In this podcast episode, I decided to step away from the usual format and do something fun by combining two of my passions, homesteading and good movies. I discuss 27 movies I believe offer a little homesteading inspiration to keep you ever pressing forward in your journey.
1. Swiss Family Robinson 1960 – This Walt Disney movie is about a shipwrecked family building an island home and is loosely based on the 1812 novel. This movie inspires one to look at the positive in a situation and make the best of your situation. Plus they build a really cool treehouse.
2. 3. and 4. The Adventures of the Wilderness Family Trilogy – The first one was released in 1975, these movies are about the Robinson family who decides to make a drastic off-grid move into the Rocky Mountains where they build a cabin and live off the land because of their daughter’s health. The inspiration these movies offer is the courage to step outside the norm and do something radical even if everyone else thinks you are crazy.
5. Still Mine 2012 – Based on a true story in Canada, a farmer in his 80s decides to build a new home for his dementia-stricken wife and has to battle local authorities in order to do so. This movie shows some of the ridiculousness of building laws and restrictions and inspires one to never feel too old to accomplish something meaningful.
6. The Man From Snowy River 1982 – This is an Australian based film starring Kirk Douglas and it’s about a young man who loses his father in a farm accident and tries to carve out his own existence in the world by working on a ranch to establish himself on his own homestead. This one too has a message about age only the opposite of the before mentioned. This film shows that even a young person can accomplish great things through hard work and perseverance.
7. Return To Snowy River 1988 – This movie actually has 3 different titles. In the U.S it was released by Walt Disney as Return to Snowy River, in Australia it was The Man From Snowy River 2 and in the U.K.it was released as The Untamed. This movie is a continuation of the first and therefore has the same message and inspiring storyline.
8. Sarah, Plain and Tall 1991 – Starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken and based on the Novel of the same name, this movie is set around the turn of the century. Jacob, a widowed farmer with two small children, places an ad in a paper for a new wife. The ad is answered by a spinster in Maine, who writes letters to them and describes herself as “plain and tall.” And she takes a trip to Jacob’s farm to see if she can make a difference. This movie gives us a look at prairie farm life and the hardships and rewards thereof.
9. Dances With Wolves 1990 – This movie is starring, is directed, and is produced by, Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake, which tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who travels to the American frontier to find a military post, and of his dealings with a group of Lakota Indians. This movie also gives us a good look into frontier life for settlers and the Indians of that time.
10. Murphy’s Romance 1985 – This movie stars Sally Fields and James Garner and is about a 33-year-old, divorced mother who moves to a rural Arizona town to make a living by training and boarding horses. This movie gives a realistic viewpoint of the struggles of life and I think the homesteading inspiration offered in this film comes through seeing a woman who works hard to overcome hard times and the willingness of friends to help out.
11. Secondhand Lions 2003 – This movie tells the story of a young boy who is sent to live with his eccentric great-uncles played by Robert Duvall and Michael Caine, on a farm in Texas. This one probably offers less inspiration than others on the list but is an entertaining movie as we get a good insight into the lives of these bad farmers.
12. Far and Away 1992 – This movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman tells the story of Irish immigrants seeking their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Land Run of 1893. This movie is plagued with a view of tough times and pressing forward to overcome them to eventually have a piece of land and start a homestead. What this movie offered me more than anything was an appreciation for what I have and the inspiration to make the most out of it.
13. The Way Back 2010 – This movie is based on the memoir of a former Polish prisoner of war who claimed to have escaped from a Soviet Gulag and walked 4,000 miles to freedom in World War II. In the movie, it’s actually four men who make this journey as they live off the land. While not homestead related in any way, the inspiration I believe this movie offers is in its message of determination and will to never give up and press forward until you reach your goals, Something every homesteader needs.
14. The Snow Walker 2003 – This film is about a Canadian bush pilot whose life is changed through an encounter with a young Inuit woman and their challenge to survive the harsh conditions of the Northwest Territories following an airplane crash. This young woman teaches the pilot to live off the land and survive in a place where that is not that easy to do. Overcoming what seems like impossible circumstances and appreciating life are inspiring lessons from this movie.
