Movie list

Suggested and recommended movies that may be of interest to those who are interested in survival, tracking, and nature.
Please note that the movies listed here are more of the "entertainment" variety, rather than of the "instructional" type.

Please send recommendations for the Movie List to Tracker Trail

Native People    Survival    Tracking     The way of the Scout    Nature
Social, environmental, and related issues    Philosophy

The Hunted (released March 14, 2003) Tom Brown Jr. served as Technical Advisor for this movie.
For lots more info on The Hunted, click here.

Native People

  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord
    A movie about white people and remote native tribes and the disastrous consequences of their interaction.
  • Black Robe
        This is a story of Father Laforgue, a young French Jesuit missionary to the Huron in Quebec. The year is 1634. The colony leader, Champlain, persuades Chomina, an Algonquin chief, to escort the priest to Huron country. Chomina is accompanied by his wife and beautiful daughter (Annuka) and a number of Algonquins who have agreed to act as guides. The young Danial goes along as interpretor.
        Laforgue wants to understand the Indians in order to "save the savages' souls." But he has severely skewed vision. He is lonely, constantly flashing back to his youth in France. The lodges the Indians build for shelter at night are crowded and definitely not private. He is afraid of the forest, which is simultaneously beautiful and foreboding, threatening. At one point, the Laforgue gets lost in the forest and becomes absolutely panic stricken. He tells Daniel: 'I am afraid of this country. The devil rules here. It controls the hearts and minds of these people.This is totally alien to his Algonquin escorts.
        Meanwhile, Daniel finds love in the person of Annuka. Laforgue flagellates himself to stop from thinking sexual thoughts that started when he witnesses people making love. The priest can, perhaps, control himself, but he can not find convincing words to talk Daniel out of the relationship.
        Father Laforgue's faith is severely tested, as is his courage when he and his Algonquin escorts are captured by Iroquois. Some of the party are killed and others tortured. Laforgue has a finger cut off. The party manages to escape, but Chomina dies at a place he has seen in his dreams. Meanwhile, the priest has come to a certain respect for the chief and he discovers a love he had not suspected.
        Nobody is really very pretty in this movie, yet beautiful aspects of Indian life and faith shine through anyway. This film is raw, violent, engaging, enlightening.
        Black Robe is as raw as the times it portrays.
        Chomina tells of changes brought by the whites: "But we accepted their gifts. We have come to need them. This is our undoing. It will be our end." And in the end we see the devastating effect that European diseases had on Native Americans.
        Indian languages are supposedly accurate. There are English subtitles when people speak native languages.
        There are good and bad whites, good and bad Indians. And sometimes the good and the bad are the same people. After being tortured, the Algonquin chief asks Daniel "You want to be one of us. What do you think now?" Daniel replies that the Iroquois are animals. "They are the same as us," Chomina responds. The Algonquins would have done the same thing to Iroquois prisoners.
        We see Christians who are so dogmatic and fanatic in their righteousness that we understand a little what drove men like Laforgue to travel halfway around the world to be a martyr.
        Details of buildings, hunting methods, cooperation between people to survive the climate, all are extremely accurate.
        Indians are shown with their own religious beliefs, and they neither want nor need the religion Father Laforgue brings. In other areas of life, they are as human in and of themselves as the French. But are tender and humorous, vulgar and dirty.
    See www.proquest-ed.com/vid-ind-blackrobe.html.
  • Dances With Wolves
       Set in the days when the "wild west" was indeed wild, this is the famous movie about an army officer sent to man a post in "Indian country" by himself.  He eventually adopts Native ways, and is given the Indian name, "Dances With Wolves" by them.  A wonderful tale, although some say it is unrealistic and overly romantices the Native way of life of that period.  Starring Kevin Costner.
  • Education of Little Tree - based on the book of the same name
  • The Emerald Forest
       About a white man's son who is kidnapped as a little boy by natives in South America.  He grows up and is eventually instrumental in stopping a huge dam project that his father is in charge of.
  • Fly With the Hawk
       A Canadian movie about a disturbed teenager who is swept downstream after a canoeing accident.  He is rescued by a older man who lives in the woods primitive-survival-style.  The old man teaches the boy everything he knows, then sends him off to live on his own for the winter.  The teenager experiences a personal transformation and returns to civilization.  A wonderful surprise ending (which I won't tell you here)!
  • Grey Owl
    1999. Based on the life of Grey Owl.  For more info visit the website at www.greyowlmovie.com/
  • The Last of the Mohicans
    The plot centers on an old Mohican, his son, and his adopted son, against the backdrop conflict of the wars amongst the English, French, and Native North Americans.  The movie combines elements of native life, colonial life, romance, adventure, and war; there are hunters, farmers, wilderness runners, soldiers, and other characters who are all windows through which the viewer may picture pieces of the recent history.  I believe the movie was filmed in British Columbia, but I could be wrong.  It is definitely worth watching, and should especially captivate people who are interested in native life and wilderness living. (review by Jeremy St. Onge)
