With underwater adventure movies or TV shows, there is always adventure looming ahead. They consistently offer thrills and excitement as characters navigate the treacherous seas for adventure or treasure or to elude their troubled pasts. Whether it’s the intense struggle for survival as seen in Moby Dick and The North Water, or the delightful portrayal of pirate life exemplified in Netflix’s One Piece and The Pirates of the Caribbean, these narratives always promise thrills. The unpredictable nature of the sea, with its storms, its pirates, and sea monsters, adds to that adrenaline rush viewers often crave. Regardless of the storyline, sea adventure narratives are rarely ever boring.
One Piece is one of those sea adventure shows that has captured the hearts of many with its pirate tale, underpinned by the enduring bonds of friends among its characters. Currently, it is one of the hottest series on Netflix, having made its debut in August. The world-building in One Piece is nothing short of awe-inspiring, with its roster of heroes and villains captivating viewers.
The adventures in One Piece are replete with hidden treasure hunts, exploration of mysterious islands and uncharted territories. These elements were highly engaging, evoking the desire to see more sea adventure films and shows. Well, for those who wish to sail far away where adventure awaits them, here’s a list of film that will transport you to that maritime world.
15 The Little Mermaid (2023)
The Little Mermaid features thrilling elements of sea adventures as it follows the story of Ariel, a mermaid who wishes for a life beyond the ocean and embarks on a journey to find her happiness. Throughout her adventure, Ariel encounters various challenges, including sea creatures and conflicts with the villainous Ursula. The recent live-action adaptation combines elements of fantasy, romance, and adventure, with much of the story taking place beneath the sea before Ariel sets out to win her prince.
While comparisons between the original 1989 Little Mermaid film and the live action remake have sparked debates, the 2023 film has proven to be a box office success, ranking as the fifth highest-grossing film of the summer. Audience reactions to the remake have been mixed, with some questioning its necessity. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in indulging in the nostalgia the remake evokes.
14 Aquaman (2018)
Looking for a sea adventure movie? Look no further than Aquaman, featuring Arthur, a half-human, half-Atlantean DC Comics character, played by Jason Mamoa. Directed by James Wan, the story follows as Arthur embarks on a journey to stop his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) from retrieving the Trident and waging war against humans. To prevent this war between the surface and underwater worlds, Arthur works together with the warrior princess, Mera (Amber Heard).
There is adventure, battles with sea monsters, Black Manta’s relentless chase, and epic underwater battles that add to the intriguing aspects of the film as these two embark on their journey. Aquaman boasts terrific CGI, amazing costumes, and a remarkable musical score, all complemented by top-notch action scenes. That said, not many DC fans were thoroughly satisfied. Perhaps, with the arrival of a second installment in December, DC may surpass their previous efforts.
13 Black Sails (2014-2017)
Sea adventure movies offer the best escape from reality, transporting viewers to exotic and distant locales, where they can experience the thrill of exploration and adventure. This perfectly captures how it feels to see the characters in Black Sails set out on adventures. Set in the Bahamas during the golden age of piracy, this series revolves around a group of crews and captains who converge to pursue their own personal interests.
Captain James Flint is the central character, who is determined to establish Nassau as a private republic free from British rule. Black Sails is a pirate mythos known for its combination of political intrigue, intricate character development ,and action-packed naval battles many enjoy seeing in pirate lore. If you miss good old pirate movies or series, this maybe a good time to revisit this.
12 One Piece (2023)
One Piece is currently one of Netflix’s most popular shows. The streaming platform has succeeded in turning a well-liked anime by Eiichiro Oda into a well-crafted live-action series. It simply follows the goofy Monkey D.Luffy on his quest to become the king of pirates. To make his dream a reality, he must find the One Piece and go through series of adventures to gather his crew while defeating many villains along the way.
