Some would argue there is no such thing as a good sailing movie. Hollywood often presents us with stories full of crazy boating practices, yachts sailing across windless seas and uneducated nautical dialogue, so it’s not often we find a film that gets it right.
It’s also interesting to note the ever-present theme of good VS evil, whether it be brutal battles between warships, or a simple yet dramatic tale of man VS the sea. Thank goodness we never see this theme on our own sailing holidays — phew!
But there are some good films out there, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite sailing movies. Check them out and let us know what you think in the comments!
The Life Aquatic is one of our favourite films here, at Zizoo, and not just because it’s an awesome movie. Our name, ‘Zizoo’, is actually based on Steve Zissou, a character adaptation of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the French oceanographer, conservationist, filmmaker, scientist, and author.
The Life Aquatic follows the adventure of Steve Zissou, who sets out on an oceanic mission to document the destruction of the ‘jaguar shark’ that ate his partner, Esteban. It’s kooky, witty, animated, and it stars Bill Murray — what more could you want?
Deep Water is a critically acclaimed documentary telling the story of the disastrous 1968 round-the-world yacht race. Battling threatening seas and psychological ruin, amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst attempts a nine-month, non-stop circumnavigation of the globe, with terrifying results.
The African Queen is a small boat adventure film released in 1951. Humphrey Bogart — who won an Academy Award for Best Actor in this role — and Katherine Hepburn lead us through the African jungle, attempting to navigate through the battles of WWI. Bogart plays a rough and drunken riverboat captain, which is contrasted perfectly by Hepburn as a posh, strait-laced missionary.
Between Home is a moving and poetic adventure documentary about Nick Jaffe, an amateur sailor who attempts a solo oceanic journey from Europe to Australia. The film chronicles his three-year transformation from novice sailor to expert. Through scenes filmed both onboard and on location around the world, we see him battle the sea, wind, and severe isolation as he follows his dreams.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane, and a beautiful 60 ft ketch, Dead Calm is a thriller that will get your blood pounding. The film takes place almost entirely at sea, and was shot in the Whitsundays, in Australia. The combination of dangerous sailing conditions, isolation, and the threat of a villain onboard creates a fantastic thriller film.
Lifeboat is a classic Alfred Hitchcock film. During WWII, in the middle of the Atlantic, a ship and a German U-boat clash and ultimately destroy each other. A diverse group of five survivors from the ship — a journalist, a nurse, a businessman, the radio operator, a steward, a sailor and an engineer with communist tendencies — take safety in a lifeboat. Trouble starts when they rescue a survivor who was on the German U-boat.
Shot on the island of Malta, Kon-Tiki is a historical drama based on the story of Thor Heyerdahl and his 1947 Kon-Tiki exploration expedition. It is the highest grossing film in Norway to date, and it is the first time a Norwegian film has been nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award. Thor Heyerdahl set out on his epic crossing of the Pacific Ocean to prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. The dramatic events that follow the group of men as they traverse across the sea are gripping.
Directed by the talented Peter Wier, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World tells a dramatic story set during the Napoleonic wars. Russell Crowe plays an arrogant captain who pushes his ship and crew to their limits while tracking and attempting to capture a French war ship. Action-packed naval battle scenes keep us on the edge of our seats, and we get to know the men behind the ship and their struggle to make it through this alive.
Wind tells the story of Will Parker, a sailor who tragically loses the America’s Cup race, the world’s biggest sailing prize, to the Australians. So, he decides to form his own crew to reclaim the prize. A mix of both adventure and romance, it’s inspired by the real events of the loss of the 1983 America’s Cup. The cast is comprised of real sailors, which makes the sailing scenes incredibly realistic, so if you’re looking for some serious sailing battles this movie is for you.
All is Lost stars Robert Redford as a solo sailor who meets disastrous circumstances out at sea and faces a tiring battle for his life. Man-and-boat-against-the-sea is a classic theme in sailing movies, and Redford and director J.C. Chandor keep the storyline to just that – a simple yet frightening tale of a man and the sea.
We also couldn’t complete this list without mentioning one of our favourite classics, Moby Dick, but what do you guys think of the remake that’s coming out next month?
Have we missed any of your favourites? Do you disagree with any in our list? Let us know in the comments!
For more seaside inspiration, head to the home of sailing holidays.