10 Shipwreck Movies Will Make You Dread the Sea

Most of us head right down to the seaside when it’s time for a vacation. A dip in the ocean, relaxing on the beach, and getting some sun is what’s closest to our idea of a perfect vacation. And if you can add to it a ticket on a cruise liner or a luxurious few days on a yacht, the vacation seems all the better! But while many of us see the sea as a friendly element that refreshes our senses while still holding us in awe, what happens when things go wrong on the high seas and the seemingly beautiful ocean and its many unknown facets turn against us? Well as the movies on this list show you, all hell breaks loose! A shipwreck is probably the worst thing that can happen when you’re traversing the high seas, and while this list has a mix of movies that cover the scenes of a shipwreck — from encounters with creatures of the deep to downright bombings — what it does show is that how even vessels that seem magnificent and invincible can meet their end without warning.

In the Heart of the Sea

We’ve all heard about the story of Moby Dick but how many of us really know the one story that inspired it? Well, as it turns out, the story of Moby Dick began when a whaling ship called Essex sank to the bottom of the ocean in 1820. And while Herman Melville, in his 1851 novel Moby Dick used this story to reimagine his own, it was Nathaniel Philbrick who helped readers relive all that went down on the day of the sinking of Essex and the three months that the crew spent at sea, seeing their numbers dwindle with the perishing of many, in his work of non-fiction In the Heart of the Sea. Starring a great lineup of actors, from Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, and Cillian Murphy, to Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson, the movies revolves around the ill-fated crew’s decision to go on a whaling expedition and ignoring the warnings that a white whale was out there attacking whaling ships. As it turns out, the stories were all true and even Essex meets the same fate. Left to the mercy of the sea on smaller boats, the movie reveals further run-ins, the struggles of the crew, and even their reluctant surrender to cannibalism.


An extravagant virtual treat and the third film that attempted to capture the story of Paul Gallico’s The Poseidon Adventure, Poseidon is a survival thriller that follows two others on the same lines, The Poseidon Adventure of 1972, and an NBC movie the same name released only a year before the release of this one. The story revolves around the transatlantic crossing of a luxurious ocean liner, the RMS Poseidon, as a huge wave tosses the ship and capsizes it, killing many immediately. The ship is slowly sinking and the survivors have to fight their way out to remain alive and not go down with the humongous vessel that is now sure to call the ocean bed it’s grave. The ensuing sequences, enhanced by an excellent display of visual effects, are thrilling to the core. A visual treat from the moment it opens, Poseidon may have not have surpassed the expectations of its makers at the box office but it sure took audiences on a thrilling voyage!

Ghost Ship

Alright, so this one may not really qualify as a shipwreck movie but then what exactly do you call an abandoned ship that is now inhabited by evil? Well, we say this one’s worse than even shipwrecks! While there are innumerable ghost ships and boating vessels out there on the high seas, simply bobbing along the millions of miles of the ocean until they finally meet their graves at the bottom of the sea, Ghost Ship particularly tells the story of the MS Antonia Graza, a ship that witnesses the gory and gruesome death of its passengers and crew, with only one survivor. While this particular sequence may seem tragic to many, what transpires through the rest of the movie is what gets your heart racing. A salvage crew boards the ship and upon discovering boxes filled with gold bars realize they’ve stumbled across a treasure and attempt to take it back with them. Only, the sinister shadows lurking through the Graza have different plans. Thanks to its scary sequences, the movie was a hit at the box office, raking in a cool $68.3 million against the budget of $20 million. And although the critical review of the film will tell you otherwise, the movie is indeed a great watch, if only for its premise.

A Night to Remember

The sinking of the Titanic is probably the most infamous tragedy in shipwreck history and across time, there have been several literary and visual retellings of the story. While the more modern Titanic, the one that made Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio overnight global sensations, is easily the more popular one, there was also another film that proved to be quite popular with audiences — A Night to Remember. Hailed by critics as a work that is probably the closest in historical accuracy to the events that transpired during the sinking of the ocean liner on that fateful night 15 April 1912, A Night to Remember, despite its restricted budget and the lack of modern visual effects, proves to be quite the treat. Directed by Roy Ward Baker and based on the book by the same name written by Walter Lord, the film starred Kenneth Moore and was made in the UK.

Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor has gone down in history as one of the most heartwrenching episodes in US history and despite the several wars that have been fought between nations, this one proves to be a tale of destruction and death that few others can surpass. And while one can never forget the lives that were lost on that fateful day of December 7, 1941, there have been many attempts at bringing to audiences the events that transpired on this dark day in history through movies and documentaries. One such film that brought forth the tragedy through heartbreaking visuals was the romantic war drama Pearl Harbor, casting in the lead roles brilliant actors such as Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin, among others. With a running time of 183 minutes, a pretty long one by Hollywood standards, the film took us through the highs and lows of the main protagonists. But what stood out as one of the most heartbreaking sequences was the almost-real and tragedy-filled virtual representation of the attack on Pearl Harbor by aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Army. Noted as one of the most gripping sequences of all time, the wrecking of ships and destructive chaos in this one truly breaks our hearts.


