7 best survival thrillers on Netflix to stream right now

Society of the Snow on Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

Imagining yourself as the main character in a survival thriller is exciting — and a bit terrifying. You are the one with your life on the line, fighting through intense conditions and overcoming impossible circumstances. You can picture yourself defeating the odds with an incredible story to share with others. The best part? It's all done from the comfort of your bed or couch. That's what makes this movie genre so appealing — we can walk away safely when all is said and done.

Whether you want to watch someone battling icy conditions, avoiding terrifying assailants, or getting lost somewhere dangerous, Netflix has some of the best survival thrillers available on streaming. These movies are sure to quench your thirst for adventure or danger without putting you in harm's way.

'Nowhere'

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We begin the list with the 2023 thriller "Nowhere," starring Anna Castillo as Mia and Tamar Novas as her husband Nico. Nico and Mia get separated when they try to flee from their dictatorship country, which has begun to kill its citizens to protect the remaining resources. The couple fears their unborn child is at risk and manages to get onto a cargo ship headed for one of the few safe countries left. After they separate, Mia ends up in one of the containers on her own, and when it lands in the ocean, she ends up fighting for survival all on her own. 

Considering that most of the film focuses on Castillo in the container, she does an excellent job of keeping the audience in suspense. This movie will take you by surprise.

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'Alone'

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Driving on an isolated road alone sets the stage for something terrible to happen. Jules Wilcox stars as Jessica, a recent widow who has packed up her home and gone out on the road to leave her grief behind her. Everything is plugging along nicely until she tries to pass a man on the road, and they have a near run-in with each other. Unfortunately, he isn't ready to let the moment go. One moment leads to another, and he manages to kidnap Jessica.

Marc Menchaca plays the unnamed assailant with creepy perfection. Jules Wilcox also does an excellent job of showcasing the fear you would expect to have in this situation. Keep an eye out for the similarities to the film Duel towards the beginning of the film Duel and subtle references to Ted Bundy in Menchaca's character.

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'Platform'

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In this Spanish thriller, the prison system is set up so that those on a higher level get fed first, having the chance to eat as much as they want, with the floors below them getting only the scraps. Everyone is reassigned to different levels. Ivan Massagué's character Goreng wakes up to level 48 and learns more about how everything works, realizing it's a genuine fight for survival. 

Goreng becomes determined to fight back against the system within the prison, although he does make some pretty deplorable decisions along the way. It's not the movie you want to watch while eating dinner; however, the resonating message will stay with you. The movie is about how society functions and our willingness to help others. If you watch with that in mind, you will surely enjoy it.

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'Society of the Snow'

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The true story of the Uruguayan rugby team's survival after a 1972 plane crash is the basis of this Oscar nominee. For those already familiar with the 1993 movie "Alive," which is about the same event, this 2023 film takes on a more unique perspective. "The Society of the Snow" is based on Pablo Vierci's 2009 book of the same name. He grew up with the rugby players, so his perspective offers a more personal one.

From the realistic plane crash to the sheer will to survive despite impossible conditions, the film does a phenomenal job of depicting what these boys went through at the time. It is somewhat lengthy, running over two hours, but the ending makes it well worth watching. Keep in mind that the movie does deal with cannibalism; however, for those unfamiliar with the true story, that is how they managed to survive their harrowing ordeal. 

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'Against the Ice'

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Adapted from the book "Two Against the Ice" by Danish explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen, this film tells the true story of the 1909 Denmark expedition. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's Captain Mikkelsen set out on an expedition to recover the records gathered during the ill-fated journey that occurred between 1906 and 1908. That journey was to prove that Greenland was one single island, not one divided by a channel. When the crew arrives on the island, Mikkelsen ventures onto the ice with Iver Iversen (Joe Cole). They find the proof they need but have difficulty returning to the ship.

This movie is another story of survival in treacherous icy conditions. If you are looking for a survival thriller based on a true story, you will enjoy it. "Game of Thrones" fans will appreciate that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau not only stars in the film but also co-wrote the script.

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'Solo'

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This 2018 film tells the true story of surfer Álvaro Vizcaíno, played by Alain Hernández. It begins focusing on Vizcaíno having woken up in his jeep Fuerteventura Island and reflecting on how his life seems to be falling apart, from a close friend moving to an argument with his girlfriend. He responds to the stress by searching for the perfect wave but slips and falls down the dunes. While he struggles to return to safety, he has plenty of time to reflect on his life, as depicted through numerous dreams and flashbacks.

The movie has outstanding cinematography, making it worth watching for that reason alone. While it's hard not to compare this movie to the 2010 movie "127 Hours," you'll want to remember that "Solo" is based on actual events of its own.

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'Backcountry'

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Backcountry focuses on the experiences of a couple, Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym), who go camping in the Canadian wilderness. Jenn is not nearly as comfortable in the outdoors as her partner Alex and reluctantly joins him as they go deeper into the woods. It's not long before the couple realizes they are lost and have treaded into bear country. 

This film is loosely based on the true story of Mark Jordan and Jacqueline Perry, a couple who went camping in the Canadian wilderness and were attacked by a man-eating bear. The movie took some creative liberties in depicting what happened and didn't follow an accurate timeline of events. However, as you'll discover, the bear attack appears to have been done accurately, which was frighteningly real-looking and sounding. 

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Writer

Nicole Pyles is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She loves movies, especially Lifetime movies, obscure TV movies, and disaster flicks. Her writing has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Mental Floss, WOW! Women on Writing, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and more. When she isn't watching movies, she's spending time with family, reading, and writing short stories. Say hi on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.