  • The Mission
       This movie is a powerful statement about the destruction of the Native way of life in South America by the missionaries and white people in general.
  • Pathfinder
        Pathfinder is a foreign film about the journey of a young Saami boy who becomes the tribal shaman. It has subtitles, and is very authentic looking, depicting the life of the people who tend the reindeer in N. Europe. I have watched it several times and really enjoyed it. (review by David Smuin)
  • Powwow Highway
        Philbert Bono stops in for a beer at a place in Lame Deer, Montana (on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation). We immediately see he is a different kind of man. When people talk to him he may or may not answer, or even nod, but just smile. He catches a televised used car salesman wearing a warbonnet: "How, folks! This old cowboys on the warpath with heap big savings.... Come on down off the res and pick out your pony today.... Never any money down. Easy credit terms available." Philbert watches dreamily.
        Next day he goes to a local Indian junk lot and tells the guy there "I want to buy one of your fine ponies." As he looks over the rust-on-wheels selection, he sees a vision of horses running, and when they horses disappear, he is looking at one particular hulk, which he buys for pocket money and other items he's carrying. He names his automotive pony "Protector."
        Roger Ebert opens his review of this film this way: "Anyone who can name his 1964 Buick 'Protector' and talk to it like a pony has a philosophy we can learn from."
        At the same time, there is a big vote coming up in the tribal council concerning mineral rights on the reservation. Buddy Red Bow, a modern, type-A Vietnam Vet, old AIM Radical and fighter at Wounded Knee II, spends a lot of his time and energy trying to keep the mineral company interests in check. So the powers that be arrest his sister in New Mexico on trumped up drug charges. When Buddy finds out, he takes a fistful of tribal money (meant to pay for stud bulls) and gets ready to bail Bonnie out of jail. He sweettalks Philbert into driving him down there in his new pony, Protector.
        But Philbert lives his dreams, and winds up taking the very long way to New Mexico, much to Buddy's constant exasperation. They visit the Black Hills where Phil has a vision of being given sacred arrows. Then Philbert won't leave the area until they go to a powwow at Pine Ridge. As they travel, Buddy asks Philbert what he remembers about their childhood. We see Buddy's flashback where is is running to catch a football and slams into a young Philbert who is as heavy as the adult is. Buddy was not nice, taunting: "Stupid dough-boy. it would have killed me if I hadn't bounced off."
        Philbert maintains that he doesn't remember much, that Budy played a lot of military games like football, but Bonnie was nice to him. Phil's flashback: he is sitting on the ground after colliding with Buddy, and Bonnie brings him a hope-you're-all-right offering of a banana. So we see that these two partners on this trip have known each other forever, but were not necessarily friends.
        And Protector keeps chugging away.
        Earlier we saw in a very funny scene, that Buddy did not even know what his people's language sounded like, let alone speak it. He asks Philbert why he doesn't dress right if he's a real warrior. Phil answers with his mouth full. "That Cheyenne?" Buddy asks. Philbert rearranges the food and answers again: "I got no bread for buckskins." When, Phil pulls over and wades out into an icy stream to chant to the rising sun, we hear Buddy howl - again - "You dumb shit!" He tries to get Philbert back into the car, and winds up chanting alongside his friend, hesitantly and very self-consciously, but chanting nonetheless. We get the impression that he is a Modern Indian on a road of relearning what The People are all about.
        At Pine Ridge they meet a couple of Buddy's old war pals, one of whom is moving to Denver, so they offer him and his wife a ride. Again, Philbert finds a detour, this time to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska, one of the deadly places for the Northern Cheyenne on their trek north in 1879.
        Philbert tells a wonderful story of Wotiyo the trickster. Buddy makes fun of Phil for paying so much attention to all the old stories. "Too bad the stories don't tells us how to keep our reservations from turning into sewers." Philbert insists that the outside interests won't be able to take away the natural resources. "Wotiyo the trickster won't let them," he explains. "For Wotiyo is also the creator of the universe. He will play a little trick on the white man. You wait and see."
        Protector keeps chugging away, though belching a bit more oil-smoke exhaust than before.
    Finally they get to Santa Fe and, through a series of tricks and coincidences, they rescue Bonnie. Everything turns out all right for everybody: Even the money for the bulls for the tribe that Buddy spent is restored. There is one major casualty, however. Protector crashes and burns.
        As Philbert and Buddy travel, we get the sense that Philbert does everything from an ancient way of seeing the universe. He never tries to justify what he's doing, or why. He just does it, ignoring the pleas and protests of all those around him who simply don't understand. It's almost as if Philbert is a modern trickster. If those around him can, there is much to learn from him. For the trickster never played his tricks for fun or to harm; there was always a lesson to be learned.
        The film shows a full community of friends and relatives. It shows that the Indian community still lives and survives in the face of a modern world that sometimes doesn't even realize there's a battle going on.

