The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

10 Best Climbing Documentaries to Get You Pumped for Your Next Adventure

rock climber hanging off a rock while tethered to the side.

The best climbing documentaries get you excited to go out and climb. Whether you’re waiting for the weekend to arrive so you can get to your local crag or are looking to travel to a remote climbing destination, these docs are sure to fill you with ideas and get you stoked. If you love to travel for climbing you might also be interested in these travel documentaries on Netflix right now that’ll get you excited about new destinations.

These ten climbing documentaries profile amazing climbers putting up hard routes. Climbers, like other professional athletes, operate with an impressive drive and determination. These climbers spend years working on their projects, sometimes risking their lives, all while pushing their bodies to their physical limits. I hope you enjoy these documentaries as much as I did.

Valley Uprising (2014)

four men sitting on a rock ledge overlooking a valley.
YouTube

Valley Uprising is as much a profile of Yosemite Valley as it is the people who climb there. Put together by Sender Films, Valley Uprising follows the progression of climbing from the 1960s to today. It moves through mountaineering, aid climbing, free climbing, and free soloing. Along the way, you’ll hear from climbing greats like Royal Robbins, Lynn Hill, Yvon Chouinard, Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and more.

Climbing has transformed over the years from counterculture hippies living in Yosemite’s Camp 4 to the athletic and competitive climbers of today. You’ll see first ascents of big, historic routes, huge ego clashes, and the battle between park rangers and climbers. Valley Uprising mixes classic footage, photos, and contemporary interviews to explore 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 if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great place to start.

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
Runtime: 1h 43m
IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Pretty Strong (2020)

Woman Rock Climbing.
Never Not Collective

Pretty Strong is produced by an all-female team and features all-female climbers. Made by Never Not Collective, Pretty Strong ranges “[f]rom 5.13 big walls in Yosemite to 5.14 sport climbs in Mexico to V14 boulder problems in Colorado, Pretty Strong follows eight of the world’s strongest female climbers as they explore new climbing areas, send hard projects, and push the boundaries of the sport and themselves.” Some of the climbers included in this doc are Nina Williams, Katie Lambert, Daila Ojeda, and Hazel Findlay.

Directors: Colette McInerney, Leslie Hittmeier, Julie Ellison
Runtime: 1h 14m
Google Rating: 93%

Buy/Rent at Vimeo

Reel Rock 15 (2021)

Man Climbing Frozen Waterfall with ice hooks.
REEL ROCK

If you like to climb and you haven’t seen Reel Rock you’re in for a treat. This is a documentary series, not just one documentary. A lot of this series is available through Red Bull TV for free online. The newest season, Reel Rock 15, is one of my favorites. It features double threat Janja (great at both sport climbing and bouldering) as she tries to pull off a clean sweep of World Cup bouldering competitions in one season, something never been done before. Melissa Le Nevé spends seven years climbing the historic Action Directe. Lonnie Kauk follows in his father’s footsteps, literally, as he repeats his father’s famous Yosemite routes. Hazel Findlay and Maddy Cope explore Mongolia to put up first ascents. And the crew from Memphis Rox travel to Montana to ice climb with Conrad Anker. Filled with humor, emotion, and badass climbing, Reel Rock 15 will not disappoint.

Directors: Zachary Barr, Peter Mortimer
Runtime: 3h 45m
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Buy at Reel Rock Tour

The Scene (2011)

photo of the Corona Arch Utah with the sun shining in the background.

I hadn’t watched The Scene before working on this list. I would highly recommend it. The Scene revolves around the climbing scenes in Moab, Boulder, Innsbruck, and Spain. It includes great footage of Chris Sharma, Steph Davis, and others from a decade ago. I particularly liked the section on climbers putting up new routes in the New River Gorge. More punk rock than polished, this doc is funny and genuine while also profiling some amazing climbers.

Director: Chuck Fryberger
Runtime: 1h 15m
IMDb Rating: 6.9/10

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (2020)

photo of Fred Beckey Mountain Climber.
YouTube

As a Pacific Northwest climber, Fred Beckey’s name is all over the routes in my guide books. Beckey was a prolific climber who put up a ton of routes in the Cascades. This documentary follows Beckey’s relentless, late-in-life quest to climb challenging routes. Not only is Beckey known for his first ascents, but he’s also a great model for how to live cheap and climb often.

Director: Dave O’Leske
Runtime: 1h 35m
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Watch on Amazon Prime

The Dawn Wall (2017)

Tommy Caldwell climbing on Dawn Wall.
Outside Magazine

The Dawn Wall follows Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson in their attempt to scale Yosemite’s 3,000 ft. Dawn Wall. It’s also a great profile of Caldwell’s life in climbing, from his early years of competition climbing to his near-death experience in Kyrgyzstan, all the way up to who he has become today. If you’re not already familiar with Tommy Caldwell, this one is a must-watch.

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Josh Lowell
Runtime: 1h 40m
IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Meru (2015)

Conrad Anker on a Mountain looking over his shoulder from a tent with the sun shining over the crest of the mountain.
New York Times

Watch Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk attempt to climb The Shark’s Fin on Meru for the first time. This film goes deep into the risks of alpine climbing, long routes, and team dynamics. As these three talented climbers put it all on the line, you’ll see the cost and the reward of attempting big alpine objectives.

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Runtime: 1h 27m
IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Free Solo (2018)

downward view of Alex Honnold Climbing up the side of a mountain.

Free Solo has to be one of the most famous climbing documentaries out there. If you haven’t watched Alex Honnold free solo El Capitan (meaning he climbed with no rope, no harness) you’re in for a treat.

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Runtime: 1h 40m
IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

180° South (2010)

Doug Tompkins, Jeff Johnson, and Yvon Chinaud posing for a photo on the mountain top.
National Geographic

In the 1960s Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins (founders of Patagonia and The North Face, respectively) took a trip down to South America to climb Fitz Roy. In the 2000s Jeff Johnson finds footage of this trip and decides to recreate it, in his own style. Like most good travelogues (and trips) this doc is more about the journey than the destination.

Director: Chris Malloy
Runtime: 1h 26m
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

The Alpinist (2020)

main in the movie The Alpinist Climbing is climbing the sideof a frozen mountain.
YouTube

The Alpinist follows Marc-André Leclerc as he puts up crazy mixed routes and ice climbs around the world. What’s more impressive is that Leclerc is only 23. If you liked the sweaty-palm feeling you got while watching Free Solo, you’re going to love The Alpinist. It’s not available online yet, so you’ll have to head to your local theater to catch this one.

Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
Runtime: 1h 33m
IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

That’s it for our roundup of climbing documentaries. Do you want to learn how to rock climb? If you fly through all these you might check out our round-up of the best sports documentaries of all time.

Editors' Recommendations