Could you really feel the same emotional anxiety during “The Hunt for Red October” if you didn’t believe the characters were surrounded by water in a submarine? Would “Pirates of the Caribbean” be as spectacular if you didn’t get a glimpse of the skeletal ghost-pirates walking across the bottom of the ocean?
Those two examples show that filmmakers know how to use water to great effect in the movies. Peruse our list of six movies where water plays a starring role, either as a hero or a villain. Readers beware-spoilers ahead!
Water as Hero
Some movies invite viewers to celebrate the beauty and importance of water. While water can’t give dramatic motivational speeches or go through a fascinating character arc, it still becomes a scene-stealer in these movies.
1. “Free Willy”
This family-friendly movie was a sleeper hit in the summer of 1993. It centers on Jesse, a 12-year-old boy. After he gets caught vandalizing a marine park in Oregon, he performs community service at the park and befriends a killer whale. Jesse’s bond with the whale, Willy, leads the park’s owner to create a show where Willy does tricks for guests.
Of course, as the film’s title gives away, it doesn’t take long for Jesse to realize Willy’s true home is the ocean-not a small tank at a marine park. He hatches a plan to dramatically release his whale friend back into the wild. Water helps save the day-and the whale-in the movie’s most climactic scene. If you have young kids who like animals, share this forgotten gem with them.
2. “Finding Nemo”
Pixar’s story of a father rescuing his lost son is one of the most critically acclaimed movies from a studio that’s no stranger to this kind of recognition. It won the 2004 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and its screenplay was nominated for an Oscar as well, a rare honor for an animated film.
Even if you forget about the hilarious dialogue and the heart-wrenching storyline, “Finding Nemo” is a visual masterpiece. The animated ocean creates not only a backdrop for the action but also invites audiences to tour its often hidden wonders. Memorable water moments include the ride on the East Australian Current and Nemo’s initiation into the Tank Gang over an aquarium “volcano.”
3. “Mission Blue”
If you prefer movies that show real life, check out this Netflix documentary about ocean conservationist Sylvia Earle. You’ll view stunning footage that travels through many corners of the world’s oceans-from the Great Barrier Reef to the Gulf of Mexico.
Earle has dedicated her life to studying and advocating for the world’s oceans and oceanic life. While she may be the film’s true hero, her focus is always on preserving these wondrous waters that cover so much of our planet. Be aware, though, that she doesn’t shy away from pointing the finger at humans for causing many of the ocean’s problems.
Water as Villain
Although humans depend on water for survival, not all films use water as a positive force to drive the plot forward and create beautiful backgrounds. Check out these movies where water causes undesirable consequences.
You probably saw this one coming, but water in multiple forms forever changes the lives of this movie’s characters. Start with the iceberg. You could make the argument that it didn’t intentionally damage the shipthat the real blame lies with the captains who didn’t slow the ship down or watch carefully enough for icebergs. But the fact remains that the iceberg itself did cause the irreparable harm to the beautiful ship on its maiden voyage.
Moving on, the ocean water all around the ship also plays a villainous role. Its freezing cold temperatures made it impossible for most of the passengers to survive, including one of the star-crossed lovers at the center of the film.
Dun dun. Dun dun. Can you hear those signature notes that signal the approach of a great white shark that’s thirsty for blood? You can thank the movie-making team of Steven Spielberg and John Williams for this iconic moment in film history. Many film historians consider “Jaws” one of the very first summer blockbusters.
Of course, “Jaws” also gave sharks an undeserved reputation as creatures that prey on humans. A sample statistic that proves this point comes from between 2006 and 2010. During that time, only three shark-attack fatalities occurred in the US. By contrast, “Jaws” portrays five people dying at the hands of the vicious shark during a single summer.
6. “Cast Away”
Who’s the villain when a hero spends the majority of the movie entirely alone? When that hero is the lone survivor of a plane crash that left him on an island somewhere in the Pacific, water becomes his biggest enemy. It represents an obstacle hundreds of miles wide (and deep) that prevents him from returning quickly to his home.
Much of the drama of “Cast Away” stems from wondering how Tom Hanks’s character Chuck Noland will overcome the ocean that isolates him from the rest of humanity. He uses his ingenuity to build a sturdy raft, but the ocean takes one final swipe at his morale by stealing his friend Wilson.
Water as Life
Of course, away from soundstages and on-location shoots, water plays a prominent role in your everyday life. Work with Johnson Water to ensure your family always has clear, soft water at home.