Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

12 Best Movies Like Thirteen Lives That Fans Should Check Out Next

If you love riveting dramas inspired by actual events, you're probably going to be checking out "Thirteen Lives," which dramatizes the story of a junior soccer team and their coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand for 18 days before they were all successfully rescued. The incident took place in 2018 and it felt like the whole world was watching as hundreds of volunteers from multiple countries aided in pumping water, diving, planning, and supporting the rescue effort in a number of ways.

This film adaptation of the story isn't the first. There's a Thai version called "The Cave" and a documentary produced by National Geographic called "The Rescue." This version, which is directed by Ron Howard, stars Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton as three British cave divers who play a crucial role in the mission. Knowing that the film ends in rescue doesn't diminish the tension and terror that the circumstances present, and if that's the vibe you like in movies, here are a few more you may enjoy. This is a list of films that are all true accounts of real disasters, events, or accidents focused on an inspiring individual who has to fight for their survival. 

Here are 12 movies like "Thirteen Lives" fans should check out next.

The Impossible

On December 26, 2004, a devastating earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, leading to a massive tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The waves affected more than a dozen countries, with affected waters hitting as far as South Africa and Australia. However, the countries most devastated by the enormous tide were much closer. Counties like Thailand, India, and Indonesia took the brunt of the tsunami's fury. The story of Spanish doctor María Belón, who was vacationing with her family in Thailand, was one with a happy ending that eventually inspired the 2012 film "The Impossible."

The adaptation stars Naomi Watts as Maria, who goes on a seemingly relaxing Thailand vacation with her husband Henry, who is played by Ewan McGregor, and their three boys: 5-year-old Simon, (Oaklee Pendergast), 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin), and 12-year-old Lucas, played by a young Tom Holland in his feature film debut. 

After the initial impact of the tsunami, Maria and Lucas are separated from Henry, Simon, and Thomas. The family works their way through devastation and injury with the help of kind locals who treat tourists as part of their own families. Knowing this film ends happily doesn't spoil the absolutely devastating emotional rollercoaster it takes you on, nor the tear-inducing final reunion between the three small brothers, which will leave you sniffling into at least three tissues.

127 Hours

Danny Boyle's 2010 drama "127 Hours" tells the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountaineer and engineer who became trapped on a hike. Ralston was canyoneering (a method of traveling through canyons via hiking, rappelling, etc.) alone through the Bluejohn Canyon in Utah when he dislodged a rock that fell onto his arm. Ralston was trapped for five days before he decided to break his own arm and cut off a portion of it with a dull knife so that he could escape. 

In the film adaptation, which was well received by critics and audiences, Ralston is played by James Franco. Being that so much of the film is Ralston alone with his thoughts or action, the movie really hangs on Franco's ability to hold our attention, earn our sympathy, and stick with his struggle. However, there are still a couple of other side characters in the film: Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn play Kristi and Megan, two young women Aron meets on his hike and swims with in a serene pool. Clémence Poésy pops up in Aron's flashbacks and hallucinations as his girlfriend Rana, while Aron's family is played by Kate Burton, Treat Williams, and Lizzy Caplan. Franco earned plenty of accolades for tackling this film almost solo, though. Franco's performance, however, earned plenty of praise, and he was nominated for best actor at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.

The 33

In 2010, a cave-in at the San Jose Mine in Copiapó, Chile, trapped 33 miners inside a cavern 2,300 feet below the surface. The miners were found alive after weeks of searching when the state-run mining agency took over the expensive rescue mission from the bungling mine owners and began randomly drilling holes. The miners attached a note to a drill, which read: "We are well in the refuge the 33" (via The New York Times). The final rescue of all 33 miners took another two months, with the Chilean government teaming up with experts from NASA to utilize drills, winches, and cranes to save each miner one by one until all 33 were rescued. 

The cast of the 2015 film, which is directed by Patricia Riggen, is truly top-notch. Antonio Banderas plays Mario Sepúlveda, the man who becomes the de facto leader, motivator, and public speaker for the group. Sepúlveda also makes daily video blogs to let the outside world know how they are doing. Helping Banderas and the rest of the miners outside the cave are Laurence Golborne, Chile's Minister of Mining as played by Rodrigo Santoro, James Brolin as a driller, Lou Diamond Phillips as a foreman, Gabriel Byrne as the engineer who masterminds the rescue plan, and Juliette Binoche as the sister of one of the trapped miners who aids in the rescue organization. 

The resulting film is an expertly acted and moving work that captures the resilience of humans trying to survive while evoking the claustrophobic terror seen in "Thirteen Lives."

Deepwater Horizon

In 2010 (a lot of bad stuff happened in 2010, huh?) the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana exploded, leading to a massive oil spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico and its surrounding coastlines. The disaster lasted for 87 days, spilling more than 2000 million gallons of oil into the sea (via National Geographic). However, the majority of the world only saw the aftermath of what happened after the explosion, watching as oil poured into the ocean killing animals while destroying the beaches and coastline in its wake. 

