top 10 adventure documentaries
Culture Inspirational Travel

Top 10 Adventure Documentaries That Inspire Wanderlust and Courage

Embarking on a thrilling cinematic journey, we dive into a realm where courage knows no bounds, and wanderlust finds its truest expression. Let’s get into the pulse-pounding world of adventure documentaries that push the limits of human exploration. From breathtaking climbs to daring expeditions, each film on this list is a celebration of the insatiable thirst for discovery. So buckle up and prepare to be inspired!

1. 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible (2021)

Released in 2021, the documentary follows mountaineer Nirmal Purja as he undertakes the incredible challenge of climbing all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks in just seven months, setting a new speed record – and not only. He broke 6 world records with this mind-blowing expedition. Not to mention, he climbed Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in only 48 hours. His braveness, determination and a bit of craziness are incredibly inspiring! Highly recommended!

14 peaks

2. Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo, a breathtaking documentary directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, follows the remarkable odyssey of rock climber Alex Honnold as he embarks on the formidable quest of conquering El Capitan, a towering 2,308-meter vertical rock formation within Yosemite National Park, all without the safeguard of ropes or harnesses. The film provides an intimate window into Alex’s meticulous preparations, his resolute determination, and the intricate blend of psychological and physical hurdles he confronts. It’s a thrilling adventure with absolutely beautiful storytelling!

3. The Deepest Breath (2023)

This heartwarming documentary follows the story of Alessia Zecchini, a free diver, and Stephen Keenan, an expert safety diver, while exploring the dangerous world of free diving. The documentary traces their individual journeys as they meet at the pinnacle of this both mesmerizing and terrifying world. Alessia breaks a world record with the help of Stephen and then they start training together, while becoming emotionally involved as well. The spectacular film captures both the triumphs and risks that accompany the pursuit of a passion amidst the mysterious depths of the ocean. It’s definitely an emotional adventure, so don’t be surprised if you’ll cry at the end!

Alessia Zecchini and Stephen Keenan in The Deepest Breath / Photo Credit: © 2023 Netflix, Inc.

4. Losing Sight of Shore (2017)

Losing Sight of Shore is an amazing documentary about a group of brave women. They decide to do something really bold: row across the huge Pacific Ocean! Starting from San Francisco, they row over 12,900 km of open water, facing tough challenges like bad weather and feeling all alone out there. But they keep going, and the film shows how their strong friendship and never-give-up attitude help them through. It’s a story about not giving up, sticking together, and showing how people can do incredible things when they work together. It’s truly inspiring!

5. Touching the Void (2003)

Touching the Void is a gripping documentary that recounts an incredible real-life survival story. It follows two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, as they face a life-or-death situation while attempting to conquer the Siula Grande peak in the Peruvian Andes. When Joe is injured in a fall, Simon is forced to make a heart-wrenching decision to cut the rope that connects them, seemingly leaving Joe for dead. The film vividly captures their harrowing ordeal, showcasing human endurance, the will to survive, and the profound bond between adventurers facing the harshest of challenges. You have to watch it to see if he cuts the rope or not…

6. The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (2010)

The Wildest Dream is a captivating documentary that combines historical footage with modern reenactments to explore the awe-inspiring story of George Mallory‘s ill-fated attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest in the 1920s. The documentary follows modern climber Conrad Anker as he retraces Mallory’s footsteps and makes a remarkable discovery on Everest. Through the modern journey and the amazing insights from Mallory’s personal letters, the film offers a wonderful exploration of the relentless human pursuit of adventure and achievement in the face of formidable natural challenges.

7. Meru (2015)

From the directors of Free Solo, here is another captivating documentary that follows the incredible journey of three climbers — Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk — as they tackle the daunting Shark’s Fin peak on Mount Meru in the Himalayas. The film offers a visceral look at the physical and emotional trials these climbers endure, including setbacks and moments of triumph. Through personal narratives and stunning visuals, Meru showcases the climbers’ unyielding determination and the powerful camaraderie that fuels their daring quest. It’s a powerful exploration of human tenacity, teamwork, and the pursuit of conquering seemingly impossible challenges!

8. Man on Wire (2008)

Man on Wire is a mesmerizing documentary that unveils the astonishing true story of Philippe Petit‘s daring high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Through a combination of reenactments and genuine footage, the film delves into Philippe’s meticulous planning and fearless performance of this jaw-dropping feat. If you have already seen The Walk (2015) with the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you definitely know what we are talking about and consider this documentary as a bonus behind the scenes film 😉

Philippe Petit in Man on Wire / Credit: Jean-Louis Blondeau/Polaris

9. Hold Your Breath: The Ice Dive (2022)

This is an interesting short film about the real story of Johanna Nordblad, a Finnish free diver and particularly an ice diver. After facing a serious accident that left her leg almost in pieces, Johanna was advised to take very cold baths to heal her body. Thus, she discovered a completely new world that would bring her multiple world records. In 2015, she set the Guinness World Record by diving 50 meters into ice-cold water at just 2 degrees Celsius, all on a single breath. Then, she embarked on a daring mission: to surpass her own record and accomplish the unimaginable. The documentary traces her endeavor to push her limits even further, as she aspires to achieve an astonishing ice dive of 80 meters in one breath. But what happens next is for you to watch!

10. Maidentrip (2013)

Traveling on your own at only 14 is pretty daring, but going on a two-year voyage around the world is absolutely mind-blowing. Maidentrip is the real story of Laura Dekker, a Dutch sailor, who celebrated her 16th birthday at sea, close to her return after sailing around the world on her own. She blew Jessica Watson‘s record of being the youngest person to complete such a journey and both their stories are beyond inspiring!

Do you have a favorite story among these? Are you up for embarking on such incredible journeys? Feel free to drop your preferred adventure documentaries in the comments! After all, the world is our playground!

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