To mark the release of British comedy Downhill on DVD and digital platforms, we recount the best films set in the great outdoors...
TV commercial director James Rouse’s big-screen debut Downhill tells the story of four old school friends who reunite decades later in order to complete an epic coast to coast walk across the United Kingdom. The comically incompatible foursome are led by Gordon (Richard Lumsden) and include Keith (Karl Theobald), Simon (Jeremy Swift) and Ned Dennehy’s delightful scene-stealing troublemaker Julian. As revelations are revealed, strops are thrown and feet begin to ache, this comedy not only charms, but enlightens.
The Deer Hunter (1979)
Michael Cimino’s classic, set at the time of the Vietnam war, begins its epic running time in Clairton, a small working class town on the Monongahela River, south of Pittsburgh, where three friends embark on a deer hunting trip. When the Vietnam scenes come around, the film takes itself to Saigon – despite the depravity and disturbing on-screen events, the locale remains a memorable part of the film.
The River Wild (1994)
Despite marital problems, Boston couple Gail (Meryl Streep) and Tom (David Strathairn) head on a rafting trip down the Salmon river in Idaho with their son and pet Dog. On their way, they meet Wade and Terry (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly) who at first appear friendly, but show their true colours as violent criminals. To the backdrop of secluded wilderness, the tension is amped up as the family try to escape the two men.
The Edge (1997)
Set in a remote Alaskan locale, The Edge stars Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin who head into the outdoors to conduct a photo shoot. Their plane crashes forcing the two of them into an outdoor territory unknown to them, and one where they have to work together if they’re to survive - especially considering a vicious grizzly bear has targeted them.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This horror sleeper smash blockbuster depicts found hand-held camera footage of three student filmmakers who disappeared whilst hiking in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. Hiking through the woods, secluded from the outside world, the three begin losing their grip on reality as strange events begin to occur around them - not aided by one of them throwing their map in a creek!
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Considered by many to be one of the most ambitious film projects to be undertaken, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy were all filmed simultaneously on-location in New Zealand, best exemplified in the storyline strand following Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise’s (Sean Astin) quest to destroy the powerful ring at Mordor. Filled with plenty of breathtaking sweeping shots that will take your breath away every time, New Zealand is as much a part of this film as everybody else involved.
Into the Wild (2007)
This heartbreaking biographical drama recounts the life of Christopher McCandless. After graduating from Emory University as a top student and athlete, Christopher abandons his possessions, gives all his savings to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, he not only takes in stunning scenery but also encounters a myriad of characters that shape his life.
127 Hours (2010)
This biographical survival drama co-written and directed by Danny Boyle is forced to pretty much take place outside for the entirety of its running time due to the plot, which tells the real-life story of canyoneer Aron Ralston who became trapped by a boulder in an isolated slot canyone in Blue John Canyon in southeastern Utah. The sunshine-strewn location is dazzling, despite the mounting tension that unravels on screen
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)
The penultimate instalment of the record-breaking films based on JK Rowling’s novels, this was the first film to take the action out of Hogwarts School. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) find themselves camping in the forest of Dean while on the run from Death- Eaters and desperately searching for the remaining Horcruxes needed to destroy Voldemort. The less-than-cosy camping conditions quickly lead to fractures within the trio, and the peril is noticeably heightened as the heroes must cope without the protection of Hogwart’s enchanted walls...
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola were nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for this charming, suitably offbeat tale of two youngsters who flee their New England town, causing a local search party to fan out to find them. Typically of an Anderson film, the shots are stunning and take on an almost cartoonish quality in their perfection, while the New England setting proves utterly apt for this funny, romantic (and admittedly, slightly warped) love story.
Downhill is available now on DVD and digital platforms