Top 5… Boating Disaster Movies

I’m off on a cruise tomorrow – only a short one, a family trip to celebrate my Dad’s retirement earlier this year – but as I am something of a level 5 pessimist/worst case scenario anticipator, all I can think about is all the films I’ve seen where unexpecting people come a cropper aboard some vessel or another. So what better way to rationalise my fears than by making a list of the five best films involving boating disasters of some kind or other.
5. The Perfect Storm
Go back and watch this film, and you’ll be shocked at how starry the cast has become. Alongside George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg as the New England fisherman captain and his friend caught in the mother of all storms, there’s John C. Reilly, William Fichtner and John Hawkes amongst the crew, and Karen Allen, Diane Lane, Bob Gunton, Christopher McDonald, Michael Ironside and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio waiting back home, fearfully watching the news reports and expecting the worst. Though the once-stellar special effects may now look a little dated, just watch Die Another Day directly afterwards to remind yourself of just how bad those waves could have been.
4. Deliverance
Much smaller boats this time, and fewer lives at risk as four men (John Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) head literally out of their depth as they attempt to paddle the Cahulawassee River whilst it’s still there. It’s been a while since I’ve watched this film because of the emotionally scarred and traumatised creature I became on my last viewing, but there’s no doubting the power of this film, as none of the men gets away from the river completely intact. Duelling Banjos was my ringtone for such a long time after watching this though.
3. The Poseidon Adventure
This is a film that’s pretty near the top of my list of Films That Should Be On The 1001 List. It’s the quintessential disaster movie, as Gene Hackman’s Reverend Scott leads a rag-tag band of survivors through the inverted bowels of an upturned ship in a desperate attempt to make it to the surface. The cast is suitably eclectic, featuring Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowell, Red Buttons and of course Ernest Borgnine, not to mention a minuscule role for Leslie Nielsen as the ship’s captain, and if I remember rightly there was not a single moment of boredom in this film. They truly don’t make them like this anymore (as shown by the 2006 remake directed by Wolfgang Petersen, of The Perfect Storm), and it’s the one film on this list that’s most likely to be recreated this weekend, as it’s a lavish cruise ship knocked asunder by a tidal wave, which isn’t unheard of.
2. Jaws
The only reason this isn’t number one, as it;s the best film on this list, is that the actual boating section only really takes place in the second half of the film. I’ve discussed my love of Jaws before, so I won’t repeat myself too much other than to say it’s phenomenal, and the effect this film has had not only on how films are made, but how they are marketed and released, is beyond comparison.
1. Titanic
Well what else was it going to be? Under Siege? I love Titanic, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Some of my non-film-obsessed friends are always shocked when I discuss how great a film it is, and that it’s directed was the same guy who made Terminator 1 & 2, but technically this is unsurprising when you consider the amount of groundbreaking effects that went into both works. Yes, the first half is a little slow at times, following Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet) as they fall in love yet are kept apart because she is posh and betrothed, and he is common and uncouth, and the ending has two infamous shout-at-the-screen what-are-you-doing moments (Rose floating on a piece of debris clearly big enough for two whilst Jack freezes in the water, old Rose throwing away the jewel that could quite easily set up her granddaughter for life), yet almost all of that second half, from the moment the ship and the iceberg have their little tussle in the Atlantic, to when the lifeboat comes and picks up the whistling Rose, is something I will always watch if I catch it on TV. The sheer scale of what is happening is so impressive and immersive, it’s impossible not to get lost.
Honourable mentions
A Night to Remember – Not quite Titanic, but a clear inspiration for a lot of it.
Donkey Punch – Four guys, three girls, experimental sex, a video tape and a flare gun. Who saw this ending in bloodshed?
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure – Michael Caine! That’s all I can remember about this film!
Under Siege – Gary Busey in drag somehow both elevated this film to greatness and leaves deep scars in my soul.
Haven’t Seen
Master and Commander
Lifeboat
Mutiny on the Bounty
The African Queen
Moby Dick
Das Boot
Open Water
And the worst…
Boat Trip
Narrowly beating out Speed 2: Cruise Control, this is the film that destroyed the career of the once promising Cuba Gooding Jr., and all but erased the memory of his Oscar winning performance in Jerry Maguire. Here he plays Jerry who, along with Horatio Sanz’s Nick, finds himself taking a cruise on a ‘gays only’ ocean liner. Hilarity ensues. Oh wait, no it doesn’t. Unless your idea of comedy is Gooding Jr. dressed up in drag, Sanz being stalked by an aggressive sun-tanning coach and Roger Moore playing camp. There’s horrendous homosexual stereotypes, and the best parts are cameos from the likes of Will Ferrell, Artie Lange, Bob Gunton and Richard Roundtree. Why I ever watched this film I’ll never know, but rest assured I won’t be doing it again.
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4 thoughts on “Top 5… Boating Disaster Movies

  1. Haha Under Seige was alright, but yeah I agree on Titanic taking top spot! Have you seen Hunt For Red October? There's another similar submarine film starring Harrison Ford too, K19 Widowmaker.

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