Literally thousands of films have been shot on location in National Parks. With huge areas of isolated and beautiful vistas, it’s no wonder that amateur filmmakers, Hollywood directors and documentarians alike have long been attracted to these lands, cameras in tow. From alien deserts to civil war battlefields and dinosaur filled forests, America’s national parks have taken on all kinds of roles on the big screen over the years.
However, finding three movies about national parks was a bit more of a challenge. Here are the three best we found, as well as a short explanation of what makes them worth your time.
Into the Wild
Based upon real-life-events in the life of Cristopher McCandless, this emotionally arresting drama chronicles a young man’s attempt to survive in the harsh and unforgiving wilderness of Denali National Park in Interior Alaska. McCandless travelled all across the wilds of the USA after graduating college in 1990 and eventually hitchhiked his way to Fairbanks in Alaska. From there he set out ‘into the wild’. He discovered an abandoned bus about 30 miles away from the nearest inhabited settlement and camped there for around 110 days, according to his journal. In the end however, Christopher starved to death and his emaciated body was found by a passing hunter on the 6th of September 1992.
The bus in which McCandless camped is still in the exact place it stood back then and has become somewhat of a site of pilgrimage for many travellers – a development not overly appreciated by nearby residents.
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
This 2009 documentary series covers a lot of ground – both literally and metaphorically. Encompassing the entire history of the National Park System, from their formation in 1851 all the way up to the present day, this six-episode series by director Dayton Duncan is well worth a watch. Spanning 150 years of natural and human history, the series tracks the evolution of the physical landscapes and the flora and fauna that inhabit them, as well as the geopolitical struggles that keep the National Parks as a treasured part of US culture. Including such famous guest narrators as Tom Hanks, Andy Garcia and George Takei, this achingly beautiful series won two Emmy Awards in 2010.
America Wild: A National Parks Adventure
Narrated by Academy Award winner Robert Redford, this special 40-minute film was created to honour the centenary anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. Designed to be screened at special showings on IMAX 3D screens, this epic movie covers Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Redwood National Park, the Everglades and more.
The film didn’t achieve great reviews on aggregate sites, or from professional critics, but it was praised for some of the gorgeous swooping 3D shots of Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. However it seems A National Parks Adventure was a hit with general audiences in the end, making the list of highest grossing documentaries in the year 2016; and thus establishing the fact that our interest in these great parks is not gone from the minds of the public.