The Inner Soul of Adventure Films

What does it take to have an adventure? Jon Barton picks his favourite films that explore the soul of famous adventurers:

Some of my selection are just plain inspirational while others, the Joss Naylor films in particular, warrant admiration for their protagonists. Others, such as the mountaineering films featuring Jerzy Kukuczka and Tomaz Humar explore their personalities and exploits. We find out just what it takes – and ultimately what the mountains have taken – in the pursuit of the ultimate climb.

By contrast, it’s interesting to talk with legends like Joe Brown and Johnny Dawes, and to gain an insight into the world from the perspective of the hardest climbs ever done. Finally, we have an in depth documentary on one of the 20th Century’s most controversial filmmakers Leni Riefenstahl; well worth watching to see her escape from her past into a wider world of adventure and exploration.

Andy Parkin – A Life in Adaptation

Andy Parkin A Life in Adaptation

When world class Alpinist Andy Parkin had a near fatal accident in the mountains in 1984, many thought he’d never climb again. Far from it, Andy is once again climbing and more so, expressing his love and affinity with the mountains through art.


Dhaulagiri Express

Dhaulagiri Express Gripping viewing: Tomaz Humar alone on one of the big Himalayan walls, filmed by a long lens from base camp and edited in with his radio transmissions. A real insight into what it takes to make the very hardest ascents in history. A film that lets the climbing do the talking, and, although we learn little about Humar, we learn an awful lot about hard soloing at 8,000 metres.


Kukuczka A biopic of arguably the greatest mountaineer of all time. Jerzy Kukuczka built his legend by climbing hard new routes, often in winter, on 8,000 metre peaks, as part of that generation of Polish mountaineers that climbed themselves into extinction. This film makes for difficult viewing, especially for the climber thinking about going on one trip too many.

Knowing Andy

Knowing Andy Andy Kirkpatrick has a number of world class Big Wall and Alpine ascents to his name, although his climbing is somewhat enigmatic, shrouded in a vale of self deprecating humour. This film goes some way to revealing what’s behind the wise cracks and the layers of fleece and down of one Britain’s best and most loved mountaineers.

Naylor’s Run and Iron Man

Naylor's Run

Two films about Britain’s most famous fell runner, for fans of the English Lake District, its landscape, language and people who live and work the fells. Fell running will never be trendy or glamorous like Parkrun, triathlons or ultra running, and I guess Joss and his like wouldn’t have it any other way.


An Interview with Joe Brown

An Interview with Joe Brown No other climber has advanced the sport further than Joe Brown, whether it be on rock, in the Alps or in the Greater Ranges. This is a rare and candid interview with Joe as he talks about other climbers of his generation, acknowledging what climbing and fame mean to him and the pure adventure of it. Worth watching for the quote ‘pebbles in our hats’.

The Story of Indian Face

The Story of Indian Face
Possibly the most famous hard trad route in the UK. Johnny Dawes talks about the route, his ascent and a lot more besides. Soak it up; it’ll make you climb at least a grade harder. More about hard trad climbing really than the man himself, but throughout the film Johnny is candid about his demons, motivation and talent.

Don Whillans – Myth & Legend

Don Whillans Myth and Legend Don was one of the legends of climbing that makes our sport so very special. And then he got fat and unfit, and died an early death, quietly, sadly. But he left us a legacy of fantastic climbs, anecdotes and stories, some true, some myth.

The Wonderful Horrid Life of Leni Riefenstahl

The wonderful, horrible life of Leni Riefenstahl Leni Riefenstahl was at best a Nazi sympathiser, and, at worse, well, the film shows her worse side. However, if you can set aside what some have said (many will not be able to do this), this is a young naive girl getting caught up in a horrid time, in a documentary about one of the best filmmakers of the 20thCentury. Filmed when she was 90, she recalls in detail her climbing adventures, her life in general, and her quiet, yet determined comeback in the 1960s and 1970s when she started to make films again. All of which may never have happened but for seeing a film poster, a poster advertising the first ever mountaineering film, Mountain of Destiny.

Watch the latest climbing, mountaineering and adventure films on SteepEdge.

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