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Ten survival tips we learned from the movies

All you need to stay alive in an unforgiving wilderness is knowledge of ten essential films

By Tom Huddleston
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In his new movie, ‘The Revenant’, tough-guy tracker Leonardo DiCaprio is abandoned in an icy landscape following an attack by a grizzly bear. If only he’d spent more time at the cinema, he might have learned some useful lessons… 

1. Limbs are disposable

Film Action and adventure

‘127 Hours’ (2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio may feel hard-done-by following his tussle with Mama Grizzly, but at least he emerges with four limbs. Not so James Franco in Danny Boyle’s claustrophobic caving drama: he’s forced into a spot of self-surgery when he gets pinned in a narrow canyon during a rock fall. A farewell to arms, indeed.

2. Always travel with a tasty pal

Film

‘Alive’ (1993)
The number-one accessory in any survival situation has to be another human being. Not only can you cuddle up close for warmth and/or use them as bait to trap local wildlife, but if – God forbid! – something should happen to them you’ll be set for the winter, snacks-wise.

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3. Shit can be gold

Film Action and adventure

‘The Martian’ (2015)
Marooned on Mars, astronaut Matt Damon learns that freeze-dried human poo can work as fertiliser for his vital potato crop. We reckon the same substance could also be used as animal repellent, camouflage material or – if really well frozen – even as a weapon. Back off, I’ve got a blunt excrement!

4. Animal guts are super-cosy

Film Action and adventure

‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)
Hands up if, as a kid, you had the Tauntaun toy with the gruesome flap in its belly so you could stick your Luke Skywalker figure inside? Han Solo’s neat lightsaber trick in the first ‘Star Wars’ sequel was inspired by an old Native American survival technique. No spoilers, but it’s possible Leo may have read the same accounts.

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5. Wolves are not man’s best friends

Film Action and adventure

‘The Grey’ (2011)
They might look a bit like that lovable, not-too-bright Alsatian that lives next door, but out in the wild wolves are not to be trifled with. As he never tires of telling us, Liam Neeson is a man with a very particular set of skills – but in this frosty man-against-the-elements thriller he’s just dog food on legs.

6. When the going gets tough, the tough kill bears

Film Action and adventure

‘The Edge’ (1997)
‘The Revenant’ may be pretty relentless, but it really could have used a scene where Leo stomps around the forest whittling spears out of tree trunks and shouting ‘I’m gonna kill the bear!’ at the top of his lungs, like Anthony Hopkins in this awesomely ridiculous man-v-nature classic. 

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7. You're never alone with a volleyball

Film Drama

‘Cast Away’ (2000)
Solitude is bound to be a problem for anyone attempting to survive alone – but Tom Hanks finds a neat loophole in this desert-island drama by transforming a volleyball into his go-to sounding board and companion, Wilson. We reckon it’d work just as well with anything large enough to sketch a face on: a coconut, a rock, the polished skull of that guy you ate…

8. Find a scapegoat, or you’ll end up being one

Film

‘Lord of the Flies’ (1963)
This is a tough one, but it’s important: in group survival situations (say, more than three people), hierarchies will inevitably emerge and it’s up to you to make sure you’re at the top – by any means necessary. You might think you’re morally superior to the bloodthirsty school kids in this classic fable, but so did poor, doomed Piggy.

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9. Never trust a hillbilly

Film Action and adventure

‘Deliverance’ (1973)
The whole point of wilderness survival is to get back to civilisation – but when you do finally make contact with humanity, make sure they’re the sort who’ll give you a nice hot drink and a lift to town rather than the banjo-pickin’, squeal-like-a-pig variety found in this beloved river-rafting action flick.

10. Try to, like, find yourself and, yeah, stuff

Film Action and adventure

‘Into the Wild’ (2007)
It’s not all cannibalism and bear-trapping out there in the wilderness. One morning you may find yourself on a remote peak, struck dumb by the beauty of an Alaskan sunrise, and all this hardship will seem worth it. Or at least that’s the idea that Sean Penn’s pushing in his hippy-dippy forest movie. We’ll take four walls, no bears and a hot bath any day, thanks Sean. 

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