This list contains a wide variety of movies about sailing and the sea. The topics range from movies suitable to all ages to some more mature themes. So this list contains 'spoiler' info to help you determine suitability of each movie for your child. The plot info noted below is mostly from the IMDb, Internet Movie Database. I've added personal thoughts under the "Clif-notes". All of the movies listed here are "good" in one way or another but of course final judgment is up to you.
Some of these movies are available for free from the Olathe Library or Johnson County Public Library system. I've tried to note those sources below.
I hope you find this list useful!
Email or call Clifton for more info at...
Cl Ph- 913-220-5177
Olathe Parks; Evening Sailing Adventure!
Good Movies About Sailing,
Sailing Ships, & Pirate Adventures!
Characters include adults and children. Age appropriateness thoughts below
(Compiled info for parents)
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Movies About Modern-day Sailing
Captain Ron (Comedy. All ages.) (©1992) - (Best movie to start with!)
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ A family in Chicago inherits a run-down yacht, formerly owned by Clark Gable. They decide to sail it, dry rot and all, from the island of Saint Pomme de Terre to Miami. They sail with the assistance of Captain Ron and their lives will never be the same again.
Clif-note ~ Fun family movie. While Dad is leading the way on this voyage, in the children's eyes at the beginning of the movie, father is a looser. But in the end, the voyage bonds the family; parents and children, sister and brother, and the infamous Captain Ron moves on to his own adventures. Some mild sexual content (husband and wife in humorous shower scene. Captain Ron's escapades).
The Dove (Adventure. Romance. True story. All ages.) (©1974)
Clif-note ~ In the late 1960s a 16 year old boy, Robin Lee Graham, sailed around the world. Alone. Not something that one would see happen today, or expect even then. The first leg of his voyage was from California to the islands of the South Seas. There he met an American gal who had also been making her way around the world. They fell in love. Dilemma; how can he continue his solo voyage and be together too? They did. They married and as you can see in the OPSC breezeway they are still happily married today. National Geographic wrote three major articles about the three legs of Graham's voyage. Graham wrote a book and Hollywood produced this movie.
White Squall with Jeff Bridges (True story. Adventure. Drama. Realistic. (Olathe Lib via JoCoLibrary)
Challenging movie; tragic but good ending. Teens & up. (©1996)
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ White Squall is the true story of a ship school called the Albatross. The school is run by the captain, Christopher "Skipper" Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) and his wife, Dr. Alice Sheldon (Caroline Goodall). In the of 1960s, the couple took aboard eight teenage boys from around the country for eight months of learning how to sail, be a crew, and respect one another. The crew goes through hard times and more laid-back times, but they must come together when a freak storm gets them in trouble in the middle of the ocean.
Clif-Note ~ Excellent sailing movie and movie about the camaraderie that develops between crew members ("Where we go one, we go all!") and the self discipline needed for a world voyage. The phrase "White Squall" refers not just to the storm at the end of the movie, but the squalls these young boys go through in Life. Note: This is a powerful movie about sailing and about coming of age. Parents may want to watch this movie first. Being a realistic depiction of teen boys there are 'locker-room' discussions about sex and other topics parents may want to review and consider before showing to kids. It is a very good movie. Wonderful real filming of the sailing schooner. The movie has somewhat of a sad and tragic ending because one of the main characters drowns when at the end of they movie they are hit by the white squall. Don't let the Hollywood drama of this film scare you or your kids about sailing. See also the Documentary section of this list; Irving Johnson who also sailed with young people, boys and girls, around the world; not once, but seven times!
Pirate Adventures! Arggg!
Shipwrecked (Disney. Younger ages & up.) (Adventure. Pirates.) (©1990)
Clif-note ~ Fun family pirate movie. Adventure. Two main children characters; a boy (Norwegian character) and a girl (English). Boy goes to sea to save the family farm.
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ Based on the novel Haakon Haakonsen, Shipwrecked is a family film about a cabin boy (Stian Smestad) whose ship is hit by a hurricane just before it is about to be ambushed by pirates. The boy and his stowaway friend, Mary, wash up on a South Seas island which happens to be where the pirates' treasure is buried. Soon, the pirates--led by Lieutenant Merrick (Gabriel Byrne)--arrive at the island with hopes of reclaiming their treasure, and the boy decides to construct a series of elaborate booby traps to prevent them from reaching the booty.
