These days, we are fortunate to have access to an unlimited number of high quality climbing documentaries and films. Unfortunately, the excellence we as climbers have come to expect, falls incredibly short on the big screen.
Along a stark road of absurdity, Hollywood has time and again shamelessly tainted both the mechanics of how rock climbing works, as well as our reputation as sane individuals. Apparently, we are all crazed adrenaline junkies with a death wish and really awful style.
Here are some of the greatest offenders, as well as our favorite reviews:
A heart-pumping story of young climber who must rescue his sister from K2—the world’s second highest peak—battling the uncontrollable challenges of the mountain.
Big pile of poop
“I had the misfortune of watching this steaming pile of poop. Don’t waste your time, go and buy an ice cream or take a pleasant stroll, or water a plant, or feed the birds in the park, or bake a cake, or eat some m&ms, or learn to cook Thai food, or smoke a joint, or read a nice novel, or grow grapes, or look for a monkey in Malaysia, or divide and rule, or write your will, or dye your hair, or grow a beard, or wash your feet, or shampoo your cat, or skate backwards, or fly a kite, or climb Kilimanjaro, or eat your neighbor, or purchase some nerd glasses, or make pasta instead. You will surely find more joy in any other activity.”
-IMDB User, challesilva
Physics? Mountaineering? Where Art thou
“I started mountaineering a couple years ago and became interested in this movie. Having seen it, I don’t really know what to think of it. There is no logic in this movie. How do friends catch the fall of five people and then start ripping out one after the next? Who will ever use nitroglycerin as an explosive? Have you ever heard of a T- anchor? Why are there icescrews on the rescue teams harnesses if nobody uses them? How can a guy start running on about 8000m without having done any high altitude acclimatisation? To summarize my impression on the movie: If you ever had anything to do with mountaineering or climbing this movie will drive tears into your eyes. You will either cry or laugh a lot!”
-IMDB User, canadan
Positioned 4,000 feet up at a ledge crossing, climbing partner of Gabe (played by Sylvester Stallone), falls to the ground after her gear fails. A year later, Gabe must return to the same mountain and rescue ‘stranded’ people, who turn out to actually be in search of $100,000,000 located in three boxes on the mountain, and need someone to lead them.
“I saw this movie with my rock climbing instructor, and we found the entire thing so ridiculous as to be beyond pity. (For one, if Stallone is out free-climbing by himself, there’s no need to carry any gear, but I guess those dangling carabiners look sorta “mountain climby,” so let’s throw them in). For those lobotomized folks who think that Colorado looks anything like the Dolomites in Italy (where the movie was filmed), well the Hollywood moguls have got a lot more ridiculous & foul-smelling stuff for you to swallow.”
-IMDB User, jsylvest
How can you even take it seriously?
“This film is not possible to take seriously. At some parts it is so awfully stupid that I just can’t help laughing at it all. Try me for the sequence where Stallone’s character jumps some 20 meters with full climbing gear or (and this is really my favorite) snuffs a bad guy by sticking him onto a stalactite. Yeah, what ungodly strength did he muster to accomplish such feats? I dunno, but he sure gives reality a run for the money.”
-IMDB User, Anders Åslund
A troubled teen joins a clan of rock climbers, quickly finding himself forced into a death-defying adventure.
If you are a climber, you must watch this
“You must watch this because it is so bad. My climbing buddies and I watched this and laughed our asses off for a week afterward. Now, the movie’s cheesy one-liners are part of our everyday lingo. It is the cult movie of climbing: the one that everybody loves to hate. The movie makes no sense. The climbing makes no sense. This is why it’s hilarious. Oh, and also because they have a hilarious scene with a bear, which is so poorly done that it’s obvious that the footage came from some other source. Oh, and I almost forgot the theme song to the movie, which I can guarantee you will be singing every time you go climbing: “Take it to the limit-limit, got to doit-doit…Watch this movie tonight, or better yet, “Screw this, let’s go top-roping!”
-IMDB User, inmidair
Two Words: Awesome.
“Wow. this movie is the voice of a climbing generation. Director Sam Keith takes us to the darkest depths of Man’s soul where we find love, life, and top-roping. World-weary Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) follows his heart and his anchors through a cerebral journey to find sanity in a post-apocalyptic Colorado. Instead, Telly meets confrontation in Don (Jason Bortz), the embodiment of machismo and a zeitgeist of humanities foibles. The epic film comes to a climbax at a gut-wrenching top-roping competition that will make even the strongest willed viewers squeamish at the dizzying heights.
This movie has it all: Top-roping outside, Top-roping in the gym, Cut-off shorts and sleeveless flannel shirts, Awesome climbing footage (some so good, you see it 2 or 3 times!), Bear and snake attacks.
