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5 Best Diving-Related Movies

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diving related movies

Although diving and ocean exploration have captured the imagination of filmmakers and audiences for decades, a good dive movie can be tough to find. The challenges of shooting underwater, combined with the very limited acting and little to no speaking truly make these films hard to do well. Still there are some that came out great, and below is our selection of top 5 diving-related movies.

Thunderball (1965)

The fourth James Bond film starring a young Sean Connery is an action-packed classic about a stolen fighter jet, a nuclear bomb, and a secret organization holding the world at ransom. What makes this film especially interesting for divers though is plenty of memorable underwater scenes. Thunderball has it all - scuba diving, snorkeling, a villain with a pool full of sharks, and a major underwater battle scene that may be the greatest ever filmed. It features parachuting divers, underwater scooters with built-in spearguns, and an underwater jetpack. Although Sean Connery’s orange, half-piece wetsuit may be out of fashion now, the underwater scenes are still fun to watch, making the film a great choice for all you dive and Bond enthusiasts out there.

Movie Trivia: In the underwater scenes, where Bond encounters sharks, Connery was supposed to be shielded by clear plastic panels. However, because the panels only extended about 3 feet in height and sharks could swim over them, in some scenes, the actor got much closer to the animals than he wanted. Director Terence Young said in an interview that scenes used in this movie where Bond reacts in fright at the approach of a shark were miscues, in which Connery was reacting with genuine terror as a shark approached unobstructed by plastic shielding.

Review: Rotten Tomatoes - Critics Score: 87% / Audience Score: 73% 

The Big Blue (1988)

‘The Big Blue’, released as ‘Le Grand Bleu’ in Europe, was a big hit when it came out in 1988 and still maintains a cult-like status among the diving community. Directed by Luc Besson, it is a story of two pioneering freedivers, Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (Jean Reno). The film follows the two men from a young age and shows how the lifelong friends become freediving rivals, constantly pushing each other to greater and greater depths. Although the movie strays from the real-life events quite a bit, it still depicts many aspects of the athletes’ lives correctly. Most importantly perhaps, ‘The Big Blue’ is not only about the story that it tells but about the unique and magical atmosphere that it creates.

Tip: if you can, watch the ‘version longue’.

Movie Trivia: The underwater shots with the dolphins were filmed in the Virgin Islands in large enclosures, and the dolphins were flown there from the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys. The dolphin who appears most often on screen is a male named Natua, who had also taken part in dolphin language experiments because of his intelligence.

Review: Rotten Tomatoes - Critics Score: 62% / Audience Score: 93%

The Abyss (1989)

James Cameron clearly has a thing for the ocean. Being an avid scuba diver himself and having dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in ‘The Abyss’ he delves into this fascination full-on. The movie is a sci-fi thriller about two scientists and a group of Navy SEALs, who are sent to search for a sunken nuclear submarine and end up participating in an encounter with an alien species. The underwater scenes in the film are good, and the special effects, being groundbreaking at the time, hold up well even today. Engaging and suspenseful, ‘The Abyss’ has some interesting thoughts on futuristic diving and largely revolves around man’s fascination with the deep water, something every diver can relate to.

Tip: make sure to watch the extended director’s cut version as it contains nearly half an hour of extra footage and the original ending intended by James Cameron.

Movie Trivia: Before the filming began, the cast members started training together in the Caribbean to become certified divers. Ed Harris, one of the lead actors was still filming another movie at the time, so he got his certificate while training in a lake nearby. The actors playing the SEALs received a separate, military training.

Review: Rotten Tomatoes - Critics Score: 89% / Audience Score: 83%

Men Of Honor (2000)

Inspired by the life of Carl Brashear, ‘Men of Honor’ tells the story of the U.S. Navy's first African-American Master Diver (and - spoiler alert - first amputee diver). The film is a classic biopic and focuses on the relationship between the two men - Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his instructor Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro), who eventually become allies in a fight against the racism of the 1940s and the Navy’s bureaucracy. The movie is a classic drama with some cool diving scenes featuring old-timey copper helmets and air hoses.

Movie Trivia: In 2009, the USNS T-AKE 7 was named the USNS Carl Brashear, in honor of Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl M. Brashear, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1948. He was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the Navy Diving School, and was designated a Navy salvage diver. He was the first African-American to qualify and serve as a master diver while on active duty, and the first U.S. Navy diver to be restored to full active duty as an amputee, the result of a leg injury he sustained during a salvage operation. After thirty-one years of service, Brashear officially retired from the U.S. Navy on April 1, 1979.

Review: Rotten Tomatoes - Critics Score: 42% / Audience Score: 81%

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

The movie is a modern classic that features Bill Murray paying homage to dive pioneer Jacques Cousteau as eccentric oceanographer Steve Zissou. With a mission to track down and exact revenge on a mythical Jaguar Shark that ate his partner Estaban, Zissou and his crew of misfits, including his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son, set off for one wild expedition. Complications arise along the way, leading to hijinks and several hilarious situations. The Director Wes Anderson managed to create a fascinating collage of colorful imagery, fragmented shots, quirky music, strange characters, bizarre situations, and amusing montages. Bazarre, quirky and offbeat, ‘The Life Aquatic’ has garnered a cult following over the years.

Movie Trivia: As we have mentioned, the movie is dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and an attentive viewer can spot a few references: the characters wear red woolen caps, as Cousteau did; Cousteau's ship was the "Calypso" and Zissou's ship is called the "Belafonte" (Harry Belafonte became famous singing calypso songs); in the beginning sequence, when Zissou is first introduced to the audience, the model of the "Belafonte" on his desk is actually a model of the "Calypso", painted blue instead of black.

Review: Rotten Tomatoes - Critics Score: 56% / Audience Score: 82%

You can also check out our selections of Top 5 Ocean Documentaries and Best Books for Divers

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