15 Best Movies Set on Boats

Best Movies Set on Boats

The best movies set on boats have been a staple of American culture for a long time, from the vintage movie “Moby Dick” to the modern movie series “Pirates of the Caribbean.” 

You will be fascinated and amused by stories of brave marine commanders, ferocious storms, and mutinous first mates. 

When it’s raining or after a hard day of sailing, watching movies set on boats is the ideal pastime.

Your boat is securely secured for the evening, allowing you to relax and share a thrilling story with your loved ones. 

When terrible weather forces you to stay below deck, turn on one of these best movies set on boats to pass the time until the storm passes.

1. Das Boot (1981)

  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Cast: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch, Martin Semmelrogge, Bernd Tauber, Erwin Leder, and Martin May
  • IMDb rating: 8.4/10

The 1981 German movie “Das Boot” is thrilling about war and submarines. It takes place in World Battle II.

The “Das Boot” cast follows the German U-boat U-96’s crew as they patrol the Atlantic during the Battle of the Atlanta. 

The movie portrays days of boredom, thrilling combat, and the bonds formed among the soldiers on the submarine. It conveys the realities of life aboard a U-boat. 

The crew of the U-96 is shown in “Das Boot” as regular people who want to serve their country, providing a fresh viewpoint on WWII.

The German film “Das Boot” English dub is available in the United States. 

Positive reviews and several nominations and awards for the movie were received locally and internationally.

“Das Boot” is one of the best movies set on boats for a relaxing evening below deck.

2. Hunt For Red October (1990)

  • Director: John McTiernan
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, and Peter Firth
  • IMDb rating: 7.5/10

The Cold War-era movie “Hunt for Red October” follows a rogue Soviet submarine commander.

He disobeys instructions and steers his vessel toward the United States aboard one of the newest and most technologically sophisticated submarines in the Soviet Navy. 

The submarine, known as Red October, is a nuclear-armed submarine with stealth technology installed that makes it invisible to passive sonar.

Red October is turned over to Captain Marko Ramius, who is then deployed on a training mission with another Soviet assault submarine. 

However, while at sea, Ramius kills the submarine commander he was traveling with before heading for the United States.

The narrative becomes more complicated as American soldiers strive to determine if Ramius is attempting to defect or start a conflict before things go nasty.

“Hunt for Red October” is one of the best movies set on boats with action and mystery starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin.

The popular Tom Clancy book of the same name, published in 1984, was adapted into a movie in 1990.

3. Crimson Tide (1995)

  • Director: Tony Scott
  • Cast: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Matt Craven, George Dzundza, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, Rocky Carroll, and Jaime Gomez
  • IMDb rating: 7.3/10

“Crimson Tide” is simply one more illustration of what makes the genre ideal for narrative.

It focuses on the conflict among submarine commanders during a time when everyone on board is in severe danger, not just the crew.

Midway through the 1990s, a civil war broke out in Russia due to the fall of the Soviet Union.

An extremist Russian rebel group seizes a nuclear site in the middle of the mayhem and threatens to use the base as a launchpad for end-of-the-world weapons if provoked.

A U.S. Navy submarine with nuclear missiles is instructed to conduct a first attack against the rebels far away from the situation, only to receive a follow-up instruction but unreadable. 

Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman), who is more assertive, wants to launch the attack, while Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington), who is calmer, wants to postpone it. 

These two senior commanders are now at odds with one another. Since they cannot resolve their disagreement, it spreads across the group, escalating tensions as each side does whatever it takes to get their way. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies set on boats.

4. Jaws (1975)

  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, and Susan Backlinie
  • IMDb rating: 8.1/10

Without including the well-known “Jaws” movie by Steven Spielberg, this list of the best movies set on boats would be lacking.

Based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 book of the same name, “Jaws” was released in the summer of 1975 and instantly became a smashing success. 

Since then, the “Jaws” series has grown to include three add-ons that continue to terrify beachgoers into staying away from the water when they see that menacing fin.

A great white shark starts terrorizing the fictional summer resort town of Amity Island in this classic thriller. 

The town council chooses to hunt and kill the dangerous shark rather than shutting the beaches and damaging the local tourism industry. 

Martin Brody, the police chief of Amity Island, enlists the aid of Quint, a local shark hunter, and Matt Hooper, a marine researcher, to carry out this assignment.

To find the shark, the three guys sailed aboard Quint’s Orca boat. After a long water fight, the shark kills Quint, and the Orca starts to sink. 

By inserting a pressurized scuba tank into the shark’s jaws and firing the tank with a rifle, Hooper and Brody can successfully kill the shark. Just before the ending, the survivors are shown swimming back to land.

5. Titanic (1997)

  • Director: James Cameron
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bill Paxton, and Bernard Hill
  • IMDb rating: 7.9/10

“Titanic,” one of the most popular and best movies set on boats, tells the story of the R.M.S.

This ship sunk in 1912 while on her maiden voyage. On April 10, the Titanic sailed from England and sunk five days later when it collided with an iceberg off the coast of Canada. 