Treasure Island Disney's (1950) is one of several movie versions. Based on Robert Louis Stephens' classic novel. Charlton Heston also made a good version for TV (1990) except the boy actor was too old for Stephen's Jim Hawkins character. (Trivia; Heston's son wrote the screenplay for the TV version. It's a very good version.) Jackie Cooper played Jim Hawkins in the 1934 B&W film version. Versions should be available from video stores.
Clif-note ~ The most classic of pirate movies complete with a pirate parrot! Main character is a young boy, Jim Hawkins. This movie coined the pirate phrase, "Argggg!" Unfortunately, no primary female characters.
Plot Summery ~ The main characters become enchanted by the idea of locating treasure buried by Captain Flint after the young Jim Hawkins finds the map to Treasure Island. With the help of Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey they charter a sailing voyage to a Caribbean island. Unfortunately, a large number of Flint's old pirate crew are aboard the ship, including Long John Silver.
Return to Treasure Island a.k.a. Long John Silver's Return to Treasure Island a.k.a. Long John Silver (Adventure, Pirate.) Disney (©1954)
Clif-note ~ With Robert Newton back as Long John Silver. Jim Hawkins is back but played by another young actor. More, "Argggg!" talk.
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ After the Treasure Island adventure, Long John Silver turns up on a British Caribbean island, where he hears that rival pirate Mendoza has taken the ship carrying the governor's daughter...and his young friend Jim Hawkins. Naturally, there's more to his rescue plan than meets the eye; he hopes to get a new ship and go back for more treasure.
Pirates of the Caribbean- The Curse of the Black Pearl (All ages ) (©2003) (Olathe Library)
Clif-note ~ Fun family movie. One of my favorite pirate movies, but not the most realistic being a pirate ghost story and flame-exploding cannon balls. It's still great!
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ After the Governor's daughter, Elizabeth Swann, is kidnapped by the Pirate Captain Barbossa, Elizabeth's childhood friend Will Turner must team up with rogue pirate Jack Sparrow to save her. Little do they know that these pirates are cursed. Forced to exist between living and dead, and only revealing their skeleton forms in the moonlight, the pirates intend to use Elizabeth's blood and necklace (a part of their curse) to return to their normal state.
Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Man's Chest (©2006)
Clif-note ~ Another pirate ghost story. I liked the first one much better.
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ Once again thrown into the world of the supernatural, Captain Jack Sparrow finds out that he owes a blood debt to the legendary Davey Jones, Captain of the ghostly Flying Dutchman. With time running out, Jack must find a way out of his debt or else be doomed to eternal damnation and servitude in the afterlife. And as if this weren't enough, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are arrested and sentenced to death unless Will can get Lord Beckett Jack's compass, who are forced to join Jack on yet another misadventure.
Cutthroat Island (Pirate adventure Woman pirate captain. PG.) (©1995) (Olathe Lib via JoCoLibrary)
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ Morgan Adams (Genna Davis) and her learned slave, William Shaw (Matthew Modine), are on a quest to recover the three portions of a treasure map. The treasure is hidden on a mysterious Cutthroat Island. Unfortunately, the final portion is held by her murderous uncle, Dog Brown. Her crew is skeptical of her leadership abilities, so she must complete her quest before they mutiny against her. This is made more difficult by the efforts of the British Royal Navy from Jamaica to end her piratical carrier. On her ship Morning Star Morgan begins her voyage to Cutthroat Island.
Clif-note ~ Fun pirate movie with an interesting twist - the pirate captain is a woman. This is good in that there were a number of woman pirates, but being women, little is recorded in the history books about them. This movie is an adventure, humor, PG. Not real realistic (many flame-exploding cannon balls), but more realistic than the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (which are pirate ghost stories). Sexual content; a number of sexual references but no skin.
Captain Blood with Errol Flynn (Action. Adven. Romance.) (©1935, B&W) (Olathe Lib via JoCoLibrary)
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ The quintessential swashbuckler. Irish doctor Peter Blood is wrongly sentenced to deportation and slavery to the Caribbean. There he amuses himself with insults from Olivia de Havilland's character. He plans an escape and now seeking vengeance forms an alliance with the French buccaneer Rathbone. However during their glorious piracy they capture de Havilland, and Flynn's feelings are betrayed when he challenges Rathbone over her.
