Sailing Movies: we keep coming back

Published on March 19th, 2024

Making a list of the 10 Best Sailing Movies of All Time is kind of like making a list of the 10 best ways to eat chocolate. Some people prefer the chomp of a candy bar. Other people love the miniature chips baked into cookies. Still other people go for temperature, reaching for ice cream or for a bomb to drop into a hot mug of milk.

For the Cruising World Staff, the 10 Best Sailing Movies of All Time are the ones we’re happy to go back and watch again and again. Each of them captures something special about being out on the water, and gives us a memorable insight into the human spirit that sailing brings alive.

10. White Squall
Ridley Scott, more recently known for the hits Napoleon and The Martian, directed this 1996 movie about teenage boys who discover discipline and camaraderie after facing a severe storm while training aboard a brigantine. The story is based on real events aboard the Albatross, which sank in 1961. Jeff Bridges stars as “Skipper,” teaching the boys through tough love and discipline.

9. Morning Light
This 2008 documentary focuses on the sloop Morning Light and 15 rookie sailors who want to crew in the Transpac Yacht Race. All the crew members were between 18 and 23 years old. Filming took place during training and the actual sailing of the race aboard Morning Light in 2007. Roy E. Disney held a private screening for US Sailing prior to the film’s release.

8. Kon-Tiki
Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft in 1947 is the subject of this 2012 film—which was 2012’s highest-grossing film in Norway. It was an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, and for a Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe, marking the first time a Norwegian film was nominated for both major Hollywood prizes.

7. Adrift
Released in 2018, Adrift focuses on a couple facing a catastrophic hurricane. The story is based on the 2002 book Red Sky in Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft, and is set in 1983, during Hurricane Raymond. The film stars Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, who end up adrift in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, trying to get to Hawaii with a damaged boat and no radio.

6. True Spirit
This 2023 drama is about Australian teenager Jessica Watson, the youngest person ever to sail solo nonstop around the world. As the reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald wrote: “This is a family-friendly picture, wholesome and tailored for the American market—although I suspect that director Sarah Spillane also shaped it to inspire teenage girls, in particular.”

5. Maiden
This 2018 documentary tells the story of Tracy Edwards, a 24-year-old cook on charter boats who became the skipper of the first ever all-female crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. They finished second in Maiden’s class, winning two out of six individual legs of the race. In 1990, Edwards detailed her story in the book Maiden, co-written by Tim Madge.

4. Captain Ron
You know you love this 1992 comedy just as much as we do. Kurt Russell stars as a quirky sailor with a questionable past who takes Martin Short and his family through the Caribbean on an inherited sailboat. We know it’s fiction, but we see a lot of reality in this film. If you’ve spent even a little bit of time on boats in the islands, then we’re guessing you see it, too. – Full story

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