The 12 Best Everest Documentaries (Ranked)

Here is my list of best Mt. Everest documentaries.

I’ve got 2 Everest docs from Netflix and a bunch of freebies to watch on YouTube.

Enjoy!

1) Storm Over Everest

“Storm Over Everest” is the best Everest documentary I’ve seen.

It’s the PBS Frontline team’s 2008 documentary take on the same 1996 Everest disaster (the same story made famous by Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” book and movie (both of which came out in 1997).

For the uninitiated, On May 10, 1996, a severe blizzard struck Mount Everest.

It trrapped three climbing teams high on the 29,029-foot peak.

Storm Over Everest (directed by David Breashears in 2008) has the benefit of 12 years of reflection on the dramatic events of that day.

Breashears knows the mountain well, having summited Everest five times himself.

He was climbing on Everest on May 10 during the fateful storm.

The film focuses on Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness – the two expeditions hit hardest by the blizzard.

Rob Hall led the Adventure Consultants team. Scott Fischer headed up the Mountain Madness group. In total, eight climbers died that day – four from Adventure Consultants, Fischer from Mountain Madness, and three Indo-Tibetan Border Police officers.

Through first-hand interviews and reenactments, Breashears takes us inside the May 1996 tragedy.

We meet the climbers and understand their motivations. When the storm strikes quickly at 26,000 feet, their struggles become very real.

Deafening winds, plummeting temperatures, and zero visibility leave teams disoriented between Camp 4 and the summit. As oxygen and energy deplete, panic and hypothermia set in. The unfolding human drama is frightening yet riveting.

Breashears balances raw tragedy with inspiring rescue efforts.

Teams like Hall’s valiantly try to shepherd clients down safely amidst the life-threatening conditions.

In the end, Storm Over Everest serves as both a cautionary tale and a tribute to the human spirit of adventure.

Everest’s extreme unpredictabilty and risks are spotlighted.

So too is the alluring mystique that draws seasoned climbers to take on her formidable challenge.

Watch “Storm Over Everest” for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So3vH9FY2H4

2) Everest: Beyond the Limit

This nail-biter docuseries started its cliffhanger (pun intended) run on Discovery Channel in November 2006.

It follows uber-guide Russell Brice and his crew of thrill-seeking climbers daring to summit the 29,000-ft beast of Mount Everest.

At 19 episodes (over 3 seasons), it’s the most comprehensive look at Everest.

And when I say cliffhanger, I mean it.

We’re talking life-or-death battles with brutal elements, inner demons, and Everest’s straight-up killer reputation. Armed with cam-mounted helmets and altitude-proof cameras, the 17-person film crew manages to capture all the nerve-wracking action across three seasons of man versus mountain mayhem.

In that first kickoff season in 2006, we meet double amputee Mark Inglis and his Emmy-worthy attempt for Everest’s peak. And whoa mama, that footage they got of doomed climber David Sharp is chilling!

The second season in 2007 follows more fan favorites like biker bro Tim Medvetz and his busted hand, and wild 70-year-old Katsusuke Yanagisawa trying to become the oldest dude to summit.

And you gotta see millionaire David Tait go nuts with his double-Everest-traverse world record attempt!

Then in the 2009 season, former astronaut Scott Parazynski returns to conquer his Everest demons, while John Golden tests out his transplanted knee by climbing Lhotse as prep for his own Everest ascent.

Throw in some scary early season avalanches and more brutal climber traffic jams near the peak and you’ll be watching through your fingers!

So across almost a dozen episodes, Everest: Beyond the Limit will having you praying these climbers make it back alive from Planet Everest. It might just be the most insane reality series ever – and wicked entertaining!

Watch it “Everest: Beyond the Limit” for free if you subscribe to Prime Video; for free on Tubi (with ads) or on Discovery+ (with subscription). Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/everest-beyond-the-limit

3) 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible

The best documentary on Netflix that covers Everest is “14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible” (released in November 2021).

It’s not solely about Mt. Everest but it’s so damn good and has enough on Everest that I’m giving it the ranking of 4th best Everest doc overall.

It’s the story of Nirmal Purja (“Nims”) and his team as they attept to climb all 14 of the “eight-thousander” peaks (8,000 or more meters (26,247 feet) in under 7 months (the previous record was 7 years).