Clif-note ~ Pirate movie with one of the most famous swashbucklers of all, Errol Flynn. Being a 1935 movie, sexual content is nil. Realistic pirate movie for its period. Follows historical events of the period.
Captain Kidd with Charles Laughton & Randolph Scott (Action. Adventure. Romance.) (©1945, B&W (Black & white film))
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ In this unhistorical account, Capt. William Kidd is already a clever, ruthless pirate when, in 1699, he tricks the king into commissioning him as escort for a treasure ship from India. He enlists a crew of pardoned cutthroats...and Orange Povey, whom Kidd once abandoned on a reef and hoped never to see again. Of course, Kidd's intentions are treacherous. But there's more to gunner Adam Mercy than meets the eye.
Clif-note ~ Another classic pirate movie, complete with the treasure hidden in a cave. A fun, melodramatic, swashbuckling pirate film. A black and white movie in more than one way where good guys were good, and bad guys were bad. Sexual content is nil. (By the way, there really was a Captain Kidd, but not very much like this Hollywood version.)
Master and Commander (1805 navel war movie) (©2003) (Olathe Library)
Summery from IMDb movie website ~ The year is 1805. Europe has fallen to Napoleon, and only the Royal Navy stands in his way to total victory. Off the cost of South America, a new conflict is brewing. Captain Jack "Lucky Jack" Aubrey (Russell Crowe) of the Man-of-War HMS Surprise is under orders to sink or capture the French privateer Acheron, which has been deployed to the region. After seven weeks of uneventful sailing, the Acheron strikes first, all but crippling the Surprise in an engagement in which Aubrey realizes his enemy's ship is nautically superior to his own. Along with his close friend and confidant Stephan Maturin (Paul Bettany) who also happens to be the ship's surgeon, Aubrey is now faced with the choice of retreating to England and admitting defeat or remaining at the Acheron's mercy. Aubrey must now do the impossible if he is to survive, repair his ship, catch up to his enemy and defeat the Acheron--somehow.
Clif-note ~ English war movie. Most realistic ever. Role of young boys depicted in the background as powder monkeys who were the young 8-9 year-old boys who ran gunpowder cases to the guns during battle. Also, several young boys are depicted in more primary roles as midshipmen; young officers in training. This includes one boy loosing his arm as result of a battle, and later, his friend loosing his life. Good ship storm sequence also. One down-side of this film is that there are no female roles in this movie. This movie is based on two of Patrick O'Brian's novels. "Patrick O'Brian (1914 2000) was an English novelist and translator, best known for his AubreyMaturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centered on the friendship of Captain Jack Aubrey and an IrishCatalan physician, naturalist and intelligence agent, Stephen Maturin." (From Wikipedia)
(Several titles) H.M.S Defiant a.k.a. Damn the Defiant (©1962, color)
Plot Summery from IMDb movie website ~ Defiant's crew is part of a fleet-wide movement to present a petition of grievances to the Admiralty. Violence must be no part of it. The continual sadism of Defiant's first officer makes this difficult, and when the captain is disabled, the chance for violence increases.
Clif-note ~ English war movie of the 1790s. Very realistic movie. Mutiny-like event occurs. Main characters includes a nine year-old boy; the captain's son. Some of the conflict revolves around him. (Lead actor, Alec Guinness, went on to Star Wars fame as Obi-Wan Kenobi. In this movie he is equally personable, and in this movie too refuses to bend his strict personal code, here even at the expense of his son's well being.)
Documentary Videos About Sailors & Sailing
The following are documentary films I'm requesting the Olathe Library to make available. Perhaps you have come across them from other sources. Two, Tall ship: High Sea Adventure, and The Clippers are already available via JoCoLibrary, I have three from this list on video tape, in poor quality, recorded from TV broadcast.
Irving Johnson: High Seas Adventurer (National Geographic Society ©1995)
Clif-note ~ In the 1920s the sailing era was coming to an end. The last of the ocean-crossing sailing ships, the windjammers, were being used primarily to haul grain from Australia to England. A young man in New England, Irving Johnson, wanted to go to sea aboard one of these, and film the voyage, not only from deck, but from 300 feet up in the rigging!
This voyage was only a beginning for Johnson. He soon had a crewman's position aboard a yacht, sailing across the Atlantic. There he met a gal, fell in love, and the made plans for more ocean sailing. But they didn't want to do this with just any crew. They wanted to sail with a crew of young people, boys and girls. They found a crew and sailed around the world. When they got back, they found another crew and sailed around the world again. And they did this again and again, a total of seven times, always with a crew of young people. They produced many documentaries, several for National Geographic. This documentary is about the lives of Irving and his wife, Electa, and the amazing and beautiful movies they made of their voyages.
