The 18 Best Diving Movies You Have to See

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Itching to go diving but can’t make it to the water? Why not enjoy one of the best diving movies to keep you satisfied?

While diving movies may not have the same glitz and glamour as sci-fi or superhero films, some fantastic dive movies have been produced over the years. From classic Hollywood blockbusters like Thunderball to cheesy B-movies like DeepStar Six, I’ll take a deep dive into some of the best diving movies, short films, and documentaries of all time.

Best Scuba Diving Movies

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Thunderball (1965)

This action-packed James Bond classic features a young Sean Connery in the Bahamas trying to recover two stolen nuclear bombs. A shadowy terrorist organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. hides the bombs underwater and threatens to detonate the weapons unless a ransom of £100 million in diamonds is paid.

The film features plenty of scuba diving, snorkeling and even a villain with a pool full of sharks to dispatch his enemies. The underwater battle scene may be the greatest ever filmed. It features parachuting divers, underwater scooters with built-in spearguns, and an underwater jetpack.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 87% / Audience Score: 73%

TheCoastalSide Rating 5/5

I love this movie. It’s classic Sean Connery as James Bond – if you’re a Bond fan you won’t be disappointed! Beautiful babes, exotic locales, cool gadgets and plenty of action. The underwater scenes are well done and not too cheesy.

Men of Honor (2000)

Men of Honor tells the true story of the first African-American master diver in the US Navy. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Petty Officer Carl Brashear and Robert De Niro as his mentor Master Chief Billy Sunday, this inspirational film focuses on the struggles of the two men against the Navy’s bureaucracy and the racism of the time.

At first, Brashear and Sunday are at odds with each other, with Sunday being pressured by his commanding officer to ensure that Brashear fails his dive training. Brashear impresses Sunday with his courage and determination and eventually passes his dive training.

The film is a classic biopic and focuses on the relationship between the two men. There are some cool diving scenes featuring old-timey copper helmets and air hoses.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 42% / Audience Score: 81%

TheCoastalSide Rating 4/5

An inspirational underdog tale! It’s the story of two men struggling and overcoming the obstacles in front of them. I really began to empathize with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character. There are some great action scenes, and seeing the old-school diving equipment being used is pretty neat. 

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

This modern classic features Bill Murray paying homage to dive pioneer Jacques Cousteau as eccentric oceanographer Steve Zissou. Director Wes Anderson’s quirky, offbeat comedy has garnered a cult following over the years.

Zissou and his crew of misfits are on a mission to track down and kill the mythical Jaguar Shark that ate his partner Estaban. Complications arise along the way, leading to hijinks and several hilarious situations. The movie is filmed in a fantastical, visually striking fashion which really catches the eye.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 56% / Audience Score: 82%

TheCoastalSide Rating 5/5

This movie is awesome – Bill Murray kills it! I could watch this movie over and over and not get bored. It’s not your standard comedy flick, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye. The ‘movie within a movie’ sequences give the plot an interesting twist, and the ending was beautiful.

Apparently, Bill Murray even trained to become a certified diver for the movie.

The Abyss (1989)

Science fiction meets deep-sea exploration in this blockbuster by acclaimed director James Cameron.

Along with a unit of Navy Seals, the crew of an experimental deep-sea submersible is recruited by the US government to investigate an American nuclear submarine sunk mysteriously in the Caribbean.  A race against the Soviets begins to salvage the remains of the valuable submarine.

As harsh weather conditions hamper their efforts, tensions begin to rise between the two crews as they discover something strange is residing in the deeps.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 89% / Audience Score: 83%

TheCoastalSide Rating 4.5/5

Visually stunning and suspenseful, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The effects hold up well. I was glued to the screen in suspense!

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.

Into the Blue (2005)

Paul Walker and Jessica Alba star in this glitzy thriller set in the beautiful sun-drenched Bahamas.

