DIVER’s Editor, Russell Clark, loves movies. So he’s compiled what we believe to be a pretty definitive list of non-documentary scuba diving movies. Whether the plot revolves around diving, or there’s just a memorable diving scene, here’s our list (in no particular order) of the best diving movies ever made.
There are always a few that swim under the radar though, so let us know your favourite dive movies or underwater scenes in the comments below. Some of the videos here are the full movies, others are trailers or clips. Most however are available on streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, and YouTube.
The Abyss, 1989
Jim Cameron’s ocean epic and a solid diver favourite. Liquid breathing, submersible battles, Navy SEALs with HPNS and alien water tentacles. Oh my! What more could a diving movie possibly offer? To this day The Abyss is considered to be one of the most ambitious movies ever made, and is still regarded as the toughest shoot in movie history. Once you’ve watched Cameron’s underwater masterpiece, we highly recommend you watch the most excellent ‘Under Pressure – Making of The Abyss‘. Factoid: The original submersibles are in the basement at DIVER magazine HQ. Yep. DIVER Publisher Phil Nuytten built the submersibles used in the movie.
The Deep, 1977
Jacqueline Bisset in a bikini, and a (young) buff Nick Nolte making diving cool and sexy. Written by Peter ‘Jaws’ Benchley, this thriller sees a vacationing couple duke it out with treasure hunting bad guys on a Bermuda wreck. One of the most loved and classic dive movies, and kinda like a predecessor 2005’s Into The Blue. Filmed in the British Virgin Islands on the wreck of the Rhone.
Connery, back as Bond, heads to the Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads and try his luck with the wet suit clad ladies. Cue huge underwater battles and more one liners than you can shake a martini at.
Lady in Cement, 1968
Simple: Frank Sinatra being cool, Raquel Welch being stunning, a lady in cement shoes and scuba diving. They don’t make them like they used to.. Full movie above.
The Big Blue, 1988
Director Luc Besson’s cult classic, and the most successful French movie of the 80s. Artfully shot in Greece, the 162 minute epic follows the friendship and rivalry of two champion free divers.
Produced by Jim Cameron, the cave diving thriller was co-written by the late Andrew Wight and is loosely based on a real life experience. Tense, unpleasant and very claustrophobic. Not recommend for those about to take their open water cert!
Men of Honour, 2000
The true life story of Carl Brashear’s battle against racism to become the first African American diver in the U.S. Navy. A great cast including Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr. in this historical, feel good flick.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1954
The most memorable story of the high seas since Noah built a large boat. Kirk Douglas and James Mason recreate the Jules Verne classic in the ‘Mightiest motion picture of them all’.
The Neptune Factor, 1973
DIVER’s former Editor, Peter Golding, wore a fetching yellow wetsuit in this 70s flick starring Ernest Borgnine in an undersea lab lost in an earthquake, with giant sea creatures battling rescue divers. Full movie above.
Dark Tide, 2012
Halle Berry squeezes into a wetsuit to take a rich businessman diving with great whites, sans cage. Berry’s ‘shark whisper’ character Kate is haunted by the memory of a shark attack and battles her own fears as she sets a course for Shark Alley.
The Dive (Dykket), 1989
This little known Norwegian thriller is as nerve wracking as it gets. Two deep divers on a dive gone wrong are trapped in a diving bell at the bottom of the sea and race against time to find a way to escape to the surface. Full movie above.
Deepstar Six, 1989
“DeepStar Six has just discovered a new and deadly alien menace”. A pure 80’s testosterone classic. An underwater nuclear base, atmospheric diving suits and a creature from the deep that threatens it all!
Oceans of Fire, 1986
“6 men with nothing to lose… but their lives” are plucked from prison to become deep sea divers. All manner of cheesy 80’s awesomeness will consume you for 92 minutes. Starring David Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, this is one of our favourite scuba diving movie cheese fests, and believe it or not, the premise is actually based on a real prisoner reform program.
