Most of the globe is covered in water. List of best lost at sea and shipwrecked movies explains why that’s a scary fact to contemplate.
Chrissy Stockton is the author.
The vast majority of the planet’s surface is covered by water. Over three-quarters of Earth’s surface could just as well be another planet, given that no human has ever survived by treading water, at least not for long. The vastness of the deep ocean fills us with dread because we are a species that thrives on control, and the ocean represents the ultimate loss of that control.
Because, like many great horror films, movies about being shipwrecked or stranded at sea show that true fear is born from something we cannot control or fully understand. When stranded on a remote island or at sea, these films feature both fictional narratives and real-life accounts of people whose lives are upended by the sea’s wild whims, as depicted in these films..
To name just a few, Disney has played a major part in the shipwreck genre, with films like Treasure Island and The Little Mermaid both featuring shipwrecked characters.
1. The Tarzan Series (1932 – 1942)
As a child, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes exposed readers to the story of a British aristocrat’s kid who was abandoned on an island with his family and died at the hands of the elements and local wildlife. Tarzan was raised by apes as a child. After Tarzan’s family was marooned for twenty years, a boating party with a young girl named Jane Porter was marooned in the same rainforest area as Tarzan. To Jane, living in the forest is more appealing than living in a modern society.
Johnny Weissmuller, a former Olympic gold medalist in the pool, would play Tarzan in 12 films between 1932 and 1947. In Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan and His Mate (1934), Tarzan Escapes (1936), Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939), and Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (1941), he starred alongside Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane Parker, who played Tarzan’s love interest. Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) was the final film in the Tarzan series to convince the infatuated couple that the big city is not for them.
Full-length animated Tarzan films would be released by Disney in 1999, including Tarzan & Jane (2002), and Tarzan II (2004). (2005).
2. Lifeboat (1944)
Despite the fact that it was widely panned upon its initial release for being too sympathetic toward the Nazi character (Walter Slezak), since England and the United States were at war with Germany at the time, this is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser-known works that has garnered praise over the years.
The story revolves around a group of Americans who survive a German U-boat attack by banding together in a lifeboat, which is based on a story by John Steinbeck himself. After saving a Nazi who happened to be on board the U-boat that sank the American vessel, they find themselves in a moral bind.
The entire story takes place on a lifeboat, lending an air of helplessness to the proceedings.
3. Treasure Island (1950)
This is the first Walt Disney Productions film to include no animation at all, only live-action sequences and spoken. As they struggle to recover gold doubloons marked on a treasure map, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic 1883 novel, befriend a small boy named Jim Hawkins. The two form an unlikely alliance.
Stevenson’s novel has been made into four film adaptations. Treasure Island has been reworked at least fifty times, according to Wikipedia.
4. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
An 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss is the inspiration for this tale of a shipwrecked family. This is the sequel to RKO Pictures’ 1940 film adaptation of the novel.
While fleeing the Napoleonic Wars in an attempt to relocate to a colony in New Guinea, a Swiss family—parents and three sons—is ambushed by piracy and abandoned on an isolated island. However, despite their efforts to build a family treehouse, the boys’ horrific encounters with pirates continue unabated. TV Guide praised the film: “It’s a tongue-in-cheek movie that avoids the sappy sentiment of so many ‘family’ films and concentrates on sheer entertainment instead. As a result of the success of the film, Tobago became a popular tourist destination for many years following its release.
5. Attack of the Mushroom People (1963)
As Matango, a Japanese horror film based on a short tale by William H. Hodgson titled “The Voice in the Night,” a group of castaway yachtsmen are left on a remote island after ignoring all warnings to stay away from the island’s mutagenic mushrooms. Those who consume the addictive mushrooms will mutate into horrific creatures, and the film was nearly banned in Japan due to the mushroom people’s makeup resembling the bombing victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
6. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure, one of the most popular “disaster films” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, is based on a 1969 novel. On New Year’s Eve, an ocean liner is flipped over by a tsunami as everyone is celebrating in the main ballroom, bringing together five Oscar winners. As chance would have it, the party of daring explorers all happen to be prior Oscar winners. They try a rescue by scaling the ship’s hull and somehow cutting a hole in the vessel before it sinks. “The Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure received an Oscar for Best Original Song.
7. Terminal Island (1973)
This film, known in the UK as Knuckle Man, is set in a post-death sentence America. There is a new punishment for convicts who can’t be saved from the gas chamber: They are sent to Terminal Island, a prison island where they must battle other deadly criminals for survival. There is a civil war among the convicts that is based solely on gender. Several grass cottages, a goat, and what appears to be an excellent beauty parlor for the women are all on the island, according to Roger Ebert.
8. The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
Adapted from an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, this children’s adventure film depicts a German U-boat sinking a British ship and rescuing its crew members. Their journey takes them to Caprona, an Antarctic nightmare planet controlled by cavemen and dinosaurs, after they deviate from their intended path. ‘The special effects are unrealistic, as are the dialogue and performances,’ TV Guide states. The picture is still a lot of fun, though, despite everything.” The People That Time Forgot was released in 1976 as a sequel to this film.
