Climbing docs like Free Solo and Dawn Wall have shown millions how incredible rock climbing can be. If you haven’t been able to get your local climbing gym or crag for a while – here are some of the best climbing documentaries available on streaming services right now.
You’re probably familiar with at least a couple of these documentaries if you’ve been stuck on binge-watch mode. Featuring the big names of climbing, some impressive mountaineering docs that will still appeal to sports climbers and boulderers, as well as a few fun choices.
We’ve also dug up some hidden gems we love and tracked down what streaming services they are available on. These are our favorite 14 and change.
Also check out the Worst Climbing Films ever made if that’s the kinda mood you’re in.
These are the best climbing documentaries available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube Movies, Apple iTunes, Disney+ and more. A bunch are free to watch on YouTube or included with Amazon Prime. We’ve also included a few different sources to help you find the cheapest way of watching.
Availability on streaming services does change with licensing/broadcast deals so we’ll keep this up to date as we can.
Free Solo – Best Climbing Documentary on Amazon – Rent
When people find out you climb, the thing they used to say was “have you ever climbed Everest?“. Now they say, “Did you see that crazy guy that climbed Yosemite without a rope?“.
Prepare for sweaty palms as Alex Honnold climbs the legendary 3,000 foot face of El Cap without a rope. A brilliant documentary that captures the incredible climb and gives at least some insight into the elusive climber. Amazingly directed to the point that it won seven Emmy’s and was nominated for an Oscar.
It really is worth a watch even if you don’t believe the hype. The sheer audacity of the climbing will keep most glued to the screen. The relationship between Alex and his now-wife Sanni serves as a great touch point to connect the “warrior” vs the “realist” questions, and the moral questions about filming and friend’s support are excellent in bringing everything together.
Dawn Wall – Best Climbing Documentary on Netflix
Dawn Wall is a modern classic in climbing films. Along with Free Solo it brought the sport into the public’s eye and shows some of the extremes of passion that climbers will go through to achieve a goal. This one being one of the hardest climbs in the world.
It revolves around Tommy Caldwell’s utter obsession with a 3,000 foot patch of almost blank granite. El Cap in Yosemite is essentially climbing’s holy rock, with thousands making the pilgrimage every year. Tommy spies out a route and over years of work and failure, eventually getting to the point where an ascent just might be possible with a new climbing partner – bouldering prodigy Kevin Jorgeson.
Honestly it’s a toss up between these first two for best climbing documentary ever made. As a climbing documentary it’s brilliant but it’s biggest win is how compelling it is to non-climbers. The jargon is simplified, the graphics make everything easy to understand, and as a result the characters and the journey shine through.
Read our full Dawn Wall Film Review. If you liked the documentary and want to learn more about Tommy Caldwell’s life and what brought him to finding the wall, we really recommend reading “The Push“. The book goes way deeper into his quite complex character and takes you through his personal growth in a raw but endearing way.
Pretty Strong – Best Climbing Documentary on Vimeo
Pretty Strong is our personal pick for best climbing documentary of the last few years. It’s an awesome female led endeavor featuring all female climbers. Featuring Nina Williams, Hazel Findlay, Isabelle Faus, Daila Ojeda, Anna Laitinen and more climbing all over the world.
The direction is great, the stories are fun and compelling, and the climbing itself is peak. Created by the Never Not Collective, we look forward to a second in the series!
Valley Uprising – Best Climbing Documentary on Amazon Prime
Valley Uprising is absolutely the best climbing documentary on Amazon Prime. Yosemite has been home to a few distinct eras in climbing. Uprising takes us through a few of these, focusing mostly on the 70’s era where free climbing stamped a new ethic on the area.
Yosemite climbing has always been wild. Illegal camping and hiding from park rangers, stealing food, running out bad gear, and doing anything to keep climbing all feature. One of most entertaining bits involves a drug smuggler’s plane crashing into a frozen lake and a rush to recover and sell the goods.
Seriously fun to watch and no boring climbing jargon. All killer, no filler and available for free on Amazon Prime in most countries.
Wide Boyz I + II
|Released: 2013/14||Length: 48min / 50min||Directed By: Paul Diffley, Chris Alstrin|
What’s more fun than watching two Brits swear and grovel their way up an off-width? Watching them do it again. Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall are proper legends who made a name for themselves by building a huge crack den in a basement, and then flying off to the US to try some of the hardest off-widths and cracks out there.
These two documentaries are great fun to watch as well as documenting some seriously hard crack lines. If you’ve ever though about doing some of the desert crack classics this will either inspire you or put you off totally.
Pete also just free solo’d the 800 meter Kjerag wall in Norway, and last year sent their long term crack project “Recovery Drink“. Meanwhile Tom is still climbing hard, running Lattice Training, and casually doing 100 mile run/scramble/solo days.
