Everyone is entitled to a binge-watch sometimes – think of it as a well-deserved pleasure! Perhaps you want to avoid boredom on a long flight to your favorite scuba destination, enjoy a film night with friends, or pass the time during an extended surface interval. Whatever the reason, if you’re planning a marathon movie session, then why not do it like a diver with some of the best ocean movies of all time. In no particular order, here are 25 binge-worthy movie ideas to get you started.
Table of Contents
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
- Into the Blue
- For Your Eyes Only
- Men of Honour
- The Deep
- The Abyss
- The Big Blue
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Open Water
- Dark Tide
- Fool’s Gold
- Deep Blue Sea
- Finding Nemo
- The Cave
- Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
- The Perfect Storm
- The Little Mermaid
- The Hunt for Red October
- Life of Pi
1. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
This might not be Bill Murray’s most revered movie, but Wes Anderson’s story is certainly watchable. Also, the film was dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau. In the movie, fictional Oceanographer Zissou plans to get revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, leading to much offbeat humor and proper belly laughs. Did you know that Bill Murray even became a PADI Open Water Diver before making the movie? He’s one of the numerous actors and Hollywood A-listers that are also certified PADI divers!
2. Into The Blue (2005)
This film tells the entertaining story of a group of young divers who go looking for a legendary treasure ship in the Bahamas. While diving, they stumble upon an airplane wreck full of illegal drugs, leading to an underground storyline of mobs and underwater action. The movie has an abundance of shark footage, most of which was filmed using live, wild sharks in their natural habitat. The movie also stars Jessica Alba and Paul Walker, and the exotic scenery will take you off your couch and into your next dive trip!
3. For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Of course, no underwater movie list can ever be complete without a James Bond movie (or two, or three…!). For Your Eyes Only includes up-close, underwater footage of Roger Moore in both Greece and the Bahamas. But you might not have known that true to good old 1980s filming techniques, most of the scenes were actually filmed on a soundstage, with special effects added later to give the impression of water moving around them.
4. Thunderball (1965)
Turning back the James Bond clock to the nineteen sixties when Sean Connery was the man of the moment is Thunderball. In this Bond classic, Connery dives with sharks in the Bahamas. During filming, clear plastic panels were placed in the water to separate the actor from the sharks. But, behind the scenes, this didn’t work as intended, and the sharks, being the intelligent species that they are, soon found their way around the panels and were swimming up to the cast – of course, aside from the odd fright, everyone lived to tell the tale.
5. Men of Honour (2000)
This Oscar-winning under-the-sea movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr. was a box office hit. Gooding plays Carl Brashear, the U.S. Navy’s first African-American Master Diver. Both discouraged and driven by his instructor (Robert De Niro), Brashear overcomes the institutional racism that was commonplace in the 1940s and his incomplete education to become an operational diver in the Navy. A feel-good movie with a message – and of course, you might want to have tissues on hand for the multiple tear-jerking moments in this scuba flick!
6. The Deep (1977)
This seventies hit movie was based on a novel by Peter Benchley and follows a vacationing couple who stumble upon some mysterious artifacts while wreck diving off Bermuda. It is rumored that the making of The Deep required 9,985 dives, 10,870 hours underwater, and 1 million cubic feet of compressed air – which, if nothing else, definitely puts it in the record books!
7. The Abyss (1989)
Aliens and deep sea diving rolled into one by James Cameron – what’s not to love about that? Did you know that James Cameron has a passion for the ocean, is an avid scuba diver himself, and was the third person ever to dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench? In The Abyss, a US nuclear submarine sinks near a massive underwater trench after encountering a mystical underwater entity. If the storyline doesn’t wow you, then the amazing special effects still make this deep sea movie a worthwhile watch!
8. The Big Blue (1988)
Released in Europe as Le Grand Bleu, the storyline is around two lifelong friends who grow up to be freediving rivals in the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of the best marine movies to whisk you away to some of Europe’s most impressive tropical locations, and the dolphin scenes are bound to brighten your day!
9. Sanctum (2011)
Based on real-life experience, Sanctum is a cave diving thriller produced by Jim Cameron. This is one that will have you glued to the screen, however, this tense and gripping movie may not be suitable for those who are claustrophobic or planning to take their PADI Open Water Diver certification.
10. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954)
Despite numerous remakes over the years, the original Walt Disney Productions version is an all-time classic when it comes to deep ocean movies. From scenes of battling with giant squid to Nautilus divers scouring the ocean floor for sea life to help feed the crew, it’s bound to keep you entertained – which also explains why it won two Academy Awards and has become a timeless classic!
11. Open Water (2004)
Open Water is the story of two people being left behind in the open ocean by their dive boat. As expected, sharks eventually appear, and tensions rise as the couple’s holiday rapidly takes a nosedive. Very watchable but probably not one of the best ocean movies for new divers who are about to embark on their first boat diving experience!
