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15 Arctic Exploration Thrillers You Need To Watch

Let these tales of Arctic adventures leave an indelible mark on your soul, reminding you that the only frostbite you'll get is in your imagination.

By Alyciah Beaver Last updated

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In the icy embrace of the Arctic, where frostbite is a constant companion and the northern lights dance above desolate landscapes, filmmakers have found a canvas for heart-stopping thrillers that blend survival with spine-tingling adventure. Brace yourself for a frosty cinematic journey as we explore Arctic exploration thrillers that plunge audiences into the unforgiving wilderness, where survival is not just a challenge; it's a high-stakes game of life and death.

30 Days Of Night (2007)

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Rotten tomatoes51%
iMBD53
Metacritic6.6
Josh Hartnett

Josh Hartnett

Melissa George

Melissa George

Danny Huston

Danny Huston

Ben Foster

Ben Foster

Mark Boone Junior

Mark Boone Junior

Mark Rendall

Mark Rendall

Amber Sainsbury

Amber Sainsbury

Manu Bennett

Manu Bennett

Megan Franich

Megan Franich

Craig Hall

Craig Hall

Chic Littlewood

Chic Littlewood

Nathaniel Lees

Nathaniel Lees

Directed by David Slade

In the remote town of Barrow, Alaska, where the sun decides to take a month-long vacation, you'd expect the biggest concern to be avoiding frostbite. Well, think again. Enter "30 Days of Night," a vampire flick that turns the frozen tundra into a bloodsucker's dreamland.

The premise is simple but genius. With the sun on hiatus, vampires led by the sinister Marlow (Danny Huston) decide it's the perfect time for a buffet. Forget Transylvania; Barrow is the hotspot for the undead. The stage is set for a chilling game of cat and mouse, with the town's residents caught in the middle.

Josh Hartnett, sporting his best "I'm facing a vampire apocalypse" look, plays Sheriff Eben Oleson. As the vamps descend, Eben and a dwindling group of survivors must outsmart, outlast, and out-stake their nocturnal foes.

If you're in the mood for a different kind of cold-weather experience, skip the ski trip and join the residents of Barrow as they navigate 30 days of uninvited nocturnal guests. Just remember to keep the lights on, vampires might not like the sun, but they sure know how to thrive in the dark.

Fortitude (2015-2018)

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Rotten tomatoes84%
iMBD75
Metacritic7.3
Richard Dormer

Richard Dormer

Sienna Guillory

Sienna Guillory

Mia Jexen

Mia Jexen

Sofie Gråbøl

Sofie Gråbøl

Luke Treadaway

Luke Treadaway

John Boyd

John Boyd

Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

Verónica Echegui

Verónica Echegui

Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci

Michael Gambon

Michael Gambon

Johnny Harris

Johnny Harris

Nicholas Pinnock

Nicholas Pinnock

Set in the fictional town of Fortitude, nestled somewhere between Norway and the North Pole, this icy haven is not your typical winter wonderland. Sure, the snow-capped mountains and icy fjords make for a picturesque view, but when a brutal murder shakes the tight-knit community, the frosty facade begins to crack.

The series introduces us to a diverse cast of characters, from scientists studying Arctic ecosystems to local law enforcement trying to make sense of the chilling crime. The ensemble, led by the talented Stanley Tucci, delivers performances as sharp as the Arctic wind, keeping you on the edge of your seat as the mystery unfolds.

In this town, murder is as common as snowflakes, and the residents are colder than the Arctic wind.

Created by Simon Donald, "Fortitude" invites you to a place where the line between right and wrong blurs faster than an Arctic blizzard. With its atmospheric cinematography and a plot that's colder than a snowman's handshake, this series is a gripping journey into the heart of darkness, where the temperature isn't the only thing that can send shivers down your spine.

The Thing (1982)

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iMBD57
Metacritic8.2

In this sci-fi spectacle, expect shape-shifting aliens, questionable mustaches, and more twists than a pretzel.

Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell

Keith David

Keith David

Wilford Brimley

Wilford Brimley

T.K. Carter

T.K. Carter

David Clennon

David Clennon

Richard Dysart

Richard Dysart

Charles Hallahan

Charles Hallahan

Peter Maloney

Peter Maloney

Richard Masur

Richard Masur

Donald Moffat

Donald Moffat

Joel Polis

Joel Polis

Thomas G. Waites

Thomas G. Waites

Directed by John Carpenter

"The Thing," a sci-fi horror masterpiece that turns the frozen expanse of the Antarctic into a stage for an extraterrestrial dance of deception. Directed by John Carpenter, this film takes the icy isolation of the South Pole and cranks up the thermostat of terror.

Kurt Russell leads the ensemble cast with a rugged charm that's as frost-resistant as the Antarctic gear they don. As MacReady, he's not just battling an otherworldly creature; he's navigating the treacherous terrain of trust, suspicion, and the bone-chilling realization that anyone could be the shape-shifting invader.

What sets "The Thing" apart is its practical effects, courtesy of the legendary Rob Bottin. In an era before CGI took over, the gruesome transformations and grotesque alien forms were brought to life with a hands-on approach that adds a visceral layer to the horror.

The Mountain Between Us (2017)

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Rotten tomatoes38%
iMBD48
Metacritic6.4
Idris Elba

Idris Elba

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet

Dermot Mulroney

Dermot Mulroney

Beau Bridges

Beau Bridges

Linda Sorensen

Linda Sorensen

Mercy Myrdal

Mercy Myrdal

Dania Nassar

Vincent Gale

Vincent Gale

Marci T. House

Marci T. House

Lee Majdoub

Lee Majdoub

Andres Joseph

Andres Joseph

Nancy Sivak

Nancy Sivak

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, this 2017 gem takes the concept of a romantic getaway to new heights, literally. When a chartered flight crashes in the unforgiving wilderness, two strangers, Ben and Alex find themselves stranded atop a snowy peak. Talk about a first date gone awry!

What unfolds is a tale of grit, resilience, and the uncharted territories of the heart. As the pair battles the elements and their own vulnerabilities, the film transforms into a symphony of survival and unlikely romance.

The chemistry between Elba and Winslet is the film's beating heart, adding warmth to the frosty backdrop of the snow-covered mountains. Forget candlelit dinners; these two forge a connection over frozen landscapes and the shared determination to defy the odds.

The Grey (2011)

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Rotten tomatoes80%
iMBD64
Metacritic6.7
Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Dermot Mulroney

Dermot Mulroney

Frank Grillo

Frank Grillo

Dallas Roberts

Dallas Roberts

Nonso Anozie

Nonso Anozie

James Badge Dale

James Badge Dale

Anne Openshaw

Anne Openshaw

Jonathan James Bitonti

Ben Hernandez Bray

Ben Hernandez Bray

Peter Girges

Ella Kosor

Directed by Joe Carnahan

Carnahan's direction creates a visceral experience that transcends the typical survival thriller. The film doesn't just rely on heart-pounding action (though there's plenty of that); it delves into the minds of its characters, exploring the raw emotions that surface when faced with the primal instinct to survive.

Starring the indomitable Liam Neeson as Ottway, a sharpshooter faced with the harsh reality of an Alaskan wilderness teeming with dangers, "The Grey" is a relentless exploration of survival against all odds. But hold on; this isn't your standard man-versus-nature narrative. Neeson's portrayal of Ottway adds depth to the character, turning what could be a simple survival story into a profound exploration of the human psyche.

Siberia (2018)

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Rotten tomatoes12%
iMBD34
Metacritic4.3
Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves

Ana Ularu

Ana Ularu

Pasha D. Lychnikoff

Pasha D. Lychnikoff

Boris Gulyarin

Boris Gulyarin

Ashley St. George

Ashley St. George

Elliot Lazar

Elliot Lazar

Veronica Ferres

Veronica Ferres

Vladimir Shklyar

Vladimir Shklyar

Mikhail Bogdanov

Mikhail Bogdanov

Rafael Petardi

Rafael Petardi

Darren Ross

Darren Ross

Vitaliy Demens

Vitaliy Demens

Directed by Matthew Ross

When you think of Siberia, your mind might conjure up images of endless snow, fur-clad folks battling the cold, and maybe a few lost tigers roaming the vast wilderness. But did you know Siberia is more than just nature's icebox? It's also the backdrop for a film that takes chilling to a whole new level.

