Into the Wild (2007)


Into the Wild (2007)

Based on a true story. After graduating from Emory University, Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire savings account to charity, and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters who shape his life.
IMDb   8.1 /10
Metacritic   73 %
TheMovieDb    7.8 /10
FilmAffinity   7.6 /10
Director Sean Penn
Writer Sean Penn
Writer Jon Krakauer
Release Date2007-09-28
Runtime2h 28mins
GenreAdventure, Biography, Drama
Content RatingR (R)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #221 | Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 23 wins & 104 nominations.
CompanyParamount Vantage, Art Linson Productions, Into the Wild
LanguageEnglish, Danish
Chris McCandless
Billie McCandless
Walt McCandless
Carine McCandless / Additional Narrator
Rainey (as Brian Dierker)
Wayne Westerberg
Jim Gallien
Graduation Reader (as James J. O'Neill)
Building Manager
Wayne's Crew #1

Into the Wild (film)

Into the Wild is a 2007 American biographical adventure drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name written by Jon Krakauer and tells the story of Christopher McCandless ("Alexander Supertramp"), a man who hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s. The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless and Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt as his parents; it also features Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, and Hal Holbrook.

The film premiered during the 2007 Rome Film Fest and later opened outside Fairbanks, Alaska, on September 21, 2007. The film received critical acclaim and grossed $56 million worldwide. It was nominated for two Golden Globes and won the award for Best Original Song: "Guaranteed" by Eddie Vedder. It was also nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Holbrook.


In April 1992, Christopher McCandless arrives in a remote area called Healy, just north of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Noting McCandless' unpreparedness, the stranger who drops him off gives him a pair of gumboots. McCandless travels into the wilderness and sets up a campsite in an abandoned city bus, which he calls "The Magic Bus". At first, McCandless is content with the isolation, the beauty of nature around him, and the thrill of living off the land. He hunts with a .22 caliber rifle, reads books, and keeps a diary of his thoughts as he prepares himself for a new life in the wild.


Two years earlier, in May 1990, McCandless graduates with high honors from Emory University, but is shown to have become disenchanted with modern society after discovering he and his sister Carine were born out of wedlock when his father was married to another woman. Shortly afterwards, he rejects his conventional life by destroying all of his credit cards and identification documents. He donates nearly all of his savings to Oxfam and sets out on a cross-country drive in his Datsun 210 to experience life in the wilderness. McCandless does not tell his parents, Walt and Billie, nor Carine what he is doing or where he is going and refuses to keep in touch with them after his departure, causing his parents to become increasingly anxious and eventually desperate.

At Lake Mead, McCandless' car is caught in a flash flood, causing him to abandon it and begin hitchhiking. He burns what remains of his cash and assumes a new name: "Alexander Supertramp". In Northern California, McCandless encounters a hippie couple named Jan Burres and Rainey. Rainey tells McCandless about his failing relationship with Jan, which McCandless helps rekindle. In September, McCandless arrives in Carthage, South Dakota, and works for a contract harvesting company owned by Wayne Westerberg. He is forced to leave after Westerberg is arrested for satellite piracy.

McCandless then travels on the Colorado River and, though told by park rangers that he may not kayak down the river without a license, ignores their warnings and paddles downriver until he eventually arrives in Mexico. There, his kayak is lost in a dust storm, and he crosses back into the United States on foot. Unable to hitch a ride, he travels on freight trains to Los Angeles. Not long after arriving, however, he starts feeling "corrupted" by modern civilization and decides to leave. Later, he is forced to resume hitchhiking, after being beaten by railroad police.

In December 1991, McCandless arrives at Slab City, in the Imperial Valley, and encounters Jan and Rainey again. There, he also meets Tracy Tatro, a teenage girl who shows interest in McCandless, but he rejects her because she is underage. After the holidays, McCandless decides to continue heading for Alaska. One month later, camping near Salton City, McCandless encounters Ron Franz, a retired widower who lost his family in a car accident while he was serving in the United States Army. He now occupies his time in a workshop as an amateur leather worker. Franz teaches McCandless the craft of leatherwork, resulting in the making of a belt that details McCandless' travels. After spending two months with Franz, McCandless decides to leave for Alaska, despite this upsetting Franz, who has become quite close to McCandless. On a parting note, Franz gives McCandless his old camping and travel gear, along with the offer to adopt him as his grandchild, but McCandless simply tells him that they should discuss this after he returns from Alaska.