The 2016 disaster film "Deepwater Horizon" explores the chain of events that led up to the explosion, the lives of the crew members that were lost, and what happened before the world tuned in to watch. Mark Wahlberg stars as electronics technician Mike Williams, with Kurt Russell playing the installation manager Jimmy Harrell. Mike and Jimmy both notice that the BP managers Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Robert Kaluza (Brad Leland) are cutting corners before moving the massive oil rig, which leads to the massive disaster on board the rig. Gina Rodriguez plays Andrea Fleytas, the rig's dynamic position operator who tries to alert the Coast Guard of their issues but is ordered not to by Vidrine. 

In many ways, "Deepwater Horizon" is a pretty basic disaster and survival story, but the sad reality of it being a true story makes for a captivating watch. 


This one is brutal but moving. The 1993 drama "Alive" tells the story of the Uruguayan rugby team's 1972 plane crash into the Andes mountains. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was traveling to Santiago, Chile when it collided with poor weather which led to a mountaintop crash. Of the 40 passengers and five crew members, 33 survived the initial crash. Over the course of the first week, more died as the group succumbed to their various injuries and was subjected to extreme cold in the snowy mountains. After a few weeks, the survivors made the difficult and nauseating decision to eat the bodies of their dead companions to stave off starvation. Then, another tragedy struck when an avalanche killed even more. In the end, 16 survivors were rescued over two months after the initial crash, all of whom had to resort to eating the bodies of those they had been traveling with. 

The 1993 film is based on the 1974 book "Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors" by Piers Paul Read. Directed by Frank Marshall, written by John Patrick Shanley, and narrated by John Malkovich, the drama stars Ethan Hawke as Nando Parrado, one of the eventual survivors of the catastrophe who set out on a 12-day trek to descend the mountain and find help. A harrowing and tense film, "Alive" explores the depths humans will go to in order to survive, yet it also manages to include the more gruesome elements of the story without resorting to sensationalism.

In the Heart of the Sea

We might as well just jump right into the next movie featuring cannibalism and get it over with. The 2015 film "In the Heart of the Sea" stars Chris Hemsworth as the first mate of the whaling ship that inspired Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick." As depicted in the film, the Essex is hit and attacked by a giant sperm whale while sailing the South Pacific in 1820. With their ship destroyed, the crew drifts in three smaller row boats with limited provisions. Some of them eventually reach an island where they are able to restock their supplies of fresh water and food. While some stayed and survived, the rest set off again in their small boats, trying to get home. However, they are soon lost at sea and their rations run out, leading to the crew members resorting to eating the bodies of their fellow sailors who died — with one eventually being murdered to feed the others.

"In the Heart of the Sea" was directed by Ron Howard and also starred Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw, and Benjamin Walker. Tom Holland plays the young Thomas Nickerson, with Brendan Gleeson taking on the character as a traumatized older man who tells Melville (Wishaw) his tale in 1850, leading to Melville's 1851 novel. Much like "Alive," the scenes of cannibalism are gruesome and while "In the Heart of the Sea" doesn't have the same hopeful quality that the other film does, the modern-day visuals are spectacular.

Captain Phillips

In April 2009, the American cargo ship Maersk Alabama was attacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya. The ship's captain, Richard Phillips, was taken hostage while aboard the large vessel and eventually taken by the pirates to a smaller lifeboat. The whole incident lasted for only a few days, but the details of the event were shocking. There were four pirates involved in the attack, and in the course of the hijacking, three of them were killed (via The New York Times). Phillips went on to write the autobiography "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea," which was the basis for Paul Greengrass' 2013 film adaptation. 

Who better to star as Captain Phillips than everyman hero Tom Hanks? Hanks took on the role of the steady and assured Captain Phillips, who holds his own throughout a harrowing ordeal — although it was probably the emotional breakdown that Phillips has once he's rescued that earned Hanks the accolades he received for the performance. However, the actor that wowed the Academy and earned an Oscar nomination that year turned out to be Barkhad Abdi, the Somali actor making his film debut who portrayed the pirate Abduwali Muse. He didn't nab the Oscar, but went on to win the BAFTA for best supporting actor. Abdi was paid $65,000 for the job, and though he struggled a bit afterward, he eventually moved to Hollywood to continue working as an actor. The film is now acclaimed as one of the top pirate films ever made.


Produced and directed by Angelina Jolie and written by the Coen brothers, "Unbroken" tells the story of Olympic runner and World War 2 solder Louis Zamperini. 

