Ahoy, fellow sailors and movie lovers! As someone who has spent years navigating the seas, I’m excited to share my passion for sailing life through the magic of cinema. If you’re looking for sailing movies that capture the spirit of adventure, friendship, and the ocean’s call, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve compiled a list of the best sailing movies of all time, ranging from classic tales to hidden gems. These films are perfect for anyone who loves a good sea story, whether it’s about daring pirates or solo journeys. In this article, I’ll give you a quick description of each movie and tell you why it’s worth watching.
So come aboard and join me on this exciting journey through some of the greatest sailing movies ever made. With thrilling adventures and unforgettable moments, these films will inspire you to explore the open waters and create your own sailing memories.
Grab your favorite snack and get comfortable, because these sailing movies (listed in no particular order) will take you on a fantastic voyage filled with courage, strength, and the allure of the open sea. Let’s set sail and dive into the world of these captivating films!
Table of Contents
Adrift is a true story about a couple, Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), who set sail across the Pacific Ocean in 1983. When a hurricane hits their boat, Tami is left to save herself and her injured fiancé with limited supplies and no communication with the outside world. With breathtaking scenery and powerful performances, Adrift is a thrilling and emotional sailing movie.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Adrift is a heart-wrenching tale of survival and love that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Tami is both inspiring and heartbreaking, and the movie’s stunning visuals and gripping plot make it one of the best sailing movies I have enjoyed in recent years.
White Squall (1996)
Based on a true story, White Squall tells the tale of a group of teenage boys who embark on a sailing trip aboard the Albatross, a beautiful tall ship. With Captain Christopher Skipper Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) at the helm, the boys learn important lessons about life and teamwork as they navigate through the dangerous waters of the Caribbean. With stunning visuals and a heartfelt story, White Squall is a must-see for anyone who loves sailing movies.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: White Squall is a captivating and emotional story that showcases the beauty and danger of the sea. The young cast delivers outstanding performances, and the movie’s themes of friendship, leadership, and survival are relatable and inspiring.
Coyote: The Mike Plant Story (2017)
Coyote: The Mike Plant Story (2017) is a documentary film that tells the story of the life and achievements of solo ocean sailor Mike Plant. The film takes viewers on a journey through Plant’s experiences as he pursued his passion for sailing and became a renowned figure in the world of solo offshore racing. The film features interviews with Plant’s friends and family as well as fellow sailors, and delves into the struggles and triumphs of Plant’s personal and professional life, including his untimely death while competing in the Vendée Globe race.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Coyote: The Mike Plant Story is a compelling and emotional tribute to one of sailing’s most legendary figures. The film captures Plant’s relentless spirit and the challenges he faced as he pursued his dream, making it a must-watch for sailing enthusiasts and anyone interested in stories of perseverance and determination. This is a great sailing movie that offers stunning footage of the ocean and the boats, making it a treat for anyone who appreciates the beauty of sailing.
You can now watch Coyote: The Mike Plant Story in full on Youtube for free.
All is Lost (2013)
In All is Lost, Robert Redford stars as a solo sailor who is stranded in the Indian Ocean when his boat is damaged. With no communication or navigation tools, he must rely on his own wits and resourcefulness to survive. With little dialogue and a powerful performance by Redford, All is Lost is a compelling and tense sailing movie.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: All is Lost is a masterful example of minimalist storytelling, showcasing the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Robert Redford’s performance is outstanding, and the movie’s stunning cinematography and sound design create a sense of realism and tension that, if you are like me, will keep you hooked until the end.
Deep Water (2006)
Deep Water is a documentary that tells the story of the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, in which nine sailors attempted to circumnavigate the globe solo. Focusing on the tragic story of Donald Crowhurst, a British businessman who entered the race to save his failing business, the movie is a gripping and tragic look at the dangers of solo sailing.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Deep Water is an emotional documentary that dives into the mind of a man who is being pushed to his breaking point by the sea. This sailing movie’s mix of archival footage and modern interviews creates a compelling narrative, and its exploration of the human cost of sailing is both thought-provoking and deeply moving.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this movie follows the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his crew on the HMS Surprise as they pursue a French warship around South America. Directed by Peter Weir, the film is based on a series of novels by Patrick O’Brian. With stunning cinematography, accurate historical details, and superb performances, this epic movie brings the 19th-century naval battles to life. The film received critical acclaim and was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Master and Commander offers an immersive experience into the world of sailing during the Napoleonic Wars. The attention to detail and historical accuracy make this one of the best movies about sailing, a must-watch for sailing enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The performances by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany as the ship’s doctor are exceptional, and the action-packed sequences keep the audience engaged throughout the film.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
The Perfect Storm directed by Wolfgang Petersen is based on a true story about the crew of the fishing vessel Andrea Gail who get caught in a massive storm while fishing for swordfish in the Atlantic. The film stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Diane Lane. The crew, led by Captain Billy Tyne, faces immense danger and tragedy as they battle the storm and attempt to make it back to port.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The Perfect Storm is a powerful and emotional best sailing films that highlights the bravery and determination of the crew of the Andrea Gail. The realistic portrayal of the storm and its effects on the crew is intense and gripping. The strong performances from the cast make this film a must-watch for fans of movies about sailors.
