Your yacht’s on the hard, and you’re back home, landlocked for the holiday season. Or you’re onboard and you’ve taken cover from a squall by hiding out in the salon (and you’ve had the foresight to install KVH TracVision). Don’t despair: These yachting and fishing gems of the silver screen, some of them dramatizing sinkings and disaster, are sure to keep you, at the least, occupied, and at the fullest, on the edge of your seat.
With a few plot lines drawn from the Internet Movie Database, here are our picks for top boating flicks to enjoy this holiday season:
Captain Phillips (2013)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips, Somali pirates hijack the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
Why see it: It’s a great rescue film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Director: Gore Verbinski
A blacksmith teams up with a notorious pirate, Jack Sparrow, to save the woman he loves from Jack’s former allies, who have come back from the dead.
Why see it: This is great entertainment — funny with great cinematic effects.
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind, but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
Director: James Cameron
Why see it: Hollywood does it again and cuts no corners recreating a tragic tale.
The Perfect Storm (2000)
An unusually intense storm, known as the “Halloween Storm” of 1991, catches the fishermen of the Andrea Gail and sends them to a tragic fate.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Why see it: This true story and all its unresolved subplots became even more controversial after it became a major motion picture.
Dead Calm (1989)
Mid-ocean, a mass-murderer kidnaps and tries to seduce a young woman after leaving her husband to die on the vessel whose crew he’s just slaughtered.
Director: Phillip Noyce
Why see it: The intense suspense is carried by three excellent actors, including Nicole Kidman, on two sailing yachts.
In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
This is the recounting of a whaling ship’s sinking by a sperm whale in 1820 that would inspire the great novel Moby Dick.
Director: Ron Howard
Why see it: Herman Melville’s pursuit of the great American novel is documented here.
Deep Water (2006)
This documentary about the 1968 round-the-world yacht race, called the Golden Globe, focuses on the fabricated and tragic run by British businessman Donald Crowhurst.
Directors: Louise Osmond, Jerry Rothwell
Why see it: Here’s an excellent profile of a man obsessed with winning and an examination of how it plays on his mind.
The Riddle of the Sands (1979)
Director: Tony Maylam
In the early years of the 20th Century, two British yachtsmen 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.
Why see it: This thriller is espionage at its best, inspired by what many consider to be the first modern spy novel.
Captains Courageous (1937)
Director: Victor Fleming
Harvey Cheyne is a spoiled brat used to having his own way. When a prank goes wrong onboard an ocean liner, Harvey ends up overboard. He’s picked up by a Gloucester fishing schooner heading out for the season. Stranded on the boat, he must adapt to the ways of the fishermen and learn more about the real world.
Why see it: This classic stars Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, and Mickey Rooney. Catch the authentic footage of the fishing schooners racing back to Gloucester, Massachusetts, with their catch.
Captain Ron (1992)
Director: Thom Eberhardt
A Chicago family decides to sail their yacht to Miami and, to do so, hire Captain Ron — who changes their lives forever.
Why see it: It’s very funny and … it could happen to you.
The Sea Wolf (1993)
Director: Michael Anderson
Jack London’s brutal Wolf Larson brings a shipwrecked aristocrat and a con woman aboard his doomed ship, the Ghost.
Why see it: With great performances by Christopher Reeve and Charles Bronson, this psychological thriller pits man against man.
Director: Steven Spielberg
A series of attacks causes a group of heroes to take to the water and try to stop the lone shark that is causing them.
Why see it: You don’t know the real Martha’s Vineyard until you see Jaws.
The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
Director: John Sturges
Based on the Ernest Hemingway novella, this movie is about an old fisherman’s journey, landing a huge fish that takes him out to sea.
Why see it: Man fights with a fish or is he fighting his own demons?
White Squall (1996)
Teenage boys discover discipline and camaraderie on an ill-fated sailing voyage.
Director: Ridley Scott
Why See It: It shows how quickly things can go wrong offshore.
Master and Commander (2003)
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.
Director: Peter Weir
Why See It: Patrick O’Brian’s works are the source. Full of must-see great sea battles, this is as true as a story can be aboard a British warship during this era. Plus, you’ll never complain about the food you prepare in your galley again.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
The Bounty leaves Portsmouth in 1787. Its destination: to sail to Tahiti and load bread-fruit. Captain Bligh will do anything to get there as fast as possible.
Director: Lewis Milestone
Why See It: It’s one of the greats; a young Marlon Brando gives a fantastic performance.
Moby Dick (1956)
In this version of Herman Melville’s great American novel, 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.
Director: John Huston
Why See It: Of all the film versions of Moby Dick, this is the best. Gregory Peck is outstanding as Ahab.
African Queen (1951)
In Africa during WWI, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
Director: John Huston
Why See It: Here’s a wonderful classic, with memorable performances by Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn.
Australia wins the America’s Cup – the biggest prize in yachting – and Matthew Modine, as Will Parker, wants to win it back.
Director: Carroll Ballard
Why See It: No foiling 72-foot catamarans here, but it’s so bad, it’s good. A must-see for Wednesday night beer-can racers.