Greatest Sailing Movies – Check Out our Top List

For every true sailor passionate about sailing and all things connected with the ocean or sea, having a list of best sailing movies is definitely on the „to do“ list. Furthermore, tragic and inconceivable stories of survival, unbelievable adventure, and wild journeys or just real everyday documentary stories make nautical movies not only interesting to watch but very educational for every person in love with the sea. That is the main reason why we decided to update our list of top ten sailing movies. If you have missed any of these films, make sure to change that!

List of the Top 10 Sailing Movies:

Other Honorable Mentions

10. Maidentrip (2013)

Maidentrip is a beautiful documentary about Laura Dekker's year and a half voyage to be the youngest person ever to sail around the world. Dekker, born in Holland, set sail from Gibraltar in 2010 and made the journey in a year and a half, finishing a few months after her 16th birthday. Her route took her to St. Martins, Panama, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, the Cape of Good Hope, and back. This inspiring documentary will leave you amazed first because of the premise - that a girl, 14, would even try such an amazing task. In 2009, only 13 years old, she sailed across the English Channel from Holland and back by herself. When it became known that she intended to sail around the world, Dutch authorities attempted to remove her from her father's custody to keep her from making the trip. After a court victory, she was cleared and free.

Movie Cover

Maidentrip - sailing documentary cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 7.5, based on 3,444 reviews

Cast & Crew

Laura Dekker

Director

Jillian Schlesinger



9. Kon-tiki (1950)

"Kon-Tiki" was the name of a wooden raft used by six Scandinavian scientists, led by Thor Heyerdahl, to make a 101-day journey from South America to the Polynesian Islands. The purpose of the expedition was to prove Heyerdahl's theory that the Polynesian Islands were populated from the east rather than from the west as had been the theory for hundreds of years. Heyerdahl made a study of the winds and tides in the Pacific and, by simulating conditions as closely as possible to those he theorized the Peruvians encountered, he set out on the voyage.

Movie Cover

Kon-Tiki - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 8.0, based on 2,112 reviews

Cast & Crew

Thor Heyerdahl, Herman Watzinger, Erik Hesselberg, Knut Haugland, Torstein Raaby, Bengt Danielsson

Director

Thor Heyerdahl



8. Knife in the Water (1962)

The first Polish film to be nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar, Roman Polanski's "Knife in the Water" is considered one of the most impressive director's debuts. The story is simple. A wealthy couple on their way to spend a weekend on the yacht picks up a young and attractive hitchhiker. The middle-aged husband, a successful and cynical sportswriter invites the young man on board, perhaps to show off his nice yacht, his seamanship, and eventually, his superiority. On the other hand, his young and sexy wife does not say much but as their yacht journey proceeds and tension between the two men rises, she seems to enjoy the presence of a passenger and the obvious competition between them for her attention.

Movie Cover

Knife in the Water - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 7.6, based on 17,723 reviews

Cast & Crew

Leon Niemczky, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Director

Roman Polanski

7. The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

In the early years of the 20th Century, two British yachtsmen (Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale) stumble upon a German plot to invade the east coast of England in a flotilla of specially designed barges. They set out to thwart this terrible scheme but must outwit not only the cream of the German Navy but the feared Kaiser Wilhelm himself.

Movie Cover

The Riddle of the Sands - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.5, based on 977 reviews

Cast & Crew

Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Alan Badel, Simon MacCorkindale

Director

Tony Maylam



6. Wind (1992)

Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine, loses America's Cup, the world's biggest sailing prize, to the Australians and decides to form his own syndicate to win it back. The loss of America's Cup by the USA to Australia in 1983 broke the longest ever running winning streak in world sports history. Everyone who is in love with the sea and sailing will surely hold this movie as a classic.

Movie Cover

Wind - Saling Movie Classic
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.5, based on 2,279 reviews

Cast & Crew

Matthew Modine, Jennifer Grey, Cliff Robertson, Jack Thompson, Rebecca Miller

Director

Carroll Ballard



5. Dead Calm (1989)

Dead Calm, directed by Phillip Noyce, is one of those thriller movies you just can't stop watching. It follows the story of John and Rae Ingram, a married Australian couple whose sailing adventure was interrupted by a stranger who has abandoned a sinking ship. As it turns out, this seemingly harmless survivor is actually a psychopath and they are stuck with him on the open sea. Despite a lot of sailing scenes in difficult and dangerous conditions, this movie offers thrill and excitement as well.

Movie Cover

Dead Calm thriller - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.8, based on 33,892 reviews

Cast & Crew

Nicole Kidman, Sam Neil, Billy Zane, Rod Mullinar, Joshua Tilden

Director

Phillip Noyce



4. White Squall (1996)

White Squall is a true story about the sailing voyage of the small group of American teenagers whose sailboat Albatross sank in 1960. This touching film about sailing and boys' teamwork, discipline, and courage was directed by Ridley Scott, a famous British director nominated for 4 Academy Awards. Hence, this 8 months long sailing voyage definitely deserves to be on our list of best sailing movies.

