Since we haven't owned a television for the past 20 years, we tend to watch lots of movies on board. We have some favorite sailing movies that we've watched over and over. They're not strictly “sailing” movies per se, but they are all sea-related. Here's a list of a dozen sailing movies we recommend … not in any particular order. We've given a short synopsis of each and why we specifically liked them. White Squall (1996)
Jeff Bridges is captain of a traditional sailing schooner used as a training vessel for teen-aged boys.
It deals with coming of age for young men in need of discipline as well as the vagaries and sometimes horrors of life at sea.
The Bounty (1984)
There are several versions of Mutiny on the Bounty, but we like this one the best with a very young Mel Gibson as Christian Fletcher and equally young Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh. In addition to the historical significance of this movie, having visited Pitcairn Island and met some of Fletcher's progeny, this movie held lots of interest for us.
We thoroughly enjoyed the book by Dava Sobel (1995) so when the made-for-TV movie was released we wanted to see it. It's the story of John Harrison's obsession with creating a reliable marine chronometer in the 18th century, thereby allowing navigators to calculate longitude.
Captain Ron (1992)
Kurt Russell plays an eccentric captain who is hired to teach a family how to sail a “yacht” bequeathed to them by a long-lost uncle. It requires a large dose of “suspension of disbelief”, but is a great laugh.
It was the novels of Patrick O'Brian and the stories of Horatio Hornblower that first inspired David to want to go to sea. This Napoleonic-era epic about a determined British naval captain in pursuit of an elusive French war ship provides lots of history, an interesting view of the tough life at sea for sailors and some thrilling sea battles.
Around Cape Horn (1980)
We first saw this documentary at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine and later purchased it at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. It's fearless Captain Irving Johnson's black and white film account of rounding Cape Horn on a square rigger in 1929. It's wonderfully entertaining and the footage is nothing short of spectacular.
All Is Lost (2013)
This movie was panned by many sailors we know, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. A solo sailor (Robert Redford) crossing the Indian Ocean in a sailboat, collides with a shipping container and uses his ingenuity to try to save the boat and himself. As we have realized time and time again, when one thing goes wrong, it all goes wrong. Yes, he made some bad decisions, but we found ourselves wondering how we would have handled all the problems he encountered.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
David's brother, Paul, just turned us on to this movie-version of Nathaniel Philbrick's non-fiction account of an early 19th century New England whaling ship holed by a giant whale. This account was the inspiration for Herman Melville's 1851 novel, Moby Dick. Great cinematography and a riveting story told from a different angle. Critics panned it, we liked it.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
This disaster drama/thriller movie was released just as we began our life aboard Nine of Cups. It scared the crap out of us because it proved that you just can't predict nor control Mother Nature nor Neptune. A New Bedford fishing vessel off Canadian waters and a yacht heading to the Caribbean are both caught in the collision of Hurricane Grace and an unnamed nor'easter. The weather conditions were “perfect” for the storm of the century. The Andrea Gail and all hands aboard were lost at sea. I still shudder when I see the size of the waves that capsized her.
I know, I know … another disaster film and it's not about “sailing” on a sailboat, but we really like it. Beyond being a classic disaster/love story, the takeaway from this movie for sailors is the issue of hubris, being too sure of yourself and getting cocky. Whenever we think we've mastered some thing, we find ourselves time and time again, humbled by Neptune. The Titanic was considered “unsinkable” … Neptune didn't think so.
Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks is a FedX exec whose plane goes down in the Pacific and washes up on a deserted island. It's a story of perseverance, self-reliance and ingenuity. We wonder sometimes how we'd survive if Nine of Cups went down and we were forced to fend for ourselves in some desolate place. Of course, it might be harder without an ice skate, a soccer ball and a plastic porta-potty enclosure to rely upon, but then that's the challenge.
Life of Pi (2012)
Once again, we had read Yann Martel's novel first and were anxious to see how well, or even if. the movie adaptation adhered to the original story line. It was great. The story tells of Pi, a young Indian boy, who is shipwrecked and survives 227 days at sea in a life boat with his only companion, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The story is captivating.
I know there are lots more that we've forgotten or omitted like all the Horatio Hornblower flicks for more sea adventure and Captain Phillips for a realistic look at piracy on today's oceans. Then there's Dead Calm and the thriller genre, and we haven't seen the latest Kon Tiki movie, but we had to whittle down the list.
So … what's tops on your list of favorite sailing/sea-related movies? Can you give us some recommendations?
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