Yankee Sails Across Europe (National Geographic Society, 1967)
Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee (National Geographic Society, 1968)
Irving Johnson: High Seas Adventurer (National Geographic Society, 1985)
Around Cape Horn (Mystic Seaport, 1985)(from original 16 mm footage shot by Irving Johnson, 1929)
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The Danmark (©19xx)
Clif-note ~ In a modern world of high-horsepower commercial ships, many people still believe that the only way for men and women to learn to be an officer aboard one of these powerful ships is to first have experience under sail. Since ships are still lost at sea even with high-powered ships, the belief is that only under sail can a person come to truly understand the forces of wind and waves. Several countries use sailing ships some 200-feet long and masts 200-feet tall to train their future officers. This documentary, introduced by experienced sailor and journalist Walter Cronkite, is about the Dutch sail training vessel, the Danmark. The documentary follows several of the young cadets, boys and girls, on one such training voyage, which leads them to the U.S. and back, across storm-tossed seas.
Tall ship: High Sea Adventure [videorecording] (Series: World of Discovery © 1993) (Olathe Lib via JoCoLibrary)
Narrated by: Jason Robards.
A later documentary about the Dutch training ship, the Danmark. Also very well done and interesting. Shows more of young female cadets as 'crewmen'.
The Clippers [videorecording] (©1996 color & B&W) (Olathe Lib via JoCoLibrary)
Narrated by Markham, Monte.
Summary from web: See the magnificent clipper ships that were built for speed to transport people and merchandise to and from the United States. Discover what went into the design and construction of these large merchant ships. Learn more about the shipmasters and the sailors that worked for them. With its sails fully set the sight of a clipper ship was and still is a sight to thrill the soul. This program takes you on a fascinating journey back in time and tracks the history of the United States and the clipper ships.
Great Ships: Clippers [videorecording] (©1991 History Channel)
Narrated by Markham, Monte.
Summary from web:
They were as graceful as clouds, as majestic as cathedrals. But to the men who built and sailed them, the ultimate sailing ship was designed for just one thing: speed. The great clipper ships of the nineteenth century were masterpieces of the shipbuilder's art. Called "moonrakers" and "skyscrapers" for their acres of towering canvas, they were built to thrive in the sea's most fearsome gales.
Explore the complete story of the clippers, from the revolutionary Anne McKim and the Hurricane to the Champion of the Seas, whose astonishing one-day speed record still stands today. Spectacular computer simulations bring the great clipper voyages and rivalries to life including the legendary race between Flying Cloud and Challenge. Walk the decks of the few clipper ships remaining for an up-close look at these incredible vessels, and probe their remarkable legacy with renowned maritime experts.
The Sailing Collection (©1991 History Channel)
Summary from web: For centuries, the world's great sailing ships embodied adventure. They were the key to vast riches, fame, and world power. Set sail on an exciting and informative look at three ships that made history. See dramatic re-creations and sophisticated 3D computer simulations of galleons loaded with treasure, whalers pursuing their mighty prey, and clippers cutting across the open sea. Experience the danger and romance of their voyages, their battles and their races across the seas through archival footage and colorful sailing lore. Tour modern replicas of these history-making vessels, and meet the innovators who built them and the brave men who took them to sea. It's the definitive examination of the sailing vessels that transformed the world.
The Galleons (©1991 History Channel)
Summary from web: They were mighty floating castles armed fortresses whose holds were stuffed with spices, silks and New World gold. Used as explorers, treasure haulers and warships, galleons were the workhorses of the Age of Discovery. Their construction was a triumph of technology for Spain, then the world's most powerful nation. But when Sir Frances Drake began plundering Spanish ships with his faster race-built galleons, the stage was set for one of the greatest naval struggles in history. This fascinating program tells the complete story of the rugged galleon, from its origins in the Crusades to its pivotal role in settling the Americas. Dramatic recreations and computer simulations bring to life the dangerous world of sea dogs and freebooters. And expert interviews introduce the triumphs and innovations that made galleons the greatest ships of the Old World.
Email or call Clifton for more info at...
Cl Ph- 913-220-5177