Most climbers would rather be climbing than sitting on a couch watching TV. That being said, if you are sitting on a couch, might as well be watching the best climbing movies ever made, right!? It’s the next best thing to being on the wall.
Some of these documentaries and movies have gotten a lot of mainstream media attention and won awards, namely Free Solo and Dawn Wall. Others, like Valley Uprising and Assault on El Capitan, document the history of the sport of climbing and make us thankful it’s come so far.
The 12 Best Climbing Movies
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The last time we checked there were over 40 movies just on Amazon Prime when you searched ‘climbing’. This list represents our favorites and what our group of friends considers the best.
Next time you are stuck inside because of bad weather, the early winter evenings, or a global pandemic, throw one of these on, it will help brighten your day and inspire your next climb!
1. Free Solo
Could there really have been any other movie at number 1? This documentary about Alex Honnold’s Free Solo of El Capitan is something that has brought climbing into the mainstream. Even my non-climbing friends (yes I have a few!) have raved about this film.
This film is intense, the entire sequence of him climbing El Cap, even though you can guess the outcome, has you on the edge of your seat. Imagine climbing a 3200ft wall of granite. Then imagine climbing that rock without any safety equipment.
Add in Honnold’s eccentric, interesting, and youthful spirit and it’s no wonder this movie was a hit. His passion for climbing highlights the best of the human spirit and his accomplishment is nothing short of astounding.
A much-watch film. Period.
2. Dawn Wall
While Alex Honnold has become arguably the most famous climber in the world after Free Solo, the subject of the Dawn Wall is one of his heroes, Tommy Caldwell.
The Dawn Wall follows Tommy Caldwell through his 19-day assault on the Dawn Wall, the hardest average rated climb attempted and the last section of El Cap to be free climbed.
Along with his climbing partner, Kevin Jorgeson, you get to see the history of Tommy, how it affects his climbing, and how his goal of climbing the Dawn Wall has driven his life for years.
The Dawn Wall and Free Solo both came out in 2018 and are often compared. While you can read my in-depth comparison, it’s my professional opinion you should watch both documentaries before anything else on this list!
The Shark’s Fin of Meru has long been considered one of the most difficult climbs in the world. Not only is the climb itself challenging, but to summit, you must also battle the elements in the heart of the Himalayas.
This film follows Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk on an adventure from 2011 as they attempt the unclimbed peak. To get there they must battle glaciers, arctic conditions, and blistering cold.
While this movie may not have the appeal to non-climbers that the first two had, the film was one of the first climbing films I watched and captured my imagination!
4. Valley Uprising
For many climbers, Yosemite National Park is the center of the universe. Valley Uprising dives into the rich climbing history of the Valley and takes you down the path of how climbing evolved.
A who’s who of rock climbing is featured. Starting with the Golden Age of Climbing from the 50s-70s, into the “Stone Masters” of the ’80s and ’90s, and into today’s generation, nicknamed the Stone Monkey’s.
For me, it was interesting to see the sport I love and its roots as a sport of renegades, dirtbags, and anti-establishment rebels who chose to live life in a way that society didn’t often approve of.
5. Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey
Fred Beckey is a legend in the climbing world. He rattled off numerous first ascents in the 1940s around the world. This film, from director Dave O’Leske is the work of over ten years talking and following Beckey around, learning more about his life, and climbing across North America and China.
6. Committed (Vol 2).
Committed is not a well-known documentary, but it’s one of our favorites to throw on when we are bored scrolling through Amazon Prime.
This film follows many climbers through adventures with the British Trad ethic while digging deep into how, why, and what drives them to tackle some of the most difficult climbs known to man!
7. Assault on El Capitan
One of the darker pieces of climbing history in Yosemite is the controversy surrounding the first ascent of Wings of Steel on El Capitain in 1982. The history of the 39 days the original team took to allegedly put up the first ascent of this route would make a good documentary, the attempted 2nd ascent adds a level to it.
The story of the 2nd ascent follows Ammon McNeely and his girlfriend Kait as they try to replicate the seemingly impossible route. Any fan of climbing and anyone interested in the history of Yosemite should pick up this film.
8. 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless
In 1968 Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and North Face Founder Doug Tompkins took a well-documented and legendary trip to Patagonia. In 180 degrees South, filmmaker, outdoorsman, and climber Jeff Johnson seek to recreate this journey and film the effort.
This film follows Johnson on a six-month adventure throughout Patagonia and ties in conservation themes into his South American adventure.
9. On The Verge
This is a film by climbing and outdoors company Arc’teryx that follows a small group of climbers as they fight back a potential logging threat to their valley in Powell River, BC. The problem of deforestation sets a very stark background to the climbing on huge granite walls that this community has spent years establishing.
10. The Huber Brothers: Life On The Edge
Outside the climbing world, the Huber brothers aren’t well known, but in the climbing world, they are legends. Alexander and Thomas Huber are free climbing legends that have laid down some of the hardest routes in the world.
This film follows them into the Tyrolean Alps where they attempt the Karma route on the south wall of Loferer Alm. This route is notoriously steep and dangerous and makes for an astounding backdrop for the film.
11. 360 Ascent
A unique film on our list, 360 Ascent follows Domen Skofic and Janja Garnbret as they try to ascend the highest chimney in Europe. Unlike the other films on this list, the ascent here is of the manmade kind.
That being said, the sheer magnitude of this climb and the setbacks these two overcome are unlike anything else we’ve seen from the World Cup circuit climbers, making it a fun film to check out.
12. Roraima – Climbers of The Lost World
Our last film is another lesser-known one, but a must-see for those who enjoyed Free Solo, Dawn Wall, and Meru. At the geographical meeting point of Venezuela, Guayana, and Brazil sits Mount Roraima, a daunting peak.
Kurt Albert, Holger Hueber, and Stefan Glowacz set out on a South American Expedition to conquer this climb, one that is fraught with danger in the form of falling rock, ice, and unpredictable weather conditions.
The Final Pitch
There you have it, the 12 best climbing movies we could find. There are hundreds of great climbing films out there, and probably too many to pick only 12! If you have a favorite or feel we should’ve included, let us know in the comments below or send us a message, we love to hear other opinions and talk climbing!
Our resident climbing gym and bouldering expert, Melissa uses climbing to destress and relax when away from her tech job in the Berkeley, CA area.
Melissa picked up climbing while in college at CU Boulder and has never looked back. Melissa writes all of our content on female climbing gear and much of our bouldering articles!