Paul Walker plays Jared, a young diver and aspiring treasure hunter who together with his girlfriend Sam (Jessica Alba) discover a valuable historic wreck while freediving. However, they soon run into a hiccup as they discover a crashed airplane on the sea floor filled with illicit cargo nearby. Together with their friends Bryce and Amanda, they debate on what to do with the bricks of cocaine.

Meanwhile, dangerous local drug kingpins find out about their discoveries and want the illicit cargo for themselves.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 21% / Audience Score: 57%

TheCoastalSide Rating 3/5

This movie surprised me. I was expecting nothing but cheesy B-movie action and Jessica Alba in a bikini, which it has plenty of, but its also got a few twists and turns. The underwater scenes are well shot and worth the price of admission.

The Deep (1977)

From writer Peter Benchley, who also wrote Jaws, this adventure-mystery focuses on two treasure hunting divers and their run in’s with local criminals.

While recreational diving in Bermuda, David Sanders (Nick Nolte) and Gail Berke (Jacqueline Bisset) discover an 18th century wrecked ship filled with treasure, as well as a WWII ship with a large cache of morphine. They soon find themselves drawn into a web of intrigue and adventure, involving local Haitian drug kingpin Henri Cloche and black magic voodoo.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 33% / Audience Score: 37%

TheCoastalSide Rating 3/5

This is a pretty solid movie – definitely better than the rotten tomatoes score indicates. There’s plenty of action, beautifully shot underwater cinematography, a young Nick Nolte, and the gorgeous Jacqueline Bisset.

The plot is pretty straightforward, with no major twists, but it’s a classic golden-age Hollywood adventure. After watching this and ‘Into the Blue’, I’d say the writers, ahemm, borrowed a bit of the plot from this film.

Jaws (1975)

While not strictly a diving movie – it’s only got a few diving scenes – Jaws is such an iconic blockbuster that it had to be included on the list.

Jaws begins with a mysterious shark attack at night at the Atlantic resort Amity Island. The mayor refuses to publicize the attack, for fear of upsetting the lucrative local tourist business. But after another attack in broad daylight, the town goes into a frenzy trying to kill the shark.

A smaller tiger shark is killed and the beaches are reopened prior to the busy July 4th weekend. After another attack in broad daylight, it’s clear they are dealing with a Great White. The mayor agrees to hire old seaman named Sam Quint (Robert Shaw), to hunt down the shark. Quint, along with shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) set out to capture the elusive beast.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 97% / Audience Score: 90%

TheCoastalSide Rating 5/5

If you haven’t watched Jaws before, you’re in for a real treat. It’s suspenseful, terrifying and holds up terrifically. The three lead actors have great chemistry, and the dialogue comes off as genuine. A true masterpiece!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

The classic underwater adventure novel by Jules Verne is adapted to the big screen by Disney in this classic picture.

The year is 1868, and a mysterious monster is terrorizing the seas, making it unsafe for ships to cross the Pacific Ocean. An expedition is put together in search of the beast, but it turns out to be a submarine boat captained by the anti-hero Captain Nemo (James Mason). The three protagonists are captured by Nemo and he takes them on a series of incredible adventures under the sea.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 89% / Audience Score: 74%

TheCoastalSide Rating 3.5/5

Fantastical and full of adventure, this movie definitely does justice to Jules Verne’s original novel. The special effects might be a bit dated, but the story and dialogue are gripping. James Mason really shines as the misunderstood Captain Nemo, and Kirk Douglass is great as well. I definitely recommend!

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

The twelfth installment in the James Bond series, this film stars Roger Moore as Secret Agent 007.

After a British Spy ship is sunk off the coast of Albania, Bond’s mission is to retrieve the powerful ATAC system, a communications device that could order British subs to attack friendlies with their ballistic missiles.

The hunt for the device intensifies, with the Soviets learning about the missing device. The action is non-stop with underwater battles, car chases, shark attacks and an incredible assault of a mountaintop fortress.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 73% / Audience Score: 64%

TheCoastalSide Rating 4/5

A classic James Bond film! The movie is a return to the early style of Bond movies. It’s got tons of action, less cheesy one-liners from Roger Moore, plus the underwater scenes are well shot and suspenseful.

