5 survival thrillers like Netflix’s Leave the World Behind that’ll have your heart pumping

Ruth, G.H, Clay, and Amanda stare at a TV screen in Netflix's Leave the World Behind movie
(Image credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix)

Everybody loves a good survival thriller, and Netflix's latest apocalyptic movieLeave The World Behind – is already a huge hit. The film, whose stellar cast includes Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali and Ethan Hawke, is fast becoming one of the most popular new Netflix movies on the service. 

And there are plenty more stomach-churning, nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat experiences on the best streaming services where that one came from. Here are some of our very favorite survival thrillers that you can stream on Netflix.

The Martian

Matt Damon is stuck on the red planet in this smart, very tense and sometimes very funny space survival movie directed by Alien's Ridley Scott. It's effectively Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and that's no bad thing: it's exactly what you want from this kind of film, pulling the metaphorical rug from underneath Damon's feet and leaving him with nothing to rely on but his own ingenuity. Will he survive? Of course he will, but the fun here is in the journey. 

Available to stream on truTV in the US, and Disney Plus in the UK and Australia.

The Day After Tomorrow

If you liked Leave The World Behind's post-apocalyptic setting this should be right up your survival thriller street. Set in the middle of unprecedented environmental catastrophe, The Day After Tomorrow gives the end of the world the full Hollywood treatment with some truly breathtaking visuals. It's been very divisive among the critics – it does get a bit silly in the second half – but it's a proper popcorn movie with a serious message underneath all the effects.

Available to stream on Prime Video in the US, and Disney Plus in the UK and Australia. 

Captain Phillips

Based on a terrifying true story, Captain Phillips features Tom Hanks as the captain of a hijacked ship. But this is no gung-ho hijack movie: Paul Greengrass's film takes care to humanise the Somali pirates and refuses to paint them as stereotypical bad guys. As The Guardian wrote, while it's first and foremost a thriller it's also " on some level a film about globalisation, about what happens when the paths of the very poor and the very rich intersect in the crossfire of world economics." Hanks is superb here, and the film delivers incredible tension, heart-in-mouth action and a story that'll stay with you long afterwards.

Available to stream on Netflix in the US and UK, and Foxtel in Australia. 

Cast Away

We can't talk about Tom Hanks and survival thrillers without talking about Cast Away, a touching rom-com about an odd couple: a human man and a basketball with a face drawn on it. Easy gags aside, this is a wonderful and powerful movie that falters a little in the final act but delivers an exceptional performance by Hanks, who has to carry the movie solo for most of the running time. It's a fascinating character study of an exceptionally organized man who finds himself removed from everything he knows and having to learn the very basics of survival.

Available to stream on Paramount Plus in the US and UK, and Netflix in Australia.


The entire Alien franchise is one long survival thriller, and this prequel to the original does a great job in ratcheting up the tension as a crew of explorers finds themselves marooned on a planet that really doesn't want them there. It may not be quite up there with the 1970s Alien, a film that still has us hiding behind the couch and jumping out of our skin, but it's an ambitious, often beautiful and undeniably thrilling sci-fi survival horror.

Available to stream on Netflix in the US, and Disney Plus in the UK and Australia. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.