Some Everest highlights:

On May 22, he hits the peaks of Everest and Lhotse, and by May 24, he’s on top of Makalu.

That’s three giant mountains in just over 48 hours!

He even snaps a photo of a huge line at Everest’s Hillary Step, which ends up going viral and landing on the front page of the New York Times.

Among the pile of records Purja smashed, one stands out:

He nails the fastest climb of Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu in just 2 days and 30 minutes.

There’s a lot more to the doc than Everest and I might review it more fully in another of my “Best of” articles (e.g. “Best Climbing Docs”).

The 1 hr 41 min. doc is directed by Torquil Jones and exec-produced by Nirmal Purja, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Vasarhelyi.

Watch “14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible” on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81397884

4) Everest: A Climb for Peace

In the 2005 film Everest: A Climb for Peace, director Lance Trumbull points his lens towards Nepal for an ascent that’s equal parts gritty mountaineering and spiritual journey.

The 1 hour 5 minute doc, narrated by Orlando Bloom, follows a band of climbers bonded by an audacious goal – to summit Everest and paraglide from its peak in a bid to fund the humanitarian efforts of Sir Edmund Hillary.

But there’s a compelling backstory.

This mixed crew of Aussies, Americans and Nepalis includes the first joint Israeli-Palestinian team to take on the mighty mountain.

Historic tensions simmer between Israeli Micha Yaniv and Palestinian Ali Bushnaq as they inch up jagged ridges and establish camps amid the thin, pitiless air.

When storms bear down and summit hopes narrow, the friction threatens to fracture the expedition.

Yet somehow, bonds of brotherhood prevail.

What emerges isn’t just stunning footage of Everest’s grandeur, but a parable of setting aside deepest differences to seek higher ground.

We’re left cheering these unlikely teammates – and the ideals that powered them skyward.

As the Dalai Lama hailed, it’s a “tremendous achievement” where soaring vision overcomes earthly divides.

Watch “Everest: A Climb for Peace” on Apple TV for $rental or purchase. See https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/everest-a-climb-for-peace for the latest streaming options.

5) Everest: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine

This ’86 doc from PBS’s NOVA rewinds the hands of time to the 1920s quests on that behemoth Everest.

It’s when Brit hotshots Mallory and Irvine vanished into the icy mists, never to return.

We tag along on 3 risky expeditions spanning 1921 to 1924, watching a dozen bold explorers perish from avalanches and altitude sickness as they inch towards that elusive 29k summit.

Armed with primitive oxygen rigs and sheer grit, Mallory and his 22-year-old protégé Irvine launch their last assault on June 8, ’24 before clouds swallow them 1500 feet from glory.

Legend has it these mountain men almost nabbed the top prize – the image of Irvine’s ice axe found in ’33 and a lone corpse spotted by Chinese climbers in ’75 stoke theories they died on the descent, just minutes from fame.

A real nail-biter even if you know how it ends.

Sit back and watch this intrepid dozen sacrifice life and limb to pinch Everest’s crown, only to wind up as crosses in the snow.

Their final heights may be disputed, but their bravery still inspires.

Cool factoid I learned from the doc. It was Mallory who coined the term “Because it’s there” (which he answered why he’d want to climb Everest).

Folks interviewed in the doc include (in order that they first appear):

  • Professor Noel Odell
  • Captain John Noel
  • Sir Edmund Hillary
  • Tom Holzel (Boston engineer and author who had studied Everest for 15 years at that point)
  • Chris Bonington (had led three expeditions to Everest at that point and summitted in 1985)
  • Sir Jack Longland (on the 1933 Everest Expedition)

Watch “Everest: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine” for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed link above or going here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVLOJAXPC_s

6) Sherpas: The True Heroes of Everest

When Western pep squads bounce back from that 29k beast Everest, it’s high-fives all around.

They chronicle battling thin air, triumphing over Old Man Winter, and occasionally tip the cap to the Sherpa smile brigade lugging their packs.

But who are these mysterious mountain movers – what’s their POV as they shepherd climbers into the death zone?

This making-of doc flashes some Sherpa lens-eye on that bucket-list peak, switching up the usual Western optics.