Captain Ron (1992)
Captain Ron directed by Thom Eberhardt is a comedy about a dysfunctional family who inherit a yacht and decide to sail it from the Caribbean to Miami with the help of the eccentric Captain Ron played by Kurt Russell. The film stars Martin Short, Mary Kay Place, and Benjamin Salisbury.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Captain Ron is a fun and lighthearted sailing movie that offers a unique and humorous perspective on sailing. Kurt Russell’s performance as Captain Ron is hilarious and entertaining, making this film a great choice for those looking for a light-hearted sailing movie.
Maiden directed by Alex Holmes is a documentary about the first all-female crew to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. This boat movie focuses on the team’s captain, Tracy Edwards, and their journey to overcome sexism and stereotypes in the sailing world.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Maiden is a moving and inspiring film that showcases the incredible determination and resilience of the all-female crew. The documentary also sheds light on the sexism and discrimination that women in the sailing industry faced during that time. This film is a must-watch for fans of sailing and anyone who loves a good underdog story.
Kon-Tiki directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg is based on the true story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft in 1947. The film stars Pål Sverre Hagen and Anders Baasmo Christiansen.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Kon-Tiki is a thrilling and visually stunning film that tells the incredible story of Heyerdahl’s daring expedition. The film’s portrayal of the Pacific Ocean and the dangers the crew faced is both breathtaking and heart-stopping. This film is a must-watch for fans of sailing movies and adventure films.
Dead Calm (1989)
Dead Calm directed by Phillip Noyce is a psychological thriller about a couple who encounter a deranged sailor while sailing the Pacific Ocean. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, and Billy Zane.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Dead Calm is a gripping and suspenseful sailing movie that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. The film’s tense atmosphere and strong performances from the cast make it a standout in the great sailing movie genre. This film is a must-watch for fans of thrillers and boat movies.
Captain Phillips (2013)
In this biographical thriller, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his crew are hijacked by Somali pirates while sailing on the MV Maersk Alabama. The film, directed by Paul Greengrass, is based on the true story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: If you’re looking for best boat movies, Captain Phillips is a must-see. Tom Hanks’ performance is outstanding, and the tense moments throughout the film will have you on the edge of your seat.
In this documentary, we follow the journey of Laura Dekker, a 14-year-old Dutch sailor, as she sets out to become one the youngest person to sail solo around the world. The film captures Laura’s experiences, from her preparations to the completion of her journey.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: For those interested in movies about sailors, this inspiring documentary showcases Laura’s courage and determination, and her story is sure to motivate and inspire viewers.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
In this classic adventure film, Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard) sets out on a mission to acquire breadfruit plants for Jamaica, but his cruel treatment of his crew leads to a mutiny led by his second-in-command, Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando).
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The stunning cinematography and exceptional performances by Brando and Howard make this film a must-watch.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
This comedy-drama follows Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), an oceanographer, and his crew as they set out to hunt down the elusive jaguar shark that killed Zissou’s partner. Along the way, they encounter various challenges and obstacles.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The film’s offbeat humor and quirky characters, along with Wes Anderson’s unique style, make this boat movie a fun and entertaining watch.
The Mercy (2018)
This biographical drama tells the story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth), who sets out on a solo trip around the world in an attempt to win a competition. However, things don’t go as planned, and he soon finds himself in over his head.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: For those interested in best sailing movies, Colin Firth delivers a powerful performance, and the film’s exploration of ambition and the perils of the sea make for a compelling watch.