Just like Pearl Harbor, Midway is yet another movie that portrays some gripping sequences, which while bringing to use the tragedy that war always unfolds in the lives of those out there on the battlefields as well as those at home, also brought forth some riveting visuals. Bringing to the screen the happenings surrounding the Battle of Midway, a naval battle that went down between American and Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater of World War II, the movie makes this list not just because it has so many shipwrecks that are caused as a result of aircraft attacks and attacks on the naval front but also because it is one of those few war movies that do complete justice to the tragedy of it all. The historical accuracy of the film received praise from several quarters, showcasing the deep research that went down into the making of the movie, and the fact that this was one of the most expensive independent movies of all time — made on a budget of $100 million — helped it make headlines in the industry too. The battle sequences in the movie are particularly noteworthy as is the storyline that carefully dissects and unfolds key events of the war.


A survival drama that has two souls in love fight their lives’ biggest battle of survival against the sea and all the challenges it brought during a particularly long and nasty hurricane season, Adrift is based on the book Red Sky at Mourning by Tami Oldham Ashcraft. The movie uncovers the events against the backdrop of Hurricane Raymond that hit the Pacific coast in 1983. The film, just like the book, is based on true events. Unfolding with a beautiful love story that has Tami Oldham, played by Shailene Woodley, and Richard Sharp, played by Sam Claflin, falling in love and undertaking an impromptu voyage from Tahiti to San Diego, California, to deliver a luxurious Trintella 44 yacht. It seems like the perfect start to their dreamy life together, and as the adventurous duo set sail, everything seems fine. After several days of smooth sailing, however, the yacht finds itself in the eye of Hurricane Raymond, and just like that, what was meant to be a dreamy voyage turns into a highly disastrous one. As the film takes us through the many emotions and struggles of the survivors, it is eventually revealed that every sequence that had Richard in it was only the figment of Tami’s imagination and nothing more. Heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, Adrift is one of the most poignant tales that retell a harrowing time at sea.

All is Lost

A survival drama film that has Robert Redford convincingly playing the role of a man lost at sea, All is Lost has quite a few quirky elements to it. For one, it is a film that has no one else but Robert in it, and secondly, since he is the only one in it, is almost void of any talks. All in all, there were only 51 English words spoken through the entirety of the film! And while these elements definitely add a lot more drama to the movie, what eventually stays with the audience is the absolute conviction with which Robert plays the role of a lonely yet courageous man who, against all odds, seems to have made it. Although the movie ends without really showing Robert’s character being rescued, the unimaginable challenges throughout the movie and one man’s conviction to beat them all are enough to let us know that he did indeed make that last swim towards the surface! Applauded for its ingenuity and bringing Robert his share of accolades and nominations — including a New York Film Critics Circle Award win in the Best Actor category — All is Lost remains a favorite.

The Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise

A fantasy-filled adventure that has no bounds in terms of imagination and swagger, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is on this list because if you count the number of shipwrecks this string of movies takes us through, no other movie on this list even comes close! From sea battles with cannons and gunpowder that result in the direct sinking of ships to mystical creatures rising from the depths of the ocean to bring down massive vessels, this franchise, which consists of five films — Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales — this franchise has dozens of dramatic sequences that thrills audiences and awes them with highly detailed visuals. When it isn’t Captain Jack Sparrow and his antics that lead to the destruction of massive ships from the yesteryears, it’s the piracy and adventurous pursuits of others in the film that results in the sinking of vessels. And of course, as we mentioned before, there are also those sea creatures! With loads of action and fun, this is one franchise that we don’t mind watching again and again for its many battles on the high seas!


A visual extravaganza that is to this day regarded as one of the most elaborate movies depicting the sinking of the ill-fated transatlantic ocean liner, Titanic is also one of the most successful movies ever, in terms of acclaim as well as earnings. However, not even the 2.02 billion dollars the movie collected at the box office nor the beautiful love story of Rose and Jack can hide the tragedy that is the sinking of this massive ship and the subsequent loss of lives. While the tragedy itself can never be erased from our minds, thanks to the immense attention the sinking of the ship continues to get even today, the highly realistic visual sequences in the film, especially of the sinking, cement these memories even further. And although there have been other tragedies at sea that have resulted in even more deaths than associated with the sinking of the Titanic, for several reasons, this particular tragedy is what helps us fathom the magnitude of a shipwreck and how it results in gruesome deaths for many.

Let Us Drop Anchor on This Ship, Shall We?

On the screen, shipwrecks awe us with the grandeur with which the scenes are immortalized and filmed with great precision, and this is why this list of 10 Shipwreck Movies Will Make You Dread the Sea is an entertaining one indeed. In real life, however, a shipwreck spells disaster and costs real lives.  Even so, as we wrap up this list, we pay homage to all those who lost their lives at sea. Crew or passenger, we truly hope the ocean does not devour any more people and give them a final resting place in its murky depths. And while the Titanic disaster is the first one that comes to mind when we think of losing lives at sea, here, we also remember all those lives who probably never even made a list.

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