The story unfolds like a Russian nesting doll of mysteries. Lucas Hill (Reeves) is a diamond trader navigating the icy terrain, both in business and weather. When things go sideways (as they often do in Siberia), Lucas finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue, love, and more danger than you can shake a frozen icicle at.

Keanu Reeves brings his signature stoic charm to the role, proving once again that he's not afraid to venture into uncharted territories, both on and off-screen. The suspense, the cold, and the unexpected twists will keep you on your toes, wondering what Siberian surprise is waiting around the next snowdrift.

Arctic (2018)

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Rotten tomatoes90%
iMBD71
Metacritic6.8
Mads Mikkelsen

Mads Mikkelsen

Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Tintrinai Thikhasuk

Directed by Joe Penna

In the world of cinema, the Arctic isn't just a location; it's a character, a force of nature that adds a frosty layer to any story. One such cinematic gem is "Arctic," a film that takes the frozen stage and turns survival into an art form.

Mads Mikkelsen, in a role that will make you rethink complaining about your heating bill, delivers a performance that's as intense as a blizzard in full swing. It's a tale of resilience, determination, and, of course, a relentless Arctic landscape that doesn't take kindly to uninvited guests.

But the Arctic isn't all about survival; it's a canvas for human stories against a backdrop of ice and snow. It's where characters find themselves, lose themselves, and sometimes have conversations with frosty winds that only the Arctic can carry.

Mads Mikkelsen faces off against a polar bear.

The Terror (2018)

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Rotten tomatoes87%
iMBD76
Metacritic7.9
Jared Harris

Jared Harris

Ciarán Hinds

Ciarán Hinds

Tobias Menzies

Tobias Menzies

Paul Ready

Paul Ready

Adam Nagaitis

Adam Nagaitis

Nive Nielsen

Nive Nielsen

Ian Hart

Ian Hart

George Takei

George Takei

Kiki Sukezane

Kiki Sukezane

Shingo Usami

Shingo Usami

Naoko Mori

Naoko Mori

In a world inundated with horror tropes, "The Terror" stands tall as a beacon of originality. A 19th-century Arctic expedition goes south, way south. As the crew of the HMS Erebus and Terror face not just frostbite but also a malevolent force lurking in the ice, you'll find yourself questioning whether you're shivering from the cold or the sheer suspense. It's a chilling reminder that sometimes the scariest things aren't just the icy winds.

It's the kind of show that makes you want to sleep with one eye open, just in case something otherworldly decides to join you for a midnight snack. But fear not, because amidst the spine-chilling horrors, there's a cast of characters you'll root for like they're your best friends. Harris, Menzies, and Hinds infuse their roles with a level of depth and authenticity that makes you forget you're watching a horror show.

And let's talk about the cinematography—pure genius, courtesy of the visionary Ridley Scott. The way the camera captures the icy landscapes and the bone-chilling atmosphere is nothing short of art. In a world where shows often spoon-feed you the scares, "The Terror" takes a different route. It doesn't just serve up frights; it delivers an experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

The crew battles the cold, political intrigues heat up, leaving us wondering: is survival on the menu, or are the horrors far more insidious?

Centigrade (2020)

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Rotten tomatoes41%
iMBD46
Metacritic4.4

Stranded in a frozen car, our protagonists face a survival test. Will they thaw out a plan?

Génesis Rodríguez

Génesis Rodríguez

Vincent Piazza

Vincent Piazza

Benjamin Sokolow

Emily Bayiokos

Directed by Brendan Walsh

"Centigrade" isn't your typical thriller; it's a frosty rollercoaster that'll have you questioning how well you'd fare in a snowstorm escape. With a perfect blend of suspense and stellar performances, it's the kind of movie night you'll be talking about long after the credits roll.

