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Tall Ship Movies

Updated on December 1, 2014

Movies With Tall Ships

From swashbuckling pirates to action packed naval battles, tall ship movies rock! They're full of action, adventure and dramatic glimpses into life aboard these glorious old sailing ships.

I've long been interested in tall ships and a fan of naval movies in general. But it wasn't until I saw the trailer for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in the theater that I got hooked on tall ship movies.

Below is a directory of tall ship movies and documentaries that might interest the tall ship film buff in you. Where possible, I've listed the tall ships used in the filming of each movie. A few of those ships are still around and open to the public for touring.

Pictured is the movie, Damn The Defiant!, one of my favorites.

Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World

Based on Patric O'Brian's epic Master and Commander novels about the adventures of a British Navy captain. In the movie, the HMS Surprise pursues a larger French ship around Cape Horn to prevent it from raiding British whaling ships in the Pacific.

An incredible movie starring Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, and the HMS Rose as HMS Surprise.

The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 2 (Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing). It was the first feature film allowed to shoot scenes in the Galapagos Islands.

Master and Commander Movie Trailer

Go ahead, watch it and see for yourself why I rave about this movie. With its stirring action and soundtrack, you'll be hooked, too.

Damn the Defiant!

A thrilling drama of mutiny aboard a British warship during the Napoleonic wars. The movie stars Alec Guinness and is based on the novel Mutiny by Frank Tilsley.

Guinness plays a British captain trying to prevent his brutal first officer, who has friends in high places at the Admiralty, from driving the crew to mutiny. Then there's the French fleet to deal with.

An excellent movie and it was interesting to watch Alec Guinness in a role other than Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Horatio Hornblower

Horatio Hornblower Collector's Edition
Horatio Hornblower Collector's Edition

The Emmy Award winning A&E television miniseries based on C.S. Forester's famous Horatio Hornblower novels.

This collector's set includes all 8 episodes/films of the TV miniseries plus many bonus features.

Captain Horatio Hornblower
Captain Horatio Hornblower

Gregory Peck stars in the title role of this 1951 film. The movie's plot comes from three of C.S. Forester's famous novels of life at sea in the Royal Navy and Forester was involved in writing the movie adaptation.


Mutiny on the Bounty

The real life mutiny on the Bounty has been the story for several movies. Each offers their own twist on those fateful events and some are more historically accurate than others.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

This 1935 version starred Clark Gable as Christian Fletcher and Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh.

The Balclutha (then known as the Pacific Queen) starred in the movie. According to Wikipedia, the ship that played the title role was the Ellen.

Mutiny on the Bounty (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Two-Disc Special Edition)

The 1962 version starring Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian. This is the movie that the replica ship HMS Bounty was built for by MGM.


The replica ship HMS Bounty (built for the filming of the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty) was lost at sea during Hurricane Sandy. Her captain and a crew member were also lost.

The Bounty
The Bounty

Anthony Hopkins played Captain Bligh and Mel Gibson the role of Fletcher. This version is said to be the most historically accurate.

The studio built a new replica of the Bounty for this movie. That ship is currently docked in Lantau Island, Hong Kong, but I haven't found a link for it.


The Sea Hawk

Sea Hawk, The
Sea Hawk, The

Errol Flynn stars as the swashbuckling captain of an English privateer looting Spanish ships in this 1940 movie.


What is your favorite type of Tall Ship movie?

What is your favorite type of Tall Ship movie?

See results

Pirates of the Caribbean - Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate's life for me...

A fun adventure based on one of my favorite rides at Disney World. The Pirates of the Caribbean films made swashbuckling pirate movies popular again and helped ignite the current pirate craze.

The Lady Washington and HMS Bounty were used in the filming of the series.

The first film is by far my favorite of the series. The story was better than the sequels. I also appreciated the tie-ins to the theme park ride like the prisoners trying to get the key from a dog.

Captain Kidd

Charles Laughton stars in this 1945 movie loosely based on the pirate William Kidd.

Kidd deceives the king into allowing him to escort a merchant ship, and its treasure, from India back to England. Along the way he eliminates most of his crew and digs up some old treasure as well.


