It’s off season for John Muir Trail Hike planning, although many are out there actually hiking the trail, so I thought I’d try something different. Here are my five favorite movies that have some relevance to hiking or backpacking. Oh, and one more thing you should probably know: I have terrible taste in movies!
#5 Cliffhanger (1993). What’s more natural than following a comment on poor taste with a recommendation of a Stallone movie? The opening scene is ludicrous, but the story (plot holes and all) moves along nicely, and John Lithgow plays an absolutely chilling villain. It also has some good helicopter footage, which is near and dear to my heart (as an ex-Army aviator). Almost the entire movie is filmed outdoors, and the scenery is first class.
#4 A Perfect Getaway (2009). Hawai‘i is home, so I feel obligated to include this gem. The Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast of Kauai is considered one of the ten best hikes on the planet, and it sure looks good in this movie. (Much better than the recent review it got in Backpacker magazine, which described the trail as trashed, poorly maintained, and full of malcontents.) The story concerns a nice tourist couple who love to travel and happen to be serial killers. That’s the thing about hiking: you always meet such NICE people.
#3 Shoot to Kill (1988). Good story, good acting (Sidney Poitier’s first film after taking ten years off), a thin Kirstie Alley, and a great chase-scene involving a bear. What’s not to like? Although some of the story takes place well outside the wilderness, when the action moves to the woods the photography is breathtaking. The only downside: the next time you’re on a trail with some exposure you’re going to be very nervous hiking in front of someone you don’t know.
#2 Touching the Void (2009). Acting as the perfect illustration of fact being stranger than fiction, this movie tells the true story of Joe Simpson’s and Simon Yates’ ascent, and disastrous descent, of Siula Grande in Peru. After a series of miscues, Yates finds himself at one end of a line, with Simpson dangling over the edge of a crevasse on the other end. What’s worse that having to cut the line on your climbing buddy, sending him to certain death? How about explaining to him later why you did it?
#1 North Face (2008). It’s hard to believe that Clint Eastwood’s “The Eiger Sanction” is the second best movie about this particular mountain, but it is. This story (dialog in German with English subtitles) of the first ascent of the north face of the Eiger is set against the rise of the National Socialist party, before Germany swallowed Austria via the Anschluss. The story is layered, complex and satisfying. I found the ending extremely disturbing; it’s stayed with me for years.
Good hiking, Ray