Starring Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza, the chemistry between these two is more sizzling than a summer barbecue. Rodriguez brings a fierce determination, while Piazza channels his inner MacGyver as they navigate the frozen tundra inside their four-wheeled igloo. It's like watching a survival dance-off where the stakes are higher than ever, and the music is the howling wind outside.

Director Brendan Walsh orchestrates this frosty symphony with finesse, cranking up the tension like a skilled DJ at a suspenseful party. Every creak, every groan of the car, makes you feel the bone-chilling cold right in your living room. It's the kind of film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering if your blanket is thick enough to protect you from the icy suspense unfolding on-screen.

The Revenant (2015)

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Rotten tomatoes78%
iMBD76
Metacritic8
Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy

Domhnall Gleeson

Domhnall Gleeson

Will Poulter

Will Poulter

Forrest Goodluck

Forrest Goodluck

Duane Howard

Duane Howard

Arthur RedCloud

Arthur RedCloud

Melaw Nakehk'o

Melaw Nakehk'o

Grace Dove

Grace Dove

Lukas Haas

Lukas Haas

Paul Anderson

Paul Anderson

Kristoffer Joner

Kristoffer Joner

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Let's talk about "The Revenant." You know, that film where Leonardo DiCaprio finally snagged that elusive Oscar, not for his charming smile, but for his epic survival skills in the wilderness. It's not your typical stroll in the park; it's more like a nature hike with grizzly bears, freezing rivers, and Leo battling the elements like a boss.

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, "The Revenant" is a visual feast for your eyes, even if your eyes are wincing at the sheer brutality of Leo's journey. The camera dances through the vast landscapes like a daredevil, capturing the raw beauty and the bone-chilling intensity of the wilderness.

Leo's performance is stellar. The man goes through more ups and downs than your favorite roller coaster, all while nursing injuries that would make your scraped knee seem like a spa day mishap. It's not just a movie; it's a testament to Leo's commitment to his craft.

Everest (2015)

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Rotten tomatoes73%
iMBD64
Metacritic7.1
Jason Clarke

Jason Clarke

Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin

John Hawkes

John Hawkes

Sam Worthington

Sam Worthington

Emily Watson

Emily Watson

Martin Henderson

Martin Henderson

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley

Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal

Robin Wright

Robin Wright

Clive Standen

Clive Standen

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

If you've ever thought climbing Everest was reserved for Sherpas and adrenaline junkies, think again. The film "Everest" takes you on a virtual ascent without breaking a sweat or risking frostbite on your fingertips. It's like a theme park ride without the lines—minus the popcorn, of course.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, this movie isn't just about conquering the world's tallest peak; it's a rollercoaster of emotions that'll have you on the edge of your seat, feeling the chill of the Himalayan winds. Starring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Josh Brolin, it's a star-studded expedition that doesn't skimp on the intensity.

From base camp to the notorious Hillary Step, "Everest" is a visual feast for your adventure-hungry eyes. The cinematography is so breathtaking you might need supplemental oxygen just to watch it. The filmmakers didn't just capture the climb; they bottled the essence of the mountain and sprinkled it on every frame.

Scaling Everest has never been this entertaining!

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

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Rotten tomatoes88%
iMBD74
Metacritic7.7

Gennady Soloviev

Anatoly Blumei

Gennady Tiganov

Mikhail Tarkovsky

Directed by Werner Herzog

Directed by Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov, this film is like a breath of fresh, pine-scented air. It's a year-round adventure where the seasons change like a playlist, and the people of the Taiga dance to the rhythm of nature. Forget about traffic jams and 9-to-5 grind—here, the only rush hour is when the reindeer decide to sprint through the snow.

The documentary introduces us to the unsung heroes of the Siberian wilderness, the Taiga trappers. These guys make survival look easy, like a real-life episode of "Man vs. Wild," minus the drama. Armed with axes, skis, and a sense of humor, they navigate through the frozen landscapes with the finesse of Arctic ninjas.