In this sports drama, Will Parker (Matthew Modine) joins a team of American sailors as they compete in the America’s Cup race against their Australian rivals. The film follows the team’s ups and downs as they prepare for the big race.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The film’s focus on the competitive world of sailing, along with its exciting race scenes, make it a thrilling watch for both sailing enthusiasts and sports fans.
Abandoned is a thriller film directed by John Laing and starring Dominic Purcell and Peter Feeney. The movie is based on a true story that follows a group of 4 men that set sail from New Zealand for Tonga, and after a terrible storm, the boat capsizes. With no way to call for help, they must fight to survive against the elements and their own fears.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Abandoned is a gripping and intense film that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. It is definitely worth watching for fans of survival thrillers and anyone who enjoys a good character-driven story.
Around Cape Horn (1929)
This silent film documents the journey of the full-rigged ship, the Peking, as it sails around Cape Horn. The film captures the ship’s struggles against treacherous weather conditions and the stunning natural beauty of the region.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: This historical film is a fascinating look at sailing in the early 20th century, and the stunning footage of the ship and its journey is sure to impress.
Chasing Bubbles (2016)
In this documentary film, Alex Rust leaves behind his corporate job and sets off on a journey around the world on his sailboat, Bubbles. Along the way, he meets new friends, faces unexpected challenges, and discovers the true meaning of freedom.
Why it is worth watching this movie: Chasing Bubbles is an inspiring and heartfelt film that captures the beauty and adventure of sailing. Rust’s journey is a reminder that life is short and that we should follow our passions and live life to the fullest. The stunning cinematography and Rust’s infectious enthusiasm make this film a must-watch for anyone who dreams of setting sail.
Moby Dick (1956)
Based on the novel by Herman Melville, Moby Dick tells the story of Captain Ahab’s obsession with hunting down the white whale that took his leg. Starring Gregory Peck and directed by John Huston, this classic movie is a masterpiece of American literature and a testament to the power of the human spirit.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Moby Dick is a timeless classic that has inspired generations of sailors and adventurers. Peck’s performance as Ahab is unforgettable, and the film’s themes of obsession, revenge, and the struggle against nature are just as relevant today as they were when Melville wrote the novel. This is a must-watch for anyone who loves sailing, literature, or great storytelling.
Morning Light (2008)
A documentary directed by Mark Monroe, this film follows the journey of 15 young sailors from around the world as they compete in the 2007 Transpac sailing race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. The sailors, ranging in age from 18 to 23, were selected from hundreds of applicants to form two teams that would race identical boats. The film captures their intense training regimen, the excitement of the race, and the challenges they face during the grueling 2,300-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean. With breathtaking cinematography and an inspiring soundtrack, Morning Light is a must-watch for anyone who loves sailing and competition.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Morning Light provides an inside look at what it takes to compete in a high-level sailing race, as well as the dedication and determination of young athletes who pursue their dreams on the open sea.
One Crazy Summer! (1986)
Directed by Savage Steve Holland, this comedy film follows the misadventures of aspiring artist Hoops McCann (John Cusack) as he spends a summer in Nantucket with his best friend George and his family. Hoops falls for a beautiful musician named Cassandra (Demi Moore), but must also contend with her possessive boyfriend, the obnoxious landlord of their beach house, and a group of wealthy locals who are determined to sabotage his artwork. Sailing plays a prominent role in the film, as Hoops and George attempt to win a boat race against their rivals.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: One Crazy Summer! is a fun, lighthearted movie that captures the spirit of summer vacation and the joys of sailing. The film also features an all-star cast of ’80s actors, including John Cusack, Demi Moore, and Bobcat Goldthwait.
Red Dot on the Ocean (2014)
This documentary tells the incredible story of Matt Rutherford, a former troubled youth who sets out on a solo sail around the Americas to prove to himself and others that he can accomplish something great. With no sponsors and no real sailing experience, Matt embarks on a perilous journey that takes him through the treacherous waters of the Northwest Passage and around Cape Horn. Along the way, he battles storms, equipment failures, and loneliness, but also experiences moments of beauty and wonder as he encounters whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Red Dot on the Ocean is a captivating film that showcases the power of human determination and the beauty of the natural world. Matt Rutherford’s story is a testament to the idea that anyone can achieve greatness if they have the courage to follow their dreams.
Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World (2017)
Directed by Nico Edwards, this documentary follows the crew of the Infinity, a 120-foot hand-built ketch sailboat, as they embark on a journey between New Zealand and Argentinian Patagonia. The crew, made up of a mix of seasoned sailors and novices, face a variety of challenges as they navigate the remote waters of the southern hemisphere, including rough seas, equipment failures, and encounters with wildlife. Along the way, they also explore the culture and traditions of the indigenous people they meet, as well as the natural beauty of the regions they visit.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World is a visually stunning film that captures the thrill of adventure and the power of human connection. The crew’s journey is a reminder that sometimes the greatest rewards come from stepping outside our comfort zones and exploring the unknown.
Rike (Susanne Wolff) is a German emergency physician who sets sail alone on her yacht from Gibraltar to Ascension Island. When she encounters a group of refugees in a sinking fishing boat, she becomes torn between her moral obligation to help them and the safety of her own life. Directed by Wolfgang Fischer, Styx is a taut and riveting thriller that addresses the timely issues of immigration, human trafficking, and the ethics of rescuing people at sea.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Styx is a film that raises important questions about the moral responsibilities we have towards those in need, while also being an intense and suspenseful drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Bounty (1984)
This film tells the story of the infamous mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789, in which the ship’s crew, led by Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson), overthrew their captain, William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins). Directed by Roger Donaldson, The Bounty is a classic adventure film that combines breathtaking cinematography, a talented cast, and a compelling story.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The Bounty is a gripping and visually stunning film that explores the complex relationships between power, authority, and rebellion, while also highlighting the beauty and danger of life at sea.
The Dove (1974)
Based on a true story, The Dove follows the journey of Robin Lee Graham (Joseph Bottoms), a 16-year-old who sets out to circumnavigate the globe alone in his sailboat, Dove. Along the way, he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Patti (Deborah Raffin), and faces numerous challenges and dangers. Directed by Charles Jarrott, The Dove is a heartwarming and inspiring film that celebrates the courage and determination of a young sailor.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The Dove is a charming and uplifting film that showcases the beauty and excitement of sailing, while also highlighting the resilience and bravery of its protagonist.
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
Adapted from Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name, The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of an aging Cuban fisherman, Santiago (Spencer Tracy), who goes out to sea and struggles with a giant marlin. Directed by John Sturges, The Old Man and the Sea is a simple yet powerful tale of perseverance, courage, and respect for nature.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The Old Man and the Sea is a timeless classic that captures the essence of the human spirit and the majesty of the sea, while also featuring a remarkable performance by Tracy.
The Riddle of the Sands (1979)
This film is a suspenseful espionage thriller set in the early 1900s, in which a British yachtsman named Davies (Michael York) uncovers a German plot to invade England. Directed by Tony Maylam, The Riddle of the Sands is a gripping and atmospheric film that combines adventure, intrigue, and romance.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The Riddle of the Sands is a fascinating and entertaining film that offers a unique perspective on the history of sailing and the politics of the time, while also providing plenty of excitement and mystery.
Turning Tide (En Solitaire) (2013)
Turning Tide is a French drama film directed by Christophe Offenstein. The film follows Yann Kermadec (Francois Cluzet), a sailor who is invited to participate in the Vendée Globe, a solo around-the-world yacht race. During the race, he receives a distress call from a competitor and decides to change course to save the sailor. This decision jeopardizes his chances of winning the race, but Kermadec believes that saving a life is more important than winning a competition. The film stars Francois Cluzet, Samy Seghir, and Virginie Efira.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Turning Tide is a heartwarming film about sacrifice and humanity. It beautifully portrays the importance of saving lives, even if it means losing a competition. The film’s cinematography is stunning, and the music is mesmerizing. The plot is well-written and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. The acting by Francois Cluzet and Samy Seghir is outstanding, making the characters’ emotions feel authentic. I think Turning Tide is one of best sailing movies to come out of France, with stunning visuals and a thrilling storyline.
180° South (2010)
180° South is a documentary film directed by Chris Malloy that follows Jeff Johnson’s journey from California to Patagonia. Johnson is a surfer, climber, and environmentalist who embarks on an adventure to Patagonia to climb the Corcovado Volcano. The film explores the connection between man and nature and emphasizes the importance of preserving the environment. The film stars Jeff Johnson, Yvon Chouinard, and Keith Malloy.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: 180° South is a breathtaking documentary that showcases the beauty of nature and the importance of conservation. From all the movies I have watched, this is one of the best sailing movies for adventure and exploration, with breathtaking landscapes and inspiring storytelling.The film’s stunning cinematography captures the essence of Patagonia’s rugged landscapes and the people who live there. The documentary features interviews with prominent environmentalists, who share insights into the importance of protecting the environment. The film’s soundtrack is also noteworthy, featuring music by Eddie Vedder, Jack Johnson, and Mason Jennings. Overall, 180° South is a must-watch for anyone who loves adventure, nature, and the environment.
