AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
127 Hours
Director: Danny Boyle (Dir)
Release Date:   5 Nov 2010
Duration (in mins):  90 or 93-95
Print this page
Display Movie Detail

Cast: James Franco  (Aron Ralston)
  Amber Tamblyn  (Megan)
  Kate Mara  (Kristi)

Summary: One Friday night in April 2003, Aron Ralston, a former engineer dedicated to canyoneering, prepares for a weekend of solo hiking and climbing in Utah’s Canyonlands National Parks. Ignoring phone messages from his mother and his sister, Sonja, Aron drives for several hours to the park’s entrance, where he commences a video journal of his experience. On Saturday morning, Aron rides his mountain bike into a remote area and, after parking the bike, continues on foot, bearing a small backpack. Several hours later, Aron spots lost hikers, Kristi and Megan. He shows them a direct path to their trail, but, at his invitation, they follow him on a more interesting route to their destination. As they hike through the Bluejohn Canyon area, Aron explains that it was used by outlaw Butch Cassidy’s gang to trap wild horses and was named for Blue John, the gang’s cook. Along the way, Aron guides the women to a hidden pool deep inside a crevasse, where the three frolic in the water. Before they depart, the women invite Aron to attend a party on Sunday night at a nearby motel, where they plan to place a large plastic blow-up figure of the cartoon character, “Scooby-Doo,” to mark the party’s location. When Aron resumes his lone journey, he stops occasionally to take photos or videos. As he works his way through a slot canyon, a boulder dislodges and falls, trapping his right arm and wedging him just above the canyon floor. Too far away for Kristi and Megan to hear his call for help, Aron experiences extreme pain, rage, fear and despair. He takes stock of the possessions he has with him, among them, an inexpensive multi-tool with a knife blade, a digital camera, video camera, a music player loaded with songs by the musical group, Phish, and some food and water. That night in the dark and cold, Aron scratches at the eight hundred-pound boulder with his small knife, hoping to loosen it, but only causes the rock to sink more tightly on his right arm. When he needs to sleep, Aron uses his free hand to wrap rappelling cords around him to make a sling, or simplified hammock, and dreams of wrapping the cords around the boulder and lifting it away using pulleys. On Sunday morning, a raven flies across the slit of the canyon. For approximately fifteen minutes, Aron feels the warmth of the sun through the narrow slit, a sensation that elicits memories of a canyon sunrise spent with his father when he was a child. After twenty-four hours in the Bluejohn, Aron realizes that he may not be rescued and records a video message that identifies him and his parents. That night, the temperature drops to forty-four degrees Fahrenheit. Aron eats a bit of his remaining food and recalls the invitation to Megan and Kristi’s party. While singing the “Scooby-Doo” theme song aloud, Aron imagines attending the party and partaking of refreshments, then realizes that Friday night he told no one where he planned to hike. On Monday morning, Aron tries to create a pulley mechanism to lift the boulder and although unsuccessful, he imagines returning to his truck to drink the Gatorade he left there. Later, in his video journal, Aron specifies several pieces of equipment, along with eight “burly” men, that he needs to lift the boulder. Estimating that his drinking water will be gone by Tuesday evening, Aron explains to the camcorder that he has been saving his urine in a hydration pouch. He also relates that the raven flies over his crevasse once each morning. After applying a tourniquet to his irreparably damaged arm, Aron, in a reverie, recalls Christmas with his family, then time spent with a former girlfriend, Rana. When his musings are interrupted by a thunderstorm, Aron suffers cold and discomfort as he tries to capture water in his mouth and his water bottle. During the ensuing flash flood, Aron imagines being swept away to his car. He drives through the rain to Rana’s door, but she will not let him in and he awakens from a dream, sobbing. On Tuesday morning when Aron makes a journal entry, he entertains himself by simulating a television talk show. Playing the parts of both interviewer and guest, he introduces himself as a “self-proclaimed superhero.” As an imaginary audience laughs and cheers, Aron explains that if his co-worker, Brian, files a missing persons report today, the authorities will wait twenty-four hours before searching, by which time he may be dead. He says he is familiar with the procedure, because he volunteers for a rescue service. Portraying a third person that he names, “Aron from Loser Canyon,” Aron apologizes to his mother for not answering her call and admits that if he would have told others where he was going, he might now be rescued. “Oops,” he says, and calls himself a selfish and “hard hero.” He tells his parents through the camcorder that he did not appreciate them when he could, but will always be with them. Later, Aron again thinks about Rana and, as his reverie heats up, he punches the knife into his arm and strikes bone, then tightens the tourniquet. By Wednesday, Aron must drink his saved urine to remain hydrated. On the camcorder he discovers a message secretly left for him by Kristi and Megan. When he thinks he hears shouting within the canyon, Aron looks around and hallucinates that a Scooby-Doo doll is perched along the rock wall. Later, he relives how Rana left him because of his aloofness and, in the present, begs her to come back, but then remembers that she predicted he would someday be lonely. Although Aron informs the camcorder that he is still alive, the night temperature drops into the twenties, putting him at risk for hypothermia. In a hallucination, Aron sees an image of the outlaw cook, Blue John, looking into the canyon at him from above. He sees Rana, then a young Sonja playing hide and seek, and claiming she has found him. Talking into the camcorder, Aron admits to Rana that his self-sufficiency has been extreme. He hears his mother and Sonja call, and hallucinates that his parents are in the canyon, sitting on their couch, around which other family members and friends gather. When Aron sees Sonja in a bridal gown, he apologizes that he cannot be at her wedding. The next morning, when the raven fails to fly over him, Aron admits that he has distanced himself from people and that he chose the moment when he would meet the ancient boulder that journeyed to earth as a meteorite billions of years ago. After the camcorder battery dies, Aron scratches his epitaph on the canyon wall, reporting this day as his last, then sleeps. However, his attention is captured by the sound of a child’s laughter and a lullaby sung by a woman. Before him, on the couch, Aron sees a young boy smiling at him and then, in an out-of-body experience, sees his future self, scooping the child into his arms. Now awake and determined to live, Aron breaks his right arm and, with tourniquet in place, cuts through muscle and tissue with the dull knife until his arm is completely severed from the wrist and from the boulder. After wrapping the handless stump, he pauses to photograph and thank the boulder. Then, in tremendous pain, Aron walks out of the canyon into sunlight. One-armed, he rappels down the seventy-foot face of the mountain and drinks mucky water pooled at the bottom. He walks past petroglyphs left by ancient people, until he spots a family ahead in the distance. His yell for help prompts the woman and child to run ahead to get assistance, while the man accompanies Aron on his journey forward. Soon, a search-and-rescue helicopter arrives and airlifts Aron to the hospital. 

