crampons and ice axes, that’s for sure.

    Kate T-C May 14, 2008 at 5:29 pm Reply
  7. No list of climbing movies is complete without my personal favorite, Touching the Void. I haven’t seen the movies listed above, so I’m not sure if this is a sarcastic list of “climbing” movies or a list of seriously good films. Touching the Void is seriously good. Here’s the trailer:

    SleepyTom May 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm Reply
  8. Hmm, the trailer didn’t imbed, so here’s the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9Y6MNyWp6s

    SleepyTom May 15, 2008 at 7:35 pm Reply
  9. What about Masters of Stone 1 or 2? Steep routes, mullets, lycra, bad music, & hilarious antics.

    Derek May 16, 2008 at 1:59 am Reply
  10. Touching the void should be #1. It’s not even a close competition.

    Ben May 16, 2008 at 2:06 am Reply
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  12. No real climbing movies here. FAIL..
    Big Up productions

    Will June 9, 2008 at 5:19 am Reply
  13. Obviously we are talking about hollywood productions here, not the movies made specifically for climbers. touching the void was ok if you can stand listening to that self centered overly dramatic buffoon for that long.

    BJ Sbarra June 9, 2008 at 3:52 pm Reply
  14. I like many climbers came here looking for decent opinions about climbing films not failed overstated american hero ‘u can make it’ bullshit. Any thoughts on what to check out for real climbing film peeps? Masters of stone was crazy but old and dated. I wanna see what the world is doing now, where have we pushed the level

    hooked and obsessed

    gert July 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm Reply
  15. hooked & obsessed,

    I recommend buying ´Set in Stone´ with Dave Birkett or ´E11´ featuring Dave McLeod if you want the best trad climbing.

    Dave Shackleton October 30, 2008 at 12:07 am Reply
  16. I don’t understand putting Vertical Limit behind Cliffhanger. I think Vertical Limit tried to use real climbing scenarios, even though they may have been exaggerated. In Cliffhanger there was not a chance of any of those things happening from start to finish; doing technical rock climbing in a hiking boot, running around in a t-shirt when the temperature was obviously well below freezing, etc. After watching Cliffhanger I was pretty well put-off and after watching Vertical Limit I felt good about the sport. A note about Eiger, as I understand Eastwood was into climbing at that point and things were done in as close to a real fashion as possible. I think George Kennedy (now gone sadly) being dragged up the rock was way past possible. Another note about Cliffhanger; the larger the body mass the less likely to be a climber; those guys in Cliffhanger had no chance where as Eastwood looked like a climber.

    Chuck W. April 9, 2009 at 12:44 pm Reply
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  18. The best climbing film of all time in my opinion is the German film “The North Face”, (Nordwand). Not only is it a true story, (Toni Kurtz and Andreas Hinterstoissers fateful attempt of the North Face of The Eiger),but the production is top class and the Music is fantastic.The climbing appears to be faithfully reconstructed and the cliff face action scenes are stunning. if you havn’t seen it, get it now!!

    Drewski May 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm Reply
  19. No question that Clint Eastwood in the Eiger Sanction is topnotch but for pure viewing pleasure it is hard to beat Take It to the Limit. The free-soloing scenes on “Little Dome” are worth the price of admission alone. Many thanks to TW for delivering this one to me.

    daddave August 20, 2009 at 4:34 am Reply
  20. Take it to the limit limit.
    We have parties around this movie.
    a MUST SEE.

    George September 10, 2009 at 11:03 pm Reply
  21. Everyone seems to be chatting about modern movies…How about “The White Tower” 1948, “High Conquest” 1947 or even “The Challenge” 1939….Some good climbing scenes in these old flicks…Take a look if you can find them….Phil

    Phil Thomas November 8, 2009 at 3:15 am Reply
  22. One of my all time favorites is “Scream of Stone” with Stefan Glowacz climbing the Cerro Torre in Patagonia. Some say that Cliffhanger even borrowed some shots from “Scream of Stone”. Plus at the end there is a beautiful shot of Cerro Torre with Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” playing in the background. Again a highly recommended climbing film.

