Netflix is kicking off the new year by offering subscribers a collection of must-watch movies, and while the majority of the top picks this month are familiar classics, there’s one that is completely new.
Society of the Snow debuted on Netflix last week (Thursday, Jan. 4) and it’s already made quite an impression. The survival thriller has climbed to the number two spot in the Netflix top 10, second only to action flick The Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington. That’s an impressive feat for a movie not even in the English language and lacking any major A-list stars in its cast list.
The harrowing movie recounts the true story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountain range in 1972. Trapped in a desolate tundra with no rescue imminent, the survivors of the crash battle to survive while dealing with subzero temperatures, intense hunger and extreme isolation. And when food supplies dwindle, they are forced to consider the unthinkable to keep themselves alive long enough to be found.
Based on the Pablo Vierci novel of the same name, Society of the Snow isn't the first time this haunting true story has been adapted into a movie. 1993’s Alive starring Ethan Hawke is based on the same events, while the popular Showtime series Yellowjackets was inspired by Air Force Flight 571. The story has also been explored in numerous documentaries and was even parodied in an episode of Rick & Morty.
Society of the Snow reviews — here’s what the critics think
Society of the Snow has been warmly embraced by critics. Right now, the Netflix movie holds an impressive 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes and its audience score is also high at 86% from more than 250 total ratings.
Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair noted that no movie could truly capture the horrific experience the survivors endured, but argued that Society of the Snow does “a sturdy enough job getting the point across.” Amy Nicholson of KPCC Los Angeles praised the movie for being “more authentic to the characters” thanks to the casting of “people who are actually Spanish.”
Nick Schager of The Daily Beast, labeled the thriller director J. A. Bayona’s “finest film to date” and called it “a fitting tribute to those who both perished and managed to escape their fateful mountain tomb.” AV Club’s Courtney Howard declared it “the best version of this saga told so far” but criticized the movie for not digging beyond the surface-level horror of the situation.
John Anderson of The Wall Street Journal praised Bayona for weaving together a sensational survival drama while maintaining a necessary level of respect for both those who died in the event and those who managed to survive their ordeal in the frozen mountains.
However, not all critics were quite so positive about Society of the Snow. Digital Trends’ A.A. Dowd asked “Shouldn’t a true story of life, death, and cannibalism be a little more gripping?” and Brian Lowry of CNN felt the flick was “earnest” but doesn’t make a strong enough case for itself as it retreats ground well covered by Alive more than 30 years ago.
Society of the Snow is a must-watch Netflix movie
If you’re looking for a new Netflix movie that will grip you from the start then Society of the Snow should be at the top of your watchlist. It's the official Spanish submission for the Best International Feature Film at this year's Oscars and a highly engrossing thriller. It can be distressing at times but it's also uplifting by the end.
The survival drama lays bare the power of the human will to survive, and though it may clock in at almost 150 minutes long, you won’t be bored for a single moment. The initial plane crash sequence is particularly effective, as is the scene where the survivors debate the morality of eating their deceased friends out of desperation.
The new year is still just beginning, but we suspect that Society of the Snow will be one of the best Netflix movies of 2024. It’s far from an easy watch, but this thriller is unmissable. And if you want even more fresh viewing recommendations check out our list of the best movies to watch this week across all the best streaming services.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.