There aren’t that many movies that incorporate diving into the plot, and even fewer that are much good. I assume that’s because of the difficulties involved shooting the scenes, keeping stars safe, and giving them the glamorous screen time they seem to crave. In no particular order, below are seven scuba diving movies that seemed to hit the mark in some way, either realistically, humorously, or Bond-ly. (I made a new word!)
“Thunderball” – You can’t go wrong with Sean Connery playing James Bond. It may be crazy; it may be unrealistic, but it’s James Bond so that’s okay. This movie has all of the proper elements – sharks, treasure, and a woman using a turtle as a propulsion device. Okay, so that last one was a little odd, but entertaining nonetheless. Fire up “Never Say Never Again“ to see the remake of it, with a slightly older – but no less dashing – Sean Connery, still in the lead.
“Men of Honor” – This 2000 movie is based on the true story of the first African-American Master Diver in the U.S. Navy. Set from 1948 onward, it gives viewers a peek at old-timey dive equipment and will make you nostalgic for the good old days when diving required amazing feats of strength. The helmets used in the film are commercial helmets with larger faceplates so the actor’s faces are more visible. Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the starring role and Robert De Niro is his Master Chief in this tale of facing the challenges of racism and the underwater world.
“The Deep” – In the first five minutes of this 1977 movie you see Jacqueline Bisset scuba diving in only a white t-shirt and bikini bottoms, wearing what appear to be gardening gloves. If you can get past the feeling that the movie seems to be focused mostly on Bisset’s chest, you can admire the underwater cinematography, which is actually pretty good. Filming took nearly 9,000 dives and tens of thousands of hours to complete. Nick Nolte stars as Bisset’s boyfriend and Louis Gossett, Jr. stars as the villain. The plot hinges on Nolte and Bisset doing something most scuba divers dream of: finding a lost wreck that contains treasure.
“Sanctum” – Inspired by the true story of 13 cave divers trapped in an Australian cave system, this 2011 movie contains the typical teenage-son-doesn’t-respect-dad plotline along with the fact that a team of cave divers set up a camp inside a cave system right before a cyclone strikes, flooding the caves. The movie is fairly action-packed and tugs at the emotions in certain scenes. Sadly, one of the stunt divers in the film actually died in the same cave system the story revolves around, the same year the movie was released.
“Leviathan” – This 1989 movie has the jackpot of plot elements — writers weren’t sure which one to focus on, so they just adapted all of them. Start with a deep-sea mining operation, add an experiment gone wrong, throw in a storm that prevents evacuation and you have the makings of an epic underwater tale. An alien-esque mutant tries to quench its blood-thirst on an unsuspecting and ever-dwindling diving crew, who attempt to survive until rescuers arrive. And at the end there’s a shark attack, because there has to be a shark attack, right?
“Fools Gold” – This fun movie from 2008 about treasure hunting on an ancient, long-lost wreck features an all-star cast, including Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. The couple takes to the open sea to find a treasure-laden wreck while dealing with their relationship issues. What could go wrong? Some fantastical elements are included of course, such as the leading man getting blown out of the water. But as with most comedies, such things are not to be taken seriously. When you see the leading lady uncover the bell on a night dive, we guarantee it will make you want to start hitting the books and looking at old sea charts to find your own.
“Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” – Bill Murray in a red wool cap, a mythical jaguar shark that eats someone, and the whole thing poking a little fun at Jacques-Yves Cousteau — all a great set up for this humorous, quirky 2004 movie directed by the much-admired Wes Anderson. While not meant to be taken seriously, the movie is about scuba diving and funny to boot, so how could it be left off the list? Bill Murray actually got certified while filming, and anything that gets more people diving has got to be worth it.
What are your favorite scuba movies? Did we leave any off the list? Let us know!