But it's not all serious survival business; there's a lighthearted charm to the way these people approach life in the Taiga. It's like they've unlocked the secret to happiness, and it involves a combination of hard work, camaraderie, and the occasional celebratory dance around a bonfire.

Insomnia (2002)

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Rotten tomatoes92%
iMBD78
Metacritic7.2
Al Pacino

Al Pacino

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank

Martin Donovan

Martin Donovan

Maura Tierney

Maura Tierney

Nicky Katt

Nicky Katt

Paul Dooley

Paul Dooley

Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe

Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe

Jay Brazeau

Jay Brazeau

Larry Holden

Larry Holden

Kerry Sandomirsky

Kerry Sandomirsky

Lorne Cardinal

Lorne Cardinal

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Nolan, the mastermind behind this insomnia-induced fever dream, directs each scene like a suspenseful game of Jenga. Every twist and turn leaves you mentally somersaulting in a circus tent of intrigue, wondering if you'll ever catch those elusive z's again.

But "Insomnia" isn't just a dark and brooding affair. It's a quirky adventure where exhaustion becomes a quirky sidekick, and coffee orders sound more like secret handshakes. Join the exclusive club where members communicate through yawns and share conspiracy theories about the caffeine content in decaf.

The cinematography is a visual feast, turning the Alaskan wilderness into a surreal wonderland. It's so enchanting; you'll contemplate moving to Alaska just to be a part of this sleepless spectacle.

Hold the Dark (2018)

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Rotten tomatoes69%
iMBD63
Metacritic5.6
Jeffrey Wright

Jeffrey Wright

Alexander Skarsgård

Alexander Skarsgård

James Badge Dale

James Badge Dale

Riley Keough

Riley Keough

Julian Black Antelope

Julian Black Antelope

Tantoo Cardinal

Tantoo Cardinal

Macon Blair

Macon Blair

Jonathan Whitesell

Jonathan Whitesell

Peter McRobbie

Peter McRobbie

Beckam Crawford

Beckam Crawford

Michael Tayles

Michael Tayles

Issac Bird

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier

If you're up for a psychological thriller that'll have you holding your breath until the very end, "Hold the Dark" is your ticket to a world where wolves aren't the only things howling in the night.

Jeffrey Wright takes the spotlight, his gaze so intense it could thaw an Alaskan winter. He plays a wolf expert in a town where the eerie silence is louder than a wolf's howl. Alexander Skarsgård, known for his brooding charm, takes on a role as mysterious as a magician's disappearing act. Together, they dive into a plot that's a maze of missing children, wolves, and more twists than a mountain road.

Director Jeremy Saulnier doesn't just guide the story; he masterfully conducts a symphony of suspense that'll have you clutching your blanket a little tighter. The tension is so thick; you might find yourself checking if your front door is locked between scenes.

The North Water (2021)

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Rotten tomatoes96%
iMBD74
Metacritic7.6
Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell

Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell

If you're yearning for a sea adventure that's wilder than a pirate's beard, look no further than "The North Water." Directed by Andrew Haigh, this nautical tale isn't just a boat trip—it's a whirlwind of suspense, betrayal, and enough drama to make your last family reunion seem like a snooze fest.

Starring the ever-charismatic Colin Farrell and Jack O'Connell, this duo isn't here to catch fish; they're redefining the term "shipwrecked" in a way that would make Robinson Crusoe envious. Farrell, with a beard that could rival Poseidon's, takes the helm in this watery escapade, proving that survival on the high seas requires more than just sunscreen.

The tension is so thick; you could cut it with a harpoon. O'Connell and Farrell's performances isop-notch. They navigate the treacherous waters of trust and deception like true seafaring thespians.

Drax confronts a formidable foe—a seal.

So, as the Arctic winds continue to whisper secrets to the frozen landscapes, we invite you to brave the chill and experience the heart-stopping thrills that only Arctic exploration thrillers can offer. Let the tales of survival and adventure in the icy abyss of the Arctic leave an indelible mark on your cinematic soul. After all, in the realm of these frozen adventures, the only frostbite you'll get is in your imagination.

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