Monday, March 9, 2015

Top 30+ Sailing Movies

Wow, what a cool collection! Great ideas for a sailing movie club. 


When I started to compile this list, I thought I'd come up with maybe ten movies. But as I got deeper into it, not only did I realize there were more than I consciously remembered over time, but also that the independent film production movement and digital technologies are causing an explosion of very interesting new entries. The work being done by young people is particularly inspiring and impressive, and perhaps signifies that sailing isn't dying after all. No, it's actually becoming the saving grace of a generation pressured as none before it. Because it is just too difficult to rate these movies as each one ticks a different box, I've just listed them in chronological order. Enjoy, and please let me know about any I missed.


One Simple Question (2015)

Possibly the best and most honest movie depicting what it's really like to be out there blue water sailing.  With Ben and Teresa Carey, inspirational young sailors setting out in search of an iceberg. I have corresponded with these guys for some time and I admire their quest and their determination to live a simple life well. I have followed their pursuits from the day I signed up to help crowd source their voyage. They are very inspirational -- having cruised two boats side by side to avoid compromising their individual skills and  given up everything 'normal' for 'simple' (watch Tereasa TedEx Talk), then moved to Maine to pursue their dreams of sailing and making movies. Sign up to purchase the DVD when released.  http://simplequestionmovie.com/



Trailer for One Simple Question


Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story (2014)

Read Herb McCormick's review in Cruising World's January 2015 issue here. This feature length documentary film presents Matt Rutherford's story from his troubled youth involved with cults, drugs and crime to his remarkable solo sail around the Americas and straight into the record books and into history. We sailed across the Atlantic alongside Matt in 2008 and maintained SSB contact with him the whole way -- we were the only two boats out there at the time. It was his first solo ocean crossing and he sailed right through Tropical Storm Cristobal while we waited it out in Halifax. We got to meet him at the Ocean Cruising Club awards in London when Matt was awarded the Jester Medal. He is the genuine thing; a larger than life character, the kind of daring life adventurer you might have expected to meet in earlier eras. His story may make you uncomfortable. It most certainly will blow you away...and perhaps it will inspire you to think a little differently, take a few more chances in your life, you think? 

Watch the trailer and download the video here. 



Turning Tide (“En Solitaire”) (2013)


A gripping drama, Turning Tide is a fictional story about the Vendee Globe singlehanded non-stop race around the world. Yann Madec's dream materializes when he replaces an injured star skipper at the start of the Vendée Globe. Nine days into the race and leading, Yann is forced to stop in the Cape Verdes for repairs. Back in the race, Yann discovers a stowaway on board, a teenager named Moussa. Faced with the risk of disqualification and the possibility of actually winning, Yann is torn, then has the most amazing ocean sailing experience ever. Directed by Christophe Offenstein, the film is visually powerful and moving, giving real insight into what life is like on board an ocean racing yacht. French, with English subtitles.






Maidentrip (2013)



In this critically acclaimed movie, 14-year-old Laura Dekker sets out on a two-year voyage in pursuit of a quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. But the Dutch government doesn't think she should be allowed, which starts a protracted legal battle and media frenzy. She finally departs to follow her dreams. While Director Jillian Schlesinger and her film crew could turn up whenever Laura Dekker touched land, the most critical moments -- when the seas are vicious and emotions run high -- were filmed by Dekker when she was alone. So, in a very real sense, Dekker made this film while Schlesinger produced it.


I had the chance to interact with Laura after her return, and one thing I discovered that made me admire her tremendously and appreciate the movie even more is that she did not do it for the fame but rather for her love of sailing. My sense is that she is, like a young Moitessier, more comfortable at sea than ashore. When she completed her circumnavigation, she kept going and resettled in New Zealand, the land of her birth.


All is Lost (2013)

After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a solo sailor finds himself confronting his mortality. What does he do?  He sends an "SOS" and shaves. Perhaps the worst sailing movie ever starring Robert Redford, 'the ancient mariner' but still good to look at. The most fun that sailors have had while watching was identifying all the things he does wrong in the excruciatingly long silent film (except when he's cursing to himself). Could become a cult classic like Rocky Horror with audience participation. I can see the buckets of water flying, the calls to "close the port", the shaving cream squirting, and "It's Mayday, Mayday, Mayday not S.O.S." being chanted, can't you?



