The best rock climbing documentaries are those that encourage viewers to get out and climb. These documentaries will motivate you and get your blood pumping, regardless of whether you’re sitting at home anticipating a trip to your neighborhood climbing gym or plotting an adventure to a far-flung climbing destination. The travel documentaries that are now available on Netflix may be of interest to you if climbing is one of your favorite activities when you’re away from home.
You might be interested to find the best ice climbing cam, check this post!
The best rock climbing documentaries that follow extraordinary climbers as they try difficult routes all include climbers. Climbers, similar to other professional athletes, have an extraordinary degree of drive and determination. These climbers put in years of labor on their projects, often placing their lives in jeopardy while simultaneously straining their bodies to the extremes of their physical capabilities. I have high hopes that you will find these documentaries to be as enjoyable as I did.
Drama, comedy, and documentaries
Keith Malloy, Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins
D. Tompkins & Y. Chouinard of The North Face, respectively traveled to South America in the 1960s to climb Fitz Roy. Jeff Johnson discovers footage of this trip in the 2000s and decides to recreate it in his style. This documentary, like most good travelogues (and trips), is more about the journey than the destination.
Nalle Hukkataival, Chris Sharma, Steph Davis
I hadn’t seen The Scene before starting this list. I wholeheartedly endorse it. The film includes sequences of climbs that took place in Boulder, Moab, Spain, and Innsbruck. I especially enjoyed the section about climbers creating new routes in the New River Gorge. This documentary is more punk rock than polished, and it’s funny and genuine while profiling some amazing climbers.
Valley Uprising (2014)
Royal Robbins, Peter Sarsgaard, and Alex Honnold.
Nick Rosen, Josh Lowell, and Peter Mortimer
The Valley Uprising is a portrait of Yosemite Valley as much as it is of the people who climb there. The film, produced by Sender Films, follows the evolution of climbing from the 1960s to the present day. It progresses from mountaineering to aid climbing, free climbing, and free soloing.
Climbing legends like Royal Robbins and others will be interviewed along the way. From the hippies of the counterculture who lived in Yosemite’s Camp 4 to the physically fit and competitive climbers of today, climbing has come a long way. There will be first ascents of big, historic routes, massive ego clashes, and a battle between park rangers and climbers.
By combining classic footage, photos, and contemporary interviews, The Valley Uprising explores climbing’s recent history and some of its most famous figures. Even though it’s a few years old, I put it first on the list because it’s a great place to start if you haven’t seen it yet.
Renan Ozturk, Jimmy Chin, and Conrad Anker
Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk attempt the first ascent of Meru’s The Shark’s Fin. This documentary dives thoroughly into the risks involved with mountain climbing, as well as the challenges of long routes and the dynamics of teams. When it came down to it, these three skilled climbers left nothing to chance, you’ll see the cost and reward of attempting big alpine objectives.
Reinhold Messner, Fred Beckey, Conrad Anker
As a climber from the Pacific Northwest, Fred Beckey’s name appears on numerous routes in my guidebooks. In the Cascades, he was responsible for blazing an incredible number of trails. This story is about Beckey’s late-life quest to climb difficult routes. Beckey is well-known for his first ascents, but he’s also a great role model for how to live cheaply and climb frequently.
Dawn Wall (2017)
Kevin Jorgeson, Tommy Caldwell, and John Branch
Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell
In this documentary titled “The Dawn Wall,” climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are followed by camera crews as they attempt to scale Yosemite’s 3,000-foot peak. Dawn’s Wall It’s also an excellent portrait of Caldwell’s climbing career, from his early days of competition climbing to his near-death experience in Kyrgyzstan, all the way up to who he is today. If you’re not familiar with Tommy Caldwell, this is a must-see.
Jimmy Chin, Alex Honnold, and Tommy Caldwell
Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai, Vasarhelyi
One of the most well-known climbing documentaries is Free Solo. If you haven’t seen Alex Honnold’s free solo on El Capitan (climbing without a rope or harness), you’re in for a treat.
Pretty Strong (2020)
Isabelle Faust, Nina Williams, and Katie Lambert
Colette McInerney, Julie Ellison, and Leslie Hittmeier
Pretty Strong is produced entirely by women and features entirely female climbers. Pretty Strong, produced by Never Not Collective, follows “eight of the world’s strongest female climbers, as they explore new climbing areas, from big walls in Yosemite to sport, climbs in Mexico to the boulder problems in Colorado.
Lonnie Kauk, Mélissa Le Nevé
If you enjoy climbing and haven’t yet seen Reel Rock, you’re in for a treat. This is a documentary series, not a single film. Much of this series is available for free online via Red Bull TV. Reel Rock 15, the most recent season, is one of my favorites.
It follows Janja (who excels at both sport climbing and bouldering) as she attempts an unprecedented clean sweep of World Cup bouldering competitions in one season. Melissa Le Nevé spent seven years climbing the historic Action Direct. Lonnie Kauk follows in his father’s footsteps. Hazel Findlay and Maddy Cope travel to Mongolia in search of first ascents. Reel Rock 15 will not disappoint you, as it is a wonderful documentary on climbing.
Alex Honnold, Brette Harrington, and Marc-André Leclerc
Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer
Marc-Andr Leclerc climbs insane mixed routes and ice routes all over the world. What’s more, Leclerc is only 23 years old. If you liked the sweaty-palm sensation you got from watching Free Solo, you’ll love The Alpinist. It’s not yet available online, so you’ll have to go to your local theater to see it.
The best climbing documentaries inspire you to go climbing. These ten documentaries feature incredible climbers attempting difficult routes. Filming locations such as Moab, Boulder, Innsbruck, and Spain are featured in the films. The Valley Uprising is a portrait of Yosemite Valley as much as it is of the people who climb there.
Fred Beckey is a great role model for how to live cheaply and climb frequently. Meru delves into the dangers of alpine climbing, long routes, and team dynamics. Pretty Strong is produced entirely by women and features entirely female climbers.