Coronavirus: 23 films set outdoors to help you through self-isolation

Jacob Stolworthy, Louis Chilton, Adam White, Annie Lord
·8 min read
Disney / Fox / Getty Images
Disney / Fox / Getty Images

Being forced to stay indoors due to coronavirus is proving tough. Most of us are already desperate for some fresh air.

Fortunately, the medium of film might help. While a large number of people might have rushed at first to watch movies about viruses or people in isolation (Contagion is currently one of the most downloaded films in the world), there are many set in the great outdoors whose epic length and exotic vistas might be the perfect substitute for leaving your front door.

Pick the right one and you'll be transported to a different world that might actually take your mind off the gloomy headlines for a few hours.

Below are the films set outside that might make you fee less claustrophobic while self-isolating.

Arctic (2018)

Tracking a plane crash survivor (Mads Mikkelsen) as he waits for rescue, this Icelandic survival film sees the lone pilot using his wits to navigate his way through dangerous, snowy terrain. Arctic will make you happy you’re sat on your sofa. Blanket optional. JS

Beau Travail (1999)

A modern masterpiece from French auteur Claire Denis, Beau Travail is an electric re-working of the classic Hermann Melville story Billy Budd. Following the homo-erotic tensions of a French Foreign Legion unit stationed in Djibouti, the film brings to life its sweltering African setting with verve and tactility.​ LC

The Birds (1963)

If you look past the crazed avian attacks, there are a lot of very pretty wide-open spaces throughout Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tippi Hedren is the Los Angeles socialite venturing to Bodega Bay to run a bird-related errand and take in some sight-seeing, only to be set upon by winged monsters pecking like they’ve never pecked before. Come for the bloodshed, stay for the lovely views! AW

Calibre (2018)

This underrated Netflix original is the kind of film that makes you wish the characters had just stayed indoors. It follows two pals on a weekend hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands who, for reasons we won’t spoil here, get themselves into a murky situation with the disapproving locals. JS

Cliffhanger (1993)

Far better than its slower, red-headed cousin Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger is peak early-Nineties action – high-concept and boasting scenery-chewing villains, all anchored by a muscly leading man more adept at hitting things than emoting. Sylvester Stallone is the climber working in the Colorado rockies who finds himself caught up in an elaborate mountain heist. A lot more exciting than it has any right to be, Cliffhanger is basically Die Hard with shoes on, or Speed without the bus but with lots and lots of snow.​ AW

Easy Rider (1969)

Road movie 'Easy Rider' (Columbia Pictures)
Road movie 'Easy Rider' (Columbia Pictures)

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper helped revolutionise American cinema with Easy Rider, perhaps the quintessential road movie. Drugs, music and violence all feature prominently in the tale of two hippies drifting across the US, but it’s the beautiful, enormous landscapes that make Easy Rider awe-inspiring to this day.​ LC

Free Solo (2018)

Free Solo is a documentary about ace climber Alex Honnold, who scales one of the world’s most formidable rock faces without a harness. You get a sense of the sheer exhilaration of the outdoor life, but also a mesmerising look into the mindset of a man who seems completely oblivious to deathly peril.​ LC

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

This big-hearted buddy comedy follows troubled orphan Ricky (Julian Dennison), grumpy widower Hec (Sam Neill) and their dog Tupac as they trek across the outback in an attempt to escape their demons. Those feeling claustrophobic will enjoy the numerous sweeping helicopter shots of luscious green New Zealand forests. AL

Into the Wild (2007)

Because no list of films set outdoors is complete without it. Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, which tells the story of a man who hiked across North America in the Alaskan wilderness, is both moving and empowering – not to mention beautifully soundtracked by Eddie Vedder, whose haunting “Society” springs hairs on end. JS

Jaws (1975)

Steven Spielberg’s ultimate popcorn movie, Jaws reinvented the cinematic wheel with some help from a trio of everyman actors (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw) and a mechanical shark. The blueprint for all summer blockbusters that followed, Jaws remains richly terrifying more than 40 years after its release. The beach parties and hang-outs, at least before the jaws of the title begin chomping, look mighty fun from the safety of your living room sofa, too.​ AW

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The vast locations used by David Lean in his almost four hour-long epic (Jordan, Morocco and Spanish province Almería) will provide a lengthy dose of sunshine to your day. When Peter O’Toole’s real-life ​archaeologist and army officer TE Lawrence request two large glasses of lemonade after crossing the desert, you’ll be glad you can quench your thirst in the kitchen. JS

Leave No Trace (2018)

Leave No Trace begins in the lush forests of an Oregon park, as PTSD-struck war vet Will (Ben Foster) lives in the wild with his teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin MacKenzie). With stunning performances from its two leads, the film is a vibrant, moving exploration of a life lived off the grid. LC

The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)

'The Lord of the Rings' (New Line Cinema)
'The Lord of the Rings' (New Line Cinema)

OK, so Peter Jackson’s trilogy might have many breathless sequences set indoors, but the expansive Middle Earth locations – famously filmed in New Zealand – will no doubt help with any claustrophobia. JS

Moana (2016)

There’s no doubt about it: Moana is visually one of Disney’s most accomplished films. If you arrive for the story (a young girl’s chosen by the ocean to reunite a mystical relic with a goddess) you’ll stay for the dazzling visuals as the characters set sail on their odyssey. JS

The Princess Bride (1987)

Rob Reiner’s fantasy film quite literally steps inside the pages of a book, and in doing so, provides viewers with unrivalled escapism. The story in question follows a farmhand (Cary Elwes) attempting to rescue his one true love (Robin Wright) from an odious prince (Chris Sarandon). JS

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Most of Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful animated films would fit right in on this list – none more so than Princess Mononoke, the 1997 fantasy about a war between forest gods and humans. The beauty and power of nature has rarely been so effectively portrayed as in this lyrical, thrilling anime.​ LC

Rat Race (2001)

This madcap comedy from the makers of Airplane! is an inventive, often hilarious watch following a group of people who race from Las Vegas to El Paso in a bid to win millions of dollars. As John Cleese’s casino owner puts it so brilliantly at the beginning of the film: “There is only one rule – there are no rules.” JS

The Revenant (2015)

Watching Leonardo DiCaprio crawl on his hands and knees through the icy peaks of a harsh winter will make you grateful you can’t leave your front door. This western sees bear-attacked frontiersman Hugo (DiCaprio) embarking on a mystical journey of survival and brutal revenge.​ AL

The River Wild (1994)

Nineties thriller 'The River Wild' (Universal Pictures)
Nineties thriller 'The River Wild' (Universal Pictures)

The River Wild was made during Meryl Streep’s mid-Nineties fallow period, where the hits stopped coming and even Oscar wasn’t too interested anymore. There’s an argument to be made, if likely only by fans of The River Wild, that this was in fact Streep’s greatest era, however. She’s a stressed mother on holiday with her family on a whitewater rafting trip – who is set upon by sadistic criminals Kevin Bacon and John C Reilly! The River Wild is therefore two for the price of one: amazing nature photography and crazy Kevin Bacon – what more could you ask for? AW

Silence (2016)

Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s acclaimed novel didn’t win everyone over; it’s nearly three hours long, slow-moving, and densely religious. But no-one could deny that the epic, set in feudal Japan and filmed in Taiwan, features brilliantly atmospheric environments.​ LC

Stand by Me (1986)

Four best friends – Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern – set out on a journey to find the corpse of Ray Brower, a local teenager who was hit by a train while plucking blueberries in the wild. From grief-stricken parents to local bullies, along the way, these formally innocent kids learn that the world can be unkind. AL

Walkabout (1971)

Nicolas Roeg's survival ​film, adapted from James Vance Marshall's novel, may not put the Australian outback high up on the list of must-visit destinations, but it certainly provides a good location for its tense plot involving a schoolgirl and her brother who find themselves stranded after a tragic incident. One of the first films in the Australian New Wave cinema movement, but no less accessible for the more casual film watcher. JS

Wild (2014)

Reese Witherspoon earnt an Oscar nomination for this career-resuscitating drama about the emotional power of the wilderness. Playing a recovering addict with a distant mother (a wonderfully soulful Laura Dern), Witherspoon’s journey from disarray to salvation via a hike across the Pacific Crest Trail will make you desperately excited to leave your house once this is all over. Or you could merely imagine it as the first chapter in the “wealthy, fraying white women” entertainment universe Witherspoon and Dern would embark upon soon after its release – via Big Little Lies, Marriage Story and Little Fires Everywhere. Either one.​ AW

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