Between Home – Odyssey of an Unusual Sea Bandit (2012)

Between Home is an independent film, shot by a filmmaker and a sailor, Nick Wrath, over many years without outside assistance or finance. It documents the adventures of a young man who sails his 1972 Contessa 26 from the UK to Australia. This film has been professionally edited, color graded, and produced, by a team of generous individuals who have donated their time and creativity. Nick is a natural on camera and has a good eye for creative detail when filming. Available in native English and with German subtitles.



Kon Tiki (2012)

A beautifully crafted film, Kon Tiki is an epic historical drama about Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. He and five others set off in 1947 on a 4300 mile journey across the Pacific in an effort prove that it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times. They did this on board a large raft called Kon Tiki. The trip took 101 days and the story has captivated people’s imagination around the world. Heyerdahl had filmed the expedition, which became the Academy Award winning documentary in 1951, and he wrote a book that was translated into 70 languages and sold more than 50 millions copies around the world.




The Last Cape Horners - The End of the Great Sailing Ship Era (2010)


Gustaf Erikson of Finland owned the last great fleet of sailing ships the world would ever see. He employed them in the last trade left to the sailing ship, the carriage of grain from Australia to Europe by way of treacherous Cape Horn. Now old men, the last of the true Cape Horners tell of the dreadful conditions in which they lived and worked while sailing the great souther ocean towards the Horn. The film is illustrated with amazing archival footage shot on board three of these vessels in the las days of sail. Running time 72 minutes plus 20 minutes of extra interviews.

Morning Light (2009)

The Disney movie about an inspiring true life adventure aboard the high tech sloop Morning Light. Fifteen rookie sailors have one goal in mind, to be part of her crew, racing in the most revered sailing competition on Earth, the Transpac Yacht Race. From start to finish, its a roller coaster ride of emotions and physical challenges, beginning with six months of intense training. Only eleven will survive to race in the grueling 2,225 mile Transpac. Matching wits and skills against experienced pros and the unforgiving, unpreditcable Pacific Ocean, these young men and women develop a powerful bond and prove how dedication, teamwork and an unyielding spirit can overcome the greatest of odds.


Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea (2006)

Another nautical horror/thriller, Adrift has a simple plot in which a group of friends go sailing offshore from Mexico. They all jump overboard for a swim and end up without a boarding ladder or rope to climb back aboard. The only person left on board is a baby. It's a long tedious interval of increasing stress accentuated by the baby's crying. It does make you think about what you might do to get back on board, if you were stupid enough to do this in the first place.  Personally, my motto is "stay on the boat".


Deep Water (2006)


A documentary about the 1968 Golden Globe round-the-world yacht race with actual footage and narrated by Tilda Swinton. It focuses on the tragic final voyage of Donald Crowhurst in the first singlehanded circumnavigation race. It is a fascinating account of this true story and brings to life all the players in the famous race, especially Crowhurst, who unfortunately has gone down in history as a failure and a fraud but who really was a complex man who had few options. He knew his boat wasn't ready but he was forced to head out to sea or risk losing everything. In the end, the boat was the only thing left.




To the Ends of the Earth (2005)

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in an epic adaptation of Nobel Laureate William Golding's trilogy. In the 1800s, a warship's perilous journey is seen through the eyes of Edmund Talbot, an ambitious young aristocrat who has embarked for Australia, where he is to receive an official position in the colonial government. On this voyage Talbot learns more about life at sea and himself than he ever thought possible. A stunning production featuring actors Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Jared Harris (Mad Men), and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones). To The Ends of the Earth is a gripping miniseries available all on one DVD.

Master and Commander (2003)

With Russell Crowe and based on the great series of Aubrey-Maturin stories by Patrick O'Brien, it represents many similar movies of this type with some really great scenes and cinematography. During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.

By the way, a little known fact about Russell Crowe is that he was in a band before his acting career took off and wrote a song about sailing, Sail Those Same Oceans.




Longitude (2000)

Not about sailing exactly, but a brilliant story in a four-part TV production starring Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon. A clever adaption of Dava Sobel's best-selling book of high seas adventure and political intrigue. Determined to stop shipping losses on the oceans of the 18th century, Britain's Parliament offers a fabulous cash award to anyone who can devise a way to determine longitude at sea. Convinced he can solve the problem, rural clock maker John Harrison (Michael Gambon) begins an obsessive, 40-year struggle to develop his ingenious marine clock and claim the longitude prize. Some 200 years later, naval officer Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons) stumbles across Harrison's forgotten chronometers and devotes himself to restoring these long-neglected mechanical masterpieces.



