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

rock climber hanging off a rock while tethered to the side.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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)

Valley Uprising
Genre Adventure, Documentary
Stars Peter Sarsgaard, Alex Honnold, Royal Robbins
Directed by Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
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.

Pretty Strong (2020)

Pretty Strong
Genre Documentary
Stars Katie Lambert, Nina Williams, Isabelle Faus
Directed by Julie Ellison, Leslie Hittmeier, Colette McInerney
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.

Reel Rock 15 (2020)

Reel Rock 15
Genre Documentary
Stars Alex Honnold, Mélissa Le Nevé, Lonnie Kauk
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.

The Scene (2011)

The Scene
g 75m
Genre Adventure, Documentary
Stars Chris Sharma, Steph Davis, Nalle Hukkataival
Directed by Chuck Fryberger
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.

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (2017)

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey
Genre Documentary
Stars Fred Beckey, Conrad Anker, Reinhold Messner
Directed by Dave O'Leske
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.

The Dawn Wall (2017)

The Dawn Wall
81 %
Genre Documentary, Adventure
Stars Tommy Caldwell, John Branch, Kevin Jorgeson
Directed by Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer
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.

Meru (2015)

77 %
r 89m
Genre Adventure, Documentary
Stars Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
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.

Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo
83 %
pg-13 100m
Genre Documentary, Adventure
Stars Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
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.
Free Solo - Trailer | National Geographic

180° South (2010)

180° South
pg 86m
Genre Comedy, Documentary, Drama
Stars Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Keith Malloy
Directed by Chris Malloy
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.

The Alpinist (2021)

The Alpinist
67 %
pg-13 92m
Genre Documentary
Stars Marc-André Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Alex Honnold
Directed by Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
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.

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

Movie images and data from:
Benjamin Buckingham
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ben lives in Portland, Oregon where he works as a freelance writer and outdoor guide.
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