ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

Ten of the best disaster movies set at sea

Ten of the best disaster movies set at sea

Ten of the best disaster movies set at sea

Since those huge white letters were first hoisted up that hill, Hollywood has had an obsession with maritime disaster - and the new trailer for Craig Gillespie's The Finest Hours looks to set to continue the damp craze.

The latest in a long list of danger-at-sea films, it tells the true story of the perilous 1952 rescue mission by the US Coastguard that saved dozens of lives.

Boasting impressive oceanic effects and suitably emotional dialogue, the Chris Pine-starring drama looks set to make waves at the cinema come 2016.

But The Finest Hours is just the latest in a wave (sorry) of films about beleaguered ship captains battling the elements, especially with the advent of realistic CGI giving directors the ability to cook up the perfect storm.

So how does it contend with the others? Let's have a look...

The Perfect Storm

Storm movies don't get more perfect than this. Based upon real events that saw the loss of a fishing boat and its entire crew in the so-called 'Perfect Storm' of 1991, this film doesn't pull any punches with its depiction of the crew's hopeless last hours inside the hurricane. 

Worth watching alone for that shot of the film's climactic wave.

Life of Pi

Not a disaster movie per se, but Life of Pi's defining moment is certainly the breathtaking shipwreck that sees the titular orphan stranded at sea with nothing for company but a hungry tiger.

At least the Germans seem to agree - the official German title of the film is Schiffbruch mit Tiger, or "Shipwreck With Tiger".

The Poseidon Adventure

Long before 2006's lukewarm remake, The Poseidon Adventure had reigned supreme as the king of all shipwreck movies. After the cruise liner he is on is overturned by a rogue wave, unconvincing vicar Gene Hackman has to save the passengers from certain death.

One of the classic all-star disaster movies that boast the likes of Earthquake and The Towering InfernoThe Poseidon Adventure makes up for what it lacks in Oscar material with hammy dialogue and painfully dated special effects.


It goes without saying that the, well, titanic scale of this film is something that Hollywood has been trying to top ever since.

Still the 2nd highest-grossing movie of all time, this seabound-romance-cum-disaster-epic is also the 2nd ever film we cried at - after Air Bud 2.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Before he butchered his credibility (and our ears) in Les Miserables, Russell Crowe was a certified badass - just take a look at his pistol-toting captain in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Crowe, somewhat unsurprisingly, plays both master and commander of a British warship during the Napoleonic wars - cue blasting cannons, raging storms and the most knuckle-biting amputation scene ever committed to the silver screen.

All is Lost

Featuring only one cast member, All Is Lost sees Robert Redford's yacht captain faring a one-man battle against a tropical storm.

It's a testament to Robert Redford that he can play an old lonely man in a raincoat, barely saying a word, and still be effortlessly cool.

K-19: The Widowmaker

With all the real-life tragedies at sea, it makes one wonder why we don't just stay on land. Harrison Ford stars as captain of the doomed submarine K-19, struggling to keep his crew alive after a radiation leak.

The film's title has been criticised, as the nickname 'Widowmaker' was actually dreamt up by movie execs and never used in real life. A producer has been since quoted as saying it was "one of their biggest mistakes".

White Squall

Another true story, White Squall follows a group of students and their captain as they battle the meteorological anomaly of the title, which is said to generate waves 20 feet high.

Although the tale it is based on is pretty impressive, White Squall isn't often included on the list of Ridley Scott's best. Mainly because it's quite rubbish.

In the Heart of the Sea

Although it hasn't been released yet, In The Heart of the Sea has already impressed us with Ron Howard at the helm and a cast including Chris Hemsworth and Cillian Murphy.

When a whaling ship is set adrift off the coast of New England, it's not just the elements that the crew have to brave - they'll also be facing off against the vengeful whale which inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Our money's on the whale.

Moby Dick

Of course if you fancy a blast from the past you could root for the original Moby Dick, where they decided to dismiss practical effect in favour of murdering real whales.

Anything for a good shot, eh?