Both are sometimes available free on Prime, sometimes with a free trial subscription to Outside TV. You can also watch a version of part I on Red Bull TV.
Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey – Climbing Documentary on Amazon Prime
|Released: 2017||Length: 1hr36||Directed By: David O’Leske|
Fred Beckey was the original dirtbag. He would climb anything, anywhere, by any means possible and with little regard for all else. If you enjoyed Valley Uprising you’ll love this character piece on one of the key personalities of the time.
It’s lovingly done and shows much a person can really get out of climbing. Beckey’s legacy will live on as his name is spread around guidebooks for literally hundreds of first ascents. Beckey routes are also notorious for home-made bolts spaced out just enough that you’re guaranteed a quick “life flashing before your eyes” experience you won’t soon forget.
Jimmy Chin – aka one of the directors of Free Solo – is also an incredibly accomplished climber and mountaineer. Meru documents a harrowing and single-minded attempt of the mountain of the same name. Along with Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk we see the attempts and the setbacks.
Meru is at once a brilliant insight into high-level mountaineering and high-level mountaineers. What draws people to this dangerous activity and the physical and mental exertion involved and both captured well. Definitely worth a pop.
|Released: 2011||Length: 1hr15||Directed By: Chuck Fryberger|
The Scene is a really great insight into climbing’s individuals and the communities they are part of. Why people climb can be very self-centered but wouldn’t exist without others. The Scene features a bunch of different places and types of climbing and neatly ties them all together.
One of the best climbing documentaries on Amazon that can be watched free. You just need to take out a trial of the Echoboom Sports channel (free for 7 days) and that gets you access to a few other climbing documentaries by Chuck Fryberger, including bouldering classics Core and Pure.
Reel Rock 14
|Released: 2019||Length: 1hr42||Directed By: Various|
Reel Rock 14 is the latest and greatest of the popular climbing documentary series, following three different stories. First up is Nina Williams and her scary highball ascents, followed by a great piece on the burgeoning bouldering community of sleepy Joe’s Valley. The final part follows Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell as they wrestle with the Nose speed record set by Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds.
It’s still not available to rent – only buy. If you’d prefer to support the film makers directly you can download a copy at the Reel Rock Tour website.
Watch Reel Rock Climbing Documentaries Free
Many of the older Reel Rock docs have been chopped up and slimmed down a little for Red Bull TV. You can watch loads of classic segments on Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra trying La Dura Dura, the Wide Boyz, pint-sized Ashima Shiraishi and Kai Lightner, and Margo Hayes making history.
Climbing With Pride
|Released: 2013||Length: 1hr01||Directed By: Brian Spiegel|
A really fun yet still very insightful documentary about the town of Fayetteville and the yearly Homoclimbtastic event hosted there. The event is the “largest convention of queer rock climbers in the world” and brings together two communities. Available to watch completely free on YouTube
Stone Locals is a film about locals and community with a high production quality and a nice story running through it. It does a great job of diving into “real” climbing as a way of life, as a way of connecting with others, and of setting personal goals. Directed by Mikey Schaefer who worked on Free Solo and Cheyne Lempe of Reel Rock.
Just this year Alex Megos climbed the world’s second 9c in Ceuse. Rotpunkt actually features him working the climb and was initially meant to film the send before injury put that to a halt. The film is half sport climbing history and half a piece on Megos as a climber and person.
Definitely worth a watch if you’d like to know more about where the term “redpoint” comes from (read full What is a redpoint in Climbing article) and where modern uber-hard sport climbing really came from. In many ways Alex Megos is a direct result of what Wolfgang Güllich did back in the day.
Statement Of Youth: The Birth of British Sport Climbing
|Released: 2019||Length: 58mins||Directed By: Nick Brown|
See what happens when egos, lycra, terrible weather, signing on, and not eating collide. Statement of Youth is the best climbing documentary on sport climbing’s advance in 80’s UK. Though it doesn’t expand too much to Germany or the US it’s a great piece on the culture at the time.
Not just a bit of history, this is a really well made “talking head” style documentary interspersed with great footage from the time.
Mountain Of Storms – Original Patagonia Climbing Documentary
|Released: 1972||Length: 52mins||Directed By: Robert Collinson, Lito Tejada-Flores|
5,000 miles from San Francisco through to Patagonia in a Ford Transit. Surfing, skiing, and climbing all the way. A really amazing documentary on a legendary road trip featuring the founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard and friends. Eventually ending with the first ascent of the Fitz Roy peak of the famous Patagonian mountain line.
Stoney Point: Portrait of an American Crag – A Rock Climbing Documentary
|Released: 2019||Length: 50mins||Directed By: Cole Gibson, Matthew Talesfore|
This neat little five-parter is another YouTube gem that’s totally free to watch. Much like Stone Locals it’s a bubble piece on a local area and it’s community.