Open Water (2003)

Based on the true story of two scuba divers on holiday in the Caribbean who become stranded in the middle of the ocean, this indie survival-horror film explores every scuba divers worst nightmare.

Daniel and Susan are a young couple on vacation, who decide to go on a reef diving tour. After the diver safety headcount fails to notice they’re missing, the dive boat takes off without them.
When the seriousness of the situation becomes apparent, fear, panic, and desperation begin to set in.

The current carries them miles out into open water and they begin to suffer from dehydration, saltwater sickness, and shark attacks.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 71% / Audience Score: 32%

TheCoastalSide Rating 3/5

While it might not be the best survival movie ever made, this movie accomplishes its goal of scaring the living crap out you! The acting is fairly good for a low-budget film, and the suspense is visceral. It’s a real deep look into the human psyche and how we deal with disaster.

The Dive (Dykket) (1989)

This Norwegian thriller tells the story of two deep-sea commercial divers who agree to do one more quick job before their Christmas vacation.

The operation is only supposed to take five minutes, but their diving bell becomes entangled with a trawl and they’re unable to get back to the surface. Even worse, their oxygen supply becomes damaged, and they’re rapidly running out of air. The crew on the surface desperately tries to find a way to get them back to the surface alive.

Review

IMDb rating: 6.5

TheCoastalSide Rating 3/5

A real suspenseful thriller! This movie is pretty straightforward, but it succeeds in capturing the sheer terror of the two men trapped underwater and running out of air.

DeepStar Six (1989)

DeepStar Six is an experimental underwater nuclear base operated by the US Navy. When the crew of engineers led by Captain Laidlaw (Taurean Blacque) detonates several depth charges, they unknowingly let loose a monstrous alien sea creature. The creature begins to attack and pick off members of the crew one by one.

Panic and confusion ensue, as the base sustains serious damage and the crew desperately attempts to fight off the alien creature.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 0% / Audience Score: 23%

TheCoastalSide Rating 4/5

I don’t care what the critics say, this movie is awesome. It’s pure 80s over the top cheesy action and dialogue, but who cares? It’s definitely influenced by ‘Alien’ and ‘The Abyss’, but it’s also funny and the monster scenes are fairly well done. 

Best Freediving Movies

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The Big Blue (1988)

This heavily dramatized movie by French Director Luc Besson tells the story of two pioneering modern freedivers, Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (Jean Reno).

The film depicts the rivalry between the two men, which begins at a young age in the Greek islands. It strays quite a bit from the real-life story but portrays many aspects of their lives correctly.

Enzo and Jacques compete in a variety of diving competitions, constantly pushing each other to deeper and deeper depths. After Jacques breaks Enzo’s record and dives to 400 feet (122 m), the competition begins to enter dangerous and uncharted territory.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 62% / Audience Score: 93%

TheCoastalSide Rating 4/5

This movie is shot in an interesting visual style, which results in a dreamlike quality to the entire film. The underwater photography is top-notch and the acting by Jean Reno and Jean-Marc Barr bring the film to life. The ending was beautiful and tragic, really showing the deep love these men had for the ocean. Without a doubt one of the best diving movies I’ve ever seen. 

Ocean Men: Extreme Dive (2001)

This visually stunning IMAX movie portrays the modern diving rivalry between world record freedivers Pipin Ferreras and Umberto Pelizzari. The film is a mix of educational documentary, beautiful underwater cinematography and a look into the world of competitive freediving.

The contrast between the two divers is the main focus of the film. Pelizzari is a pranayama yoga practicing purist who practices constant weight diving, while Pipin is a hard-charging competitor who utilizes ballast sleds to assist his descent.

The film is dedicated to a diver who passed away during the filming of the movie.

Review

IMDb score: 7.5

TheCoastalSide Rating 3.5/5

A beautifully shot short film about two record-breaking freedivers. It’s not a full feature-length movie but manages to pack in quite a bit of information and interesting footage. Recommended for anyone with an interest in freediving.