9. The Blue Lagoon (1980)
This is the second film based on a 1903 novel about two youngsters who are marooned on a tropical island paradise but whose family members were slaughtered in the process. They discover strange feelings for one another as they reach adulthood together, safe from the island’s murderous savages on the other side. Christopher Atkins played the male lead and Brooke Shields played the female lead. Brooke Shields’ performance was panned for being wooden. As Roger Ebert put it, “the dumbest movie of the year” was The Blue Lagoon.
10. Lord of the Flies (1990)
For the second time in a half-century, the film adaptation of William Golding’s classic novel about schoolboys who find themselves isolated on an island has been released. It was the boys who were on board the plane when it went down in the ocean not far from a secluded island in the middle of the Pacific. In the end, they split into two warring factions, each led by a charismatic and powerful leader. For some reason, the boys decide to stake a pig’s head in the ground in order to scare away a “monster” in a cave they believe to be their plane’s pilot, but it turns out to be just that.
11. Shipwrecked (1990)
A strong storm separates a young Norwegian cabin lad from the rest of his crew, and he ends up trapped on a tropical island all by himself. To his horror, he discovers that several of his old shipmates were pirates and that one of them was posing as an officer in order to avoid murder charges. The child anticipates the arrival of his adversaries by laying traps for them in the style of Home Alone.
12. Cabin Boy (1994)
When his father invites him to travel to Hawaii on the Queen Catherine, surrealist comic Chris Elliott plays Nathaniel Mayweather, a spoilt rich “fine lad” who ends up on the filthy whore, a ship with a crew of crusty sea salts who rapidly develop an extreme loathing for him. An extended period of time spent in the water, while the crew members subjected him to various humorous punishments, culminated with his hallucination of an enormous talking cupcake who spat tobacco at him.
13. Titanic (1997)
When Titanic was released in 1912, it quickly became the most profitable picture of all time, only to be overtaken by Avatar, a follow-up to the Titanic story by Robert Cameron, which was released in 2012. With a variety of perspectives, it focuses on a young woman’s (Kate Winslet) and an artist’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) on-ship romance. Ben-Hur, which won 11 Oscars in 1959, and Titanic share the record for most wins by a single film. There is a cross section of existence that would be extinguished forever by the First World War among its passengers,” Roger Ebert stated. The iceberg was a metaphor for the twentieth century.
14. Castaway (2000)
Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee who is so diligent about time management that he is flown around the world to solve efficiency problems at individual FedEx operations. His FedEx jet crashes on a desolate island in the Pacific Ocean, where Hanks is entirely lonesome until he names the volleyball “Wilson” and begins conversing with it. The struggle to survive has changed him for the better, and by the time he is rescued, he is a better man for it.
15. The Return (2003)
It is difficult for two Russian boys who live with their mother to deal with the news that their father, who abandoned them 12 years ago, has returned and wants to reunite with them. In The Return (Russian Vozvrashcheniye), their father attempts to reestablish contact with the boys by sending them on a vacation to a distant island, where they will be tested to the limit. Vladimir Garin, the actor who played the older of the two boys in the film, later drowned in a similar manner to what happened to his character.
16. Life of Pi (2012)
For years, English-speaking bullies ridiculed Pi Patel’s birth name of “Piscene” for sounding too much like “pissing,” so the young writer decided to change it to Pi. When a freighter bound for Canada runs into a storm, a crew member has no choice but to abandon Pi alone in the lifeboat. Pi, on the other hand, has an unusual co-passenger on the lifeboat: a fearsome Bengal tiger with whom he will embark on an exhilarating and terrifying 227-day voyage across the sea.
17. All Is Lost (2013)
Filmmaker J. C. Chandor’s All Is Lost is the perfect ocean survival tale. If you’re a fan of one-character films, this one is for you. In addition, the film has garnered a great deal of praise from critics.
18. The Finest Hours (2016)
An oil tanker named Pendleton was split in half in 1952 during a violent off-shore storm off the coast of Massachusetts, and the scenario told in the film The Finest Hours is based on actual events. In a desperate attempt to locate the sinking ship, three sailors are forced to venture into a frigid and dark winter’s night. It’s “not terribly memorable, but substantially more exciting than you might imagine,” according to the Austin Chronicle review.
19. Adrift (2018)
Taking inspiration from an actual event, Adrift tells the story of a woman named Tami Ashcroft and her fiancé Richard Sharp who were hired to sail a yacht 4,000 miles from Tahiti to San Diego but ended up running into Hurricane Raymond in the middle of the Pacific, resulting in a head injury for Ashcroft and her having to steer the yacht 1,500 miles to Hawaii on her own. “It’s not only a narrative of an unbelievable achievement of survival,” wrote a RogerEbert.com critic. As a love story, it’s also a sledgehammer-like presentation. Aerial pictures of the little yacht surrounded by vast water are terrifying since the frame appears nearly existentially empty. “