From the classic film “Moby Dick” to the modern movie franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean,” boat movies have long been a staple of American culture. The stories of brave sea captains, fierce storms and mutinous first mates captivate and entertain us. We dream about joining the crew aboard the Black Pearl or searching for the great white whale alongside Captain Ahab. Thrilling movies about boats and sailing remind us of our love of the water and inspire us to head out on our own boating adventures.
Watching sailing movies is the perfect activity for a rainy day or when the sun sets on a long day of sailing. With your boat safely anchored for the evening, you can sit back and enjoy a swashbuckling tale with your friends and family. The next time bad weather sends you below deck, pop in one of these best nautical movies to keep you entertained until the storm passes.
1. Master and Commander
Set in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” tells the story of British Captain Jack Aubrey and his crew as they pursue a French ship around the coast of South America. Aubrey is ordered to apprehend the French privateer ship Acheron in his vessel named Surprise. Despite Aubrey’s determination and steadfast will, Acheron continually avoids capture and ambushes Surprise several times as they travel to the Galapagos Islands.
“Master and Commander” is an adaptation of the first two novels in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. Released in 2003, the film stars Russell Crowe as Captain Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin, who is Aubrey’s closest companion. The film was received well by critics and earned several significant awards. At the 76th Academy Awards, “Master and Commander” was nominated for 10 Oscars and won in two categories. A mix of thrilling maritime battles and gripping dialogue, “Master and Commander” will keep you on the edge of your seat.
2. The Perfect Storm
Based on the real-life Perfect Storm of 1991, this disaster drama movie follows the crew of the Andrea Gail as they attempt to sail through a powerful storm building in the North Atlantic. After an unsuccessful fishing trip, Captain Billy Tyne takes his crew out for one final trip late in the season. They set sail from Gloucester, Mass., and find favorable fishing waters in the Flemish Cap.
With a bountiful catch on board, the ship’s ice machine suddenly breaks, and the crew must hasten back to shore before their catch spoils. Unfortunately, the Andrea Gail now faces a much more serious problem — a tropical storm brewing between the ship and the shore. Underestimating the strength of the storm, the crew decides to sail on towards Gloucester and is met with fierce winds and pounding waves that eventually take the boat under.
The Perfect Storm depicts the Andrea Gail’s fateful last journey and how the crew fought without avail to survive the Perfect Storm. Starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, “The Perfect Storm” will make you grateful to be watching from the comfort of your cabin on a calm night.
3. Hunt for Red October
Set in the Cold War era, “Hunt for Red October” traces a rogue Soviet submarine captain who violates orders and sets course for the U.S. in one of the Soviet Navy’s newest and most advanced submarines. The submarine, named Red October, is a nuclear missile submarine equipped with a newly developed stealth drive that renders the vessel undetectable by passive sonar.
Captain Marko Ramius is given command of Red October and sent out with another Soviet attack submarine to conduct exercises. However, once at sea, Ramius murders the captain of his companion submarine and heads towards the U.S. The plot thickens as American forces must determine if Ramius is trying to defect or instigate a war before things get ugly.
Starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, “Hunt for Red October” is a thrilling spy movie full of action and intrigue. The 1990 film is an adaptation of the 1984 bestselling novel of the same name by Tom Clancy.
4. Das Boot
Another exhilarating film about war and submarines, “Das Boot” is a 1981 German film set during World War II. “Das Boot” follows the crew of U-96, a German U-boat on a patrol during the Battle of the Atlantic. The film captures the reality of life on a U-boat — depicting days of boredom, exciting battles and the relationships built among the men on the submarine. Offering a new perspective of WWII, “Das Boot” shows the crew of U-96 as ordinary men seeking to serve their country.
“Das Boot” was originally produced in German, with an English dubbed version available in the U.S. The film received positive reviews and received several awards and nominations, both in the U.S. and abroad. “Das Boot” is among the best nautical movies for a cozy night spent below deck.
5. Captain Ron
This 1992 American comedy begins when a Chicago family inherits a yacht that was once owned by Clark Gable. The father, Martin Harvey, played by Martin Short, decides to take his whole family to the fictional Caribbean island of St. Pomme de Terre to retrieve the boat and sail it back to Miami. When they arrive, they realize that the boat is in terrible condition. Instead of sending a professional captain to escort the Harvey family, the yacht broker instead hires a local sailor named Captain Ron Rico.