Movie Cover

White Squall - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.6, based on 19,928 reviews

Cast & Crew

Jeff Bridges, Caroline Goodall, John Savage, Scott Wolf, Jeremy Sisto

Director

Ridley Scott



3. All is lost (2013)

Our list of ten sailing movies can't be completed without this outstanding film starring Robert Redford alone, a man lost at the sea. It is very interesting to note that Redford is the only cast member and the film has just a few spoken words. For this role, he was nominated for Golden Globe and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.

Movie Cover

All Is Lost - sailing movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.9, based on 70,528 reviews

Cast & Crew

Robert Redford

Director

J. C. Chandor



2. Deep Water (2006)

This interesting British documentary tells a story of the first around the world yacht race focusing on one competitor in particular – Donald Crowhurst. Deep Water is not just about solo non-stop sailing, it shows how this hard challenge can affect the life of any person. Furthermore, this film presents how nine months of solitude definitely alter the state of the mind, so this movie is a must-see for anyone interested in sailing. Therefore, Deep Water had to be on our list of top ten sailing movies.

Movie Cover

Deep Water - documentary cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 7.8, based on 2,734 reviews

Cast & Crew

Tilda Swinton, Donald Crowhurst, Jean Badin, Simon Russell Beale, Ted Hynds

Directors

Louise Osmond, Jerry Rothwell



1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

On top of our list of best sailing movies is Master and Commander, a beautiful film that tells the story of a British captain who is in pursuit of a French Warship around South America. The whole plot is set during the Napoleonic wars. This beautiful action film won two Oscars. Moreover, movie critics agree that this role of Captain Jack Aubrey was one of the best performances ever played by Russell Crowe.

Movie Cover

Master and Commander The Far Side of the World 2003 - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 7.4, based on 188,774 reviews

Cast & Crew

Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, Chris Larkin, Max Pirkis

Director

Peter Weir



Other Honorable Mentions

The Perfect Storm (2000)

This sailing movie is based on a true story. In October 1991, a confluence of weather conditions combined to form a killer storm in the North Atlantic. Caught in the storm was the sword-fishing boat, Andrea Gail. Magnificent foreshadowing and anticipation fill this true-life drama with minute details of the fishing boats, their gear, and the life-threatening weather.

Movie Cover

The Perfect Storm - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.4, based on 164,664 reviews

Cast & Crew

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane

Director

Wolfgang Petersen



Captain Ron (1992)

A family in Chicago inherits the yacht formerly owned by Clark Gable. Then ty decide to sail it from the Caribbean island of Saint Pomme de Terre to Miami. They sail with the assistance of the vivid character Captain Ron and, even though their whole life changes, it all works itself out in the end. Thus Captain Ron is a sailing movie the whole family can enjoy.

Movie Cover

Captain Ron - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 5.7, based on 19,211 reviews

Cast & Crew

Kurt Russell, Martin Short, Mary May Place, Benjamin Salisbury

Director

Thom Eberhardt



The Dove (1974)

This sailing movie is a true story of a 16-year-old who sailed alone around the world. He was sailing in his 23-foot sloop named "The Dove". During his journey, he meets and falls in love with a young woman who is also traveling around the world. To sum up, the story follows Robin around the world to many beautiful locations, as he grows from a boy to a man, finds himself, and finds the love of his life.

Movie Cover

The Dove - sailing movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.4, based on 323 reviews

Cast & Crew

Joseph Bottoms, Deborah Raffin, John McLiam, Robin Lee

Director

Charles Jarrott



Morning Light (2008)

Fifteen young sailors, six months of intense training, one chance at the brass ring. This documentary tells the story of a group of intrepid and determined young men and women, on the cusp of adulthood, as they embark on life's first great adventure. Racing a high-performance 52-foot sloop in the TRANSPAC, the most revered of open-ocean sailing competitions, the crew of "Morning Light" matches wits and skills in a dramatic 2300 mile showdown against top professionals.

Movie Cover

Morning Light - sailing documentary cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 6.0, based on 330 reviews

Cast & Crew

Chris Branning, Graham Brant - Zawadzki, Chris Clark, Roy Edward Disney

Director

Mark Monroe



The Life Aquatic (2004)

With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, Oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.

Movie Cover

The Life Aquatic - movie cover
Source: IMDb
IMDb rating: 7.3, based on 165,520 reviews

Cast & Crew

Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston

Director

Wes Anderson



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Tin Đudajek

About the Author: Tin Đudajek

Tin is a marketing specialist at SailingEurope. Young journalist with a background in project managment and media in general. Sailing enthusiast, anthropologist and explorer.

1 Comment

  1. a fascinating documentary on the first nonstop singlehanded sailing race around the world, the sunday times golden globe race held in 1968-69, before gps and most satellite communications. the race was open to all comers regardless of experience. what started as a grand adventure ended tragically for most of the 9 contestants. if u don’t know this heartbreaking story already i don’t want to spoil it so enough said.

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