Best Scuba Diving Movies | Sport Diver

Top 10 Scuba Diving Movies Ever Made

If the water's still too cold for you to jump in, then warm up with a great movie with scuba diving as part of the action. Here are the top 10 scuba diving movies chosen by the editors of Sport Diver magazine.

10. SPHERE (1998): Not since he donned skindiving gear in 1967's The Graduate has Dustin Hoffman been so intriguing underwater. In Barry Levinson's The Sphere, Dustin plays alongside Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson and Liev Schreiber as civilian experts recruited to investigate an alleged alien ship found deep on the ocean floor. 

Critics hated the movie (it holds a 12 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but even teenagers still snicker at the scene where Hoffman and his team breathe helium and talk in Wizard of Oz voices before descending to the ocean floor.

Speaking of ocean floor, there wasn't one used in the film. Anxious to keep costs under control, the studio wanted all water scenes filmed in water tanks. 

9. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004): This might not be everyone's favorite Bill Murray film (Stripes! Ghostbusters!), but fans of director Wes Anderson's work still adore this dark tale based on the fictional oceanographer Steve Zissou. Plus, the film was dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Murray himself dived fully into the role, becoming a certified diver before production began.

8. INTO THE BLUE (2005): Yes, Into the Blue was a box-office bomb, failing to regain even half of its $50 million budget. But diving fans still probably remember this movie for one detail: Jessica Alba in a bikini. 

The movie also teaches this valuable lesson: If while snorkeling in the Bahamas you find a crashed plane full of cocaine, your best move is just alerting the authorities. 

7. THE FROGMEN (1951): Not science-fiction monsters, the Frogmen was the nickname given to the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition Teams during World War II. During the way, Frogmen would remove underwater hazards and scout landings in advance of invading Marines. 

Produced with the support and direction of the Navy, the film's premiere was held at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. 

6. THUNDERBALL (1965)/FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981): Just about every good James Bond movie has a diving scene in it. But Thunderball and For Your Eyes Only rise to the top, so we let them tie for sixth place.

In For Your Eyes Only, most of the close-up scenes between Roger Moore and his co-stars were actually filmed on a soundstage, with special effects added later to give the impression of water moving around them. Still plenty of scenes were film underwater in Greece and the Bahamas. 

In Thunderball, Sean Connery (who then played Bond) dives with the sharks in the Bahamas, though clear plastic panels separated the actor from the creatures. However, it didn't take long for the sharks to find their way around the panels and swim up to the actors, giving Connery a real fright a few times. According to, a stuntman was paid a thrifty $450 bonus to jump into the swimming pool full of sharks.

5. MEN OF HONOR (2000): Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Carl Brashear, the U.S. Navy's first African-American Master Diver (and -- spoiler alert -- first amputee diver). Equally discouraged and driven by his instructor (Robert De Niro), Brashear overcomes the racism of the 1940s and his incomplete education to achieve his goal of becoming an operational diver in the Navy.

Inspired by the life of Carl Brashear (who retired retired in 1979 and passed away in 2006), Men of Honor got positive reviews from critics, including the late Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who wrote: "The secret of Brashear's success is not complicated: He won't give up, he won't go away and eventually his very presence shames Navy men who cannot deny his ability." 

4. THE DEEP (1977): Based on a novel by Peter Benchley, whose other masterpiece won't be making our list, The Deep follows a vacationing couple (Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset) who stumble upon some mysterious artifacts while wreck diving off Bermuda. (Who knew the submerged vials of morphine from a WWII shipwreck would attract the attention of drug runners? Go figure.)

According to, the production shoot for The Deep required 8,895 dives, 10,870 hours underwater and 1 million cubic feet of compressed air. 

If you're still drawing a blank on this movie, then maybe you remember the song. Down Deep Inside, by John Barry and Donna Summer, was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1978 for best original song

3. THE ABYSS (1989): Before James Cameron made a fortune with Titanic, he gave us all a vision of deep, DEEP sea diving (and aliens!) with 1989's The Abyss. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio star in this film about a civilian diving team that is recruited by the military to find a lost nuclear submarine. 

If the amazing special effects don't wow you, then the scenes where Harris (oh, and a rat) is forced to inhale an oxygenated fluid in order to dive at extreme depths will have you gasping for air. 

While diving fans may love the movie, it turns out Harris wasn't a big fan of it. During the frequent underwater filming, Harris reportedly had a few close calls when he ran out of air. He's frequently quoted with this final thought on the film: "I'm not talking about The Abyss and I never will."

2. THE BIG BLUE (1988): Jean Reno and Jean-Marc Barr play lifelong friends who grow up to be free-diving rivals in the Mediterranean sea. Released as "Le Grand Bleu" in Europe, the movie was a big hit overseas and maintains a cult status among the diving community. (It played for more than a year in theaters in France.) After a heavy mangling during the editing of the American version, U.S. critics weren't as impressed. 

The Washington Post called it "as skimpy as the whiskers on an eel. What it has are ambitions, more exotic locations than a James Bond movie, beaucoup dolphins and French cinematic chichi. Les Flippers of the nouvelle vague." Ouch! 

Eagle-eyed diving fans might notice that all the underwater shots with dolphins were actually filmed in the Virgin Islands, with the dolphins being flown in from the Florida Keys. 

1. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954): It's been remade a few times, but the original 1954 film by Walt Disney Productions is still awe-inspiring decades later. Maybe it's the droll delivery of James Mason as Capt. Nemo. Or menacing scenes of the green-eyed Nautilus stalking another ship along the Pacific shipping lanes. 

Nah, it's the battle with the giant squid we probably remember best. Oh, and the scenes of the Nautilus divers scouring the ocean floor for sea life to help feed the crew. (A seaweed cigar never sounded so good!) 

Based on the 1870 book by Jules Verne, the tale has been retold dozens of time on stage, comic book pages, TV screen, at theaters and even in radio productions. The 1954 film won two Academy Awards (art direction, special effects) and still holds an 89 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.