This movie is based on the true story of the slave mutiny that occurred on the slave ship, La Amistad, in 1839. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards.

Most of the tall ship scenes are in the beginning then the story moves ashore. The Pride of Baltimore II stars as the Amistad and the Pilgrim II as other ships.

Moby Dick

The 1956 film version of Herman Melville's literary classic about the captain of a whaling ship obsessed with the great whale, Moby Dick.

Directed by John Huston and stars Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab.

Tall Ship Documentaries

Tall ships played an important role in world history. They made world exploration, commerce and colonization of far away lands possible.

Below you'll find films to help you explore the history of tall ships in war and commerce.

Admiral Nelson Documentaries

One of Britain's greatest naval heroes was Admiral Horatio Nelson. He served in the Royal Navy from before the American Revolution through to the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

Nelson was known as an inspiring leader and for his mastery of naval tactics.

The Battle of Trafalgar was Nelson's most famous victory and the one that ultimately cost him his life.

Sea Warriors - The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail

Sea Warriors - The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail
Sea Warriors - The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail

Documentary about life aboard the fighting vessels of the Royal Navy.


Sail Aboard A Tall Ship

Below are movies that document life aboard tall ships that still sail the seas today.

On Picton Castle from Sarnia to South Haven
On Picton Castle from Sarnia to South Haven

Join the crew of the Picton Castle as she sails on the Great Lakes.


The tall ship USS Eagle sails today as a training platform for US Coast Guard cadets.



Watch this documentary from The History Channel to learn more about these speedy tall ships that have served many purposes, from fishing boats to privateers.

What's your favorite tall ship movie? Why do you love watching these movies? Please leave a comment in the logbook below.

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    • profile image

      wantsfun 3 years ago

      My Father owned the Monte Cristo / Endeavour 11 in the late 60's amd 70's until it sank and broke up in New Zealand and am looking for a documentary feature that was done in the Pacific Northwest around 1970. If anyone has an idea what tv station it was on or any info please let me know

    • MacPharlain profile image

      MacPharlain 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Interesting, I toured the Balclutha in San Francisco once and didn't know it was in the movie. Thanks for posting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great site!

      Regarding the ship appearing in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


      "Frank Kissinger purchased Star of Alaska in 1933 (for $5,000) and renamed her Pacific Queen. Kissinger took the ship south and, while anchored off Catalina Island, she appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty (Clark Gable and Charles Laughton also appeared in supporting roles). For a time thereafter, Kissinger towed her up and down the West Coast, usually exhibiting her as a "pirate ship." Pacific Queenslowly deteriorated, and she barely escaped World War II scrap metal drives."

    • Margaret Muir profile image

      Margaret Muir 5 years ago from Tasmania, Australia

      Good site for lovers of tall ships - see also my tall ship site

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent lens, I love Tall Ships movies, and Master and Commander is one of the best. The Hornblower series are wonderful too. It's amazing how different life was on board His Majesty's ships of the line. White Squall is another tall ship movie that is very good. Lensrolled to my Archibald Russell lens, the last tall ship to be built in the UK.

    • oldiesmusicnut profile image

      oldiesmusicnut 7 years ago

      In 1958 I saw the CineMiracle movie "Windjammer," about Norwegian cadets on a trip from Oslo to New York aboard the tall ship Christian Radich. I did a lens about it. You have a really nice lens with some good materials. I like it!

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      I have to admit I've seen none of these movies, but perhaps I should. I can remember enjoying pirate movies as well as Moby Dick as a kid. Interesting niche!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Tall Ships is my families Memorial Day weekend movie theme (we theme most holidays). Our favorite is Master and Commander, the kids like the live action Peter Pan, we will lead off all 3 Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) films with Errol Flynns Captain Blood (that's where the "pirates code", Tortuga, and many other icons featured in POTC first appears to my knowledge.

    • profile image

      squoogle 9 years ago

      I love how you've organized and categorized this. I imagine that someone looking for this information will feel that they've hit a rich vein when they find this page.