I gave the movie 8 out of 10 because I wanted to see the romance develop a bit more. It seemed as if the film was leading up to a spicy, top-roped sex scene between Telly and his new lover, but alas, it wouldn’t fit into the already jam-packed hour and a half thrill ride.
Fans of Cliffhanger and Mission Impossible II will find this flick to be a diamond in the rough. Overall, if you are ready to challenge your world view on humanity and climbing, this is the film for you!!!1”
-IMDB User, freebase20
A device controlling a Russian-made satellite weapon is stolen by terrorists, who attempt to escape by plane, but are shot down. The active, ready-to-strike device now rest on top of K2. The team must retrieve and deactivate the device. Unfortunately, it’s winter. A recruited team of the best mountain climbers in the world must bring techs to deactivate the device to the top of K2.
Almost entertaining, in a burning orphanage sort of way.
“This is worth seeing, if only to provide a floor for rating all other movies. Worst of all time? Probably not. laughingly, shockingly horrible? Definitely. I was embarrassed for the actors in the movie, who must have been randomly recruited from a Greyhound terminal. I was also embarrassed for the movie Vertical Limit, which, though it is also a terrible movie in it’s own right, actually made an effort, and has some entertainment value including a couple of Point Break-esquire one-liners. Sub Zero lifted almost all of it’s action sequences and mountain scenes from Vertical Limit. When I say lifted, I don’t mean they borrowed ideas, but rather cut-and-pasted footage. Another person wrote that one scene looked like an SNL skit, and I agree. Sub Zero is so pathetic, it is almost entertaining. But not quite.”
-IMDB User, zmc406
Like a long slog through the snow
“Not long after I started watching “Sub Zero”, I thought, “Hey, this doesn’t look too bad for a made-for-video movie.” Not long after that, I saw some scenes that looked spectacular – TOO spectacular. I then remembered that Cinetel Films (which made this movie along with Lions Gate) notoriously uses footage from big-budget major studio movies. It didn’t take me long to guess that most of the spectacular footage was from “Vertical Limit”, and some on-line research I did after watching the movie proved me correct.
How was the rest of the movie, the parts with new footage? Well, after watching the movie, I can understand why the director used a pseudonym. The new special effects done for this movie are mediocre at best, embarrassing at their worst (check out the scene when one mountain climber slips and starts sliding down the mountain – very cheaply done.) The script has a number of faults as well. Over half the movie goes by before the protagonists get off their butts and start their mission. There are clichés, like the black guy being the first of the mountain climbing team to die. Then there are laughable bits, like the Russians shooting down a plane in the Mount Everest area (Russia is too far away from there!), and someone saying they climbed Everest in hours when it actually takes DAYS to climb the mountain! If there had been more laughable bits like those, I might have recommended the movie as an unintentional comedy. But as it is, it’s one you can safely avoid.”
-IMDB User, Wizard-8
Jonathan (Clint Eastwood), an art history professor who worked as an assassin for a government bureau, is called back to action to go after a member of a Russian mountain climbing team, who killed an old friend of his. In the effort to take down his target, he joins an expedition to climb the Eiger.
Hideous piece of crap
This movie is a hideous, misogynistic piece of crap with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. If you have any basic human decency, this movie will make you feel like you are constantly being slapped in the face. It was almost as repellent and disgusting as 3000 Miles to Graceland. In addition, it was just a bad movie. It was really more a movie about a brief and unsuccessful mountain climbing attempt with a contrived espionage subplot tacked on for whatever reason. I like bad movies in general, but this was just terrible. The plot meanders hither and yon, with no purpose or pacing. The only character I even kind of sympathized with was the girl who tried to kill Clint about halfway through. Sadly, she was unsuccessful. I would have liked to have given it -8 stars, but the system does not make this possible. Run, do not walk, away from this movie.
-IMDB User, dxdmjrd
Unbelievable! (No, that’s not good).
There is a thin line between the sort of unreality in the Bond movies of the era and that in this mish mash of sex and adventure. The film obviously was trying to capitalize on the Bond mania of the mid seventies with spooky bad guys, sexy bad girls, mysterious bad organizations and complicated bad motives. In short, it isn’t very good. The average Bugs Bunny cartoon is less far fetched. There is some spectacular scenery and some dramatic mountaineering. But it’s too long, too preposterous and too badly written and acted to make it worthwhile. If you want to assassinate somebody — or “sanction” them — is it really necessary to go mountain climbing with them. But then, if you didn’t, the movie would last 15 minutes rather than almost two and a half hours. (Besidses, Clint Eastwood was never that young, was he?)
-IMDB User, rps-2
For your safety and climbing sanity, we recommend that you only watch these films on rest days or long periods of injury to avoid accidentally using any of the portrayed climbing nonsense.