Nicole Sperling
December 05, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

The movies love tales of men communing with nature. (Think Cast Away, Into the Wild, 127 Hours.) But this year, two women ventured into the great outdoors and made cinema all the better for it. In September, Wasikowska, 25, crossed the Australian desert with four camels and a dog in Tracks, propelled by nothing more than a need to be free. And in this month’s Wild, Witherspoon, 38, goes on a soul-healing trek along America’s Pacific Crest Trail. Based on the experiences of real women (writers Robyn Davidson and Cheryl Strayed, respectively), both films are elegant, understated meditations on the beauty of solitude and the invaluable power of silence. Together, these two characters hike some 2,800 miles, every last one of them lived to the fullest.

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