Nepali cameramen get schooled by a Swiss TV crew and start shooting their own kind hauling expeditioneers towards oxygen-starved heights.

No small feat toting cameras at lung-busting altitudes where even bottled air barely cuts it.

We get the real nitty gritty of life-risking Sherpa labor – turns out that famous grin masks a metric ton of hardship.

After 5 years brewing this doc deal, producer Frank Senn tapped veteran Nepali film journo Hari Thapa to get the inside skinny from the tireless carriers scaling Everest in clients’ footsteps.

The resulting culture-clash chronicle captures kindred spirits – Nepalis and visitors – united by mountain and personal summits. Some fresh snow from Sherpaland worth the avalanche risk.

Watch Sherpas – The True Heroes of Everest for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or going here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2MdSik4UNY

7) PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest

This 2022 doc crowns the first Nepali woman scaling Mt. Everest’s lofty heights – and the bittersweet aftermath.

Headstrong Sherpa Pasang Lhamu proudly stands atop 29k feet in ’93 after spurning patriarchy and crap conditions during multiple attempts.

With steely courage she muscles into mountaineering’s boys club to snatch long overdue glory for Nepali sisters by planting her country’s flag on that oft-vainly assailed peak.

But triumph turns tragic on the descent when storms roll in – Pasang perishes just hours after securing her pioneer place in the record books.

As the mournful nation bestows its highest civilian honor upon its fallen heroine, her shining legacy as inspiration for future generations remains secured.

Director Nancy Svendsen fleshes out the short-lived legend of this barrier-busting dynamo, who had to sacrifice her life to irreversibly shakeup the status quo of Himalayan peak bagging.

A must-watch chronicle of Everest’s first lady that will stoke that fiery climbing spirit.

As of right now (February 22, 2024), “PASANG” is only available in theaters (see https://pasangmovie.com/screenings/). But check back here for streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/pasang-in-the-shadow-of-everest

8) Aftershock: Everest and the Nepal Earthquake

The second best Mt. Everest documentary on Netflix is “Aftershock: Everest and the Nepal Earthquake”.

The docuseries tells the story of the massive (7.8 to 8.1) earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25, 2015.

The Netflix series (directed by Olly Lambert) has 3 episodes:

  • Wrong Place Wrong Time (38 min.) — What the earthquake was like
  • No Way Out (53 min.) — The reaction to the earthquake
  • Escape (58 min.) — The days after the earthquake including the fate of the climbers still on Mt. Everest

It aired on 10/6/22 and it’s unclear if Netflix will do a season 2.

Watch “Afterschock: Everest and the Nepal Earthquake” on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81397884.

9) Hanuman Airlines: Fly Over Everest

These high-flying Nepali go-getters take peak bagging to the extreme in this adrenaline-fueled doc.

Armed with a shoestring budget and cojones of steel, Sanobabu and Lakpa set their sights stratospherically high in 2011 – hatching a wild plan to paraglide off Everest’s 29k apex then kayak into the sunset.

Never mind the decade-plus waitlist for permits, or getting helicoptered over miles of treacherous Khumbu icefalls just to set up camp.

After two months acclimatizing around asyncio at basecamp, our intrepid duo makes a go for the tippy-top as crowds cheer them onto the summit.

Then comes the real icing: they soar off that majestic massacre-maker in a death-defying paraglide, snagging a world-record along with NatGeo glory – plus satisfying bragging rights as the first aerial descent.

Sure it’s total insanity, but their mom-worrying motto says it all: “Adventure before life.”

All-in bet these gravity-giving Nepalis can’t resist another roof-of-the-world headrush.

Maybe next they’ll BASE jump the Second Step!

Watch “Hanuman Airlines: Fly Over Everest” for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y75AvqPVuDs.

10) Inside the 1996 Everest Disaster – Ken Kamler

Here’s a take on Everest from the “Extreme Doctor” Ken Kamler who went on the infamous 1996 Everest expedition (aka the “Into Thin Air” story).

Dr. Ken was camped at 23,000 feet, preppin’ to summit this beastly 29,000-foot mother.

But outta nowhere the demonic storm kicks up and starts blasting the mountain. We’re talkin’ 2 days of satanic wind and snow.

And the worst part is, there were these three poor teams still up near the peak getting their butts whooped by this thing.

