If you're looking for a film that will raise the hair on your neck in the most genuinely thrilling way, you need to stream the Oscar-nominated Free Solo, a bone-chilling documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold's quest to ascend the world's most famous 3,200-foot rock — without the security of a rope or harness.
Unfortunately, the film isn't available on major streaming subscription sites like Netflix and Hulu yet, but it is available for purchase pretty much anywhere. You can buy it for just $9.99 on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, or Google Play and rewatch Honnold's terrifying achievement as many times as you'd like.
Although it may involve leaving the comfort of your couch, the film is also still available at select theaters and will continue to be post-Oscars — a full list of venues is available on National Geographic's website. According to Outside Magazine, Nat Geo will be airing Free Solo on its cable channel on Sunday, March 3, so be sure to check your local listings.
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the film captures Honnold's strict and diligent preparation for a climb no one had completed before him — the rope-free ascension of Yosemite National Park's El Capitan, or El Cap for short.
Vasarhelyi, who is not a climber herself, but is married to one, was particularly interested in how Honnold's newfound love with his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, would affect his decision to risk his life for the climb. "We wanted to look at how Sanni lives with the risks Alex takes and how Alex deals with balancing his climbing aspirations with his personal life," Vasarhelyi said in the official Free Solo press release. "The incredibly candid scenes between Alex and Sanni will always stay with me."
She also wanted Alex's determination to conquer what was both his biggest dream and his biggest fear to really resonate with viewers. It's not just a rock climbing film, it's a film about life and its greatest decisions. "I wanted to pass on these vivid questions to the viewer: 'If Alex can do this with his fear, what can I do with mine? What are the frontiers of the human spirit?'" her statement continued. "Those are some of the larger themes I wanted to explore in Free Solo. In its essence the film calls deliberate attention to the choices that we make: What’s a meaningful life and why?"
Obviously, Honnold survived the climb, and that truth only makes the documentary all the more exhilarating. "In making this film I had to trust Alex from the beginning, that he would only decide to free solo El Capitan if he felt he was 100 percent ready," Chin said in a statement. "It's difficult for me, even now, to imagine that someone could feel they were 100 percent ready to free solo El Cap. The technical difficulties are such that even if you’re a professional climber, with a rope, on one of your best days, you could fall. Beyond requiring superhuman power and endurance, the climbing on Freerider is very insecure and complex; it requires an enormous amount finesse and nuanced body positions. There are sections where it's purely friction. Your feet are standing on nothing and there are no handholds to catch yourself. You have to be perfect. And he was."
If you're looking for inspiration to conquer your biggest fear, Free Solo is the movie to watch. It may not make you want to climb stories into the air without a rope, but then again, it could.