Best Diving Documentary Movies

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Diving into the Unknown (original title Takaisin pintaan) (2016)

Diving into the Unknown is an emotional and visually stunning documentary about a cave diving incident deep inside an underwater cavern in Norway.

The movie begins with a group of friends and diving buddies preparing to embark on a deep cave dive under ice.

The dive begins smoothly, but soon the team runs into difficulties when one diver’s equipment gets trapped between the narrow cave walls. He panics and eventually drowns, blocking the route through the cave. This leads to the death of another diver.

A rescue operation is mounted to recover the diver’s bodies, but it’s ultimately deemed too risky by the Norwegian authorities and the cave is shut down. This leads the original divers, plus the documentary film crew, to attempt a recovery operation in spite of the police order.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 63% / IMDb Score: 7.1

TheCoastalSide Rating 4.5/5

A powerful diving movie about the bonds between friends and divers. The story is uplifting despite the tragedy of the two men passing. The underwater footage is excellent and really gives you the claustrophobic feeling of being inside those caves. 

Check it out on Netflix

Jago: A Life Underwater (2015)

This award-winning documentary tells the life story of Rohani, an 80-year old spearfisherman and freediver living in Togian Islands in Indonesia. The movie is a joy to the eye, with incredible underwater sequences depicting the events of Rohani’s life from the time he was a young boy until today.

It begins with the old man in a tiny hut on a platform in the ocean, retelling his experiences with the sea, diving and catching fish. He talks about his father teaching him to dive, his incredible diving talent at a young age and earning the nickname ‘Jago’ which means master.

Jago is a skilled storyteller, a prized trait of his Bajau people, a seafaring nomadic people who earn their entire living from the sea.

At the advanced age of 80, Jago is weathered and hunched over, but still capable of diving. In the incredible final sequence, we get to see Jago spearfishing with nothing but an old pair of swim goggles and a handmade speargun.

Review

IMDb Score: 7.5

TheCoastalSide Rating 5/5

What a beautiful story! The diving footage is unique and breathtaking. This man has lived an incredible life on the ocean, and is fascinating to listen to – I only wish the movie was longer. The way these people dive without modern masks and fins is incredible. It’s one of the most unique diving movies I’ve ever seen – highly recommended!

Ray: A Life Underwater (2011)

This short film focuses on the life of 75-year-old deep sea diver Ray Ives. Ray shows off the eclectic collection of artifacts he’s collected over many years of diving. From antique copper and brass dive helmets to muskets, rapiers and ancient coins, Ray’s collection is truly impressive.

He tells the story of his life as a commercial diver as he takes his old boat out on the water for a dive in his 90’s era hand-pumped diving suit.

From what we get to see, it appears Ray hasn’t bought anything new in many years, he prefers to salvage it from the sea floor.

Review

TheCoastalSide Rating 4/5

A neat little film about a fascinating and eccentric character. You get to see some cool old-timey diving gear and some footage of Ray diving for salvage.

Deepsea Challenge (2014)

Deepsea Challenge tells the story of James Cameron’s deep-sea expedition to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

The film chronicles Cameron’s love affair with the sea from a young age, being captivated by underwater pioneer Jacques Cousteau. His passion for underwater exploration leads him to develop the submersible Deepsea Challenger, which is capable of diving 7 miles below the surface.

The film focuses on the trials and tribulations of putting together such an ambitious expedition, from the engineering, testing and planning to the dive itself. Eventually, we get to see the incredible underwater footage from the bottom of the Mariana Trench and it’s worth the wait.

Review

Rotten Tomatoes – Critics Score: 67% / Audience Score: 52%

TheCoastalSide Rating 3.5/5

It’s got some amazing footage and the story is compelling. The movie sometimes gets a little bogged down in technical details, but overall it’s still worth watching. I really enjoyed seeing Cameron diving to the Titanic and the footage from the ocean floor.

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