The Titanic, which still lies at the bottom of the ocean, sank with more than 1,500 people on board.

The historic shipwreck’s movie adaption tells a made-up story of love, betrayal, and tragedy. 

When Rose Bukater and her rich fiancé Cal Hockley go on a trip, they meet Jack Dawson, a poor artist. When Rose considers suicide to end her terrible engagement, she meets Jack. 

As they get to know one another, they quickly fall in love. Cal learns about the relationship just as the Titanic begins to sink, but destiny is not on their side.

6. Captain Ron (1992)

  • Director: Thom Eberhardt
  • Cast: Kurt Russell, Martin Short, Mary Kay Place, Benjamin Salisbury, Meadow Sisto, Sunshine Logroño, Jorge Luis Ramos, and J.A. Preston
  • IMDb rating: 5.8/10

Captain Ron is among the best movies set on boats. A Chicago family receives a boat formerly owned by Clark Gable at the beginning of this 1992 American comedy. 

To collect the boat and sail it back to Miami, the father, Martin Harvey, portrayed by Martin Short, decides to bring his whole family to the fictional Caribbean island of St. Pomme de Terre. They discover the boat is in awful shape when they get there. 

The yacht broker uses Captain Ron Rico, a local sailor, to accompany the Harvey family instead of sending a trained professional.

Kurt Russell portrays Captain Ron, a one-eyed former Navy veteran with a vivid personality and history. 

The Harveys had several difficulties on their trip across the Caribbean that Captain Ron instigated, and they had a bit more adventure than they anticipated.

The whole family will enjoy this humorous ship movie while also appreciating the calm leadership of the captain.

7. Greyhound (2020)

  • Director: Aaron Schneider
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Matt Helm, Craig Tate, Rob Morgan, Travis Quentin, and Jeff Burkes
  • IMDb rating: 7.0/10

The ” Greyhound ” events occurred while America was starting World War II, and the Atlantic battle was in full force. 

To seize control of the waterways, a united force of Allied ships is engaged in combat with the German Navy while attempting to safeguard priceless cargo ships headed towards England. 

Commander Ernest Krause of the title Greyhound, a U.S. Navy destroyer that can fend off German U-boats, is at the helm of one of the Allied boats and the whole convoy. Tom Hanks plays him. 

Even though Krause is an experienced commander, he has never been assigned to cross the Atlantic.

This makes the mission particularly dangerous for everyone who depends on his leadership to live.

“Greyhound” is one of the best movies set on boats and is the epitome of everything that makes the genre so exciting, despite never receiving its intended theatrical distribution. 

Throughout its brief 91-minute running period, there isn’t much melodrama; instead, the movie concentrates on the procedural stress and associated problems of naval combat

“Greyhound” is an underappreciated treasure because of a predicably strong performance by acclaimed actor Tom Hanks in maybe one of his greatest roles since “Saving Private Ryan.”

8. The Perfect Storm (2000)

  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen
  • Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane, William Fichtner, John Hawkes, Allen Payne, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
  • IMDb rating: 6.5/10

This movie, based on the real-life Perfect Storm of 1991, follows the crew of Andrea Gail as they struggle to navigate through an intense storm brewing in the North Atlantic. 

Late in the season, Captain Billy Tyne leads his crew on a last fishing excursion after a fruitless outing. From Gloucester, Massachusetts, they set sail towards the Flemish Cap, where they discover good fishing grounds.

The ship’s ice machine breaks unexpectedly with a plentiful catch aboard, forcing the crew to return to land quickly before the catch spoils.

Unfortunately, a tropical storm forming between Andrea Gail and the beach now presents a far more dangerous issue. 

The crew chooses to continue sailing toward Gloucester despite the storm’s power being underestimated.

However, they soon encounter strong winds and pounding waves that finally sink the boat.

Andrea Gail’s tragic last voyage is shown in The Perfect Storm, along with the crew’s futile attempts to survive it.

“The Perfect Storm,” starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, is one of the best movies set on boats that will make you happy watching from the luxury of your cabin on a calm night.

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

  • Director: Gore Verbinski
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, and Mackenzie Crook
  • IMDb rating: 8.1/10

One of the most enduring action-adventure blockbusters of the twenty-first century is, without a doubt, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. This is one of the best movies set on boats.

It has some fantastic action-packed set pieces, an incredible, memorable soundtrack, and Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), one of cinema’s most famous characters ever.

As one of the most ambitious blockbusters ever made, Pirates of the Caribbean will always have a unique place in cinema history.

It is rather nice to see so many physical methods employed in this movie in a period when many movies depend on CGI to produce effects. 

The enormous ships and set pieces built for the movie are only one of the movie’s noteworthy features.

Due to its significance to the main character, the Black Pearl is one of the most infamous ships in the series, and it is simply amazing how it was brought to life.

10. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

  • Director: Peter Weir
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D’Arcy, Edward Woodall, Chris Larkin, 

Max Pirkis and Jack Randall

  • IMDb rating: 7.4/10

This movie follows British Captain Jack Aubrey and his men as they chase a French ship along the coast of South America during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.

The French privateer ship Acheron must be captured, and Aubrey is instructed to do it on his Surprise ship. 

Acheron repeatedly escapes arrest and ambushes Surprise numerous times as they make their way to the Galapagos Islands, despite Aubrey’s resolve and unwavering will.

Patrick O’Brian’s first two books in the Aubrey-Maturin trilogy were adapted into the movie “Master and Commander.”

Russell Crowe plays Captain Aubrey in the 2003 movie, which also stars Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s close friend and the ship’s doctor, Dr. Stephen Maturin. 

The movie garnered favorable critics from reviewers and won several prestigious awards.

“Master and Commander” was nominated for 10 Oscars at the 76th Academy Awards and won in two categories. 

The suspenseful naval warfare and riveting dialogue in “Master and Commander” will keep you riveted. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies set on boats.

11. Dead Calm (1989)

  • Director: Phillip Noyce
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane, Rod Mullinar, Joshua Tilden, George Shevtsov, Michael Long, and Lisa Collins
  • IMDb rating: 6.8/10

“Dead Calm” follows the terrifying story of an innocent couple trapped in a dangerous predicament with a guy while aboard two boats in the middle of the Pacific.

Rae and John Ingram go on a boat vacation to help them cope with their loss after their son dies. 

They find a damaged boat that seems to be sinking while sailing across the Pacific.

Hughie Warriner approaches the Ingrams’ boat and asks for assistance, stating that his crew has perished from food sickness. 

John explores the ship, however, and finds horrific devastation that paints a different picture.

While Hughie is already sailing their boat away with Rae aboard, John hurries back to warn Rae. 

Now that his wife is in danger, John must struggle to keep afloat to save her as Rae struggles to survive. This is one of the best movies set on boats.

12. Life of Pi (2012)

  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Ayush Tandon, Gautam Belur, Mohd. Abbas Khaleeli, and Ayaan Khan
  • IMDb rating: 7.9/10

“Life of Pi” stunned viewers when it was released because of its innovative story and magnificent visuals, similar to the premise of “Lifeboat” yet very different in so many ways. 

A former zookeeper’s family experiences tragedy while traveling across the ocean as their ship gets trapped in a violent storm.

Their son Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) and a few of the family’s animals are the sole survivors of the accident. 

As you can anticipate, things worsen as the animals eventually eliminate one another until just Richard, a Bengal tiger, is left.

The unusual pair must attempt to cohabit aboard a small lifeboat while seeking help. 

It is undoubtedly a coming-of-age story, but there are also deeper themes of religion and how a person interacts with the outside world. 

Pi’s internal monologues and more violent dire scenarios aren’t included in the movie adaptation of the same-named book, which is one of the most notable departures from the original work. 

The movie successfully upholds the spirit and themes of its inspiration and won’t let anyone hoping for a unique survival experience down. This is one of the best movies set on boats.

13. Waterworld (1995)

  • Director: Kevin Reynolds
  • Cast: Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper, Tina Majorino, Chaim Jeraffi, Rick Aviles, R.D. Call, and Zitto Kazann
  • IMDb rating: 6.3/10

Waterworld is one of the best movies set on boats. The majority of Earth’s land will be destroyed by increasing sea levels in the future.

Kevin Costner arrives aboard his trimaran and is entangled in a conspiracy involving a lost kid, Smokers, pirates, and the hunt for Dryland. 

Cossie eventually invests in a jetski for his attack on the pirates’ base of operations, the Exxon Valdez, which is fortunately still intact.

14. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

  • Director: Lewis Milestone and Carol Reed
  • Cast: Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Richard Haydn, Tarita, Percy Herbert, and Duncan Lamont
  • IMDb rating: 7.2/10

Mutiny on the Bounty, a 1935 classic that took home the Best Picture Oscar that year, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton as the merciless captain and lieutenant of the H.M.S. Bounty. 

The crew plans to revolt against their oppressive boss, and the experiences they have along the way are intriguing and still worth seeing today.

Although inaccurate historically, this version of the story is the most cherished.

Laughton does a superb job as William Bligh in this compelling event, while Clark Gable turns in one of his finest performances of a remarkable career.

15. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

  • Director: Ronald Neame
  • Cast: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, and Jack Albertson
  • IMDb rating: 7.1/10

The Poseidon Adventure is perhaps the greatest illustration of a catastrophe movie that takes place at sea.

Gene Hackman plays a priest who tries to guide a group of survivors through a ship that capsized at sea on New Year’s Eve in the legendary movie released in 1972.

The group’s attempt to flee the ship as it floods is attention-grabbing, and its aging is in no way an excuse; it still looks great and makes for thrilling watching. 

One of the strongest depictions of a crew being eliminated in a movie is the progressive degeneration of their group, which is highlighted by Hackman’s acting.

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