Fans and non-fans of the anime series alike will find this extremely addictive as it takes viewers on a thrilling voyage through fantastical locations. One Piece is simply a beautiful show about friendship, following one’s dream, being courageous, loyalty, and so much more. The actors were exceptional in the roles as these anime characters, and many are hoping the second season will just be as awesome.
11 Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Avatar: The Way of Water picks up a decade after the first film, with Jake Sully and his wife, Neytiri, and their family living a peaceful life on Pandora. Their peaceful existence is shattered when a familiar threat returns to destroy them completely. It is up to Jake and Neytiri and their army of Na’vi to protect their home.
This James Cameron film is truly impressive as are most of his films. The visual effects are stunning, with the water world and its majestic creatures as beautiful as ever, and the action scenes are breathtaking. There’s something undeniably magical about this sea story of family and love. Moreover, those who loved the first Avatar film will likely find this equally entertaining.
10 Treasure Island (1990)
There have been several movies and TV shows based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, and the 1990 Treasure Island film is one of the most notable. Directed by Fraser C.Heston, the film stars Christian Bale as a young Jimmy Hawkins, who discovers a hidden treasure map in the chest of a guest, Billy Bones. Narrowly escaping a group of menacing pirates after the map, Jimmy and his mom set out on an adventure with their crew to find the hidden treasure.
The film is considered a faithful and well-executed retelling of the classic adventure novel. It also often praised for the cast’s strong performances. While Treasure Island romanticizes life at sea and the love for treasure hunting, it also explores the darker aspects of pirate life, such as the treachery and violence often part of such a life.
Related: The Best Pirate Films, Ranked
9 Hook (1991)
Hook is a Steven Spielberg adventure film that offers a unique twist on the classic Peter Pan story by J.M Barrie. The film stars Robin Williams as Peter Pan, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, and Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell. The film features an older Peter Pan, a workaholic lawyer who has forgotten all about his childhood memories and adventures. However, when Captain Hook kidnaps his children, it is up to Peter to rescue them with the help of Tinkerbell who guides him to Neverland.
The movie is filled with so many wonderful scenes and quotes that would remind many viewers of their childhood and why pirate adventure stories are loved. Even after 32 years, Hook is still considered a classic. It certainly still captures that spirit of adventure.
8 Shadow and Bone (2021-Present)
Shadow and Bone is a thrilling blend of magic, adventure, and a political narrative set against a visually magnificent and immersive backdrop. The series has been praised for being a very good adaptation of the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo. Despite minor differences between the books and the series, many viewers love this enchanting tale centered on Alina Starkov and other really compelling characters and creatures.
In Season 1, Alina discovers her extraordinary powers, while in Season 2, she sets out on an adventure to find the sea whip. Characters navigating through the Shadow Fold (also known as the Unsea) will remind many how perilous sea adventures can be. This show already has two successful seasons and many fans are hoping it continues the intricate world-building of the Grishaverse in future seasons without facing cancelation.
7 Crossbones (2014)
NBC’s Crossbones is an exciting and fictionalized take on the legend of Blackbeard and the pirate culture of the 18th Century. It follows as a British spy Tom Lowe infiltrates Santa Campana with the intention of killing Blackbeard and putting an end to his piracy. However, as he spends time with Blackbeard and his crew, he begins to admire the pirate and becomes deeply entangled in the events on the Island.
The series really delivers on the pirate lore by showcasing the epic sea battles, sword plays, and exotic shots of Caribbean locales. The set is truly stunning, the costumes well-detailed, and John Malkovich plays this outlaw legend who rules over the island superbly. However, despite how lovely this Blackbeard’s tale was, the show was canceled after just one season due to low ratings.
6 The Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise (2003-2017)
The Pirates of the Caribbean is a Walt Disney Pictures franchise that follows the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp. Set in the 18th Century, this film offers all the seafaring elements of pirate life viewers crave in pirate films. It shows Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew’s quest for treasure, their encounter with other pirates, naval forces, and other fantastical elements like sea monsters, the mystical Fountain of Youth, and cursed Aztec gold.
