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The Best Adventure Films of 2015

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Jimmy Chin at first light on the 11th day of climbing on the 2011 Meru expedition. This was the summit day push. Photograph by Renan Ozturk

This year, we saw adventure films rise above the expected action and adrenaline to tell rich stories of the triumph of the human spirit. With abundant winter storm warnings across the country, what better time to cozy up on the couch with some of the year’s best—after your powder turns and hot tub soaks, of course. Here are some of our favorite adventure films of 2015, in alphabetical order. Post your favorite films in the comment section below.

A Line Across the Sky
Climbers Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold do their own camera work as they capture one of alpinism’s last great prizes, the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia. Seeing these two buddies in their element, uninhibited by cameramen or other climbers, results in a few scenes that make this film an instant classic, such as the practical/hilarious sunglasses polenta spoon.

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Ben Moon and Denali; Photograph courtesy Ben Moon

Denali
This film touched hearts around the world, from NFL players to New York City fashion executives. Denali shares the journey of photographer/climber Ben Moon through the eyes of his beloved dog, Denali, for a portrait of love, cancer, friendship, survival, and loss. I watched this film probably 25 times, which makes its 12 million views to date not at all surprising.

The Great Alone
This compelling documentary shadows Iditarod comeback champion Lance Mackey’s unlikely rise to mushing fame. Lance may be the strongest character we have seen in an adventure film, ever. Plus there are lots of sled dog puppies.

55 Hours in Mexico
What is the ultimate adventure you can pack into a weekend? How about flying from Colorado to Mexico to ski North America’s third tallest peak? While the team pulled it off, they would not recommend it to others.

The Important Places
In this beautiful film, photographer Forest Woodward takes us onto the river of life—the Colorado though the Grand Canyon—with his dad. It’s a meditation on love, family, growing up and growing old, and passing a connection to nature on to the next generation.

Meru
Short listed in the Academy Awards documentary category, this is the story of alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk on their quest/obsession to make the first ascent of the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru. But it’s the film’s themes of friendship, loyalty, dedication, and mentorship that have audiences laughing and crying, repeatedly.

Unbranded
Four twentysomething Texans come together to tell an adventure story for the ages that marries high adventure with a hot issue—the problem of wild horses in the United States. Filmmaker Ben Masters and his team weave together a thrilling, funny, touching story of taking their adopted wild mustangs from the Mexico border to Canada. The horses steal the show, of course.

Honorable Mention: When Dogs Fly
Though it came out a few years ago, When Dogs Fly was the first film Dean Potter, who died this year, directed himself. Unconventional, compassionate, artistic, and a little odd, this film set off a tidal wave of controversy when it was released, like many things the “Dark Wizard” did in his life. RIP, Dean.