Captain Ron, played by Kurt Russell, is a one-eyed Navy veteran with a colorful personality and equally colorful past. As they cross the Caribbean together, the Harveys experience various mishaps caused by Captain Ron and encounter a little more adventure than they bargained for. This hilarious ship movie will have the whole family laughing — and feeling grateful that you have a steady captain at the helm.
No list of the best nautical movies would be complete without the famous Steven Spielberg film “Jaws.” Based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, “Jaws” was released in the summer of 1975 and quickly became a blockbuster hit. Since then, the “Jaws” franchise has expanded to include three sequels that continue to scare beachgoers out of the ocean the minute they see that ominous fin.
In this classic thriller, a great white shark begins terrorizing the fictional summer resort town of Amity Island. Rather than closing the beaches and ruining the local tourist economy, the town council decides to hunt and kill the vicious shark instead. To complete this mission, Amity Island police chief Martin Brody recruits a local shark hunter named Quint and a marine biologist named Matt Hooper.
The three men set sail in Quint’s boat Orca to track down the shark. After a grueling battle at sea, the shark kills Quint, and the Orca begins to sink. Hooper and Brody finally manage to kill the shark by wedging a pressurized scuba tank into its mouth and shooting the tank with a rifle. The victorious men are seen swimming back to shore just before the final credits roll.
7. Moby Dick
Another classic seafaring movie, “Moby Dick” tells the tale of Captain Ahab and his hunt for the white whale Moby Dick. Based on the 1851 novel by Herman Melville, “Moby Dick” captures the epic journey of a man dead-set on revenge. After a massive white whale almost kills Ahab and bites off most of his left leg, Ahab gathers a crew and sets sail to kill the whale.
Driven by his obsession to defeat Moby Dick, Ahab cannot turn back even when the chance of success seems dangerously slim. The hunt for revenge eventually becomes fatal for Ahab and nearly all of his crew. The lone survivor is Ishmael, who serves as the story’s narrator.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean
If you share your love of boating with your kids, this film is a perfect sailing movie to watch during your next family movie night. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise traces the adventures of the pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and his infamous ship the Black Pearl. In the original film, released in 2003, Sparrow teams up with a blacksmith named Will Turner and an ill-fated adventure ensues. Turner aims to rescue a woman he loves who was captured by Sparrow’s mutinous former first mate Barbossa, while Sparrow seeks revenge against Barbossa.
When boating with children, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are perfect to carry onboard in case the weather turns sour. With five films in the series so far, you can stay entertained no matter how long the storm endures. Your family will stay in the nautical mood while enjoying rip-roaring adventures, daring sea battles and a hefty dose of humor.
9. The African Queen
Set during World War I in Africa, “The African Queen” tells the story of riverboat captain Charlie Allnut, who is persuaded by a missionary named Rose Sayer to destroy an enemy gunboat. After the war breaks out between Britain and Germany, German soldiers burn down the village where Rose is living and kill her brother. Charlie, who delivers their supplies in the eponymous riverboat, offers to transport Rose out of the region safely. Rose instead convinces Charlie to seek revenge by attacking the gunboat Königin Luise with improvised torpedos.
Starring Katharine Hepburn as Rose and Humphrey Bogart as Charlie, the 1951 film was well-received and remains a classic boat movie. In 1994, “The African Queen” was added to the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress due to its cultural and historical significance.
One of the most well-known movies about boats, “Titanic” recounts the true story of the R.M.S. Titanic that sank during its maiden voyage in 1912. The Titanic set sail from England on April 10th and sank just five days later when it struck an iceberg off the coast of Canada. More than 1,500 lives were lost when the Titanic sank, and the sunken vessel still remains at the bottom of the ocean.
