The 8 Best Open Water Movies That Evoke Thalassophobia

The ocean is a terrifying place—and these intense films all showcase the power of open waters and the dangers therein.

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Thalassophobia, also known as fear of open waters, is something that afflicts many people—to the degree that some can't even watch movies with open water because it's too triggering.

However, in films, open waters have made for some of the best drama and adventure seen in cinemas throughout movie history.

The great, expansive void of dark nothingness inspires fear of drowning, fear of the unknown, fear of the creatures and elements lurking within, and fear that it'll consume us.

In this article, we look at thalassophobia and the films that have best brought it into focus with withering realism.

8. The Perfect Storm (2000)

With George Clooney at the helm, The Perfect Storm comes alive as a group of fishermen—desperate to make ends meet—head out into suicidal weather, knowing they're the only people brave enough to try catching fish during the storm of a century.

Of course, it all goes wrong when hellish weather descends from the heavens to batter the tiny fishing trawler from pillar to post, putting the entire crew's lives on the line.

The Perfect Storm brings into sharp focus the effects of mother nature on the expansive ocean, as well as the madness of people who will stop at nothing to try and make a life for themselves.

7. Titanic (1997)

James Cameron's multiple-Oscar-winning film tells the story of the doomed ocean liner as it set off from England, destined never to reach New York.

Titanic is carried across more than three hours of runtime on the backs of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but it's the ship's sinking sequence that ends up being one of the most striking scenes ever put to film.

When the Titanic sinks, we—the audience—are made fully aware of the sheer power wielded by the ocean.

Everybody on board clamors to get off, with many eventually resigning themselves to the fact that they'll never see the light of another day again. We're hit hardest when entire families consign themselves to their fate, only to face the unrelenting deep that swallows them.

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6. All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost is remembered for two main things: first, that it has almost zero dialogue, and second, that its entire narrative is deftly portrayed by a wordless Robert Redford's stellar leading performance.

In this film, we follow a singular man who ends up lost at sea and must do what he can to navigate his way back to the real world.

All Is Lost showcases the sheer survival instincts needed to emerge victorious against the massive ocean's waves, and how the smallest mishaps can lead to catastrophic results.

Despite not a word spoken past its first few minutes, All Is Lost is an emotional roller coaster that keeps us hooked, teetering on the fine line between survival and certain death.

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5. Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away is a classic film, starring Tom Hanks as a FedEx worker who's marooned on an island after a plane crash. You can see how the open sea could be so frightening here.

As Chuck Noland fights against time and the elements to get back to the woman he loves in Memphis, the deadly ocean refuses to let him leave—and he ends up putting up a four-year fight. 

When Noland finally escapes to sea, it's hard to say he has it any better as we watch this man float on a pile of wood in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. What can he do?

Cast Away is essential watching for anyone who's afraid of water, as Noland's endurance alone is a triumph of human nature.

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4. Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips is a film that doesn't relent. It keeps pushing us through the savage hostage ordeal that the real Richard Phillips went through, and it never gives us a chance to catch our breath.

Led by Tom Hanks—who seems to like films set in or around the ocean—Captain Phillips is the striking story of how Somali pirates captured Richard Phillips and tried to hold him for ransom. 

Throughout the film, we feel every bump of the waves, every ripple of the harsh sea, as Phillips is dragged through a torturous experience. By the end, we're simply left in a state of shock.

3. Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi might be based on Yann Martel's book, but it has Ang Lee's fingerprints all over it—and in it, the versatile Taiwanese filmmaker gives the ocean a very real and vivid connection with God. 

As we see Pi and his tiger, Richard Parker, sail across the Pacific on the lifeboat of a wrecked ship, the symbiotic relationship shared between Pi, Richard Parker, and the ocean slowly emerges as beautiful.

The movie showcases both the beauty and horror of being stuck out at sea, along with the draining hopelessness that Pi must fight against if he doesn't want to succumb to the unrelenting waves.

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2. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is film that's entirely set on the ocean, with Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) hunting down a French destroyer in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. 

Directed by Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World draws us in a way that makes us feel like we're one of the crew, all while showing us how the ocean can be a vast wasteland or a nourishing jungle at any given time. 

From start to finish, the film rolls with the waves while riding out the storms. Complete with masterful performances by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, this is a must-watch if you haven't yet.

1. Jaws (1975)

No film will ever elicit the kind of thalassophobia that we all got when we first watched Steven Spielberg's classic blockbuster Jaws.

While the story starts off on land, it soon hits the open waters when the three main men set out to kill the Great White Shark that's terrorizing the waters of Amity Island.

The entire film is a breathtaking experience—the way the chase against the shark unfolds, the eventual sinking of Quint's ship, the shark's brutal attacks and how our heroes never back down.

Jaws successfully instilled in us a fear of sharks and a fear of the ocean, and it convinced an entire generation of moviegoers to think twice before relaxing on a lilo out on the sea. 

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