12. Dark Tide (2011)
Halle Berry stars as a “Shark Whisperer” who is haunted by her memories following a shark attack – which she inevitably has to overcome and win the day. This is not one of Halle Berry’s most famous movies, and it didn’t have a big impact at the box office, but it’s still very watchable.
13. Fool’s Gold (2008)
A must-watch scuba movie for Matthew McConaughey fans, filmed in beautiful Australia. McConaughey’s character is a deep-sea treasure hunter who rekindles his relationship with his estranged wife Kate Hudson, during a quest to find a Spanish shipwreck full of treasure. This is great family entertainment, despite the questionable diving techniques, and the smattering of charm and humour makes for easy and entertaining watching for all ages.
14. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Deep Blue Sea stars Samuel L. Jackson, whose character takes on genetically modified sharks at an isolated research facility from which the sharks are trying to escape into the open ocean. This one obviously packs both action and suspense as Samuel L. Jackson fights his way to victory over these fishy friends.
15. Finding Nemo (2003)
It’s impossible to be a scuba diver and not have some affinity with this movie. The fish characters brilliantly display real-life characteristics which have been transplanted into their personalities. Perfect family entertainment and equally ideal for teaching kids some fish ID skills, it’s considered one of the best-animated ocean movies by divers and non-divers alike!
16. Sphere (1998)
Sphere is another Samuel L. Jackson deep sea movie that also stars Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone as a crack team of scientists. The team is sent to investigate a 300-year-old spaceship 1,000 feet/304 meters underwater, which subsequently turns out to be an American craft, presumably from the future, sent back through time after a mission through space. The movie is based on a novel by Michael Crichton, and with an all-star cast, it’s certainly worth a watch.
17. Aquaman (2018)
Following years of waiting for an Aquaman movie, this did everything expected of it – non-stop action and adventure which spans the vast underwater world of the seven seas. The storyline is a rather predictable superhero affair, but what’s not to love about that? Definitely one to include in any scuba diving binge-watching session!
18. The Cave (2005)
While on a dig in a Romanian forest, a group of scientists finds a huge abbey built over the entrance to a network of caves. They hire a team of divers who are armed with new high-tech scuba gear (essentially a modified rebreather) that allows them to stay underwater for a full 24 hours. They soon discover they are not alone, as scary creatures make their presence known.
19. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
Known for his characters’ crazy stunts, which he often performs himself, Tom Cruise learned freediving skills to prepare himself for making this MI movie. As a result, Cruise reportedly became a very competent freediver, achieving static breath holds of six minutes – very impressive after just two months of training!
20. Jaws (1975)
You can’t talk about the best ocean movies without also mentioning the famous Jaws franchise. Despite there not being much scuba-related content, this movie forever changed the perception of sharks for many people. This is often cited as one of the most groundbreaking motion pictures of all time but undeniably contributed to the image of sharks as man-eaters worldwide.
21. Titanic (1997)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, there is no scuba diving, but some of cinema’s most memorable underwater scenes. James Cameron admitted he made the movie only so he could dive the Titanic himself – which he did, using the Mir submersibles and a Russian exploration vessel. The details contained in the movie are reportedly all accurate portrayals of the real vessel (even down to the crockery used in the restaurant), and when combined with Hollywood A-listers and a heart-wrenching love story, it’s a gripping movie and a real feat of film production.
22. The Perfect Storm (2000)
Based on true events from the 1991 Perfect Storm, this epic disaster movie follows a group of fishermen who get caught at sea during the worst possible conditions. Featuring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, the film received mixed reviews but is still worth a watch so you can decide for yourself.
23. The Little Mermaid (1989)
This classic Disney musical tells the story of Ariel, a rebellious mermaid who is fascinated by the world above the surface, but much to the disapproval of her father – King Triton. Following a deal with an evil sea witch, Ariel meets (and falls in love with) a real human prince. It’s undeniably one of the original and best underwater movies for kids (and adults if you haven’t seen it yet!)
24. The Hunt for Red October (1990)
One of the best ocean movies to watch if you love a good spy thriller and a tense adaption of Tom Clancy’s acclaimed 1984 novel. Sean Connery stars as a Soviet nuclear submarine commander heading for the US while the CIA’s Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) tries to anticipate his next moves.
25. Life of Pi (2012)
Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning adaption is a survival tale of faith and friendship. The story follows the teenage boy ‘Pi’ and a Bengal tiger stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days. Blending tragedy, philosophy, and stunning visuals, it’s an unmissable, refreshing, thought-provoking alternative to the usual disaster-themed or scary ocean movies.
Have you got your popcorn ready? After you’ve binge-watched all the best ocean movies that you can, why not get started on your scuba diving certification?
It’s as easy as taking an online course, visiting your local dive center to practice in confined water and then diving into open waters, like those portrayed in these films, to finish off your certification.
And, if you’re inspired to create your own movies about the ocean, the PADI Underwater Videographer course is a great way to get started with your lights, camera, and action!