If you’ve ever gone fishing, you’ve probably never realized what you’re after. This is what Henry David Thoreau said, and film makers tend to agree with him as well. It’s not uncommon to see the sport of fishing used as a setting for comedic dramas about everything from friendship to politics to love. Empire has selected ten of the best examples of each of these categories, as well as a few more.
1. A River Runs Through It
Robert MacLean’s autobiographical novella was the subject of a long-running feud between director Robert Redford and author Robert MacLean. The final product, with Brad Pitt in the role Redford would have played, was worth the effort. Cinematographer Philippe Rousellot’s elegiac and measured camerawork beautifully captures the importance of fly fishing as more than just a recreational activity for the film’s central characters. In addition, as a creative endeavor. Despite its age, this is still a go-to film for anglers.
2. Alamo Bay
Even though it was directed by Louis Malle and written by Alice Arlen (Silkwood), this powerful drama starring Ed Harris and Amy Madigan should be more well-known. It also features a memorable score by Ry Cooder. Blue-collar drama features Harris’ Vietnam veteran, who is concerned about Vietnamese immigrants encroaching on his small town’s fishing industry. However, this is hardly a right-wing, foot-stomping, send-em-back fest: it boils down to the KKK and immigrant fishermen. Based on events that occurred in the Gulf Coast in the early 1980s, it is a work of fiction.
3. Gone Fishin’
Two accident-prone friends who manage to go away for some calm fishing but leave a trail of havoc in their wake are the subject of Gone Fishin’. Lethal Weapon veterans Danny Glover and Joe Pesci are cast in the roles of the hapless team, and they provide the material greater performances than it probably deserves (although John Candy and Rick Moranis were earmarked but “unavailable”). Try to imagine Roger Murtaugh and Leo Getz without Martin Riggs for the weekend, and you’ll have the most fun that way.
A beautiful woman is caught in the nets of an Irish trawlerman, and Colin Farrell becomes entangled in the debate over whether she is a refugee or a mermaid (or “Selkie” in the local parlance). Warm and witty, Neil Jordan’s modern fairy tale has some of the best acting in the business.
5. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
Despite the fact that there isn’t a lot of actual fishing in this film, it’s still a fun political, satirical rom-com. The story of a sheikh who wishes to bring fly fishing to the deserts of western Asia was adapted by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), with Lasse Hallström directing the film. Even if you’ve never seen Kristin Scott Thomas’s performance from The Thick Of It, you should go see this movie since she’s a British government spin doctor.
6. The Perfect Storm
The first hour of this cinematic adaptation of Sebastian Junger’s best-selling novel is devoted to a somber portrayal of a struggling fishing hamlet. Of course, this is a Wolfgang Petersen production, so you should expect some serious spectacle. For our manly-man cast of George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg to be in such soggy predicaments is a testament to the power of the namesake meteorological phenomena.
7. Towed In A Hole
To avoid having to deal with suppliers, the Laurel & Hardy duo decide to go fishing themselves in this classic short. Buying a used boat as a fixer-upper is common. Needless to say, the project degenerates into an all-out war and the vessel is destroyed. Even so, that was a good concept, wasn’t it?
8. The Old Man And The Sea
Ernest Hemingway’s slim masterwork has been adapted for the big screen multiple times, including a 1990 Anthony Quinn miniseries and a stunning 1999 Aleksandr Petrov IMAX animation. However, we’ll go with John Sturges’ 1958 film adaption as our option. Fishing scenes are absent, and the film appears to have been shot in a tank instead of the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. However, Spencer Tracy’s outstanding one-man performance is a positive side effect. It appears that Hemingway himself deemed it worthy. You can have it.
9. Low & Clear
It has a lot in common with A River Runs Through It, the amazing documentary by Kahlil Hudson, in that it too focuses on the beauty of the American terrain and the bonds formed amongst fishermen. J.T. Van Zandt and Alex “Xenie” Hall, two friends at the film’s center, realize that they may be growing apart, and this is reflected in the film’s current setting, which includes the progressive eroding of the American West’s wilderness and the realization that they may be.
Not fishing per such, but definitely an attempt to catch a large one. Consequently, with a thunderous bang and a shower of shark flesh, Jaws rounds out our top ten.