Up to 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, which is why even up to now, despite all the modern technology, a good amount of it is still left unknown.
No wonder it’s served as inspiration to countless myths and legends, poetry, novels, and even films. If you’re looking for some of the best oceans movies, you don’t need to look too far, because there’s a whole lot of options on it.
From conservation plotlines to maritime disasters, pirate stories, naval action, and more, there’s a whole lot of films set in, and tackling, the greatness of the oceans.
Here are some of the best oceans movies you can look into, if you’re ever in the mood to go deep in the waters, but without getting your feet wet.
1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
English 2h 7m IMDb
Director: Richard Fleischer
Stars: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas
This 1954 classic adaptation of the Jules Verne novel of the same title was a stellar example of how special effects can help the story along, especially during the time that it was released.
Set in the 1800s where life on the seas have become dangerous because of giant whale set on terrorizing sailors, a US expedition sets out to solve the mystery once and for all.
With many ships and lives lost, this trip 20,000 leagues under the sea in search of this vicious giant creature proves to be a seriously life-threatening undertaking on its own. Can the team ever make it back to dry land in one piece?
Apart from the impressive set design and production, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea proves to be well worth the watch, thanks to its tight storytelling and witty dialogue.
As most of the scenes were shot on location as well, this added to the visual feast already offered by the special effects. A must-watch classic if you want to see how live action Disney movies of the early days look like.
2. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
English 2h 18m IMDb
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd
Set during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World brings action to the high seas, with a strong-willed captain at the helm of a British fleet.
Fighting against all odds, and despite the equally strong-willed elements of nature out in the open seas, Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) steers his crew and ship around the waters of South America, in pursuit of a French war vessel.
With a strong cast of characters breathing life into the characters of the original novels, this movie adaptation is a treat to watch, especially for those very well into maritime action.
3. Jaws (1975)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Arguably one of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic films ever made, Jaws is set in a beach town in Long Island, sought by merrymakers during the summer.
One day, an unexpected and unwelcome guest gets way too close for comfort, bringing raging terror and bloody deaths to the otherwise languid beach community of Amity Island.
Time is of the essence, and new sheriff Martin Brody doesn’t have a lot of it in his hands, especially as he struggles to gain some control over the chaos.
Local politicians and business interests are proving to be even more of a threat to people’s safety than the shark lurking below the water surface.
Jaws, with its superb production and direction, quickly earned its reputation as one of the best films ever made. A must-see for all, whether you’re interested in filmmaking or action-adventure films set in the oceans, in general.
4. Titanic (1997)
English 3h 14m IMDb
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Leonardo Di, CaprioKate Winslet, Billy Zane
Star-crossed lovers Jack and Rose find true love aboard the equally ill-fated cruise ship Titanic.
Advertised as the best and most majestic of all in its time, the Titanic set out for the Americas from Southampton, England, only to meet a tragic ending in the middle of the freezing cold ocean waters upon crashing into an iceberg.
The 1997 film by James Cameron featuring Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio was more of a romance story, although it did go to excruciating lengths and details to try and recreate some of the most important, historical aspects of the ship.
It was heralded as the most expensive film to be ever produced as a result, but was also crowned as the biggest blockbuster hit, and one of the best films ever.
5. The Abyss (1989)
English 2h 20m IMDb
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn
Another ocean-themed film by James Cameron, The Abyss came out almost a decade earlier than the blockbuster hit Titanic.
Here, a former couple of petroleum engineers were tasked to assist in a top-secret recovery operation by the Navy SEAL. Their mission: to retrieve a sunken nuclear sub believed to have been attacked under some very mysterious circumstances.
While the couple, Brud Brigman (Ed Harris) and Lindsay Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) may be experts in their field, they were still not experts at handling their personal issues with each other.
Heading down to the deepest depths of the earth underwater, they must work this out together if they ever want to come out of the mission both alive.
Suspense-filled from start to finish, the relationship angle of the Brigmans adds sufficient tension to the already stressful situation.
Put that against the backdrop of an almost otherworldly visual environment underwater, and it’s enough to get you holding your breath all throughout.
6. Life of Pi (2012)
English 2h 7m IMDb
Director: Ang Lee
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
Cast away on a lone boat following a disaster at sea, a young man finds himself face to face with an adventure of a lifetime that no one might just believe. Pi Patel recalls his childhood to a Canadian writer visiting him to learn more about his life story.
Here, he recalls and draws from memories of his life in Pondicherry, India, where his family owned a zoo. One day, their family decides to pack up and board a Japanese cargo ship to pursue a more abundant life abroad.