Horatio Hornblower (1999-2003)

Emmy award-winning  British-produced TV series (not the 1951 Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo movie).  There were eight films that covered the first three novels by C. S. Forrester who wrote the book series about Royal Navy officer Horatio Hornblower during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The books were masterfully researched and the films were very realistic. There are many battles at sea and ingenious big ship maneuvering that is really fun to watch. I especially enjoyed learning the origins of many of our sailing terms we still use today. Seems much more authentic than the movie version.



White Squall (1996)

Best sailing drama overall starring Jeff Bridges. A film by Ridley Scott based on a true story written by Rob Hartill. Teenage boys discover discipline and camaraderie on an ill-fated sailing voyage. A group of American teenage boys crew a sailing training ship to gain experience, discipline, or whatever their parents feel they lack. The voyage is a true adventure for them all until disaster strikes in the form a freak storm. "The Adventure Of a Lifetime Turns Into the Ultimate Challenge of Survival!"



Captain Ron (1992)

Captain Ron Kurt RussellGreat comedy.  Because . . . “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there!” Captain Ron, with Kurt Russell, is a bit silly but great fun. I don’t believe there is much in this movie that is technically correct, however, there is enough humor woven into the story to help you overlook reality for a bit. Martin Harvey (Martin Short) inherits a sailboat formerly owned by Clark Gable that could be valuable if delivered in good condition to a yacht broker in Miami. He wants to take his wife (Katherine) and the two kids to Ste. Pomme de Terre (haha) in the Caribbean and sail it back to Miami with a Captain (Kurt Russel) provided by the broker.

Everyone dreams of jumping on a ship and sailing away from their life, right? And, even if you don’t know what you are doing and get lost out there, according to Captain Ron, "… just pull in somewhere and ask directions."



Wind (1992)

Starring Jennifer Grey, Matthew Modine and Cliff Robertson, Wind was inspired by the 1983 and 1987 America’s Cup races and is essentially a retelling of the Dennis Connor story. Will Parker, played by Matthew Modine, loses the Americas Cup, the worlds biggest sailing prize, to the Australians and decides to form his own syndicate to win it back. It is a classic yacht racing, big money crowd movie. The photography is astounding, the character development good, and the music admirable. Those of us with a love of the sea and sailing view this as a classic. There are a few technical inaccuracies like the skippers at the helm on the leeward side while sailing to windward, but that's only so the real skippers could be really steering the boats without being in the shots. But overall it is a really well done sailing movie.



And The Sea Will Tell (1991)

True story based on a book by Vincent Buglosi and Bruce Henderson. TV movie with Richard Crenna and Rachel Ward about the real-life murder of Mac and Muff Graham on Palmyra Atoll. Vincent Bugliosi was the attorney for Eleanor "Muff" Graham. No bodies were ever found, but their yacht, the Sea Wind, was sailed to Hawaii by another couple who were suspected of the murder and convicted of the theft of the yacht.

Could not find a source for this one.


Dead Calm (1989)

With Sam Neill/Nicole Kidman, and a major nightmare crew member, Billy Zane. A mass-murderer kidnaps and seduces a young woman after leaving her husband to die on the vessel whose crew he's just slaughtered. Not much sailing but young Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill are fun to watch. I do, however, hate scary movies about sailing.  Make me sleep uncomfortably for some time afterwards. I'd rather view sailing as the antidote to civilization. 





With Jean du Sud Around the World (1983) 

A delightful film by Canadian Yves Gélinas offered by the Sailing Channel. Restored and remastered from 16 mm in HD. French version also in HD. In attempting to sail non–stop between Saint-Malo and Gaspé through the Roaring Forties and around Cape Horn alone aboard his Alberg 30, Jean-du-Sud, Yves Gélinas added his exceptional adventure to the art of sailing a small boat around the world. To self-steer his boat, Yves invented and built his own wind vane system, today known a Cape Horn and used by thousands of sailors to steer their vessels across oceans. Even though Yves was unable to complete the circumnavigation non-stop, Jean-du-Sud was the smallest boat up to that time to sail that route. In acknowledgement, the Joshua Slocum Society International bestowed on Gélinas the Golden Circle Award. WINNER Palme d'Or, La Rochelle International Film Festival (France, October 1983).

Watch the excellent trailer... https://vimeo.com/ondemand/jeandusud/96991137


The Riddle of The Sands (1979)

A good one from the '70s based on an early spy novel written by Irishman Erskine Childers before WWI. It is a mystery/action adventure on a sailboat. In the early years of the 20th Century, two British yachtsmen (Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale) on holiday 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 Kaiser Wilhelm himself.