    See www.proquest-ed.com/vid-ind-powwowhwy.html.
  • Smoke Signals
    --says one Tracker, "Modern day native story.  None of the stoic, romantic hooey, just people. Funny, sad, but very poignant. Native made, native actors."
  • Thunderheart
       This movie is about a part-native FBI agent who discovers his native roots.  Actor Graham Greene plays a Native police officer who is skilled in pressure-releases.
  • Where The River Runs Black
       About a boy in the jungles of South America, the son of a native Indian woman and a young priest (both of whom are dead).  He gets kidnapped by white men and the church tries to "civilize" him.  He eventually escapes and returns to his wilderness home to swim amongst the dolphins who protect him (no, it's not corny).   Based on a legend of the area.
  • Nanook of the North
    A friend lent me a video, Nanook of the North, a documentary made by Robert Flaherty, in 1922, about an Eskimo clan living in the Hudson Bay area. No Hollywood trick photography here, it's awesome if you can find a copy. I watched the hour long film, five times already. Nanook means bear, and he has earned his name, he brings eight polar bear hides to the trader as part of the year's catch, all were killed with a harpoon! The ruggedness of the land and it's people are depicted, as well as their resourcefulness. Nanook get drqgged across the ice as he struggles to hold onto a seal he has harpooned, and a group of them hold onto a sealskiin line, as a two ton walrus struggles in the surf to escape them, after it was stalked and harpooned on the beach. Butchering, dogsledding, building an igloo, spearing salmon while laying on the ice, it's all in there. A condensed version of one year of his life. My highest recommendations! (review by "Wildman")
  • The Fast Runner (aka Atanarjuat)
    The movie shows the lifeways of the Inuit people. The storyline is based on an ancient legend. It was filmed entirely on site by an all Inuit crew.
    Here is their description of the film: 
    Igloolik is a community of 1200 people located on a small island in the north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic with archeological evidence of 4000 years of continuous habitation. Throughout these millennia, with no written language, untold numbers of nomadic Inuit renewed their culture and traditional knowledge for every generation entirely through storytelling.
    Our film Atanarjuat is part of this continuous stream of oral history carried forward into the new millennium through a marriage of Inuit storytelling skills and new technology.  Atanarjuat is Canada's first feature-length fiction film written, produced, directed, and acted by Inuit. An exciting action thriller set in ancient Igloolik, the film unfolds as a life-threatening struggle between powerful natural and supernatural characters. Atanarjuat gives international audiences a more authentic view of Inuit culture and oral tradition than ever before, from the inside and through Inuit eyes.
    For countless generations, Igloolik elders have kept the legend of Atanarjuat alive to teach young Inuit the danger of setting personal desire above the needs of the group. 
    The tale of making the film is itself made up of many stories..