Four months later, at the abandoned bus introduced at the beginning of the film, life for McCandless becomes harder, and he makes several poor decisions. He tries to live off the land and hunts down a large moose with his rifle, but becomes quite distraught when he finds that he cannot preserve the meat and it spoils within days. As his supplies dwindle, he realizes that nature is harsh and uncaring.

McCandless concludes that true happiness can be found only when shared with others, and he seeks to return from the wild to his friends and family. However, he finds that the stream he had crossed during the winter has become wide, deep, and violent due to the snow thaw, and he is unable to cross. Saddened, he returns to the bus. In a desperate act, McCandless is forced to gather and eat roots and plants. He confuses similar plants and eats a poisonous one, falling sick as a result. Slowly dying, he continues to document his process of self-realization, and imagines what it might have looked like if he had managed to return to his family. He writes a farewell note to the world and crawls into his sleeping bag to die.

The epilogue states that, two weeks later, his body is found by moose hunters. Shortly afterwards, Carine returns to Virginia with her brother's ashes in her backpack.


  • Emile Hirsch as Chris McCandless a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp
  • Marcia Gay Harden as Billie McCandless
  • William Hurt as Walt McCandless
  • Jena Malone as Carine McCandless
  • Catherine Keener as Jan Burres
  • Brian H. Dierker as Rainey
  • Hal Holbrook as Ron Franz
  • Kristen Stewart as Tracy Tatro
  • Vince Vaughn as Wayne Westerberg
  • Zach Galifianakis as Kevin
  • Thure Lindhardt as Mads
  • Signe Egholm Olsen as Sonja
  • Merritt Wever as Lori
  • Jim Gallien as Himself
  • Leonard Knight as Himself
  • R. D. Call as Bull
  • Cheryl Harrington as social worker


The scenes of graduation from Emory University in the film were shot in the fall of 2006 on the front lawn of Reed College. Some of the graduation scenes were also filmed during the actual Emory University graduation on May 15, 2006. The Alaska scenes depicting the area around the abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail were filmed 50 miles (80 km) south of where McCandless actually died, in the tiny town of Cantwell. Filming at the actual bus would have been too remote for the technical demands of a movie shoot. A replica bus used in the movie is now a tourist attraction at a restaurant in Healy, Alaska.

Brian Dierker, who plays a major supporting role in the film as Rainey, had no previous acting experience and became involved in the production to be a guide for the rafting scenes.


Critical response

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 83% of 200 reviews of the film were positive, with an average rating of 7.50/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "With his sturdy cast and confident direction, Sean Penn has turned a complex work of nonfiction like Into the Wild into an accessible and poignant character study." Metacritic assigned the film an average score of 73 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four and described it as "spellbinding". Ebert wrote that Emile Hirsch gives a "hypnotic performance", commenting: "It is great acting, and more than acting." Ebert added, "The movie is so good partly because it means so much, I think, to its writer-director, Sean Penn."



  • 65th Golden Globe AwardsBest Original Song – Motion Picture ("Guaranteed")
  • Best Original Song – Motion Picture ("Guaranteed")
  • Gotham Awards Best Feature Film
  • Best Feature Film
  • Mill Valley Film Festival Best Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Best Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Palm Springs International Film Festival Director of the Year Award (Sean Penn) Rising Star Award Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Director of the Year Award (Sean Penn)
  • Rising Star Award Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • National Board of Review Breakthrough Performance – Male (Emile Hirsch)
  • Breakthrough Performance – Male (Emile Hirsch)
  • Rome Film Festival Jury Award (William Pohlad), (Art Linson), (Sean Penn)
  • Jury Award (William Pohlad), (Art Linson), (Sean Penn)
  • São Paulo International Film Festival Best Foreign Language Film (Sean Penn)
  • Best Foreign Language Film (Sean Penn)


