From turbulent tales of adventure, wild journeys of odyssey and the unimaginable stories of survival, there is nothing more dramatic than settling down to watch a sailing movie. There something about a film set on the high seas that can really set the pulse racing… but some are definitely better than others!
So, if you need to quench your thirst for adventures and love your boats, here are the best sailing movies of all time, and then just for laughs a list of the worst ones too! Grab the popcorn, settle back, and be amazed by what can happen at sea.
The best sailing movies ever!
1. Kon-Tiki (1950)
Can you imagine sailing 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean without being able to swim… whilst also being absolutely petrified of water? This award-winning documentary depicts just that with the story of Thor Heyerdahl and 5 others as they journeyed across the Pacific in 1947.
They were on nothing but a balsa wood raft with the idea being he wanted to prove his theory that South Americans were able to settle and colonise Polynesia during pre-Columbian times.
What makes this one of the best sailing movies though? For more it’s all about the adventure combined with the unknown possibilities of what a sailing voyage can truly bring. It’s a dramatic and gripping documentary, check out the trailer here!
2. Kon Tiki (2013)
If you aren’t one for documentaries, then how about this historical dramatization of my first choice instead? This version of Kon Tiki lets you to delve into the story of Thor Heyerdahl and his companions in a much more entertaining and exciting manner.
As the movie progresses you will start to develop a connection with the characters and find out just how hard it would be sailing can be on a balsa wood raft.
This has to rank as one of the best movies, after all it was even nominated for an Oscar. You can see the trailer below.
3. Red Dot on the Ocean (2014)
Have you ever wondered if it was possible for someone to change the trajectory of their out of control life through the act of sailing? Perhaps not, but you won’t fail to be moved by the the tale of Matt Rutherford who proves that it is possible.
From a youth at risk to risking it all on a solo, non-stop voyage around North and South America. You are taken on a journey as you witness this death-defying sail.
Check out the trailer for this stunning documentary here!
4. All Is Lost (2013)
Something a little more unusual now with this movie starring Robert Redford. All Is Lost follows the story of a man, a boat and being lost at sea after colliding with a stray shipping container.
There are very few spoken words in this film which actually makes the struggles of Robert Redford’s character shine through even more. It’s one of those sailing movies that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you connect with his fight for survival.
You can watch and marvel at the trailer here!
5. Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)
This is one of those sailing movies that will help to open your eyes up to how the simplest of mishaps that can go on to cause absolute chaos.
It tells the story of what can happen when 6 friends aboard a yacht jump off to go for a swim and completely forget to lower the ladder? Tensions are bound to rise, and it is only a matter of time until panic sets in… you can imagine how this could end up!
This is a cinematic marvel you must watch. Take a minute and view a clip from the movie below.
6. The Dove (1974)
Do you remember what you were doing at the age of 16? This coming of age adventure is based on the true story of Robin Lee Graham, who was adamant that he would be the youngest ever to sail around the world solo.
In his 23ft Sloop, you are entranced with his journey as he leaves a boy and returns a man. Most definitely a must watch to truly see what it might be like to sail around the world at 16 and fall in love.
You can watch the trailer on YouTube.
7. The Weekend Sailor (2016)
The Weekend Sailor follows captain Enrique Carlin in 1973 as he takes on the Whitbread Around the World with zero experience at all. Sounds crazy doesn’t it, and you’d be right… it was crazy!
Watch as Enrique takes on the most demanding sailing voyage in history with the constant question hanging over the viewer of where will the plucky underdog end up finishing? You won’t help being completely engrossed and hanging on by a thread.
Check it out for yourself and watch the trailer here!
8. Wind (1992)
If you are the one who likes a good old-fashioned rivalry, then Wind is definitely a must watch. It features determination, ambition, power and money all wrapped up into a mix of adventure and love that was actually inspired by the real-life events of the 1983 America’s Cup.
It took 140 years to break the longest ever winning streak in world sporting history for the US to lose sailings top prize. Now, determined to get it back, Will Parker will face many hurdles as he forms his own crew and aims to reclaim America’s Cup. The cast is comprised of real sailors, making the scenes as realistic as they can get.
Watch the trailer here and check it out for yourself!
9. Between Home: Odyssey Of An Unusual Sea Bandit (2012)
If you are after a film that that isn’t so much ‘blockbuster’ but on a more realistic tip then this is the one for you. I won’t lie, Between Home is a very low budget, independent film but don’t let that put you off.
It follows the adventures of Nick Wrath on his Contessa on a solo voyage from the UK to Australia. It’s one of the best sailing movies for real sailors who understand the challenges involved.
If you want to truly get a feel for what it is like navigating the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans for over two years watch the trailer!
10. Maidentrip (2013)
This movie documents the voyage of 13 year old Laura Dekker on her two year trip to be the youngest to sail solo around the world. Watch as she discovers herself as she sails through some magical destinations and overcomes challenges thrown her way.
Maidentrip is definitely one for those who love sailing as it really captures her journey.
You can watch the trailer here!
11. Adrift (2018)
If you enjoy a movie that takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and keeps throwing up surprises along the way, then this is a must-see film.
Based on true events, it tells the story of a young couple who take to the seas for a journey of a lifetime. Watch as they have to tackle one of the worst hurricanes recorded in history. You can get to see first-hand just how unforgiving the ocean can be.
This is one not to miss, check out the trailer here!
12. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
This is truly a classic movie when it comes to the art of sailing. In Master and Commander you can see just how far a captain will push their ship, their crew and of course themselves.
Set during the Napoleonic wars, the British captain goes on a journey in pursuit of a French war ship around South America. As the viewer you are taken on a journey through their lives, as you learn the tales of those aboard and just how challenging it is to simply stay alive.