The author's real life boat, the Asgard, was used to smuggle guns into Ireland during the struggle for independence and later served as the sail training vessel for generations of Irish youth, including my husband.




Overboard (1978)

Starring a young Angie Dickinson, Overboard is a gripping sailing movie. Filmed in French Polynesia, in which Angie Dickinson is knocked overboard one night and spends two hours bobbing around in the ocean after having fallen overboard from Cliff Robertson’s forty-foot sailboat, recalling her life with  her lawyer-husband and the fling she had with a French playboy. There are repeated flashbacks that flesh out the plot and the couple’s relationship before they take off on their sailboat to save their marriage.

Not available in current formats. Very rarely found on video.

The Dove (1974)

Based on the real story of Robin Lee Graham played by Joseph Bottoms, a young man who spent five years sailing around the world, solo, starting at age 16. There is some real sailing going on here and it is close to the actual thing. The true story of a 16-year-old  who sailed alone around the world in a 23- foot sloop named "The Dove". On his journey he met and fell in love with a young woman (Patti Ratteree, played by Deborah Raffin) who was also traveling around the world. The story follows Robin around the world to many beautiful locales, as he grows from a boy to a man, finds himself, and finds the love of his life. (VHS only)




Knife in the Water (1962)

Roman Polanski's debut feature length film, Knife in the Water is a story about a middle aged man and his wife who pick up a hitchhiker on their way to their yacht. When the young hitchhiker joins the couple for the weekend yacht trip on a Polish Lake, the suspense builds as the two men compete for the woman's attention. A storm forces them below deck where the tension builds to a violent climax.  An intense film, shot in black and white, which explores the characters of and the relationships between the three crew members. Not much dialogue, but captivating in every way!




Billy Budd (1962)

Based on story by Herman Melville, Billy is an innocent, naive seaman in the British Navy in 1797. When the ship's sadistic master-at-arms is murdered, Billy is accused and tried. Seems like a realistic depiction of life on a British ship of the time. A study of the great divide between the classes of British Society, with the chasm being particularly wide at sea. With Peter Ustinov.





Windjammer: The Voyage of the Christian Radich (1958)


Written by Alan Villier. Windjammer is the record of a training cruise of the full-rigged S/S Christian Radich from Oslo across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, to New York and back home again. Captain Alan John Villiers (23 September 1903 – 3 March 1982) was an author, adventurer, photographer and Master Mariner. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Villiers first went to sea at age 15 and sailed all the world's oceans on board traditionally rigged vessels, including the full-rigged ship Joseph Conrad. He commanded square-rigged ships for films, including Moby Dick and Billy Budd. He also commanded the Mayflower II on its voyage from the United Kingdom to the United States.

Villiers wrote 25 books, and served as the Chairman of the Society for Nautical Research, a Trustee of the National Maritime Museum, and Governor of the Cutty Sark Preservation Society. He was awarded the British Distinguished Service Cross as a Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve during World War II.

Unfurling the World

Between 1933 and 1956, Irving and Electra Johnson sailed with young, inexperienced sailors aboard two schooners, both named Yankee. Each time the Johnsons set sail for a voyage, they witnessed new and remote places that few people had visited. World class sailor and film producer Gary Jobson narrates the original footage shot by Captain Johnson and the Yankee crews which is now archived at Mystic Seaport. In exclusive new interviews some of the crew members pay tribute to the Johnsons and share their lifetime memories of the voyages around the world. The travels took the Johnsons and the crews to the mysterious Easter Island and the beautiful Bali where they meet intriguing inhabitants and experienced true maritime history when they raised the anchor of the HMS Bounty on Pitcairn Island. Available from Mystic Seaport

Moby Dick (1956)

The original with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab. Storms, shipwrecks, white whales—what’s not to like? Directed by John Huston from the great book by Herman Melville and with script by Ray Bradbury, it was destined to be a classic. The sole survivor of a lost whaling ship relates the tale of his captain's self-destructive obsession to hunt the white whale, Moby Dick. Everybody roots for the whale.