1998 Sydney to Hobart
The 1998 Sydney to Hobart is a documentary film that chronicles the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which was one of the most disastrous in the race’s history. The race was hit by a massive storm that created 115 km/h winds and 80-foot waves, causing six boats to sink, and five sailors died. The documentary features interviews with the surviving sailors, rescue workers, and officials who were involved in the race.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: The 1998 Sydney to Hobart documentary is a gripping and emotional film that captures the horror of the disastrous yacht race. In my opinion, this is one of the top sailing movies for showcasing the intensity and unpredictability of ocean racing. It showcases the courage and resilience of the sailors and rescue workers who risked their lives to save others. The documentary’s interviews provide insight into the events that unfolded during the race and the impact it had on the sailing community. The film serves as a reminder of the dangers of sailing and the importance of safety measures while at sea.
600 Days to Cocos Island (1984)
This documentary film chronicles the journey of two adventurers, Martin and Osa Johnson, as they sail from San Francisco to Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica. During their 600-day voyage, they encounter various challenges, including storms, illness, and the threat of pirates. Directed by Errol Jones, the film provides a captivating insight into the couple’s bravery and determination to complete their journey. One of the best boat movies for showcasing the joys and challenges of living on a sailboat for an extended period.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: This film captures the spirit of adventure and the love of exploration that inspired Martin and Osa Johnson. Their courageous journey, in a time before modern technology, is an inspiration to those who seek to experience the world in all its raw beauty. The film is a testament to the human spirit and its unquenchable thirst for discovery.
Between Home – Odyssey of an Unusual Sea Bandit (2012)
This documentary follows the journey of Captain Liz Clark as she sets sail on a solo journey around the world on her sailboat, Swell. Along the way, she encounters various challenges, including storms, equipment failures, and the loneliness of being at sea for extended periods. Directed by James Wall, the film provides a fascinating insight into the life of a solo sailor and the beauty of the oceans.
Why it’s worth watching this movie: Between Home is an inspiring film that showcases the courage and determination of Liz Clark as she sails around the world. The documentary has stunning cinematography that captures the beauty of the oceans, and the film provides a captivating insight into the life of a solo sailor. Based on my experience, this is one of the best sailing movies about solo voyaging, showcasing the beauty and challenges of sailing alone across the world’s oceans.
Final Words on the Best Sailing Movies to Watch
I hope this collection of the 35 best sailing films has stirred your sense of adventure and inspired you to explore the vast and captivating world of boating.
As you set sail on your own journey, remember that a great voyage also requires a well-chosen marina for safe harbor and camaraderie. To help you make the best choice, I invite you to check out our article on the Top 8 Things to Consider When Choosing a Marina, plus Marina Free Finder tool.
May these films and our expert suggestions guide you to create unforgettable memories out at sea. Fair winds and following seas!
What is the movie about competitive sailing?
“Wind” (1992) is a movie about competitive sailing. The film tells the story of Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine, who loses the Americas Cup, the open seas yacht racing event. He decides to form his own syndicate to win the cup back in the next competition.
What is the movie sailing alone around the world?
There is a famous documentary, “Deep Water” (2006). It tells the true story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who enters the first Golden Globe Race in 1968 to sail solo and non-stop around the world.
What is the movie about getting stuck at sea?
“All Is Lost” (2013) is a movie about getting stuck at sea. It stars Robert Redford as a man lost at sea after his sailboat is damaged. The film is unique for having almost no dialogue, with Redford’s character barely speaking throughout.
What is the movie about 5 people lost at sea?
“Adrift” (2018) is a movie about a young couple getting stranded in the open sea after a hurricane. For the specific case of five people, there is a 1978 film called “The Sea Gypsies” (also known as “Shipwreck”) about a man and his daughters along with two crew members who get stranded in the open sea in a sailboat.
What is the movie about being stranded on a sailboat?
“Life of Pi” (2012) is a movie that prominently features a character stranded on a lifeboat, but for a more traditional sailboat scenario, consider “The Mercy” (2018). This movie is based on the real-life story of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who attempts to sail around the world alone, resulting in disastrous consequences.
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