High budget narrative climbing movies are a genre in and of themselves. There are not very many of them out there and those that do exist tend to be filled with plot holes and ludicrous situations. But what about non-climbing movies that include elements of climbing?
Mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing are generally seen as extreme or eccentric things by filmmakers. The result of this is that they only use climbing for three things.
First and foremost, they use climbing to emphasize a character's bravery or uniqueness. You can see this in the following two clips.
In Mission Impossible II, Tom Cruise does things on desert towers that are completely impossible. This is a perfect example of climbing used for character development to show how "extreme" someone might be. There's a moment in this clip that is supposed to result in a laugh. They make a comment about Tom Cruise being on holiday. The joke of course is the question, who would ever go rock climbing for a vacation?
In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Captain James T. Kirk free solos the Nose on El Cap, badly. By the time this film came out we didn't need a lot of character development for Captain Kirk. Instead, this is -- perhaps unintentionally -- designed to reinforce the character's cocky arrogance.
Bob Gaines, AAI Guide Jason Martin's co-author for Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, was Captain Kirk's double for the climbing scenes.
Recently Bollywood has gotten in on the action. The following sequence from a film called Shivaay is one of my personal favorites. It's pretty hard to beat in how ludicrous and funny it is:
The second use of climbing by filmmakers is simply to show something that is "different." They'll use it more for its novelty than for any other reason. Movies that do this include Axe, The Descent, and Wrong Turn. It's weird that most films that come up on a quick search are horror films...
The third use is when a character is forced to climb. This is an incredibly common thing in film. Movies that have scenes like this include North by Northwest, The Princess Bride, The Good Son, and Deliverance. Recently we saw this in Game of Thrones.
Though they're not all available, there are tons of movies with climbing scenes in them. Check out the female mountain guide hero of Alien vs. Predator or Keanu Reeves as a Himalayan climber in The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm sure there are dozens and dozens more out there that I haven't thought of. I'd be curious to know what they are.
What other non-climbing movies with climbing scenes can you think of?
--Jason D. Martin