The Sea Hawk (1940)

The crown jewel in the era of swashbucklers, The Sea Hawk starring Errol Flynn tells the tale of Geoffrey Thorpe, a privateer modeled after Sir Frances Drake, and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth I (Flora Robson) to interfere with the Spanish Armada. She can't of course sanction his actions publicly but he gets the gratitude of his queen. He sets out on many voyages designed to harrass the Spanish Empire while enriching the British treasury with plunder from the Spanish Galleons that Thorpe raids on their way back from the New World. When Thorpe inadvertently captures a Spanish ship that happens to be carrying the new Spanish Ambassador Don Jose Alvarez de Cordoba (Claude Rains),and his niece Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall) to England, he finds himself on a different adventure.  Henry Daniel plays a really good evil traitor in Lord Wolfingham. Good script. Nice swordplay. Great musical score.  Flynn's Captain Blood was good too, but The Sea Hawk really ticks all the boxes.





Captains Courageous! (1937)

Probably my favourite sailing movie of all time. Starring Lionel Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, and Freddie Bartholomew with great actual footage of Bluenose schooners racing to market off the Grand Banks. It doesn't get much better than that! Tracy received the Oscar for Best Actor and many of the scenes were actual footage of sail boats fishing in the North Atlantic. You can’t beat it for authenticity. And it has a great heartwarming story. A Portuguese fisherman rescues a young boy from the sea after he fell from an ocean liner. The boy is the son of a railway tycoon and privileged life and attitudes are quickly challenged by life on a fishing boat in the North Atlantic. This pre-WW2 movie is based on the story by Rudyard Kipling and stars Freddie Bartholomew as the 15-year-old Harvey and Spencer Tracey as the Portuguese fisherman, Manuel, who rescues the boy. Learning the work ethic, hardships and superstitions of the Gloucester-men, Harvey soon becomes part of the crew and the close friend of the father figure Manuel. The depth of their relationship grows into something that each character cherishes. In B&W. Brilliantly cast and acted with amazing cinematography.




Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, 1962, 1984)


The HMS Bounty leaves Portsmouth in 1787. Its objective is to sail to Tahiti and return with a load of bread-fruit. Captain Bligh will do anything to get there as fast as possible, using any means to keep up a strict discipline. When they arrive at Tahiti, it is like a paradise for the crew, something completely different than the living hell aboard the ship. On the way back to England, Officer Fletcher Christian successfully leads a mutiny against the ruthless Captain Bligh. 

The Marlon Brando 1962 version is the better boat version in which the Bounty is the real star but the 1935 Charles Laughton/Clark Gable version is the better acted version.  The 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson titled simply The Bounty was excellent, too. Sir Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson were also among the cast members. Of course, the story is so good, it is worth repeating, and watching all three versions.





Joshua Slocum - Sailing Alone Around the World


A 45-minute documentary about the legendary Joshua Slocum available on YouTube.  He was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. He was a Nova Scotian born, naturalised American seaman and adventurer, and a noted writer. In 1900 he wrote a book about his journey Sailing Alone Around the World, which became an international best-seller and inspired countless others to follow in his wake. He disappeared in November 1909 while sailing aboard his boat, the Spray.


Around Cape Horn

Digitally Re-Mastered DVD will play universally, in all Region Formats. Simple in production but brilliant in content, this is our best-selling video to date. Captain Irving Johnson sailed aboard the bark Peking in 1929, as the sun set on the day of commercial sail. During his voyage on the big German windjammer, Johnson compiled unequaled footage of the crew's daily activities, and spectacular images of a wild storm as the ship made the dangerous passage around Cape Horn. Johnson's narration of the trip is a delight. Only on DVD. More a documentary than a movie. 37 minutes, Black & White, available from Mystic Seaport.


Post Script:  

Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, about the whale ship Essex that was attacked and sunk by a whale, was released in 2015.

http://www.intheheartoftheseamovie.com/ 

A few movies I didn't know are reviewed in Classic Boat:

http://www.classicboat.co.uk/articles/top-ten-sailing-films/ 

7 comments:

  1. How about John Wayne Wake of the red witch

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    1. I never saw that one. I love John Wayne. He was a devoted sailor. Thanks for the tip!

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  2. Open Water 2: Adrift (2006) has the tedious 'we all jumped off a boat without a boarding ladder and are now rogered' plot. Just in case someone has an ill-advised urge to watch it. :)

    Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea is a fellow's memoir of having a really bad time on a raft, I think.

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  3. "Voyage of the Yes", a great 1973 made for TV sailing adventure featuring Dezi Arnez Jr.

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  4. Damn The Defiant is pretty good too....

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  5. Damn The Defiant is pretty good too....

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  6. For me, The Defiant or Damn The Defiant with Alec Guiness is way up there. Illustrates the beastly use of press gangs and discipline in the British Navy. Dirk Bogarde plays the poncy Brit who enjoys abusing his fellow shipmates.

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