Sailing Movies: Our Top 10 List

General Info

 

If you are stuck onshore and miss the wind in your hair and the subtle stinks of saltwater in your face what better way to cure your abstinence than watching a good old fashioned sailing movie. 

Considering that boat is a fairly confined space. And that this space leaves fairly limited opportunities to do anything besides of just sailing, the number of mentionable stories that takes place in boats is totally disproportional. This is also why the ratio of talking about sailing to actually sail is  10-1. 

So many memorable stories has come from being at sea, that it should come as a surprise to no one that Hollywood keep picking the best ones up for movie productions.

However, as in any other genre, it is with varying success when movie makers in Hollywood throw themselves and their money into a field which they may not know much about. So to help you steer safely into the rough and challenging sea of sailing movies, we have devised a list of our top 10 favorites to get you started.

The list comprise everything from documentaries, to action, to drama and romance. Our selection criteria was simply that the movie itself had to revolve somewhat around sailing. Either by setting the stage for the plot or by being the focal point of the story-line. So without any further ado, let us get straight to what it is all about.

 

1.  All is Lost (2013)‍

sailing movie

A solo voyage in the Indian Ocean turns into a battle for survival after a collision with a stray shipping container leaves the hull breached.

The movie depicts perfectly how unpredictable sailing can be and how crafty a sailor needs to be under those circumstances.

As the film revolves around solo sailing there is hardly any dialogue. That circumstance demands a lot from the acting in order to portray what goes on in the mind of the main character. Robert Redford accomplishes this superbly throughout the film.

His eyes as they gaze worriedly into the horizon tells you more than 15 minutes of uninterrupted dialogue.

This movie is definitely worst-case scenario for any sailor and if you are an experienced one yourself, you will quickly find yourself shouting suggestions left and right on how to combat the difficulties our main character is battling.

And is it not preferable to show of your survival skills as a sailor from a sofa in your living room rather than in a wrecked sailing boat with a broken radio…? 

 

2.  Kon-Tiki (2012)

sail movies

Depicts the true story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s effort to cross the Pacific Ocean only by using a raft. In order to prove that South Americans in Pre-Columbian times would have been able to cover the distance to the Polynesian Islands, he embarked in 1947 with 5 other men to try and accomplish the feat.

The movie is riddled with amazing cinematography of wildlife in the ocean and spectacular scenes of the life at sea. Most of the storyline revolves around the characters of the explorers and how their relationships evolve.

Each of them bring their own story to the raft and the film captures in a great way how a group of individuals with different sources of motivation work for the same goal. In the end, it was nominated for 9 Academy Awards (Foreign Language Films).

 

3.   White Squall (1996)

best sailing movies

Based on a true story, this movie is a coming of age story covering the challenges faced by a group of teenagers on a sailing voyage with a school-ship. The crew is either forced by their parents to participate in the journeyer has elected to join by themselves.

Directed by Ridley Scott the cinematography's top-shelve and  the story unfolds with a good pace and with a few good action sequences included along the way.

It is a movie about how challenges forces one to grow and how becoming part of something can help you understand yourself on an individual level. The acting is outstanding, headed up by Jeff Bridges as the stern captain trying to instill the discipline and self-confidence needed to develop from boy into man.

 

4.  Charlie St. Cloud (2010)

sailing videos

A star-studded romantic drama including Zac Efren, Kim Basinger, Dave Franco and Amanda Crew. The main character is Charlie St. Cloud, a young talented sailing prospect who suffers a devastating loss as his little brother dies in a tragic car crash

. His close connection to his brother causes him tohave visions in his dreams where they can play and talk. In order to stay connected to his brother he puts his life on hold to take a position at the local cemetery where he has plenty of time to stay in his dreams.

Time passes while Charlie still struggles to move on - until he runs into a girl from his sailing past. All of the sudden life requires Charlie to be present in reality rather than stuck in a dream about the past.

 

5.  Adrift (2018)

sail movie

Two passionate sailors meet, fall in love and go on an adventure for a lifetime. Based on a true story, the couple embarks on an enthralling journey sailing 4.000 miles to California.

Love blossoms and new beautiful experiences await around any corner until the weather conditions take a turn for the worse.

All of the sudden, they find themselves in the midst of a furious storm from which there is no escape.

The main characters is played by rising star Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. The acting is convincing and as a sailor it is easy to place yourself in the mind of the characters.

On the downside, the special effects is a little Hollywood-y and therefore quite exaggerated. It does not hurt the movie much although it is incomprehensible why one would feel the need to exaggerate the ferocity of the sea during a hurricane.

Apart from the special effects the photography is incredible and as you watch the movie you will definitely be tempted to jump into the nearest sailboat and head into the ocean. That is until the clouds start to form in the horizon…

 

6. Wind (1992)

sailing movies top 10

A true classic and perhaps the most well-known sailing film ever. The focal point of the movie is the oldest trophy in sports. The Auld Mug which is claimed by winning the America’s Cup. The main character, portrayed by Matthew Modine, looses the America’s Cup to Australia and forms his own syndicate to win back the trophy.

