The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition

2000 | Documentary | 97 minutes | English


The Endurance departed England on August 14, 1914, four days before the outbreak of World War I. Ernest Shackleton, the captain of the ship, set out to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent via the South Pole. When reaching their destination, the temperature suddenly dropped 40 degrees. The sea froze trapping  the Endurance within huge blocks of ice. Shackleton concluded that the only way to save the 28 men on the ship was to set out with six  men in a lifeboat and cross 800 miles of open sea to a whaling port at South Georgia Island. After 17 days, they reached the island but assistance was nowhere in sight. So, Shackleton and his men, exhausted and without adequate food and water, hiked three more days to find a village with  helpful people and equipment. Miraculously, Shackleton was able to rescue his men without a single loss of life. When the Endurance returned to England, World War I was raging. There were no parades or honors for Shackleton and his crew. In fact, many in England considered them war-evaders and malingerers. It was  years later, with the publication of Caroline Alexander’s book about the expedition, that these heroic men were given the honors they deserved. 

Major participants:  Liam Neeson (Narrator) / Ernest Shackleton (Captain of the Endurance) / Frank Hurley (Photographer) / The brave 28 crew members on the Endurance
Why Stream This Film?
What makes this documentary so immediate to later generations is Shakleton’s decision to include on his voyage the hugely talented photographer, Frank Hurley. Hurley not only shot extraordinary film and stills, he dove into the sinking ship to rescue a batch of incredible photos shot by members of the crew. Watching this courageous crew endure almost two years of hunger, frustration, and cold, will take your breath away.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 95%
  • Metacritic Score: 85
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Winner, Best Documentary
  • National Board of Review, USA: Winner, Best Documentary
  • Seattle International Film Festival: Winner, Best Documentary
  • Portland International Film Festival: Best Documentary

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THE ENDURANCE is a remarkable documentary about an almost unfathomable ordeal. The film tells the tale of human endurance that’s harrowing and at times inspirational, and it just might strike a chord. In its own way, it’s the kind of entertainment audiences could use right now—not blithe escapism nor maudlin sentimentality, but something real that feeds the spirit. Vivid color footage gives us a picture of what the men saw. By far the most valuable footage in the film was shot by the men themselves. The intimate, black-and-white still photos give us a sense of the men’s personalities. These fellows were the last of the seafaring adventurers, people from a complete other time. And yet, with their short hair and wire-rimmed glasses, their faces look so modern that it often comes as a jolt.
Mick LaSalle

San Francisco Chronicle

The tale of the ENDURANCE is so gripping, so full of improbable turns and agonizing reversals that it bears repeating. Screenwriter Caroline Alexander and producer George Butler tell it straightforwardly and well. What is most remarkable about ENDURANCE is how close it brings you to the raw experience of the voyage itself. The ship’s photographer, Frank Hurley, rescued a batch of negatives from the sinking Endurance, and these ghostly impressions are the heart of the film.
A.O. Scott

The New York Times

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