Shipwreck movies could be considered a sub-category of drama movies also closely related to the category of survival films, but they are a real independent cinematic vein, within which some have been made must see movie. The deep sea is dark and terrifyingly large, producing great primitive fears. This is why shipwreck movies have such appeal, as like all scary movies, they show that real fear arises from factors we can neither control nor fully know.
Filmmakers have long had a fascination with shipwreck: the incredible, towering walls of water, the deafening howl of the wind, the tragedy of that unpredictable moment when we’re sinking. Shipwreck movies, whether showing their main characters on remote islands or in the middle of the ocean with pirates, tornadoes and whales, include both fictional stories and real stories of people whose lives are caught up in the chaos of the great sea.
Shipwreck Movies to Watch
Here are the best movies about the shipwreck to see: great films, social phenomena, commercial successes or really strange films, strictly in chronological order.
Lifeboat is a survival movie of 1944 American direct by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a film based on a shipwreck story by John Steinbeck. In the cast Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix, along with Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn and Canada Lee. The film is set entirely on a lifeboat released from a torpedoed and sunk by a Nazi submarine travel vessel.
Hitchcock’s very first “limited setting” film, the others being Rope (1948), Dial M for Murder and Rear Window (both 1954), is the only film Hitchcock produced for 20th Century Fox. The film won 3 Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Original Story and Best Cinematography. Bankhead won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. Hugely questionable in its time for what many interpreted as a backup of a German submarine captain, Lifeboat is now viewed more positively and has been noted by a number of modern critics as one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films.
The story, based on a short story by John Steinbeck, involves a team of Americans overcoming a German submarine assault by gathering in a lifeboat together. They encounter an ethical problem after rescuing a Nazi who was on the U-boat that sank the American vessel. The film is set totally on the lifeboat, including a feeling of helpless claustrophobia in the dramatization.
A Night to Remember (1958)
It’s a movie docudrama based on Walter Lord’s 1955 publication of the same name. The film chronicles the shipwreck of the Titanic, which on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and subsequently sank in the morning hours of Monday April 15, 1912. Directed by Roy Ward Baker, the film stars by Kenneth More as the ship’s second mate Charles Lightoller and also features Michael Goodliffe, Laurence Naismith, Kenneth Griffith, David McCallum and Tucker McGuire. The film tells the story of the sinking, describing major events in a documentary style. It was one of the most expensive films ever made in Britain at the time.
The vessel gradually sinks after turning onto her side. We see the turmoil on board: people forcefully slide into the water, scream, children sob. This variation of the sinking Titanic lacks any romance, which makes the tragedy all the more moving.
Assault of the Mushroom People (1963)
It’s a film about shipwreck Japanese horror 1963 Ishirō Honda. The film stars Akira Kubo, Kumi Mizuno and Kenji Sahara. It is partly based on William Hope Hodgson’s short story “The Voice in the Night” and deals with a group of castaways on an island who come into contact with a type of mutagenic fungi.
Matango differs from other Honda films of the era in that it uses darker styles and includes a desolate setting. Upon the film’s release in Japan, it was nearly prohibited due to scenes depicting characters that looked like victims of the atomic battles of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Critical assessments typically discussed how the film differed from Honda’s other work, with its darker tone. Matango has indeed been called an “unidentified film”, except for connoisseurs of Asian cult cinema, fans of offbeat literature, and movie-goers on late-night TV. It is one of the most fascinating and strange films produced by Toho. It is a well-crafted work that parallels the sci-fi cult hit Invasion of the Body Snatchers from 1956, a timeless classic of Japan’s horror boom of the early 1960s.
Terminal Island (1973)
Terminal Island, released in UK theaters as Knuckle Men, is a action thriller 1973 American Stephanie Rothman. Includes early performances by Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley. It is a film treated to very severe reviews by critics and academics over the years but is now considered a cult film.
The film takes place in an America that has eliminated the death penalty. Rather than be eliminated in the concentration camp, the irredeemable inmates are sent to Terminal Island, where they can hold their own by fighting various other criminals on an island where all the most dangerous inmates are sent. A civil battle at one point breaks out between the condemned, and it is divided solely on the basis of gender.
The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
The Land That Time Forgot is a 1974 British-American dream film directed by Kevin Connor and written by Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn. based on the 1918 short story The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In the cast Doug McClure, John McEnery, Keith Barron, Susan Penhaligon, Anthony Ainley and Declan Mulholland. It is a film about the discovery of a secret world where prehistoric animals still exist.
A bottle with a manuscript inside is thrown into the sea. It moves to the coast of England, where a sailor finds the bottle and opens it to check the manuscript. Set in World War I, this travel film features a German submarine sinking a British ship and then taking its survivors aboard. Veering off course, they find themselves in the primitive land of Caprona, a nightmarish Antarctic world ruled by Neanderthals and dinosaurs.
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
It is a romance movie directed by Randal Kleiser from a screenplay written by Douglas Day Stewart based on the 1908 book of the same name by Henry De Vere Stacpoole. The film stars Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. The film tells the story of 2 boys marooned on a tropical island paradise in the South Pacific. Without the assistance or constraints of society, physical and psychological changes occur as they reach the age of puberty and fall in love.
