Sailors are always moaning about how the rest of America doesn't really care about their sport. And they don't. So it is no surprise that sailing and sailboats are not exactly a preoccupation in Hollywood, or regular fodder for big screen blockbusters.
But in a world where even animal crush videos have a fan base, the odd sailing movie sometimes makes its way to the movie theater. And sailors naturally like to obsess over which ones are worthy.
The latest effort to celebrate the small archive of decent sailing movies (it's like the joke about the Thinnest Book, featuring titles such as "Great Italian Naval Victories") is over on Sailing Anarchy, which has ranked the top 10 sailing films of all time.
Predictably, WIND gets the top ranking. The trailer will take you back to the world of Whompers and Ted Turner caricatures:
And here is SA's argument for WIND:
Still the gold standard by which all other crappy sailing movies are judged, Wind succeeds for sailors because a) it’s our only real ‘sports/drama’ movie and it loosely follows the reality from 1983 to 1987, and b) because of the utter ridiculousness spewed in nearly every scene. From the sail that goes “Whomp” to the pickup truck/salt flat wind tunnel tests to the stupid Geronimo dance, it keeps you laughing even as you check out Jennifer Grey’s sailor chick credentials. We don’t need no stinkin’ rules for yacht racing, do we? Not when it goes from flat calm to ocean gale in the middle of a single buoy race! For all of its substantial stupidity, Wind was still the first movie to really capture some of the excitement of sailing that Hollywood’s ever seen; the 14-foot skiff (a/k/a I-14) footage is breathtaking, and some of the AC racing scenes in the big stuff will be remembered forever. And as long as we keep it alive for the next generation, there will be Whompers in the sail locker for another 50 years. Bonus Fact: Iconic lifetime yachting commentator Peter Montgomery does most of the ‘TV commentary” in the movie.
Some of the other movies on the list are also not terribly inspired, like Pirates Of The Caribbean, but as noted above, it's not like there is a huge choice of titles to debate. And the list does at least include three movies which I consider the core of the sailing film canon.
The first is Dead Calm, starring a young Nicole Kidman, a crazed Billy Zane, and a bumbling Sam Neill. A great horror movie made even better by the fact that all the action takes place aboard two yachts.
The next is a documentary, 180 South: Conquerors of the Useless, which features a voyage in search of meaning. It does not stay focused on sailing, but the big questions about the ocean, happiness, and humanity are questions that every sailor has lurking somewhere deep inside.
And, finally, another documentary, about the most tragic and mysterious figure ever to step aboard a sailboat: Donald Crowhurst. The movie is called Deep Water, and if you haven't seen it then I envy you because it lies in your future.
Check out the rest of Sailing Anarchy's list here. What is missing? Maybe there is a gem out there that no one ever noticed.
BONUS: Scuttlebutt has a great two-part series on the making of WIND, written by SAILfeed contributor Kimball Livingston.