Struck by a storm, Pi barely survives by latching onto a lifeboat, only to end up sharing it with some of their zoo animals, including a feisty Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Now adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he must stay alert and alive, or else risk being eaten by the tiger. A heartwarming story of friendship amidst an adventure and need for survival, Life of Pi is worth holding your breath–and disbelief–for.
7. Moby Dick (1956)
English 1h 56m IMDb
Director: John Huston
Stars: Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn
A whaling ship has been destroyed and sunken in the middle of the raging ocean waters. According to the lone survivor, it was not because of natural forces, but rather, a brutal creature from deep under the sea, the majestic, deadly white whale, Moby Dick.
This movie adaptation of the classic novel brings viewers right to the adventure in the middle of the ocean.
With the almost crazy obsession of Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck) to kill the notorious white whale, he sets himself ready to sacrifice and destroy everything in his life to achieve this goal.
Despite getting harsh criticisms upon release, mostly because of Peck’s supposedly “stiff” acting, Moby Dick has proven to grow into a well-known and loved classic.
8. Captain Phillips (2013)
English 2h 14m IMDb
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman
Multi-awarded actor Tom Hanks portrays the real life character of Captain Richard Phillips, survivor of the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by notorious Somali pirates.
The real life story broke headlines, not only because of the daring actions taken by Captain Philipps to protect his crew, but also because this is the first time in 200 years that an American cargo ship was hijacked by pirates.
Suspense and tension-filled, the face-off between the two entangled parties soon find themselves struggling to survive even bigger forces beyond their control out in the middle of the high seas.
9. The Perfect Storm (2000)
English 2h 10m IMDb
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly
Somewhere over the North Atlantic, a killer storm is brewing. Aboard the sword-fishing boat, Andrea Gail, fishermen would come face to face with a life-changing, death-defying experience in the middle of the ocean.
This true to life story of fishermen rounding up the fishing season with hopes of one last, big haul off the coast of Gloucester, MA is as gripping as it can get.
Caught in the grips of a perfect storm, Billy Tyne (George Clooney), Bobby Shatford (Mark Whalberg), and the rest of the crew, become real-life heroes as they survive the most harrowing fishing season of their lives.
The stellar acting of the cast, complemented by the stunning visual effects depicting huge, lethal waves engulfing the fishing boat make for a compelling sight, sure to remain etched in the viewers’ minds for a long time.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
English 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Gore Verbinski
Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom
The first of the blockbuster franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl brings in the adventure, the laughs, the action, and even the romance.
A pirate seeking for his treasured riches, a governor’s daughter wanting to escape the trappings of proper society to find real adventure, and a blacksmith unknowingly carrying a family legacy worthy of otherworldly riches and adventure way beyond his imaginations.
This seemingly motley crew crosses paths with each other in the most unexpected way possible, and end up becoming a team that nobody ever expected, or could have possibly wanted.
PotC became such a massive hit, that it eventually grew into one of the most famous and successful franchises ever. Satisfy your thirst for adventure with action and humor with this delightful first iteration of Pirates of the Caribbean.
11. Cast Away (2000)
English 2h 23m IMDb
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez
Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is all about the hustle and bustle type of life. As a FedEx executive, he was used to being always on the move. Until one day, he found himself stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the sea, when his plane crashed.
Forced by circumstance to be left alone, and to his own devices, he struggles to survive, both the elements and himself.
With only a handful of packages for delivery washed ashore, he befriends Wilson, a volleyball, while he tries to get off the island and be rescued.
It’s an inspiring story of survival, reflection, and rebirth. Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Chuck Noland was committed and dedicated, even putting on the weight and growing the facial hair for a much more realistic delivery of the character.
12. Finding Nemo (2003)
English 1h 40m IMDb
Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Stars: Albert Brooks(voice), Ellen DeGeneres(voice), Alexander Gould(voice)
Finding Nemo is literally set in the oceans. Starring Marlin the clownfish Marlin and his son Nemo, the story takes the audience on an adventure down under, from the Great Barrier Reef all the way to Sydney.
With his son Nemo captured by divers, it is up to Marlin to save him against all odds. Along the way, he meets unlikely friends like the non-fish-eating sharks, and one blue dory with short-term memory, Dory.
Marlin reluctantly teams up with Dory to follow the boat that took Nemo, presumably because Dory was able to read the address on the goggles of one of the divers.
It’s a special lesson in swimming into the unknown, and trusting your friends along the way, in order to achieve the goal you set out to do. Just keep swimming, no matter how difficult the tides may turn.
This list brings some of the best ocean movies you can enjoy and watch. Whatever your preferred genre may be, there’s an ocean movie for it, for sure. With so much more to explore about the oceans, we can’t wait to get more ocean-themed movies to watch!