It is without comparison the film that offers the most exciting race sequences. It is clear that it is written, produced and edited with sailing enthusiasts in mind. Thus, the story line leaves room for a few insights into mechanical engineering while the racing itself is highly accurate.

The story itself is about overcoming defeat, human resilience,sprinkled with a little romance as well. If you are a competitive sailor you really need to see this movie.

 

7. En solitaire (2013)

watch a sailing movie

French language film starring Francois Cluzet as Yann Kermadec. Yann is an experienced sailor who replaces an injured sailing colleague and gets the opportunity to fulfill his dream and sail around the world in the prestigious Vendee Globe race.

After a couple of days of racing, Yann suffers damages to his boat which forces him to seek repair at the Canary Islands. A visit with unforeseeable consequences.

The film is shot and edited uncompromisingly realistic to the degree that the sailing scenes bear close resemblance to footage from actual Vendee Globe races.

And there is plentiful of scenes showing navigation,trimming and what daily life is like for a sailor during long-distance offshore racing. And this makes it even more enjoyable for sailing fans to watch.

The plot is all about the will of a man to accomplish his dream and if you have a similar dream of sailing around the world, you should definitely tune into this one.

 

8. Maidentrip (2013)

maidentrip

A documentary following the thirteen year-old girl, Laura Dekker in her attempts to sail around the world on her own.

The story begins even before her departure as she is battling legal challenges to even earn the right to depart.

The film is basically a road-trip at sea, where a young girl sails to beautiful and interesting destinations to explore the local culture. Meanwhile, the film spends a good amount of time covering the difficulties of managing a boat on your own.

Surely inspiring to see such a young person fearlessly pursuing her dreams while showing the thoughtfulness, maturity and skill to actually pull it off.

Considering that the main majority of the film is shot by Laura Dekker,herself, the images captured are spectacular.

The editing is similarly extraordinary as it balances fast-paced action with the stillness and calm of being on your own in some of the most beautiful places in the world.

The film claimed the audience award at the SXSW Film Festival (2013) 

 

9.  Chasing Bubbles (2016)

sailing documentary

The inspirational story of Alex Rust. A farmer boy from Indiana who became a trader at The Chicago Board of Trade. At only 25 years of age, Alex suddenly decided to leave his job and Chicago behind to go and find happiness wherever it would show up.

After driving to Florida, he decided to sell his minivan for a small sailboat without having any prior sailing experience. He used a “Sailing for Dummies” book to learn how to sail and so did the adventure begin.

A truly inspirational movie about the pursuit of freedom with total disregard of the associated costs. Alex shows that your life truly can be whatever you want it to be. Do not watch, if you’re mom will not allow you to get a Carpe Diem tattoo.

 

10. Coyote: The Mike Plant Story (2017)

sailing documentaries

Portrays the American sailing hero and legend Mike Plant by not only documenting his achievements in sailing but also covering his colorful background. Colorful to say the least!

He has been wanted by Interpol and spent time in a Portuguese prison facing charges for drug-trafficking. He has been trekking solo across South America.

Basically, his entire life was a constant pursuit to satisfy a relentless thirst for adventure - leaving nothing to stand in his way. In the end he became one among just five men to complete a solo-circumnavigation.

His life is expected to have ended in 1992 a few weeks prior to the start of his second Vendee Globe participation. He never made it to the start in France, but his self-constructed vessel - Coyote - was found upside-down missing its stabilizing keel. No one onboard. A dramatic ending to a story about a restless legend.



Runner-Up

Master and Commander:To the World’s End (2003)

sailing movies

We could not decide whether or not this movie was sufficiently sailing related to end up on the list. But we have to admit that it is too good too not be mentioned at all.Directed by Ridley Scott and with Russell Crowe as the lead actor, the film takes us back to the beginning of the 19th century.

During the Napoleonic Wars, British Captain Jack Aubrey is faced with the challenge of tracking down and destroying the Acheron - the biggest and fastest ship in the french navy. It portrays sailing in the old days at its very best and you will find yourself instantly captured by the Captain’s will to defeat the odds and bring down the Acheron once and for all.  

 

And there you have it, in our opinion, the very best sailing movies out there. So what are you waiting for? Grab some popcorn and get yourself comfortable. Many good hours of sailing entertainment awaits.

 

Simon Nielson

Simon is a former world class sailing athlete, winning medals in European and World Championships while being ranked no. 1 in the world in the Olympic 49'er class as part of being in the Denmark national team. He has contributed many articles to the Deepsailling blog. If you'd like to learn more, you can read our about page. If you'd like to share your photos or stories from your sailing adventures, simply email us and we'll share them on the site.

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