    Ryan November 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm Reply
  23. Some of the best Climbing Movies I have seen I found on this website:

    http://sites.google.com/site/climbmovies/

    Rafael December 21, 2009 at 4:28 am Reply
  24. Are you kidding? K2 is the only decent movie on this list!!! The best climbing movie of all time: Touching the Void!!! How’d ya miss that????

    Rich January 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm Reply
  25. Someone should sanction the Eiger Sanction trailer. Egads, that’s some bad editing, filmmaking, acting, …just bad

    Seth Brown March 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm Reply
  26. There is a newer, German made movie, very decent: NorthFace. It seemed very intense and realistic.

    andrei March 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm Reply
  27. I think people missed the tongue in cheek nature of this post. I loved the trailer for the Eiger Sanction, though. Looks classic. I’ll have to find that one.

    Chris Sorensen March 26, 2010 at 5:01 am Reply
  28. The Eiger Sanction only had 1 mix up in the climbing. Clint went from lead to top rope in 2 sec….

    Mark Williams April 18, 2010 at 1:53 am Reply
    • I believe that’s called “falling”.

      Barry Smith March 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm Reply
  29. North Face – is a very good “real” movie.

    Dan May 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm Reply
  30. I may have come in late in this blog, but “Touching the Void” and “North Face” (a German-made Film) are new films that have no-nonsense Hollywood theatricks. And both were based on true actual facts. There’s another one – “The Ascent” a 1994 film with Benjamin Cross; sadly it’s not available on DVD. This one is also good if you could track it down. “Eiger Sanction” was mostly plot-based and not on the technical-mountain-climbing side. It was good during its time, but would pale when compared to the two newer films mentioned above.

    Ian Holt June 1, 2010 at 2:19 am Reply
  31. Northface Dubbed in English.. Easily best realistic climbing Film.

    Bill Carey June 7, 2010 at 10:02 pm Reply
  32. All of those are good movie but I think that Touching the void should be included!

    Alfredo Molina June 8, 2010 at 1:05 am Reply
  33. Sorry, I forgot to add the scene when Ace Ventura lets go the Racoon, Clifhanger style. Regards!

    Alfredo Molina June 8, 2010 at 1:11 am Reply
  34. Just caught a climbing documentary called “180° South: Conquerors of the Useless”

    It’s pretty damn awesome. You can stream it on netflix now. Do yourself a favor.

    Doug B June 10, 2010 at 5:09 am Reply
  35. “Mission: Impossible II” has a “sweet” free solo sequence at the beginning. There’s a bit more here: http://www.backclip.com/questions/54/whats-your-favorite-climbing-movie

    George Sudarkoff July 16, 2010 at 8:50 pm Reply
  36. Whadup?!? Touching the Void, hands down number one!! While we’re at it, how about Steep for Extreme Skiing?? Ya, man.

    Janet Moreland July 20, 2010 at 2:07 am Reply
  37. I took the advice of previous repliers and loaded up North Face on Netflix instant play, and what a Delight!

    The dizzying heights of climbing flicks is what really get’s my blood pumping. I know first hand the thrill of climbing and repelling from military training, and Cliffhanger was my first climbing movie (if you can call it that) that opened my eyes to the wonders of the sport.

    Ever since I have been hooked and enjoyed Touching the void as well. Touching the Void was an amazing film as well that took a more documentary approach.

    North Face is a straight film that captures all the elements of climbing, and apparently passes scrutiny among the real climbers.

    So if I had to rank these two wonderful films, I would put North Face first then Touching the Void. I mean North Face even had a cute petite German chick for eye candy.

    Kyle Rees July 20, 2010 at 7:56 am Reply
  38. I just watched Norwand (translated North Face), a German film made a couple of years ago about the attempted first ascent of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps in 1936. It was well done.

    Sarah July 22, 2010 at 11:49 am Reply
  39. Why do so many people believe this story ” touching” the void is true???? The story has a lot of holes and I don’t believe this story for one minute. PLEASE people, use your critical thinking skills and quit looking for heroes that aren’t there. There is NO proof these events really happened. Don’t believe it.

    Duke July 28, 2010 at 4:34 am Reply
  40. My favourite is Touching the Void. Most exiting movie I ever saw.