It’s very action packed and will push you to the edge of your seat and you can get a taster for yourself here!
13. Abandoned (2015)
This movie shows the extraordinary story of 4 men on a trimaran yacht who end up getting caught up in a storm. See just how far you can actually go if your yacht is capsized and you’re squished in a small space – just like sardines in a tin!
Watch as they spend 119 days adrift, learn their story, see their challenges and just how exactly they were able to make it through.
But, that’s not all as you can see by checking out a few clips from the movie in the trailer featured below.
14. Sea Gypsies: The Far Side Of The World (2016)
Imagine what it would be like an on beautiful, handcrafted 120 foot sailboat, conquering the seas. The Sea Gypsies movie lets you imagine just that as it takes you on a journey following a band of miscreants as they take on the 8000-mile voyage from New Zealand to Patagonia.
Composed beautifully, this film is something you have to witness. View the trailer here!
15. Captain Ron (1992)
With all they tragic movie tales in this list, you definitely need something to lighten the load and Captain Ron is your answer.
This family comedy will brighten your day up as you follow the story of a Chicago businessman who has inherited a yacht. Watch as Captain Ron and his family journey from the Caribbean to Miami, getting lost continually!
Witness it for yourself and view the trailer here!
16. The Mercy (2017)
This shows the dramatization of the bizarre story of amateur Donald Crowhurst. It follows him as he tries to pull off one of the greatest hoaxes of all time; he pretended to be the first to single handedly sail around the world.
At the mercy of mother nature, there are plenty of twists and turns in this one!
Check out the trailer here!
17. Deep Water (2006)
If you ever wanted to know how much of a psychological toll competing in a world yacht race can put you on you, then this is the movie for you. It focuses on the story of the first, yet disastrous 1968 Golden Globe Round the World yacht race.
This British documentary really zones in on just how many challenges you actually face out on the open water.
Find out how 9 months of solitude changes an individual and check out the trailer here!
18. White Squall (1996)
A tragic tale and based on true events, this tells the story of how the Albatross was lost during a fierce storm in the Caribbean. Through discipline, teamwork and courage follow these prep schoolboys on a 8 month sailing journey as they discover themselves set against perils of the sea.
It’s truly a touching film, and was even nominated for 4 academy Awards – it is certainly one not to miss.
Watch the trailer here!
19. Morning Light (2008)
Have you ever experienced that precious moment out on the seas as the first rays of light in the morning hit the water? 15 rookie sailors got the experience of their lifetime as the boarded the Morning Light and took on Transpac Yacht Race.
You witness the sailors adventures as they progress from rookie to expert, taking on challenges they thought were impossible. Simply a delight to watch and truly shows just how much experience you need as a sailor in a race.
Go on the adventure with them and view the trailer here!
20. Dead Calm (1989)
The death of a child isn’t an easy plight to overcome, and some parents will try to find a unique way to deal with the pain… and that’s what makes this one of the best sailing movies; the emotional impact.
It tells the story of a husband and wife duo who set sail on an extended vacation in an attempt to move on. As they rescue the sole survivor of a sinking schooner, his claims of food poisoning put things into a spin. The wife is empathetic, the husband is suspicious – what really happened on the sinking schooner? Better yet, what is going to happen now?
Witness this story for yourself and see if you can piece the puzzle together.
Here are a few clips to whet your appetite.
21. Turning Tide (En Solitare) (2013)
A star skipper is on his way to making his wildest dreams come true as he captains the DCNS in the Vendee Globe. However, his dreams suddenly come crashing down as he discovers a stowaway aboard.
Watch as he tries to navigate his way through the waters whilst being faced with disqualification – what do you think Yann Madec should do?
Check the trailer out here!
22. Maiden (2018)
Have you ever wanted to break traditional expectations? Tracy Edwards did just that in this amazing true story and sailing movie. She was a cook turned skipper and in this documentary she leads the first all-female crew in a 33,000 mile race known as the Whitbread Round the World.
It’s an empowering and moving adventure and a film that most will find undeniably engrossing as you can’t help but hold your breath.
Check out the trailer and see for yourself!
23. Coyote: The Mike Plant Story (2017)
This documentary follows Mike Plant, a single-handed yachtsman who had a hugely successful sailing career. Witness his growth from an underdog through to his undeniable mastery of the sail, sea and winds.
In this movie you get to truly experience what it would be like to be a professional sailor. Through the highs and lows, this documentary takes you on a voyage.
See for yourself and watch the trailer here!
24. One Simple Question (2014)
This adventure film follows a young couple as they journey to find an iceberg in a small sailboat. Their voyage takes them on metaphorical rollercoaster as they pursue happiness, learn the joys of life and find a piece of Petermann Ice Island.
Be a part of their adventure and check out the trailer here!
25. Chasing Bubble (2016)
Following the journey of Alex Rust, this documentary takes a farm boy turned day trader to completely abandon all he has ever known to set sail around the world. With no experience and teaching himself using a a ‘Sailing For Dummies’ book you can only imagine what he goes through.
Witness Alex develop his skills and knowledge of sailing as he pushes everything to the limit to find fulfilment in his life.
Watch the trailer here!
What do you think?
So, there you have it, those were my suggestions for the 25 best sailing movies of all time, some of which you can watch in full on YouTube, others you might have to pay to stream.
Whether you are looking for a night in or want to quench your thirst for adventure, you are bound to find something in here that will help you to get your sailing fix!
The worst sailing movies of all time!
But what about some stinkers to avoid? What are the worst sailing movies of all time…? It’s all subjective of course, but here are just a few which I recommend you avoid unless you are glutton for punishment.
- Waterworld: this Kevin Costner movie was a turkey.
- Jaws the Revenge: ok, so not strictly sailing but it stinks!
- Message in a Bottle: so bad it made me feel sick.