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Underrated Adventure Movies About Trying To Survive On The High Seas

List RulesVote up the movies that show how dangerous the ocean can be.

Movies about boats at sea often manage to do the impossible: They're equal parts quiet psychological dramas and thrilling action films. There's nothing like the mixture of long, quiet, isolated hours at sea and fighting off a storm to add some variety to a film. And seeing how characters (and the actors who play them) handle both scenarios makes for some must-watch cinema. 

Ocean survival movies are especially interesting for boating fanatics seeking a glimpse at how others might handle their worst nightmare scenarios. Oftentimes, these seafaring films have an added element of intrigue in that they're based on real historical events. Some of these films are even based on actual firsthand accounts

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    Dead Calm (1989) is a different kind of ocean horror story. While many stories on the high seas feature the terror of being completely alone, Dead Calm focuses on the terror of being trapped with someone you can't trust. In the film, a couple, Rae and John (Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill), are out boating when they rescue a man named Hughie (Billy Zane). But after John leaves to explore Hughie's old boat, Hughie knocks out Rae and pilots their boat away without John. 

    After far too much panic-inducing time spent with Hughie, Rae fights him off, sedates him, and sends him away in a life raft. She rescues John, but before they can have a happily ever after, the pair have to fight off Hughie one more time. 

  • In The Finest Hours (2016), Bernie (played by Chris Pine) is a US Coast Guard crewman who is ready to marry his sweetheart, but first, he must complete a formality by requesting permission from his commanding officer. On the day of his request, everything goes wrong after a Coast Guard ship is caught in a cyclone, and Bernie must join the rescue mission by piloting a lifeboat. 

    One of the more interesting bits of boating in the film is how the captain of the sinking ship manages to avoid being completely submerged by piloting the ship on top of an underwater coral reef. Another impressive bit is when Bernie expertly times the cresting of waves to pilot his small ship over massive waves. In the end, Bernie manages to rescue 32 crewmen from the sinking ship. 

  • Surviving the wrath of the ocean is hard enough, let alone when one is engaged in a war at sea. In 2003's Master and Commander, Jack Aubrey (played by Russell Crowe) has to lead his ship, the HMS Surprise, against the far superior French vessel known as the Acheron

    The Surprise is trying to chase the Acheron when it becomes becalmed (stuck at sea due to a lack of wind) for a few days. This serves as a reminder that when one is at sea, no matter who they're battling, their biggest enemy is always the ocean itself. During that time, the crew becomes restless, and a crewmate ruled to be bad luck takes his own life. Eventually, the Surprise defeats the Acheron by posing as a whaling ship. 

    In a very favorable review, Empire magazine writes how successful the film was at portraying the isolation of the ocean: "The sense of isolation that [director Peter] Weir has explored in various forms throughout his distinguished career finds perhaps its fullest expression here, an entire floating world with not a woman to be found for a thousand miles." The review goes on to say that the film is in pursuit of "total realism" and that "in the best possible sense, Master and Commander is all at sea." 


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    Kon-Tiki (referring here to the 2012 historical drama, not the 1950 documentary of the same name) chronicles the real-life story of Thor Heyerdahl, a man on a mission to prove that people from South America settled in Polynesia in the pre-Columbian era. To prove this migration was possible, Heyerdahl constructed a boat using the technology that people in South America had at the time. Although he had no experience sailing and wasn't a swimmer, Heyerdahl attempted to use the raft to make the same journey the early South American people would have. 

    Heyerdahl and his crew spent three months aboard the raft, facing danger from storms and aquatic life. Yet his mission was successful, and he proved that the journey would have been possible. 


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