From a cinematic point of view it is perhaps the worst film on this list, but it still became a commercial phenomenon and has remained in the memory of the public, especially a teenage audience in search of romantic thrills. It’s a ridiculously colorful depiction of how boys settle outside of society, and the film, while teasing an itchy charm, eschews sex scenes. It could have been intriguing if a serious effort had been made to explore what might actually happen to 2 little boys who are shipwrecked on a desert island. They live in a hut that looks like a honeymoon resort while the locals make human sacrifices on the other side of the island.
Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)
It is a horror film 1985 American independent Michael Stanley. In the cast Robert Nolfi, Julia Rust, Robert Lengyel, Lisa Pak and Frank Murgalo. The film centers on a group of survivors who wash up on the shores of a seemingly deserted island in the 1920s after their ship capsizes. While there, it gradually emerges that the island is home to a population of doll-like critters, who begin stalking and eliminating the survivors one by one.
The film was created from an idea by producer William Szlinsky, who approached Stanley with a possible scene for a film that included a boy’s face being gnawed away by acid. Feeling that this would make a great scene for a horror film, Stanley developed the concept of an island populated by a people of small doll-like monsters that would take out anyone who got there.
Excellent technique and charm from B-movie, the movie is entertaining and is a truly insane effort to make a monster movie on a low budget. It might seem boring to some viewers, however there are refreshingly weird moments to enjoy.
Lord of the Flies (1990)
Lord of the Flies is a 1990 American shipwreck movie directed by Harry Hook and starring Balthazar Getty, Chris Furrh, Danuel Pipoly and James Badge Dale. It was produced by Lewis M. Allen and written by Jay Presson Allen under the pseudonym “Sara Schiff”, based on the 1954 book Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. It is the second film adaptation of the book, after Lord of the Flies (1963). Many have criticized the method by which the filmmakers departed from the book. This is the second cinematic variation of William Golding’s timeless novel.
A plane carries young cadets who crash into the sea on a remote Pacific island. At one point they split into 2 warring groups when the leader of an intrigue convinces the others by force. The title describes a pig’s head that young boys position to avoid a cave monster.
Titanic is a 1997 American romantic disaster film directed, written, produced and co-edited by James Cameron. Incorporating both fictional and historical elements, it is based on accounts of the sinking of the Titanic and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of various social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during her ill-fated first voyage. In the cast Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Victor Garber and Bill Paxton.
Cameron’s motivation for the film came from his fascination with shipwrecks; he felt that a love story sprinkled with human loss would be important in communicating the psychological effect of the catastrophe. Scale plans, computer-generated imagery and a restoration of the Titanic built at Baja Studios were used to recreate the sinking. It was the most expensive film ever made at the time, with a production budget of $200 million. The plot focuses on the love story between a rich teenager (Kate Winslet) and a poor musician (Leonardo DiCaprio) whom she meets on the ship. Titanic won 11 Oscars like 1959’s Ben-Hur Roger Ebert claimed.
Cast Away (2000)
Cast Away is a 2000 American drama castaway film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt and Nick Searcy. Hanks plays a FedEx shipping staff member who becomes castaway stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, and the plot focuses on his desperate efforts to survive.
Hanks is only about two-thirds film, consistently convincing even in this unlikely scenario, and captivates audiences with his eyes and body movement. The script of the film is rather banal, with pointless scenes and spoiled by a weak last act.
The Return (2003)
It is a 2003 Russian coming-of-age drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev from 2004. It tells the story of 2 young Russian boys whose dad unexpectedly comes home after 12 years of absence. He takes the kids on a vacation to a remote island on a lake that turns into an almost mythological proof of manhood. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, as well as the award for best first film ever. It garnered generally favorable reviews from critics. It is a puzzling and suspenseful thriller.
Two young Russian boys who live with their mom have to deal with the fact that their dad who abandoned them 12 years ago has come home and tries to bond with them. The father tries to reconnect with the boys by taking them on a vacation to a remote island to gauge their resilience and mend the relationship any way he can. In a frightening coincidence, actor Vladimir Garin, who played the older of both boys, later died in a way comparable to what befell his character in the film.
Life of Pi (2012)
Life of Pi is a 2012 shipwreck adventure film about a boy and a Bengal tiger in a lifeboat at the drifts in the ocean. Director Ang Lee about a young writer named Pi Patel begins with a cruise to Canada where Pi’s ship encounters a tornado. Pi finds himself with a strange shipmate on the lifeboat: a dangerous Bengal tiger who will share with him a frightening and thrilling journey of 227 days across the sea.
Triangle of Sadness (2022)
In Triangle of Sadness 2022, the movie shipwreck takes a ridiculous turn. The scene is set on a luxury cruise ship loaded with the rich: an Instagram influencer, a Russian billionaire, an application programmer and an elderly British couple. A tornado hits the yacht throughout dinner. As visitors eat oysters and caviar and drink Champagne, the tornado gets rowdy. The space rocks back and forth, glasses fall off tables, a cleaning trolley crashes into a wall surface.
Triangular of Sadness is a film that lets the patina of the rich caste fall before our eyes: the plot reminds some surrealist films by the master of cinema Luis Bunuel, but without having the thickness. We live in a world where inequality is rising, national policies are more disruptive than ever, the risk of a rapidly changing environment looms large. In the meantime, let’s experiment propaganda every day with our smartphones and through the mass media, making the world seem even more like a dystopia than a fact.