The Best Sailing Movie Ever?

Could "All is Lost" be a sailing movie that sailors can truly love? We'll find out next month when the film, starring Robert Redford as a man lost at sea, hits theaters.

All is Lost movie

All is Lost

“All is Lost” comes to theaters on Oct. 18.

**** Are Robert Redford and filmmaker J.C. Chandor about to upend history and deliver a sailing movie, called “All Is Lost“, that sailors can truly love?


If so, it would be a nice surprise. The reality is that Hollywood has never made it a mission to gratify and thrill the small subsegment of the American population known as sailors. Deal with it.


Yes, we’ve had “Wind.” It was fun, and nice to see our sport featured. But it was full of totally predictable (and not very flattering) caricatures, and sailing scenes which definitely required a full suspension of disbelief. Yawn.

And we’ve seen “Master And Commander“, which was pretty decent, and sorta authentic, but not quite great (I’m not sure why, sorry).

I can come up with at least one great sailing movie, “Deep Water“, featuring the fascinating and tragic final voyage of Donald Crowhurst. But it was a documentary, not Major Hollywood, and naturally didn’t quite bring the glitz, recognition, hipness, and cultural acceptance that all sailors crave deep down.


In fact, for my money, the best sailing movie wasn’t even about sailing. It was about a scary, crazy dude, and bumbling Sam Neill being heroic and determined, and a young Nicole Kidman being, well, a young Nicole Kidman. It was called “Dead Calm“, and it had a really sweet yacht as a co-star.

So here we are, a century into the magic of moving pictures, and we have yet to experience a movie that really nails the reality of humanity’s experience of venturing across wide oceans on small craft. But I am hoping “All Is Lost”, which will premiere next month, might change that.

First off, it’s got Robert Redford, who is crossing from craggy into creaky, but is still a mega-marquee Hollywood star. The movie features Redford as a solo sailor who hits a container and then must battle for his life. And Redford, who apparently acts the hell out of the role without saying hardly anything at all, is getting rave reviews.


Just as important, man and small boat against the sea (and large sneaker containers) is a timeless, resonant theme. It is at the heart of every voyage, It is the core appeal of every voyage. And that seems to be the only story that Redford and Chandor want to tell. No side stories, no frippery, no distractions. Just a simple, yet primal, struggle between sailor and death.

Filmed in the massive water tank built for “Titanic”, if “All Is Lost” can pull the sailing audience into that struggle without any jarring, lubberly mistakes (okay, Redford apparently has no working EPIRB, but hey, it could happen!), then they might just win the title of greatest sailing movie ever. Or at least so far. And the early reaction from critics is off the charts.

Even so, the always-hopeful sailing community has repeatedly been burned by Hollywood’s penchant for backwinded jibs, yachts sailing across windless seas, and clunky, nautical dialogue, so skepticism is in order. As an antidote, however, I offer the “All Is Lost” trailer. If it does not touch the sailor in you, then all is truly lost.


>>Read production notes from the making of “All is Lost”


Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Sailing World emails to receive racing tips, tactics and techniques, and reviews on the latest boat models as well as special offers on behalf of Sailing World’s partners.
By signing up you agree to receive communications from Sailing World and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.

More Racing