Road to Bali, 1953
Bing Crosby and Bob Hope star in this classic hardhat diving movie. Two all singing, all dancing men escape marriage by moving to an island where they fall in love with a Princess. As you do. Cue many one liners, and some lavish song and dance numbers that could only come from that golden era. Full movie above.
Wake of the Red Witch, 1948
“The lustiest love story on the seven seas!” Not a great deal of diving, but John Wayne does rescue someone from a large clam. Full movie above.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2004
The great Bill Murray stars in this cult classic by Wes Anderson. The movie is dedicated to, and has more than a passing resemblance to the life of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Oceanographer Zissou plans to get revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, cue much offbeat humour. A modern masterpiece.
You can’t talk about water related movies and not mention Jaws. Although the actual scuba content was pretty minimal, this movie forever changed the perception of sharks for many people. Several sequels faded from memory but did include scenes of scuba divers and large rubber sharks. One of the greatest motion pictures of all time.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, 2015
Known for his crazy stunts, Tom Cruise looked to freediving instructor (and DIVER contributing Editor) Kirk Krack to prepare him for a tense underwater breathhold scene in the fifth installment of Mission Impossible. Cruise became a very competent freediver, achieving static breath holds of six minutes. While the finished scene was let down by unnecessary computer effects and cutaways, it was fun to see Ethan Hunt venture underwater.
Open Water, 2004
A small independent movie that came out of nowhere to scare the shit out of potential scuba divers the world over. A holidaying couple in the Caribbean get left behind after a boat dive, sharks appear, tension rises, diving vacations take a tumble… One of the early adopters of the ‘found footage’ style of filmmaking made famous by the Blair Witch project. Definitely not for new divers, but worth checking out. Spawned two sequels.
Into The Blue, 2005
A movie that done more to promote diving than anything in the past couple of decades, why? Jessica Alba’s butt and Paul Walkers abs. The young and beautiful cast, exotic locations, clear blue waters, and treasure hunt excitement made Into The Blue a surprisingly successful movie, and helped make diving look cool and sexy again. Kinda like a modern day version of The Deep. If you’re looking for a Saturday night popcorn flick, with some nicely shot underwater sequences, and yes, butts and abs, Into The Blue is our recommendation. It spawned a rather terrible sequel, with a different cast.
A scuba diver hiding under the surface of Amsterdam’s canal system embarks on a rampage of gruesome murders. The city’s best detective has few clues to work with, but his wife and daughter may be closer to finding the underwater killer than he wishes. Whatever they smoke in Amsterdam, it clearly works.
Fools Gold, 2008
Deep sea treasure hunter Matthew McConaughey, rekindles his relationship with estranged wife Kate Hudson during a quest to find a Spanish ship full of treasure. Surprisingly charming and funny, with a good supporting cast. Not exactly good diving etiquette, but some exciting scenes and good family entertainment.
Finding Nemo, 2003
If you don’t love Finding Nemo, you don’t have a heart. Fact. The Pixar animation is solely responsible for clownfish becoming the most recognised sea creature on the planet. If you haven’t seen it, crawl out from under that rock and watch a father’s quest to rescue his son from a dentist’s aquarium. Starring hammer heads, a great white, jellyfish, turtles and anglerfish. Perfect family entertainment, and it helps your kids improve their fish ID skills! Also spawned the sequel ‘Finding Dory’.
Terror Beneath the Sea, 1966
This Sonny Chiba starring, 1960’s Japanese sci-fi masterpiece may be too much for your human senses to handle. The above trailer will pretty nicely summarise the movie and the incredible story of aquatic, cyborg fish people and a plot to populate underwater cities by the sinister Dr Moore. Full movie above.
Michael Crichton’s novel adaptation, starring Samuel L Jackson, Dustin Hoffman and Sharon Stone as a crack team of scientists sent to investigate a 300 year old space shop 1,000 feet underwater. The spaceship turns out to be an American craft presumably from the future, sent back through time after a mission through space gathering up large random objects, one of which is a liquid metal sphere. The book is way better, but Hoffman is always watchable, so worth a bucket of popcorn and a viewing.