The film adaptation of the famous shipwreck spins a fictional tale of romance, betrayal and disaster. A wealthy young woman named Rose Bukater meets a poor artist named Jack Dawson while on a cruise with her equally wealthy fiance Cal Hockley. Rose and Jack meet when Rose is contemplating suicide to escape her unhappy engagement. The two begin to spend time together and soon fall in love. However, fate is not on their side, and Cal discovers the affair just before the Titanic starts to sink.
11. Dead Calm
This 1989 psychological thriller is not for the faint-hearted. Set on two boats in the middle of the Pacific, “Dead Calm” tells the chilling tale of an innocent couple caught in a deadly situation with a not-so-innocent man.
After the death of their son, Rae and John Ingram take a vacation on their yacht to help process their grief. While cruising across the Pacific, they discover a damaged boat that appears to be sinking. A man named Hughie Warriner rows over to the Ingrams’ yacht for help, claiming that his crew had died from food poisoning. However, when John investigates the ship, he discovers bloody carnage that tells a different story.
John rushes back to warn Rae, but Hughie is already piloting their yacht away with Rae on board. With his wife now in the hands of a killer, John must attempt to stay afloat to rescue her while Rae fights to stay alive.
12. All Is Lost
An epic story of survival, “All Is Lost” tells the tale of a man lost at sea with his boat taking on water. The man, played by Robert Redford, takes every measure to repair his damaged vessel and broken marine radio to regain communications. Instead, he is greeted by a tropical storm that tears apart his vessel. Left on a small inflatable life raft, the man struggles to survive as his minimal supplies dwindle and there is no sign of rescue.
This 2013 sailing movie has only one cast member and almost no dialogue. The film relies on carefully crafted music and sound effects along with striking visuals to capture the terror and despair of being lost at sea. “All Is Lost” won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture in 2014 and was nominated for an Oscar for sound editing the same year.
13. Jungle Cruise
Strap in for an adventure down the Amazon with Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. Watch the characters on their journey in a boat down the river and all of the situations they face on their journey for an ancient tree. The “Jungle Cruise” movie is based on the well-known Disney Parks ride and came out in 2021.
The 2016 Disney animated movie “Moana” is a fan favorite and a wonderful maritime movie to watch on your boat. The story follows Moana and the people on her island. When the fishermen aren’t catching any fish, and the crops fail, Moana sets off on a journey sailing through the ocean to find the heart of Te Fiti, a goddess from Polynesian mythology. You can watch Moana and her new friends sail on their adventure while relaxing on your boat.
The 2018 survival drama “Adrift” is a boating story that will keep your attention throughout the entire film. Starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, this movie shows the journey between their two characters meeting, falling in love and setting sail on the journey of a lifetime. Their journey takes a sharp turn when they sail directly into one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded.
16. Charlie St. Cloud
The 2010 movie “Charlie St. Cloud” starring Zac Efron is based on the Ben Sherwood novel “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.” The movie follows the story of a boy named Charlie St. Cloud as he loses his brother and continues to visit him every day after his passing. The sailing, setting and boats throughout the story make this one of the best nautical films.
17. Life of Pi
Another seafaring film that is great for your next movie night on the boat is the 2012 movie “Life of Pi,” which is based on the Canadian novel by Yann Martel. Pi Patel and his family make their way from India to Canada with some of their zoo animals on a cargo ship. When they encounter a bad storm, there are only two survivors — Pi Patel and a Bengal tiger.
If you want to enjoy a funny romantic comedy on your boat movie night, watch the 2018 remake of “Overboard” with Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez. The story follows single mom Kate Sullivan working on a yacht for Leonardo “Leo” Montenegro. After an accident causes Leo to have amnesia, Kate pretends to be his wife and teaches him how to work on the yacht.
Live Your Ship Movie Fantasy on Your Formula Boat
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Formula Boats strives to build the very best boats on the water — right down to the durable deck flooring and stylish cabin curtains. With advanced engineering and aesthetically pleasing designs, Formula boats provide a thrilling, entertaining and relaxing recreational boating experience. When you choose Formula Boats, you will enjoy a comfortable and roomy seating area that is perfect for watching your favorite boat movies with your whole family. Some of our powerboats are even available with an onboard television and satellite TV system for an even better viewing experience.
If you are ready to hit the water in a powerboat that is worthy of the silver screen, contact Formula Boats today.