The (currently) five films in the franchise are simply sea adventure gems in modern cinema, known for their action-packed sequences, humor, and memorable characters. While each film in the series has their own strong advocates, all the films are not equal; some are more brilliant than the others. However, for avid fans of Jack, his adventures will always be entertaining.
A four-season series is set during the Cold War era, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea focuses on the recurring theme of pursuit of peace and prevention of nuclear war. It follows the adventures of Admiral Harriman Nelson, the captain of Seaview, a submarine dedicated to advanced research. With his loyal crew at his side comprising various technicians, scientists and other officers, Nelson embarks on missions involving discovering underwater creatures, investigating unexplained phenomena to tackling global security challenges and espionage.
The series does a good job of integrating elements of espionage, sci-fi, and adventure, resulting in an entertaining and engaging series. It is an enjoyable 1960s sci-fi adventure directed by Irwin Allen, and Richard Basehart and David Hadison were amazing in their roles as lead characters. Regardless of how ridiculous the plot or how outdated the creature designs may seem now, it works fine as a nostalgic show to watch on a lazy day.
4 Moby Dick (1956)
Be it tragedy or comedy, there’s still this romantic allure to maritime adventures as they sweep viewers away on an epic journey across treacherous waters. Moby Dick simply stands as a dramatic and visually stunning movie about the struggle between man and the elements of the sea. It is based on the classic novel of the same name by Herman Melville and is directed by John Houston.
Gregory Peck stars as Captain Ahab who is obsessed with the relentless pursuit of a giant white sperm whale named Moby Dick. This creature cost the captain his leg and Ahab is willing to put the lives of his crew in danger to capture this sea beast. Moby Dick is one of the most enduring stories ever told, with so many adaptations based on this challenging novel, thereby, keeping the tale alive for decades.
3 The North Water (2021)
The North Water is a five-part television miniseries based on Ian McGuire’s novel of the same name. It is a gritty and dark historical drama about a disgraced army surgeon, D. Patrick Summer who decides to go on a whaling expedition in the Arctic to forget his troubled past. During the voyage, Summer realizes that the captain of the ship is ruthless and sadistic.
There’s suspense, tension, and violence as the crew faces betrayal, mutiny, and internal conflicts as they try to survive in an unforgiving environment. Although the series excels in many areas, including its writing, fine acting, directing and the setting, it is not without flaws. Those who love serious and grim stories about the harsh nature of man’s environment such as The Revenant, In the Heart of the Sea, and Moby Dick will enjoy this, too.
2 Outer Banks (2020-Present)
Outer Banks is a modern-day adventure series that combines elements of romance, adventure, and mystery within the contemporary setting of North Carolina. The series follows John B and his “Pogue” companions as they venture on a hunt for a treasure with deep history. The Netflix original is known for its adventurous and often dangerous quests as well as its exploration of friendship and romance between these friends.
While it is not a traditional sea adventure narrative, it certainly captures the spirit of maritime adventure in TV format. While some viewers feel it is generally fun, others consider it unrealistic with rather annoying teenage characters. This does not change the fact that it has a large fan base eagerly anticipating its fourth season. If you are in need of a teen drama with some sea adventure, then it is the perfect choice.
1 In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
Ron Howard’s stunning adventure film, In the Heart of the Sea, tells yet another side of the Moby Dick tale. It sets itself apart from other adaptations of Melville’s classic novel by drawing inspirations from the non-fiction book by Nathaniel Philbrick, which relates the true story of the whaling expeditions. The story is told through the eyes of a cabin boy on the whaling ship Essex in 1820. The film ventures into the hardships and internal conflict that arise as the crew members try to survive this perilous journey.
In the Heart of the Sea does feature intense and visually impressive scenes of the whale attacks and the crew’s struggle for survival. Indeed, the film is simply a perfect choice for those who like seafaring adventures, historical dramas or are simply curious to learn about the real-life events that inspired the Moby Dick novel.
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