When you're desperate to submerge, but currently landbound, sometimes a good diving film has to suffice. The ocean has appeared on the big screen for decades, captivating audiences with stunning seascapes, delightful marine characters and thrilling underwater adventures. Whether you want to grip your mask with a thriller, warm your heart as you rewatch Finding Nemo, or learn about some underwater mysteries with a documentary, the big screen has something for everyone. So get your popcorn ready as we offer up a selection of the best diving films…

Ocean waves hitting a rock, on the Estoril coast, Portugal, Europe

1. The Big Blue (1988)

The Big Blue is a visually stunning film that explores the intense rivalry and friendship between two free divers, Jacques and Enzo, as they push the boundaries of human endurance in their quest to plunge into the depths of the ocean. The blue-on-blue scenes shot in dreamy locations such as Italy, Greece and the French Riveria, coupled with magical dolphin moments, provide the perfect inspiration for a European diving holiday.

2. The Deep (1977)

For the treasure hunters and wreck heads, The Deep is a good go-to. This underwater thriller, set in Bermuda, follows the story of two treasure hunters who unearth a mysterious and potentially dangerous cargo from a sunken World War II ship. Rumour has it that almost 10,000 dives were completed during the making of this film. Regardless of what you think of the storyline the amount of time spent underwater has to make it one of the best diving films.

3. The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou (2004)

If you're looking for a diving film which is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, then The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou is for you. Starring Bill Murray (a diving enthusiast) and Owen Wilson and directed by Wes Anderson, this whimsical aquatic odyssey with its cast of colourful marine life is an easy-watch family film. The film follows the story of eccentric oceanographer Steve Zissou (who is apparently based on Jacques Cousteau) as he embarks on a quirky adventure to hunt down the mythical jaguar shark that killed his partner, all while navigating the challenges of fame and family.

film set on the shore of a blue beach

4. Becoming Cousteau (2021)

Speaking of the legendary oceanographer, Becoming Cousteau is a wonderful tribute to Jacques Cousteau. The documentary goes into Cousteau's groundbreaking work (he brought us the first successful open-circuit self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, called the Aqua-Lung) alongside discussing his motivations and personal journey with all of the challenges that he faced. The captivating film is not uncritical of Cousteau - it shows how he initially disregarded the fragile nature of the ocean before turning into a conservationist - and is a beautiful homage to a pioneer who continues to inspire ocean conservationists and enthusiasts.

a common octopus sitting on some rocks underwater

5. My Octopus Teacher (2018)

My Octopus Teacher is a soul-stirring documentary which has gone down a treat with ocean and animal lovers. The extraordinary relationship between the filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus, set in a kelp forest in South Africa, is equal parts tender and heartbreaking. For those who are still discovering the wonders of the ocean and its creatures, it's an excellent documentary that reveals the remarkable intelligence, adaptability and the challenges that an octopus faces in the ocean.

Beautiful colourful healthy coral reef with diversity of hard corals

6. Chasing Coral (2017)

An informative and eye-opening documentary, Chasing Coral takes us into the colourful world of corals. Combining stunning visuals with expert storytelling, the film provides a sobering look at the rapid coral bleaching occurring worldwide and serves as a call to action for all of us to recognise and address the damage that is being done to these underwater wonders.

7. Thunderball (1965)

Sean Connery as James Bond dives into a high-stakes mission to recover stolen nuclear warheads from the depths of the Caribbean, facing off against the villainous SPECTRE organisation in a thrilling underwater adventure. Shot in the Bahamas, with sharks, 60s fashion and Caribbean sunshine, coupled with the old-school Bond charm, it's a strong contender for the best diving film.

clown fish swimming among the tentacles of its anemone home

8. Finding Nemo (2003)

It's impossible not to love Finding Nemo, whether you're a diver or not. Marlin, the clownfish, embarks on a journey from the Great Barrier Reef to find Nemo, his son, who was captured by a diver. This animation masterpiece is perfect for the whole family and is a great way to start familiarising youngsters with different fish species.

9. The Little Mermaid (1989/2023)

The Disney animation classic takes us on a journey with the rebellious mermaid Ariel, who is fascinated by the world above the surface. Perfect for children and adults alike, this timeless animation will forever be one of our hallmark favourites. For those who want to watch the 2023 version, you're treated to a fabulous film that brings some of our favourite underwater characters to life. Okay, we admit it's not exactly diving themed but it's about the ocean and was an early film for many of us here at Original Diving that got us itchy finned for the water from a young age - hence why it makes our list as one of the best diving films.

10. Titanic (1997)

Since we're discussing non-diving (yet ocean related) movies, we can't help but mention Titanic. The director, James Cameron, admitted that he only wanted to make the movie so that he could go down to the Titanic, which he did in a Mir submersible. The details in the film (all the way down to the crockery in the dining halls) are all reported to be accurate based on the actual vessel. And while the story doesn't focus on the wonders of the ocean, it does emphasise the vastness and power of the Atlantic.

simple tender boat on the water at sunset with an orange sky

11. The Life of Pi (2012)

Blending philosophy and tragedy with a stunning seascape background, The Life of Pi is a survival tale of faith and friendship. This Oscar-winning film is the perfect alternative to the cliché ocean-themed disaster films (although there's a time and place for these too, of course).

12. The Dive (2023)

The Dive is a re-make of the 2020 Norwegian film Breaking Surface. The heart-pounding scuba diving survival thriller begins with two sisters who go on a dive, and after a freak accident, one becomes trapped under a rock… Will the other sister get back with a second tank in time?

Free diver ascending along the rope.

13. The Deepest Breath (2023)

This nail-biting documentary by Laura McGann tells the story of world champion free diver Alessia Zecchini and her safety diver Stephen Keenan. Filmed in gorgeous diving locations around the world, this documentary gives a behind-the-scenes look into the competitive world of freediving and the connection between free divers and the ocean. Be warned: this documentary does go into the dangers of free diving and discusses some heavy topics within the community.

Giant grouper swimming in blue water

14. Blueback (2022)

For a heartwarming movie that reminds us what our love for the oceans and its creatures can do, Blueback tells the tale of a young Australian free diver who befriends a giant grouper. This connection leads to her becoming involved in coral reef protection, bringing in a wonderful eco-twist to the seascape cinematography.