You have your next whitewater rafting trip marked on the calendar and are counting down the days. In the meantime, there are a ton of outdoor and river-related movies to keep you eager and inspired until your next outdoor adventure—or convince you to take the plunge! Whatever your style, you’ll definitely find something to transport you to a river state of mind until you next hit the waters for real. No life-vest or helmets required for enjoyment!
For those interested in all things rafting inspired, check out our list of podcasts and books for additional material to get you excited to head out for some rafting fun.
Dramas And Comedies
A River Runs Through It
A River Runs Through It (1992) tells the story of two very different brothers growing up in rural Montana with a deep devotion to fly fishing. While their personalities and life choices have taken them on separate paths, the film showcases how the natural environment bonds us. There are a ton of unexpected life lessons to be learned out in nature, including things for us to discover about ourselves.
The River Wild
The River Wild (1994) is an adventure thriller about a family on a whitewater rafting trip who unknowingly befriends a group of violent criminals in the wilderness. Featuring Meryl Streep as an experienced rafter and Kevin Bacon as a bad guy, there’s a boat-load of action to be enjoyed in both the plot and intense rafting. Hold on for this thrilling ride.
River of No Return
For a classic American Western, go with River of No Return (1954) featuring the iconic Marilyn Monroe. The film recounts the downriver journey of an unexpected group of individuals as they battle the currents and the other challenges they face along the way. Although certain parts of the movie are outdated, there is still an overflow of river excitement to enjoy in the film.
White Water Summer
For some outdoor fun White Water Summer (1987) also stars Kevin Bacon as well as Sean Astin as teens spending their summer in the great outdoors, with not everything going quite as smoothly as planned. While the film showcases what can be learned from nature, in a few cases, the film is also a good example of what not to do during many outdoor activities.
Considered by some to be the clear-cut ultimate river movie, Deliverance (1972)—based on the novel of the same name—tells the thrilling tale of four Atlanta businessmen who set out on a weekend canoe trip only to be faced with unimaginable perils. Again, while certain aspects of the film are dated (and quite intense), this film is a classic for river enthusiasts.
The Memory of Fish
The Memory of Fish (2016) is “an award-winning documentary portrait of one man, the wild salmon he loves, and his fight to free a river”. Set in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Dick Goin remembers the rivers of his younger years, rushing and full of salmon. The film explores his long-standing battle to combat the existence of dams in the area and their undeniable effects on the ecosystem, with the ongoing hope of turning back the clock.
Rivers and Tides
Rivers and Tides (2001) is a truly unique film in which British artist Andy Goldsworthy combines nature and art through his creation of ephemeral (temporary) large-scale sculptures using a variety of natural materials including leaves, rocks, flowers, mud, and even icicles. Your eyes will be mesmerized by his intricate and delicate artworks, will make you think about the relationship between man, nature, and time, and will definitely give you a newfound appreciation for the beauty of the great outdoors.
The Weight of Water
The Weight of Water (2018)—not to be confused with the mystery thriller film with the same name—is an inspiring tale of a blind man who sets out to conquer his fear and kayak the Grand Canyon. Erik Weihenmayer has been blind since he was a teenager, and throughout his youth developed a love for climbing. The internationally famous alpinist is the first blind person to climb Mount Everest and all of the Seven Summits. But looking to live beyond fear, in this film we follow Erik as he tackles this new challenge. This is a fascinating story of the power of overcoming your fears, with the river acting as a top-notch symbol for any obstacle we have to face in life.
Big River Man
Big River Man (2009) an eccentric film about an equally eccentric Slovenian long-distance swimmer on his journey as he swims the entire 3,300-mile length of the Amazon River over the course of three months. But don’t be mistaken Martin Strel is not your ordinary athlete, he’s a 50-some-year-old Guinness World Record holder who loves to eat, drink, and swim the seemingly unswimmable. This is a tale of possibly the most unlikely “superhero” swimming the rivers of the world to bring attention to environmental issues.
There are definitely a ton more films out there to keep you excited or motivate you to head outside and enjoy some quality river time. Now that you’ve been thoroughly inspired by our list, plan for your next half-day or full-day whitewater rafting trip of your own!