Last September, we declared Free Solo to be the best climbing movie ever made. Now, it's bagged another prestigious achievement. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s film documenting climber Alex Honnold’s historic rope-free ascent of El Capitan's Freerider in Yosemite took home the statue for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards.
Free Solo follows Honnold as he prepares for the climb and deals with “the circus” of being the sport’s most recognizable figure, someone who’s been living mostly out of a van suddenly having a camera following his every move for months on end. It’s that insight into Honnold that forces the audience to confront bigger questions about life, death, and risk-taking and make this much more than just another climbing flick.
In an interview with Outside in September 2018, Vasarhelyi described the film as a story about “this kid who is so scared of talking to other people that it was easier for him to climb alone, with no ropes, than to ask for a partner. I feel like we all have something in our lives like that. It was really important to see Alex’s eyes before he did it. What did his eyes look like the morning he set off?”
That approach goes a long way toward explaining why Vasarhelyi, Chin and Honnold were on stage together accepting the Oscar in February.
Watch It Online
If you haven’t seen the film, or just want to see it a second (or third) time, you can watch it online whenever you want. You can stream it right now if you have a subscription to Hulu. If not, it’s available for rent or purchase on all the major streaming services, including iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play.
National Geographic, which funded and distributed the movie, has it available on their TV app (cable or satellite subscription required).
See It at the Theater
And if you can see it on the big screen, you definitely should. It’s still popping up from time to time in theaters around the country.