  • Darsu Uzala (is this the correct spelling?) - shows some survival techniques
  • The Edge
    --one reviewer says, "Excellent survival scenarios, edge of your seat scenes."
    --another reviewer says, "Grade A actors in a grade "B" movie.  Very unrealistic and hard-to-believe survival scenes and some very questionable techniques, such as tossing a torch and suddenly -"poof"- there's a large protective circle of fire around the characters.  In another part of the movie they tan a bear hide in only a few hours. This movie is definitely not an "in harmony with nature" movie, with the main characters being relentlessly chased by a mean-spirited bear.
  • Naked Into the Wilderness:
       John McPherson has put together a series of instructional videos with this title.   Although they move very slowly in parts, they are very detailed.  There are many close-up shots of what is being done.
  • Quest For Fire:
       Portrays a primitive society in their quest to find a source of fire.   Much of this movie was filmed on the Bruce Peninsula (Ontario, Canada).
  • Survival Quest:
       "The motion picture Survival Quest tells the exciting action/adventure story of six people enrolled in a wilderness survival school. Pushed to their limits by instructor Hank Chambers (played by actor Lance Henriksen of Millennium, Aliens, etc.), his students learn to forge raging waters, forage for food, and to trust one another with their lives. Hank teaches them mountaineering and takes them on an arduous climb to a snow-covered peak where they must dig into an ice cave to survive the bitterly cold night. When they are at last ready, their instructor sends them into the forest alone without equipment or supplies, counseling them that "...survival in the wilderness is a matter of heart not hardware". The ultimate test of their newly-acquired skills however, is suddenly thrust upon them by a horrifying, violent accident that pits them against an unexpected enemy who sends them on a desperate race for salvation.
       Writer/Director Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, BEASTMASTER) takes his talented young cast, --including Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding, Young Guns) and Catherine Keener (Walking and Talking, Living in Oblivion) in their first feature roles -- high into the Sierras to film this sweeping adventure that contrasts two very different philosophies of survival.
       SURVIVAL QUEST is a film that illuminates the beauty and power of the wilderness in nature as well as the wilderness in the spirit of men."  http://www.phantasm.com/sq/index.htm
  • Walkabout
        An independent film made in Australia.  Basically it is about 2 British youngsters who somehow get lost in the outback of Australia, wander freely through the desert and somehow find an oasis.  At this oasis they drink all the water they need and eat the fruit off the trees.  After about three days they decide they have to leave and then all of a sudden an Aboriginie is comes over the dune chasing a lizard with a spear.  So the rest of the movie goes on about how they wander the landscape and the young warrior hunts, collects plants, medicinal plants and so forth.  In the end the two British youngsters go back to civilization but they dream aboutthe freedom they received from wandering.  An excellent movie.
  • Last of the Dogmen
  • My Side Of the Mountain
    About a young boy who, inspired by the writings of Walden, leaves home and goes out into the woods to live. He finds shelter in large hollowed out tree and lives from the land.
  • The Earthling 
    With Rick Shroder and William Holden, where the two of them survived in the Outback.
  • A Man Called Horse
  • Clan of the Cave Bear
  • White Water Summer - some skills shown
  • Jerimiah Johnson
  • Cast Away - A man who works for Fed Ex survives a plane crash in the South Pacific and is washed up onto an island, where he learns to survive.
  • A Cry in the Wild
  • Where the Lilies Bloom - Great movie, wildcrafting, and a great scene (with a young Harry Dean Stanton) about a terrific pneumonia treatment. -- Jen Kile