Zamperini was a teammate of Jesse Owens who also ran for the American track and field team in the 1936 Olympic Summer Games held in Germany. He went on to become a bombardier in the US Air Force. In 1943, the plane he was flying in had an engine failure and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Zamperini and two other soldiers were the only survivors out of eight. They drifted for weeks, drinking rainwater and eating small fish and birds that landed on their raft. One of the survivors died before the remaining two were captured by Japanese sailors and shipped off to POW camps in Japan. Separated from his companion, Zamperini was tortured and beaten by Japanese prison guard Mutsuhiro Watanabe for two years until the war ended in 1945. 

Jack O'Connell takes on the role of Zamperini in Jolie's film adaptation. Though the movie hits familiar beats and feels like the usual story of survival, it's nevertheless captivating for its focus on one individual's battle against another. "Unbroken" earned a few technical Academy Award nominations and the SAG Award for outstanding stunt ensemble. 

Apollo 13

The true story of "Apollo 13" is probably the most famous outer space event in the history of space travel, and some of that has to do with Ron Howard's nail-biter 1995 film. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton star as astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, whose 1970 mission to the moon, which would have been the third lunar landing, was aborted on day three of travel after an explosion in the oxygen tank of their command module. Trapped in space, the trio and the NASA team back in Houston, which included Flight Director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) and Command Module Pilot Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), who was supposed to be on the mission, have to come up with a solution to get them home.

To make space flight seem more realistic, Howard filmed many of the zero gravity scenes aboard a KC-135 that was designed to simulate reduced gravity. Essentially, the actors boarded a plane that flew steeply into the air and then descended equally as fast and steep to provide about 30 seconds of weightlessness. Thankfully, that commitment to realism paid off. The drama was one of the most beloved movies of the year as "Apollo 13" earned several awards nominations, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress for Harris and Kathleen Quinlan — who played Marilyn Lovell — and it ended up winning best editing and best sound. 

The Perfect Storm

The 2000 nautical disaster drama "The Perfect Storm," directed by Wolfgang Petersen, is a little different than the others on this list because it tells a story of a disaster in which there were no survivors. In 1991, off the coast of New England, Hurricane Grace collided with a nor'easter, creating "The Perfect Storm," which damaged coasts and caused injuries all along the eastern seaboard from Nova Scotia to Puerto Rico (via National Park Service). While the research of Sebastian Junger, who wrote the book "The Perfect Storm," is extensive and includes the testimonies of other fishing crews caught in the same weather event, we can never know exactly what happened on the ship.

George Clooney stars as Captain "Billy" Tyne, Jr., who leads the fishing boat the Andrea Gail. The actors who play crew members include Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, William Fichtner, John Hawkes, while Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Cherry Jones play crew members of other ships. In addition, Diane Lane appears as Wahlberg's character's girlfriend. The story may seem basic, as there's only so much going on in a movie about a sunken ship as it drifts towards its inevitable ending — however, the visuals and technical feats here are great and make "The Perfect Storm" worth seeing.


Christopher Nolan's 2017 war drama "Dunkirk" is one of the more interesting films on this list. It tells the story of the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk, in which more than 300,000 Allied soldiers were rescued, through three different lenses: land, air, and sea. Kenneth Branagh stars as Commander Bolton, who is tasked with orchestrating the rescue of the soldiers trapped on the beach who are portrayed by actors such as Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead. Academy Award winner Mark Rylance plays Mr. Dawson, a civilian sailor who decides to drive his boat across the English channel to aid in the rescue himself rather than have the Navy take care of it alone. 

Over the course of the film, the soldiers on the beach experience one week of the rescue, the English boats sent to the coast of France, including Mr. Dawson, experience a single day, while a fighter pilot in the air protecting the area, played by Tom Hardy, experiences one hour. The three timelines collide in one of the most riveting war films ever. "Dunkirk" was a box office triumph, surpassing "Saving Private Ryan" to become the highest-grossing World War 2 film ever (via Flickering Myth). 

"Dunkirk" found plenty of success at the Oscars as well, winning best sound editing, best sound mixing, and best film editing, with five other nominations for best picture, best director, best cinematography, best original score, and best production design.


We're back at sea for our final film of this list, only this time we're in the 1980s and on the Pacific Ocean during hurricane season. "Adrift" is based on the story of Tami Oldham Ashcraft who, along with her fiancé Richard Sharp was adrift in the Pacific Ocean after Hurricane Raymond struck the yacht Richard was hired to sail from Tahiti to San Diego. 

Shailene Woodley stars as Tami while Sam Claflin plays Richard. Without giving too much away about what happens, Tami has to survive 41 days at sea herself, living off of canned goods and building new sails before she's finally rescued. Woodley was praised for her acting, even if the film is a pretty typical story of someone fighting for their life at sea. The film is also as much a romance as it is a story of survival, and — especially as one of the few movies on this list with a female lead — it's well worth checking out.