    Richard August 18, 2010 at 11:44 am Reply
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  42. Duke,

    go to Sheffield and talk to the people involved.
    You don’t believe “touching the void”, go to the Broadfield pub on the broadfield road and ask the people there.

    You might just get a better idea if it is b0llox or not.

    BTW having climbed with one Joe Simpson, I kinda beleive him. Just my opinion…

    Flash 751 September 24, 2010 at 9:31 pm Reply
  43. Does exist an Italian version of “Nordwand” aka “North Face”?
    What’s the Italian title?

    tommo September 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm Reply
  44. Thanks for the info man! Gonna Downloa…. I mean buy them soon! Exciting stuff!

    BorneoMan September 28, 2010 at 2:50 am Reply
  45. Duke….you are an idiot, not much else to add really, your contribution speaks for itself.

    Dr Samoflange October 25, 2010 at 11:51 am Reply
  46. Guns of Navarone. In the rain!!

    Ice Age – Scrat the Sabre Tooth Squirrel.

    Also there’s one of the Star Trek movies (V?) where Kirk’s soloing and Spock flies up with his jet-pack ski boots! Quality..

    The end of Hitchcock’s North by North West.

    allend66 November 5, 2010 at 10:52 pm Reply
  47. You left out Third Man on the Mountain. It features Gaston Rebuffat as the technical director and many of his friends (Rene Desmasion, Lional Terray, etc) doing the many spectacular climbing stunts in Chamonix and Zermatt. It takes place on the Matterhorn aka The Citadel. James Macallister of Hawaii Five-O fame is the young climbing stud. Check it out. This is a much better film than Eiger Sanction although it is difficult to beat the cast of that film.

    Jack November 10, 2010 at 12:44 am Reply
  48. Committed, Psyche, First Ascent, The Beckoning Silence – and you`ll get enough for a week. But Touching the Void is still the best.

    Sarmis December 4, 2010 at 7:21 pm Reply
  49. I honestly thought that cliff hanger was just alot of mediocre climbing and blowing stuff up.

    Jack December 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm Reply
  50. north face is a cracker, touching the void,the beckoning silince , the ghost of everest 96 disaster

    sandy December 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm Reply
  51. NORTHFACE!! #1

    Heywood January 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm Reply
  52. these aren’t climbing movies… at least its good comedy!

    asdfsa January 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm Reply
  53. Please don’t let the list include Cliffhanger.Please not Cliffhanger. “#3 – Cliffhanger” DOH!!!!

    Dave-O February 6, 2011 at 3:30 am Reply
  54. Absolute nr. 1 is Touching the void. Others just hollywood…

    laller February 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm Reply
  55. well kinda late (2 years:p) but after reading all the above, thought i might say something too. First of the list as it is mentioned above somewhere is about mountaineering in films thats in fiction so no documentaries in the list… if u vote for “touching the void” that was a dramatic documentary how can you leave behind the “alps”, “everest”, the “wildest dream” and other imax or not documentaries?
    anyway after watching every movie mentioned by everyone above… have to say “nordwand” is the best! now for the oldies someone mentioned “third man on the mountain” well if you are ok with watching a really old film give it a shot it may surprise you! btw i didnt see anyone talking about “5 days 1 summer” with sean connery though:p

    jaf March 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm Reply
  56. You should check out North Face. It’s a German movie about four climbers who attempted climbing the north face of Eiger in 1936. Not sure how accurate the actual climbing in the movie is but it is a pretty good movie nonetheless.

    Will March 23, 2011 at 2:24 am Reply
  57. another old one : “the mountain calls” directed by Luis Trenker The movie tells the story of the first climb of the Matterhorn. A great combination of historical facts and a hollywood.

    Frederic April 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm Reply
  58. How is Touching the Void not even on here? Worst. List. Ever.

    Natalie April 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm Reply
  59. Touching the Void! One of the best movies I have ever seen.

    John T April 20, 2011 at 5:12 am Reply
  60. The Climb (2002) Must Watch for Climbers!

    Jay April 29, 2011 at 8:10 am Reply
  61. Joe Simpson is famous for falling down a crevasse.Hardly makes for a good film.Then there is all the long winded books inflating his own ego.Seriously people just because it says “based on actual events” does not mean its all true.Anyone defending him has clearly never met him.