15. The River 1984 – Starring Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, This film tells the story of a struggling farm family in the Tennessee valley trying to keep their farm from going under in the face of bank foreclosures and floods. The father faces the dilemma of having to work as a strikebreaker in a steel mill to keep his family farm from foreclosure. It was based on the true story of farmers who unknowingly took jobs as strikebreakers at a steel mill after their crops had been destroyed by rain. Tough times and perseverance through them are an inspirational theme in this movie as well.
16. Shane 1953 – This movie starring Alan Ladd as Shane who is a skilled gunfighter with a mysterious past, rides into a valley in the Wyoming Territory, sometime after the Civil War. At dinner with a local rancher and his wife he learns that a war of intimidation is being waged on the valley’s settlers. Though they have claimed their land legally under the Homestead Acts, a ruthless cattle baron has hired henchmen to harass them and drive them out of the valley. Shane is offered a job on the homestead and he accepts. A film like this will make you realize that our complaints about how local ordinances keep us from doing everything we want to do are nothing compared to what original homesteaders had to face.
17. The Martian 2015 – Yes, I know, It’s a sci-fi space movie. Nonetheless, this movie is about an astronaut played by Matt Damon, who is mistakenly presumed dead and left behind on Mars. This film paints an amazing picture of overcoming an impossible situation through sheer determination and a little gardening knowledge. If you think homesteading is hard where you’re at just compare it to his situation and you will feel a lot better about yours.
18. Passengers 2016 – Yet another sci-fi space movie. This movie is about two people who are awakened some 90 years too soon from an induced hibernation on a spaceship bound for a new planet. What really struck me about this movie is how these two at first are faced with the reality that they won’t live long enough to see their dreams fulfilled on the new planet then come to realize that they can fulfill their dreams right where they are by building a dream homestead right there on the ship. The message and inspiration here for me is that you can homestead right where you are even if it isn’t everything you dreamed of.
19. Jeremiah Johnson 1972 – One of my absolute favorite movies of all time. This movie stars Robert Redford who plays a Mexican War veteran who takes up the life of a mountain man, supporting himself in the Rocky Mountains as a trapper. This film offers an inspiring view of a man living off the land, building a cabin, and facing serious hardship.
20. Where the Red Fern Grows 1974 – This movie is based on the 1961 novel of the same name. It is about a 12-year-old who is obsessed with coon dogs and coon hunting, but good dogs cost money his family can’t afford. He works multiple jobs to afford to buy two dogs which become the best-hunting dogs around. This movie has a sad twist but is inspiring nonetheless.
21. Morning Glory 1993 – This movie stars Christopher Reeve and takes place during the Great Depression. Reeve plays a hard-working and resourceful ex-con who answers an ad from a woman looking for a husband to tend her farm and look after her children. This film paints a picture of the struggles of the depression and what it took to overcome them which is in and of itself inspiring.
22. The Egg and I 1947 – This movie tells the story of a newly married couple who move to a rundown chicken farm and take on the struggles of the homesteading life. This is a fun movie with a lot of twists, one every homesteader should watch for a laugh if nothing else.
23. North To Alaska 1960 – A John Wayne classic taking place in 1901 Nome Alaska during the gold rush. Another fun movie with scenes of the homesteading life throughout.
24. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1954 – A funny and very politically incorrect musical movie with scenes of a barn raising, home cooking, and lots of firewood chopping. I think this movie might come off a little offensive to many women but it is a comical look at Oregon pioneer life.
25. The Postman 1997 – This movie is set in a post-apocalyptic version of the United States in the then near-future year of 2013, fifteen years after an unspecified apocalyptic event that left a huge impact on human civilization and erased most technology. A nomadic drifter, played by Kevin Costner, stumbles across the uniform of an old United States Postal Service mail carrier, and unwittingly inspires hope through an empty promise of a “Restored United States of America.” This movie really displays the power and the need of community.
26. Places In The Heart 1984 – Another depression-era movie starring Sally Fields as a woman with two children who loses her husband and has to make ends meet on the family farm. Like some of the other films, this one also inspires perseverance in times of struggle.
27. O Pioneers 1992 – The film starring Jessica Lange centers around a family of Swedish immigrants in Nebraska around the turn of the 20th century. The family’s father dies and leaves the family farm to his daughter. She does her best to make the farm work when many others are giving up and leaving.
Check out my article on 15 Best Permaculture Homesteading Documentaries to find some other great recommendations for something to watch.
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