  • Audubon Video Guides to Birds:
    There are several videos in this series, which are designed to help the viewer get to know birds.

  • Waterwalker
    A movie by the late Bill Mason depicting the stupendous beauty and wonder of the north shore of Lake Superior.
    Also check out other movies by Bill Mason, such as Path of the Paddle and Song of the Paddle.  For more info on Bill Mason see www.paddlers.com/references/refbillmason.htm and the Mason family homepage at www.wilds.mb.ca/redcanoe/billmason.html.

  • Into the Solitude
    Made by Robert Perkins: A man's struggle to sort issues out in his life.  He videos himself on a 60 day solo canoe trip on the Back river into the Canadian arctic.   Great movie and true, first person account (no acting).

Social, environment, and related Issues

  • L'Erreur Boreale:
        Today I saw probably the most disturbing movie I've ever seen about the environment - disturbing because it confirms exactly what Tom talks about in some of his more philosophy oriented books. It documents what has been happening to Quebec's boreal forest over the past century. Yes, it's in French but has English subtitles. It's similar to the "Dying of the Trees" in that it involves investigative journalism, but the situation seems to be a lot worse further north because of the lower population. 96% of the province's forest is now managed by forestry companies that are essentially cultivating tree farms, complete with spraying for undesirable trees and developing trees that grow faster. The province also guaranteed the companies rights to managed the forests, and any reclamation costs of the forest to undo past damaged is now in the hands of the public. To add to this, the environmental reviews are now  being done by the forestry companies themselves and not the government.
        One thing that is really mind blowing is an interview where a company executive actually says "I don't know why people's rights should be so important."
        The situation is similar in other provinces, and Russia's boreal forest is now next on the list to become "liquidated" by some international corporations.
        I don't know whether the movie is available in the U.S. - it was produced by the National Film Board of Canada - but I'm going to try to get a copy to try to educate friends.
    Review by Geoff
  • 1984:
       Based on the well-known novel by George Orwell, he speculated what the world would be like in 1984.  It is a vision of a highly regulated restrictive society in which individual freedoms are essentially non-existent.  Although 1984 has now passed us by, this movie (& novel) remain as a warning of what could happen to our society.
        Check out www.geocities.com/SoHo/Square/4085/findex.htm and http://www.angelfire.com/biz/Essay/english.html for more info about "1984".
  • Baraka:
       A very interesting and powerful movie.  Consisting entirely of images and music (no dialogue), the filmmaker took 2 years to make this statement about the state of the world and humans' place in it.  He examines the relationship of humans to the natural environment, and what they're doing to both it and themselves.  He also looks at the spirtuality of humans, and how we have strayed very far from its essentials.   Highly recommended!
       After watching Baraka you may wish to visit office.geog.uvic.ca/dept/undergrad/sogs/baraka.html for detailed info about the film.
       For reviews of this film see www.desnews.com/movies/reviews/ip0u45jw.htm  and  www.korova.com/kmr95/kmr5034.htm.
  • The China Syndrome:
       Well-known movie about what could happen when even a small part of a nuclear reactor fails, and the possible corruption and greed that endangers all of us when it comes to nuclear power plants.
  • Clear Cut:
       A somewhat graphic and unforgiving movie about a Native man who takes direct action against logging companies.  This movie contains a rather graphic scene (not for the squeamish) of a logging company executive being "debarked".
  • Koyaanisqatsi
    "There are few films that I can truly say I have found awesome. This is one
    of them. Rent it, then add your own review. I cannot tell you how you will
    react, but I am certain you will find it well worthwhile." Recommended by Bret Harris