Distribution Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Pathé International
Everest Entertainment
Production Company: Cloud Eight Films
Decibel Films
Darlow Smithson Productions
Director: Danny Boyle (Dir)
  John J. Kelly (Unit prod mgr)
  Bernard Bellew (Unit prod mgr)
  David A. Ticotin (1st asst dir)
  J. Scott Smiley (1st asst dir)
  Cody J. Harbaugh (2d asst dir)
  Heather Toone Johnson (2d asst dir)
  Jason Allred (2d 2d asst dir)
Producer: Christian Colson (Prod)
  Danny Boyle (Prod)
  John Smithson (Prod)
  Bernard Bellew (Exec prod)
  John J. Kelly (Exec prod)
  François Ivernel (Exec prod)
  Cameron McCracken (Exec prod)
  Lisa Maria Falcone (Exec prod)
  Tessa Ross (Exec prod)
  Tom Heller (Co-prod)
  Gareth Smith (Co-prod)
  Diarmuid McKeown (Assoc prod)
  Ariadne Getty (Development funds provided by )
Writer: Danny Boyle (Scr)
  Simon Beaufoy (Scr)

Subject Major: Amputation
  Canyonlands National Park (UT)
  Desert survival
  Aron Ralston
Subject Minor: Bicycles
  Family relationships
  Fathers and sons
  Blue John Griffith
  Hikers and hiking
  Unrequited love
  Voyages and travel

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.