At some point in their lives, all adventure buffs are faced with the question: “Why? Why do you do what you do?”
And “Because it’s there” has been the closest that man (or George Mallory, to be more specific) has gotten to explaining the urge to put oneself into the most extreme situations one can find.
But what about the first guy to try it, when nobody knows how it’s going to end? How crazy does he have to be, to go where nobody has gone before? To throw himself off a cliff in a strange winged suit and hope that he’ll fly? Is it a thrill-seeking gene that overrides all other survival instincts? Is it plain foolishness?
From soul-thirsty solo journeys to thrilling action-packed adventures, these are the best adventure documentary films we’ve seen that take you right to the edge, to show you what it was like for the early bravehearts who decided they couldn’t rest until they’d conquered their own personal Everests.
Top adventure documentary #1: Blindsight
A story of determination, grit, and brotherhood, this adventure documentary is as touching as it is inspiring. Six blind Tibetan teenagers take on the 23,000 foot Lhakpa-Ri peak, in the shadows of Mount Everest, led by seven-summit blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer. Their journey served as inspiration to countless people from all walks of life. The adventure documentary premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, winning multiple accolades and positive reviews from critics the world over.
Top adventure documentary #2: Nordfor Sola
The story of this adventure documentary is simple: two boys head out into the brutally cold Norwegian winter to spend nine months on an uninhabited island. They build a shelter from scraps and garbage, fend for themselves and eat what nobody else would, all for the greatest thrill of surfing some of the finest waves in the world. Nordfor Sola (meaning North of the Sun) chronicles the journey of Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum in a visually stunning documentary that shows you that sometimes, it’s only your dreams that keep you warm.
Top adventure documentary #3: Meru
Mount Meru was once called the anti-Everest by adventure author Jon Krakauer, for its infamous reputation of being the most attempted (and failed) peak in the Himalayas. Rearing up at over 20,000 feet, this mountain is also topped by the perilous Shark’s Fin wall – a 1500 foot tall wall of merciless granite, offering little to no hold for climbers. And after a traumatic first defeat, three climbers go back to take it on again. This time though, the mountaineers, two of whom are amongst the world’s best, are broken men – climbing with brain injuries, the psychological effects of their last trip, and much more.
While the documentary is shot at some of the most impressive locales in the world and has many hair-raising moments of suspense, what really grips you is the intense suffering and torment that the three put themselves through. You find yourself wishing they’d just go home, but you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the screen.
Top adventure documentary #4: Sunshine Superman
This documentary chronicles the life, passion and philosophy of Carl Boenish, the larger-than-life mascot of the BASE jumping movement. As a freefall cinematographer and BASE jumper himself, Carl Boenish was shooting when the first jumps off El Capitan (Yosemite National Park) were executed. The adventure film talks about the BASE jumping trend that swept the adventure world in the late 70s and early 80s, and about the days leading up to Boenish’s fatal jump in Norway. Made with real-life footage that will make you gasp, Sunshine Superman shows you just how far adventure seekers will go for the ultimate thrill.
Top adventure documentary #5: Beyond the Edge
It’s one of the most well-known adventure expeditions in the world. Beyond the Edge gives us a glimpse into the minds of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay – the challenges, uncertainty and potential death that awaited them, and their super-human perseverance as they dared to climb from Everest Base Camp and take on Mount Everest in 1953.
These gripping documentaries don’t always answer the questions. What they do instead, is take you into the minds and lives of the adventurers who risked it all, gambled with their lives, their fortunes, their bodies – all for that one, glorious Great Next.
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