The Cave, 2005
Large, flying, bloodthirsty creatures await a group of cave divers trapped a mile underground in the world’s largest cave network (filmed in Romania). Modern day B-Movie madness, chock full of stereotypes, half dodgy effects and glorious over acting. We love it. DIVER contributor Jill Heinerth was the technical advisor and dive trainer on the movie.
Deep Blue Sea, 1999
Samuel L. Jackson vs genetically modified intelligent sharks. Sold. Die Hard 2 director Renny Harlin makes no excuses for his wonderfully over the top extravaganza. An isolated research facility becomes a hunting ground for these super sharks as they try to escape to the open ocean. Unexpected deaths, parrots, rapper turned actor LL Cool J, Saffron Burrows in her underwear and some Jaws style copy-cat fish explosions. Big budget, modern B-movie awesomeness!
Ahhh, a movie of epic eighties-ness. Peter Weller, post RoboCop, is in command of a group of undersea miners that discover a wrecked Russian ship housing a terrifying secret. And by terrifying we mean ridiculous monster. Every eighties cliché is here in abundance. Made two years after The Abyss, with an exceptionally accomplished film crew, Leviathan is little more than a bad, funny flick. After all, who just happens to have a flame thrower and a hedge trimmer on an underwater mining station? Brilliant. Full movie above.
The Frogmen, 1951
The story of “fin footed, goggle eyed, beach blasting heroes!” An bonafide, all time diving classic. Richard Widmark as new Commander John Lawrence, must earn the respect of his new unit; the Navy Underwater Demolition Team, nicknamed “Frogmen”. Giving the year in which this was filmed, and the subsequent crap that followed it (see above) some of the photography and set pieces are fantastic. An actual classic.
Beneath the 12 Mile Reef, 1953
Robert Wagner and Terry Moore star in one of the first full colour, CinemaScope, anamorphic lens, underwater motion pictures. A father and son team of divers seek new pastures for their sponge business, but clash with a rival clan, especially when Tony Petrakis character falls in love with the rival family’s daughter. Full movie above.
Beyond Atlantis, 1973
Leigh Christian stars as an underwater siren, cunningly named Syrene. A peculiar movie about a group of explorers that invade a small island and piss off the natives – with some weird sex stuff and people getting shot. The seventies huh?!
Wet Gold, 1994
TV movie starring Brooke Shields in a wetsuit. Shields, her boyfriend and an old drunk man set off to Key West in search a sunken boat with millions in gold bars. Cue scenes of Brooke Shields in wetsuit, followed by scenes of Brooke Shields in a wetsuit – that’s really the reason behind making this early 90’s slice of TV magic.
Around the World Undersea, 1966
Lloyd Bridges, post Sea Hunt, captains a small submersible travelling the world’s oceans. In a bid to warn of impending earthquakes and subsequent tidal waves, the crew plant sensors throughout the ocean and bare witness to all the wonders and terrors of the deep.
Two scuba divers searching for sunken treasure off the coast of Cuba discover a 17th century ship. Jane Russell stars alongside Gilbert Roland in this pretty epic, old school classic.
Zombies of Mora Tau, 1957
Black and white tale of hardhat divers and underwater zombies. Yes, underwater zombies. Words defy the brilliance of that concept… c’mon Hollywood, this is dying to be re-made! Full movie above.
Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, 2006
Filmed just down the road from the DIVER office in British Columbia, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep is a cheap budget, sci-fi tour-de-force. Special effects straight from your bathtub, a script straight from the toilet, and direction that makes you wonder if the crew were simply taking a nap during the entire shoot. Brilliant b-movie garbage. Love it.
Jaws of Death, 1977
DIVER magazine’s very own Publisher, Phil Nuytten stars in this forgotten classic. Watch Phil wrestle a giant octopus as a group of researchers attempt to swim with killer whales in Alert Bay. No trailer available. Yes, it’s that obscure.