Eight climbers straight up died from this storm! Those icy winds and freezing temps don’t play around.

Lucky for Dr. Ken, he was at a lower camp when this freak snow hurricane attacked.

But the job wasn’t done – as the only doc on the mountain, he had to treat mad survivors rolling in from the upper camps once the clouds cleared.

Frostbite, oxygen starvation, hypothermia – you name it.

Kamler knows what he’s talking about.

He’s been working with Nat Geo for years and even did the first ever live interview from Everest base camp with ABC!

Some highlights for me in this speech:

  • Up the final slope to Everest there’s no snow. It’s so high that it’s in the jetstream (the snow gets blown off the top).
  • You often climb at night so that the ice falls are less likely to nail you.
  • When you get to Summit 4 ( the last base camp before trying to summit to the peak), everyone’s on oxygen (which is limited) and you have just a few hours to decide whether to attempt to summit.
  • Doc was at basecamp 3 when the sudden storm hit the climbers up above.
  • Dr. Ken gives injections to the wouned right through their clothing (there’s no time to shed clothing)
  • Climber Beck Weathers is assumed dead. After 2 days and a night (in which climbers walk by him — he’s too weak to even talk to them). He thinks about his family and what he has to live for and gets up and stumbles into camp.
  • A helicopter rescues some at 21,000 feet even though the “helicopter ceiling is 17,000 feet. The chopper pilot risks his life to rescue Beck (the highest rescue in history).

Watch “Inside the 1996 Everest Disaster” for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgqc2m7aBzs

11) How the Earth Was Made: Everest

The History honchos unspool this 45-min Everest origin story from 2010, tracking how that 29k beast ballooned into the roof of the world.

Turns out 400 million years back it was just seabed before violent clashes thrust the ground upward. India breaks from ancestral superland Gondwana, rams into Asia 50 million years ago .

We’re talking land wreck at 10 inches a year, faster than a 100-yard dash by NFL linebackers.

Carnage ensues: peaks folds like accordions, then shift along fracture lines, mashing rock layers atop each other to mold Everest’s backbone.

Fast forward and pressure cooks lower depth rock at scorching 4k-plus Fahrenheit, melting the works into rising granite goo that elevates the peak’s impressive bulk.

GPS stats confirm the Himalayas are still gaining height – take that, erosion!

A crazy tectonic pile-up spawned this monster mountain, and rumblings deep underground promise more drama ahead.

Catch those cliffs crumpling in real time once the next big quake hits!

Watch “Everest (How The Earth Was Made)” for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-oYON9V8tA

12) Ultimate Survival: Everest (Team Discovery)

This six-pack docuseries from 2004 follows four gonzo mountaineers gunning for Everest’s tiptop.

The squad preps for a two-month surge to outpace rivals to that 29k summit, pitting limbs and life against thin air, whiteout blizzards and temps that could ice a yeti.

The 6-parter is broken down roughly into:

  • Ep 1 covers anxious basecamp arrivals.
  • Ep 2 sees the team embrace acclimatization pain as Everest unleashes its wrath.
  • Ep 3 captures the slow suffocating struggle to breathe sans supplemental oxygen.
  • Ep 4 finds the climbers pushing through a brutal cold snap that allows rival squads to catch up.
  • Ep 5 showcases a do-or-die final assault after a month exposed on the flanks; they’ll either nab the apex or die trying.
  • Ep 6 captures two climbers who incredibly topped out – one insulin-dependent diabetic, one daring Mexican who did it oxygen-free – now attempting to skirt death again on the grim descent.

Fridge-magnet wisdom says the mountain makes the rules; over 30 years on Everest 198 have begged to differ.

Will these four join the frozen dead or summit alive?

Watch “Ultimate Survival: Everest” for free (all 4 hours and 33 min. of it!) on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or going here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gW8_KCP7p4

Mount Everest Documentaries Coming in 2024

I’m looking forward to watching these new Everest docs coming in 2024:

“The Quest: Everest”

Release date of April 1, 2024. It includes a Virtual Reality version of the movie too.

Here’s the trailer:

The Mountain Queen: The Summits Of Lhakpa Sherpa (Netflix)

A single mom who works as a dishwasher also happens to be an Everest world record holding climber! Release date is July 31, 2024

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc