Free Solo

Free Solo is a 2018 American documentary film directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin[2] that profiles rock climber Alex Honnold on his quest to perform a free solo climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in June 2017.[3][4]

Free Solo
Free Solo.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
  • Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
  • Jimmy Chin
  • Shannon Dill
  • Evan Hayes
  • Jimmy Chin
  • Clair Popkin
  • Mikey Schaefer
Edited byBob Eisenhardt
Music byMarco Beltrami
    • Little Monster Films
    • Itinerant Media
    • Parkes+MacDonald
    • Image Nation
    • National Geographic Documentary Films
Distributed byNational Geographic Documentary Films
Release date
  • August 31, 2018 (2018-08-31) (Telluride)
  • September 28, 2018 (2018-09-28) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$29.3 million[1]

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018, and also screened at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People's Choice Award in the Documentaries category.[5] It was released in the United States on September 28, 2018, where it received positive reviews from critics and grossed over $28 million.

The film received numerous accolades, including winning Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.[6][7]


The film devotes some time to documenting its own production process, with director Jimmy Chin and his camera crew (all experienced climbers themselves) discussing the challenge of not endangering climber Alex Honnold by distracting him or pressuring him to attempt the climb at all. According to director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, this was solved with a lot of practice.[8] To record sound from Honnold, who was often too far from the cameras to use a wireless microphone, the filmmakers created a special recording device and had Honnold carry it inside his chalk bag.[8]

The film was made by National Geographic Partners,[9] which at the time of the film's release was majority-owned by 21st Century Fox, with the remainder owned by the National Geographic Society.[10]


Box officeEdit

Free Solo grossed $17.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $11.1 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $28.6 million.[1]

The film made $300,804 from four theaters in its opening weekend, surpassing Eighth Grade and An Inconvenient Sequel, respectively, for the highest per-venue average of 2018 and of a documentary all-time with $75,201.[11] It expanded to 41 theaters in its second weekend, making $562,786.[12] The film grossed $859,051 from 129 theaters in its third weekend and $1 million from 251 theaters in its fourth weekend.[13][14] During its fifth weekend, it earned $1.06 million from 394 theaters, bringing the total box office gross to over $5 million.[15]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 152 reviews, with an average rating of 8.21/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Free Solo depicts athletic feats that many viewers will find beyond reason – and grounds the attempts in passions that are all but universal."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[17]

Writing for Variety, Peter Debrudge said, "Apart from a slow stretch around the hour mark, the filmmakers keep things lively (with a big assist from Marco Beltrami's pulse-quickening score, the nail-biting opposite of Tim McGraw's soaring end-credits single, "Gravity"), featuring test runs at Zion National Park's Moonlight Buttress and the nearly sheer limestone cliffs in Taghia, Morocco."[18] Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair called the film "bracingly made" and wrote, "I left the theater invigorated and rattled, in awe of this charismatic man's accomplishment but scared that it will inspire others to attempt the same ... But maybe Free Solo's detailed, transfixing portrait of their hero will at least show some sort of barrier to entry, communicating to those eager wannabes that very few people indeed are built quite like Alex Honnold. And thank goodness, in a way, for that."[19]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Toronto International Film Festival September 16, 2018 People's Choice Documentary Free Solo Won [5]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 14, 2018 Original Score – Documentary Marco Beltrami Nominated [20]
Original Song – Documentary Tim McGraw and Lori McKenna Nominated
IDA Documentary Awards December 8, 2018 Best Feature Free Solo Nominated [21]
Best Cinematography Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer Nominated
National Board of Review January 8, 2019 Top 5 Documentaries Free Solo Won [22]
Cinema Eye Honors January 10, 2019 Audience Choice Prize Free Solo Won [23]
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer Won
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score Marco Beltrami Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Production Free Solo Won
Producers Guild of America Awards January 19, 2019 Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, and Shannon Dill Nominated [24]
Directors Guild of America Awards February 2, 2019 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin Nominated [25]
British Academy Film Awards February 10, 2019 Best Documentary Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill and Evan Hayes Won [26]
Satellite Awards February 17, 2019 Best Documentary Film Free Solo Nominated [27]
Academy Awards February 24, 2019 Best Documentary Feature Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, and Shannon Dill Won [28]
Primetime Emmy Awards September 14, 2019 Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media within an Unscripted Program Free Solo Won [29]
Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin Won
Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer Won
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program Bob Eisenhardt Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Deborah Wallach, Filipe Messeder, Jim Schultz, Roland Vajs and Nuno Bento Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Tom Fleischman, Ric Schnupp, Tyson Lozensky and Jim Hurst Won
Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts Won


  1. ^ a b "Free Solo (2018) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  2. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (February 22, 2019). "A guide to this year's exceptionally good Oscar-nominated documentaries". Vox.
  3. ^ Free Solo Movie Review Common Sense Media.
  4. ^ 'Free Solo': How filmmakers avoided kill Alex Honnold as he climbed USA Today.
  5. ^ a b Nordine, Michael (September 16, 2018). "TIFF 2018 Awards: 'Green Book' Wins the People's Choice Award, Upsetting 'A Star Is Born'". IndieWire. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  6. ^ "Oscar Nominations 2019: The Complete List". Variety. January 22, 2019. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  7. ^ ""Free Solo" wins Best Documentary Feature". March 25, 2019 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ a b O'Falt, Chris (October 17, 2018). "At 3,000 Feet, Shooting 'Free Solo' Was More Like 'Mission: Impossible' Than a Documentary". IndieWire. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "Nat Geo Channel to Air Ad-Free 'Free Solo' on Sunday, March 3". Multichannel. February 27, 2019.
  10. ^ O'Falt, Chris (October 3, 2018). "Alex Honnold's Freerider Free Solo: 360 Degree Video". Climbing.
  11. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (September 30, 2018). "'Free Solo' Documentary Climbs Indie Box Office With Best Screen Average of 2018". Variety. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  12. ^ Brooks, Brian (October 7, 2018). "'Studio 54' And 'Free Solo': It's Still All About The Parties – Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  13. ^ Brooks, Brian (October 14, 2018). "'Beautiful Boy' Tops Not-So-Hot Weekend; 'Free Solo' Over $2.1M: Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  14. ^ Brooks, Brian (October 21, 2018). "'Mid90s' Off To Far From Middling Start; 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' & 'Wildlife' Solid In Bows – Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  15. ^ Brooks, Brian (October 28, 2018). "'Suspiria' Opens Big with Year's Best Average; 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Solid: Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  16. ^ "Free Solo (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  17. ^ "Free Solo reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  18. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 31, 2018). "Film Review: 'Free Solo'". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  19. ^ Lawson, Richard (September 1, 2018). "Review: Free Solo Is a Dizzying, Fascinating Rock-Climbing Documentary". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  20. ^ Xu, Linda (November 15, 2018). "Hollywood Music in Media Awards: Full List of Winners". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  21. ^ Lewis, Hilary (December 8, 2018). "IDA Documentary Awards: 'Minding the Gap' Wins Best Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  22. ^ Lewis, Hilary (November 27, 2018). "'Green Book' Named Best Film by National Board of Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  23. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (November 8, 2018). "Hulu's 'Minding the Gap' Ties Cinema Eye Honors All-Time Nominations Record". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  24. ^ "All Motion Picture and TV Nominations for 30th Annual Producers Guild Awards presented by Cadillac". Producers Guild of America. January 4, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  25. ^ "DGA Announces Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Television, Commercials and Documentary for 2018". Directors Guild of America. January 7, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  26. ^ "Documentary – Free Solo". British Academy Film Awards. Retrieved February 10, 2019.
  27. ^ "2018 Awards Nominees". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on November 29, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  28. ^ "The 91st Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  29. ^ "Free Solo". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 16, 2019.

External linksEdit