The Jaws of Death, 1976
Not to be confused with the movie above, this one is about sharks, not orcas. A man accidentally learns that he has a mystical connection with sharks, and is given a strange medallion by a shaman. Becoming more and more alienated from normal society, he develops an ability to communicate with sharks telepathically, setting out to destroy anyone who harms sharks. People enter into his strange world to exploit his weird passion, and he uses the animals to gain revenge on anybody who double crosses him. Famed for being shot with real sharks in Florida.
After years of waiting we finally got the Aquaman movie the 7 year old us would have enjoyed. Fast & Furious Director James Wan gave us this action-packed adventure that spans the vast underwater world of the seven seas, with (the perfectly cast) Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime – one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be…a king.
47 Meters Down, 2017
A movie that upon release got a lot of unnecessary shit from divers on social media. Of course it’s inaccurate, or course it doesn’t practice safe diving, of course it is insane – it’s a movie!! We found it to be a fun b-movie that kept us entertained. Spawned the sequel ’47 Meters Down: Uncaged’.
Thanks to one of commenters for pointing this one out. We had forgotten that Splash has some good underwater scenes, and is without doubt an 80’s classic from Director Ron Howard. A young boy saved from drowning by a beautiful mermaid, falls in love with her 20 years later when she returns to seek him out. Available on Disney+ just don’t expect to see Daryl Hannah’s butt, Disney recently edited it out, because young people can’t handle that kind of thing apparently.
The Navigator, 1924
Another reader recommendation. Buster Keaton spent four weeks doing his own underwater stunts in an icy cold Lake Tahoe – an incredible thought for a silent movie made in 1924. Full movie above.
The Snorkel, 1958
A snorkel movie! “Although the police have termed her mother’s death a suicide, a teenage girl believes her step-father murdered her.”
A moderately rated suspense and terror movie starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel. “An unknown, massive earthquake happens in a drilling station in the bottom of the Mariana Trench. A scientific crew must find their way across the ocean floor into another station under the threats of deep pressure, dark water, dangerous deep-sea creatures, and a constant lack of air.”
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, 1961
“When the Earth is threatened by a burning Van Allen Radiation Belt, U.S. Navy Admiral Harriman Nelson plans to shoot a nuclear missile at the Belt, using his experimental atomic submarine, the Seaview.” A sixties classic from filmmaker Irwin Allen.
Endless Descent, 1989
Also known as The Rift. “An experimental submarine, the “Siren II”, is sent to find out what happened to the “Siren I”, which has mysteriously disappeared in a submarine rift. Things go awry when they begin to find things that shouldn’t be there.” Definitely falls into the category of ‘terrible 80’s B-movies’ – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to enjoy here.
The Meg, 2018
Jason Statham vs a megalodon. Based on Steve Allen’s book Meg, this larger than life Hollywood blockbuster begins with explorers awakening this ancient megalodon beneath the Marianas Trench (yes, we said “beneath”). The meg takes a personal disliking to the crew involved and spends the 90 minutes trying to kill them, not realising of course that Jason Statham is, well, Jason Statham. With a huge budget of 130 million dollars The Meg looks amazing, with some fantastic special effects. It’s also one of the only movies to take submersibles and make them fast and exciting – like spaceships. There’s even a megalodon vs submersible chase scene through a large coral reef. It’s really good fun and despite the lack of blood (which you expect from a movie of this calibre), it’s a good popcorn movie with a ton of underwater action.
The Shape of Water, 2017
Guillermo del Toro’s beautiful tale of a top secret research facility in the 1960s, where a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. Was the first science fiction film to win the Best Picture Oscar, also earning del Toro a Best Director Oscar.
There’s no scuba scenes, but the lead character does have gills, so we think that counts for something. The biggest movie ever made – at the time, Waterworld was generally considered a bit of a soggy effort, becoming a box office disappointment. We like it though. Yep. We said it. We think Waterworld is a fun and enjoyable 90’s popcorn movie. A gloriously over the top Dennis Hopper, and 90’s aquaman Kevin Costner spent months near Kona, Hawaii filming what would become one of Hollywood’s most notorious shoots. Still, we like it!