    JayBloke May 12, 2011 at 7:28 am Reply
  62. As Jaf says, The Zinnerman film Starring Sean Connery called “Five Days One Summer” has got to be one of the best shot mountain films, Truly beautiful

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQaI3o41Xzo&feature=related

    Markywolf August 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm Reply
  63. `Touching the void`, the all time best…..

    bhaskar August 18, 2011 at 7:02 am Reply
    • The Mountain! It’s awesome, definitely worth a view. Has some cool shots of old-school techniques. Watch it!

      Patrick November 12, 2013 at 7:13 am Reply
  64. How about “Storm and Sorrow” and “The Mountain”? The Mountain has some great, old-school scenes with Robert Wagner and Spencer Tracy in the Alps.

    chrisferro September 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm Reply
  65. Now you have to add “127 hours” and “touching the void”

    stella September 29, 2011 at 1:48 am Reply
  66. Did some of you even read the article before posting? You’re a moron if you can’t see that the list is for fun!!! Don’t be a Yahoo!Answers jackass, and post stuff that no-one wants to listen too! READ!!! I am not interested in your oh-too-serious posts! SHUT UP, and relax!

    Joe October 6, 2011 at 9:31 am Reply
  67. just finished watching Touching the void, very inspiring and motivating!

    Edgars December 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm Reply
  68. “Touching the Void”

    True (and documented..) story, true people…

    The movie version may have been dramatised in some parts – but the book is available, to give the full and true story..

    That “Duke” from last year, is not only an obvious idiot, but most likely a troll as well ~ he calls the movie a fiction and claims “holes” ~ but then fails to prove either point..

    Making him a lying idiotic troll ~ ’nuff said.

    Bushie December 4, 2011 at 11:04 am Reply
  69. beyond the limit, series about climbing everest? very compelling for anyone who is interested in what its like to enter the death zone

    lo March 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm Reply
  70. I can’t believe that “Scream of Stone” didn’t make the list! I’d say it’s the best mainstream movies about climbing ever, with some crazy footage of climbing on Cerro Torre decades ago.

    The movie is a fiction story (written by messner?) about a guy who claimed to climb CT, was doubted, then went back to climb it solo (sound like something that really did happen?). Donald Sutherland was in it and, I forget his name, but a prominent climber from Europe.

    If you like climbing history, historical fiction or Cerro Torre / Patagonia in general, watch this movie.

    clayton March 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm Reply
  71. thanks to the original poster and all the commenters, altogether a great list i think

    watched this a couple days ago http://www.hotaches.com/films_e11.html (paywall, sorry) about what is possibly the hardest route in the world right next to glasgow (dumbarton rock). a bit on the interviewey side as in i’d have liked to see more about the climb, but just the fact – -

    there are more movies there, but i haven’t seen them

    Anna May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am Reply
  72. “180 degrees South” Great film about climbing in Patagonia. alot of the movie is the adventure in getting to Patagonia and the mountain in question but some great climbing sequences as well. also alot of brilliant surfing footage too. Great Film.

    Kevin October 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm Reply
  73. Thanks for the list of top 5 climbing movies of all time.I’ve watch K2 and it’s great.

    Mark November 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm Reply
  74. If you are looking for a good climbing movie made for climbers try “first ascent” it was made in 06 so its a little less retro than masters of stone which are still very good movies

    Bob August 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm Reply
  75. What about the documentary, “Man Who Skied Down Everest”??? I think it is awesome…

    arnab September 4, 2013 at 3:06 am Reply
  76. Hmm, some great tips on some obscure flicks in the comments here. I hadn’t heard of Scream of Stones before. Did a little digging, it doesn’t sound like the Herzog’s best work, but still maybe better then some of the really bad climbing movies out there. I’d still watch it, if I could track it down. Youtube has the full length movie, but not with English subs. Darn.

    Ryan October 20, 2013 at 2:18 am Reply
  77. The best film I’ve seen for climbing is Reel Rock 7. Absolutely incredible what climbers are doing today.

    Nathan November 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm Reply

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