Philosophy related

  • Instinct (1999)
    (Loosely adapted from the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn)
    A man who leaves humanity behind to live with animals returns to society under unpleasant circumstances, but with valuable lessons about human and animal relationships. Anthony Hopkins stars as Ethan Powell, a noted anthropologist studying the behavior of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The longer Powell follows the apes, the more he comes to admire their simple but peaceful society. He begins to spend most of his time with the apes until one day he ventures into the jungle and doesn't return. Powell throws in his lot with the gorillas and lives among them as primitive man once lived in the wild with animals. However, two years later, a search party finds Powell in the jungle with the apes, and they're convinced that the animals pose a threat to Powell's safety. They kill several of the gorillas, and Powell flies into a murderous rage, killing two of the men who attacked his friends. Extradited to the United States, Powell is sent to a grim maximum-security prison in Florida, where he will be held while awaiting trail. A psychological evaluation must be performed on Powell, and the task falls to Theo Caulder (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an ambitious young psychiatrist who sees this as a case with the potential to make him famous. However, since Powell initially won't speak to anyone, getting through to him will be a challenge, and Powell's daughter Lyn (Maura Tierney) has little insight on the father she barely knew. As Caulder slowly builds a rapport with Powell, he comes to realize what he has learned from his experience with the gorillas -- and how much he can teach Caulder about living with others. Loosely adapted from the novel Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Instinct also features supporting performances from Donald Sutherland and George Dzundza. -- Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull:
       Based on the book of the same name by Richard Bach, with music by Neil Diamond.  Inspirational.
  • Princess Mononoke
    Animation, by Hayao Miyazaki
    About a boy from a hunter gatherer/agrarian village. He strives to bring a balance between people and the forest.
    All of Hayao Miyazaki's other movies are aimed towards children, but I was surprised by their depth. They are very enjoyable and very beautiful. The attention to details in nature are exquisite. 
    For those of you who don't watch cartoons, don't worry, these are real movies. In Japan they have embraced animation as a real movie medium.
    ''I always try to start from the assumption that humans are foolish. I'm disgusted by the notion that man is the ultimate being, chosen by God. But I believe there are things in this world that are beautiful, that are important, that are worth striving for."
    Recommendation from the Standard Class discussion group
  • The Razor's Edge:
       About a man's search for spiritual truth.  Interesting display of healing power towards the end.  Stars Bill Murray in a completely serious role.   Based on a book of the same name.
  • Stalker
       By the director Andrei Tarkovsky.  It is based on a science fiction novel in which a meteor-like object hit a region of the Earth and turned it into a wilderness of "non-ordinary" reality. The only people who can venture into this wilderness (known as "The Zone") and return safely are called "Stalkers" (read: trackers). The movie is about the journey or vision quest into the Zone of a stalker and two outsiders who are called "The Professor" and "The Writer" and who represent the "civilised mind". 
       One Tracker says he has never before seen a movie which so perfectly captured Tom Brown's philosophy, especially the essence of the vision quest and what it means to be "children of the Earth".
       On the other hand, you may find this movie to be "a purely intellectual journey and intensely boring."
  • The Lawnmower Man - Challenges one's view of reality.   Very computer-sci-fi oriented, this movie deals with virtual reality becoming just a little bit too real.
  • The Matrix - 1999 - This movie really challenges one's view of reality, big time!  Even if you don't accept the precept of the movie, it makes you think.  Excellent.
  • Fight Club - "Watch it several times, and really listen to the words. It has a deep message about the state of the world due to civilization. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone with an interest in our connection to the earth and other humans, or what will happen to us if we go on like this." - Mary

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