No scuba diving, but some of the most memorable underwater scenes in cinema. James Cameron has admitted he made the movie only so he could dive the Titanic himself. Using the Mir submersibles and a Russian exploration vessel, Cameron set out to not only film the wreck of the Titanic, but do so in a truly cinematic way – with huge submersible lighting rigs, actors on location in submersibles, and specific shots and scenes to be shot on the wreck itself. The results make for the incredible book-end scenes that start and finish the movie. Bill Paxton shines as the underwater explorer looking the Heart Of The Ocean necklace, only to find a much deeper and personal account from the disasters survivor, Rose Dewitt Bukater. A true marvel of modern movie making and one that Cameron’s documentary Ghost of the Abyss sheds more light on – it’s a great accompaniment to the movie.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1916
This classic was made in the same place as the Disney remake 38 years later. The Bahamas were chosen for their incredibly clear waters, but no actually underwater cameras were used for this, instead a series of tubes and mirrors, like reverse periscopes allowed Director Stuart Paton to capture underwater scenes many had never, ever seen before. The story is based on the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and also incorporates elements from Verne’s The Mysterious Island. It stars Dan Hanlon as Professor Aronnax, Edna Pendleton as Aronnax’s Daughter, Curtis Benton as Ned Land, and Allen Holubar as Captain Nemo. Full movie above.
The Silent Enemy, 1958
The Silent Enemy is a 1958 action film directed by William Fairchild. It stars Laurence Harvey as Lionel “Buster” Crabb and describes his exploits during World War II. Based on Marshall Pugh’s book Commander Crabb, it was made following the publicity created by Crabb’s mysterious disappearance and likely death during a Cold War incident a year earlier. In the Mediterranean in 1941 the Italians start using underwater chariots to mine the undersides of allied ships. Explosives expert Lionel Crabbe arrives in Gibraltar to organise defenses, but finds only two British divers available to help him. Even more worrying, it seems likely that the Italians are secretly using neutral Spain across the bay as their key base. Full movie above.
Honorable mentions and random diving scenes:
- The Rock: Sean Connery and Nic Cage infiltrate Alcatraz by way of underwater propulsion vehicles.
- Navy SEALs: A 90’s classic. Charlie Sheen as a Navy SEAL, enough said. Watch the trailer.
- After the Sunset: Pierce Brosnan plays a master thief trying to retire, but obviously has one last job to pull. trailer.
- The Italian Job (2003 remake): A gang of robbers pull of a heist in Venice, requiring underwater shenanigans. Clip.
- True Lies: Arnold scuba dives into a bad guy’s party before removing a drysuit, unveiling a perfect tuxedo. Great trailer.
- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: Angelina Jolie in a skin suit punching a shark. Clip.
- Piranha 2: The Spawning: James Cameron’s first feature movie. A compilation of dive scenes can be found here.
- Speed 2: Cruise Control: Our hero tries to slow down a cruise ship by wrapping rope around its propeller. Simply awful. Trailer.
- Journey 2: The Mysterious Island: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and annoying kid dive down to retrieve Captain Nemo’s sub. Trailer.
- Sharktopus: Half shark, half octopus, all crap. Trailer.
- Cruise into Terror: Face from the A-Team stars in this TV movie about cruise vacationers that discover a sarcophagus in an underwater cave. Full movie here.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: There’s quite few little underwater scenes scattered through the franchise, but the first movies ‘march’ is one of the best. Clip.
- Man of Steel: Russell Crowe had a brief breath hold scene at the start of the movie – filmed, literally, across the road from DIVER magazine HQ. Trailer.
- Alien Resurrection: The decline of the Alien franchise continued with this turd. It did have an enjoyable underwater alien scene though. Clip.
- City of Lost Children: Before directing Alien Resurrection, Jean Pierre Jeunet made this, including some great scenes of Ron Perlman in hard hat gear. Trailer.
- Das Boot: Yeah, yeah, it’s not diving – but Das Boot is one of the best ocean related movies ever made. Watch before your next U-boat dive. Trailer.
We know there are many more, especially pre-1960, so post any recommendations in the comments section below.
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