One of the most emotionally charged and visceral themes in cinema is “survival.” Films in which characters go to great lengths to preserve their lives against hostile, antagonistic forces. Stories in which people do things beyond reason, in which they react with violence or perform feats of physical strength or agility one thought was not there.
“Survival” films feed off a primal history we all share and seldom experience in our modern world. A history that goes back further than most of us can remember. A history of violence and mortal danger that surrounded us at all times. A history in which we were forced to band together (like frightened gazelles) against forces that threatened our lives. Which could strike at any time, without warning. Both real and imagined.
These survival themed films examine the dark nature of the human soul, the raw drive to persevere. It is no accident this theme works so well on film, a time-based medium. Survival is all about timing. It’s about lack of time and/or time running-out. It’s about impulse. It’s action. Blood and guts.
“Survival” films are some of my favourite and I’ve complied a list of to share with the world of some noteworthy examples.
Thanks to my facebook buddies who contributed to the list (Keith, Isabella, Bob, David, Eddie, Etan, and Dave Z.) but feel free to add titles that may have been left out in the comments section.
“Aguirre the Wrath of God” (dir. Herzog)
“Deliverance” (dir. Boorman)
“Lifeboat” (dir. Hitchcock )
“Apocalypto” (dir. Gibson)
“Stalker” (dir. Tarkovsky )
“Assault on Precinct 13” (dir. Carpenter)
“First Blood” (dir. Kotcheff)
“Down by Law” (dir. Jarmusch)
“Night of the Living Dead” (dir. Romeo )
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (Original Seigel and Kauffman remake)
“Battle Royale” (dir. Fukasaku)
“Terminator 2” (dir. J. Cameron)
“Lord of the Flies” (dir. Brook)
“Hidden Fortress” (dir. Kurosawa)
“Straw Dogs” (dir. Peckinpah)
“Night of the Hunter” (dir. Laughton)
“Sleeper” (dir. Allen)
“1984” (dir. Radford)
“No man’s land”(dir. Tanovic)
“Cape Fear” (dir. Thompson )
“Children of Men” (dir. Cuaron)
“Deadman” (dir. Jarmusch)
“Alien” (dir. Scott)
“Aliens” (dir. Cameron)
“Escape from New York” (dir. Carpenter)
“Halloween” (dir. Carpenter)
“Logun’s Run” (dir. Anderson )
“Evil Dead” and sequels (dir. Raimi)