9. The Big Blue (Luc Besson, 1988)
Contrary to popular belief, “The Big Blue” is an English language film (and not a French one) with a French director and a semi-French cast. It is the film that cemented Luc Besson’s visual style that became known as Cinema du Look.
One of the most visually beautiful films there is, “The Big Blue” features gorgeous underwater photography and spectacular location shooting in the French Antibes, the Greek islands, Peru, and Sicily. But the plot of the film is no less impressive as it intensifies in emotions with each frame and explores the mystical side of man’s relationship with the unknowns of the deep.
10. Alive (Frank Marshall, 1993)
Movies like “Alive” were made for a list like this. What separates Frank Marshall’s film from others is that it takes the concept of man vs nature one step further and poses this challenge to the ordinary man.
“Alive” is an example of the human spirit and its determination to beat all odds and survive.
11. Zero Kelvin (Hans Petter Moland, 1995)
Aspiring Norwegian poet Henrik Larsen leaves his girlfriend to spend his sabbatical year as a trapper in Greenland.
As one might expect from a film that takes place in an enclosed small space the film is a “character study” but manages not to fall flat or present dull moments. There is plenty of action throughout spiced with humor and survivalism.
12. The Edge (Lee Tamahori, 1997)
It is inevitable for a movie such as “The Edge” not to wound up on a list like this. Not only is “The Edge” a staple of Hollywood’s man vs nature films, but it was also directed by man from New Zealand (Lee Tamahori) – a country that’s been said to have nature in its blood.
13. The Perfect Storm (Wolfgang Petersen, 2000)
Wolfgang Petersen’s version of man vs nature follows the fate of a group of fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The group seems to be on a streak of bad luck. This bad luck attracts poverty to them and their families as their lives and daily income depend on it.
On a cold autumn day, the group aboard the commercial ship “Andrea Gail” decides to risk it all and go out to sea in spite of an upcoming storm.
14. Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)
Tom Hanks as Robinson Crusoe? Well, not exactly. In Robert Zemeckis’s man vs nature epic, Tom Hanks is Chuck Noland, a time obsessed systems engineer who travels worldwide resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots.
At the Christmas dinner of 1995, Chuck is summoned to resolve a problem in Malaysia. He leaves his family and his soon-to-be wife and gets on a plane that crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck is the only one who survives after he clings to the life-raft, loses consciousness and floats all night before being washed up on an island.
15. Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002)
Phillip Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence” is seen as the 2000’s “Walkabout”. Both films are visually beautiful and share a resemblance in the story, but “Rabbit-Proof Fence” is based, although loosely, on real-life events. It goes without saying that the cinematography is magnificent.
The children’s survival story is told in a steady, unsentimental tone that allows the film to be powerful without the typical Hollywood use of sweeping music or motivational monologues. Instead, the circumstances of the story create the emotion.
16. Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002)
Not a lot happens in the first films of Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy” (three films based on deaths that occurred in real life). To sum up this film may be one of the most difficult things to do, yet the animosity between man and nature – between man and the desert to be exact – manages to convey.
The films is highly experimental, slow-paced and often cited as an example of non-narrative cinema.
17. Touching the Void (Kevin Macdonald, 2003)
OK, so there are a lot of documentaries on the subject of man vs nature, but most of them are pretty predictable and have more or less the same approach. But not “Touching the Void”. Macdonald’s documentary has a very fresh approach to it and really deserves to be in the category of films that keep you on the edge of your seat.
If the feature films mentioned on this list treat the subject of man vs nature in different artistic ways, “Touching the Void” tells a true story by using the people actually involved. It’s fact vs fiction and fact is winning.