There are movies that fizzle, and then there are movies that last for generations.
At any given moment on any given ship, one of these movies is guaranteed to be on rotation. They’re not only relatable, but timeless too. For example, “Cinderella Liberty” was made in the 1970s and yet a variation of the plot still happens to sailors in today’s Navy. And, when sailors watch “Master and Commander” they realize that the Navy hasn’t changed much since the 1800s.
Then, there are movies like “Top Gun” and “Officer and a Gentleman” that motivated a generation of sailors to join the service. “Top Gun” debuted in 1986 and until this day you can hear the echoes of aviators throughout the ship referring to each other as Maverick and Goose (our resident ex-naval aviator Ward Carroll disagrees. We’re guessing he’s a huge “Behind Enemy Lines” fan instead).
Another reason for the longevity of these films is because sailors relate to different characters at different stages of their careers. Early on they see themselves as Mayo in “Officer and a Gentleman” and years later they find themselves relating to Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter in “Crimson Tide.”
Here’s our list of movies movies every sailor needs to watch. Got any more? Add them to the comments.
1. The Sand Pebbles — 1966
This Navy engineer is transferred to a new ship in a foreign land where tensions are high with the United States. He doesn’t get along with the shipmates or the skipper and to make matters worse, he gets implicated in an incident that could cause full out war. Every sailor will relate to Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Holman played by Steve McQueen at some point in their career.
2. The Hunt For Red October — 1990
Set during the Cold War, the USSR’s best submarine captain and crew plan to defect to the United States without triggering full out war. After watching this movie, you’ll realize that the USSR Navy isn’t very different from the U.S. Navy.
3. Top Gun — 1986
Dogfights, explosions, rivalries, and love, this movie was the beginning for a lot of aviators. A look at Maverick and you’ll understand what a lot of Navy pilots think of themselves.
4. Crimson Tide — 1995
On one hand you have a trigger-happy skipper ready to unleash his nukes onto Russia and on the other you have a subordinate staging a mutiny. It’s a sailor’s fantasy played out.
5. Officer and a Gentleman — 1982
This story plays out every day in the military. It’s about a guy wanting to turn his life around by joining the Navy. Sound familiar?
6. Master and Commander — 2003
Although this film is recent compared to the others, it made our list for its timelessness. With phrases such as port side, starboard, head, and others, sailors quickly realize that if they were to be transported to the 1800s that they would still make good sailors.
7. Cinderella Liberty — 1973
A quick read of the captions and you could probably think of a sailor or two that fit the profile.