  • 80th Academy AwardsBest Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook)
  • Best Film Editing (Jay Cassidy)
  • 65th Golden Globe AwardsBest Original Score – Motion Picture (Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder)
  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture (Michael Brook, Kaki King, Eddie Vedder)
  • American Cinema Editors Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic (Jay Cassidy)
  • Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic (Jay Cassidy)
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Film Best Actor (Emile Hirsch) Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook) Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener) Best Director (Sean Penn) Best Writer (Sean Penn) Best Song ("Guaranteed")
  • Best Film
  • Best Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener)
  • Best Director (Sean Penn)
  • Best Writer (Sean Penn)
  • Best Song ("Guaranteed")
  • 34th César Awards Best Foreign Film
  • Best Foreign Film
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Best Screenplay – Adapted (Sean Penn) Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook)
  • Best Picture
  • Best Screenplay – Adapted (Sean Penn)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Hal Holbrook)
  • Directors Guild of America Awards Best Director – Film (Sean Penn)
  • Best Director – Film (Sean Penn)
  • Cinema Audio Society Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures
  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures
  • Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Costume Design for Film – Contemporary
  • Excellence in Costume Design for Film – Contemporary
  • Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards Best Foreign Film – English Language (Sean Penn)
  • Best Foreign Film – English Language (Sean Penn)
  • Grammy Awards Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media ("Guaranteed")
  • Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media ("Guaranteed")
  • Gotham Awards Breakthrough Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Breakthrough Actor (Emile Hirsch)
  • Satellite Awards Best Original Song ("Rise")
  • Best Original Song ("Rise")
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Emile Hirsch) Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook) Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Catherine Keener)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Emile Hirsch)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Catherine Keener)
  • USC Scripter Award USC Scripter Award (Sean Penn) (screenwriter), (Jon Krakauer) (author)
  • USC Scripter Award (Sean Penn) (screenwriter), (Jon Krakauer) (author)
  • Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay (Sean Penn)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Sean Penn)

Top ten lists

The American Film Institute listed the film as one of ten AFI Movies of the Year for 2007.

National Board of Review named it one of the Top Ten Films of the Year.

Into the Wild also ranks 473rd in Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.

  • 1st: Ben Lyons, The Daily 10
  • 2nd: Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
  • 2nd: Tasha Robinson, The A.V. Club
  • 3rd: James Berardinelli, ReelViews
  • 3rd: Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times
  • 3rd: Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
  • 4th: Kyle Smith, New York Post
  • 5th: Claudia Puig, USA Today
  • 5th: David Germain, Associated Press
  • 5th: Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
  • 6th: Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • 6th: Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • 7th: A.O. Scott, The New York Times (tied with The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
  • 7th: Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
  • 9th: Christy Lemire, Associated Press
  • 10th: Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Box office

In North America, Into the Wild initially opened in limited release in four theaters and grossed $212,440, posting a per-theater average of $53,110. For the next several weeks, the film remained in limited release until it expanded to over 600 theaters on October 19, 2007; in its first weekend of wide release, the film grossed just $2.1 million for a per-theater average of $3,249. As of December 25, 2008, the film grossed $18,354,356 domestically and $37,281,398 internationally. In total, the film has grossed $55,635,754 worldwide.

Home media

Into the Wild was released on March 4, 2008, on standard DVD, Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition DVD, and standard HD DVD. The special edition DVD and HD DVD contain two special features entitled The Story, The Characters and The Experience. The Blu-ray Disc edition was released in France on July 16, 2008. The Blu-ray edition for the US was released on December 16, 2008.


The songs on the soundtrack were performed by Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, and Jerry Hannan. Vedder won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for the song "Guaranteed". The score was written and performed by Michael Brook and Kaki King. The music at the end of the theatrical trailer is "Acts of Courage" by X-Ray Dog, a company that supplies music for many movie trailers. Eddie Vedder said whilst writing the songs on the album "I spent three days giving him (Sean Penn) colors that I could paint with. Different sounds. It would be pump organ and vocal, or it would be an uptempo song. I just gave him 25 minutes of music, stuff I felt that were colors on the palette. And I really didn't think anything was gonna come out of it. Maybe a little piece or something".


The abandoned and decaying bus on the Stampede Trail where McCandless died became a pilgrimage destination for fans. It was located in Denali Borough, Alaska, 30 miles (50 km) from the nearest town. The bus was taken to the remote trail in the 1940s by a road crew, according to Denali Borough Mayor, Clay Walker. Visitors to the site had to cross the dangerous Teklanika River. In 2019 a newlywed Belarusian woman drowned trying to cross the swollen river on her way to the site. Another drowning took place in 2010. Five Italians were rescued in February 2020, with one suffering from severe frostbite, and a stranded Brazilian had to be rescued in April 2020. In total, 15 bus-related search and rescue operations for visitors were carried out between 2009 and 2017.

On June 18, 2020, the bus was removed due to public safety concerns. It was air-lifted by a US army Chinook helicopter to an undisclosed location pending a decision about its final destination.

On September 24, 2020, the Museum of The North at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) announced that it had become the permanent home of McCandless' 'Magic Bus 142' where it will be restored and an outdoor exhibit will be created.