Your fascination probably started at your local YMCA or in a pool at your friend’s house. The first time was a simple contest to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest. As you got better, your interest in the sport continued to grow as you became hooked on freediving. Soon you found yourself taking trips to the ocean, and when that wasn’t enough, you began scouring the television for shows on your favorite activity.
Freediving has long been part of TV programs and movies. It allows us to enter a fascinating and alien world. Films that have included freediving as either their backdrop or primary subject matter are suspenseful, scenic, and always dramatic.
Top 10 Freediving Movies and Documentaries
Freediving is one of those activities that combines the rare qualities of beauty, education, and danger, making it perfect for films. Freediving is found in both fictional and reality-based entertainment. We examined many works that showcase this activity and now provide you our list of the best freediving movies and documentaries.
What better way to start our list than with a classic? Nothing spells suspense and action like a James Bond film, and in the 1965 offering, Thunderball, we get to see our hero at his thrilling best combined with the sport of freediving.
Played by the original James Bond, Sean Connery, the dashing secret agent must travel to the Bahamas to retrieve stolen nuclear warheads. The diving scenes are fantastic and are the centerpiece of most of the action sequences.
2. Open Water
A great freediving film will often center on danger, and perhaps no film captures that element more than 2003’s Open Water. What makes the movie particularly disturbing was the fact that it is a true story. The plot centers on two tourists taken on a freediving excursion.
The tour directors miscount leads to their boat leaving without them, stranding them in the middle shark-infested waters with no way back. The horror increases with every passing minute.
3. No Limits
Part of ESPN’s Nine for IX series, the documentary No Limits masterfully showcases the sport known as extreme freediving. If you are unfamiliar with the sport, it entails being strapped to a weighted sled and then diving nearly 200 meters into the ocean on a single breath. The film focuses on Audrey Mestre’s attempt to break the extreme freediving world record of 564 feet. It is a fascinating and intimate look into both the mental and physical preparation of her endeavor.
4. The Big Blue
Some films become so iconic to a sport that they attain cult-like status. One such film is 1988’s The Big Blue. The story follows two friends who pursue their passion and dreams of becoming freedivers in the Mediterranean.
Their competitive natures lead to a rivalry that flourishes into love. Spectacular cinematography is the film’s hallmark, and it continues to be a favorite among freediving enthusiasts.
5. The Abyss
For those who like science fiction mixed with your favorite pastime, the 1989 film, The Abyss is the most outstanding example. The story centers around a group of civilian divers who have been contracted by the military to locate a lost nuclear submarine.
During their dive, they soon discover that they are not alone underneath the waves. The film includes incredible visual images of freediving and a suspenseful story to boot.
6. Ocean Men
Our other documentary to make our list is the 2001 feature, Ocean Men. The documentary is one of our choices because of its incredible visuals and deft storytelling. The film covers two of the greatest extreme freedivers in the world, Pippin Ferreras, and Umberto Pelizzari, as they try to better each other to pursue the deepest dive in the world.
Spectacular photography encompasses the viewer as these extraordinary athletes push the limits of human endurance.
7. The Deep
Based on Peter Benchley’s novel, the 1977 movie, The Deep, was ahead of its time in underwater photography and filming. Starring Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset, the story follows a couple who discover vials of morphine inside a World War II shipwreck.
Once their discovery comes to the attention of drug runners, the danger ensues. The film required nearly nine thousand separate dives during its shooting schedule.
The 2001 film, Sanctum, would make our list, if for no other reason than the fact that it offers spectacular freediving imagery in a 3D format. However, it is also a great story. The film focuses on a group of divers who specialize in underwater cave exploration. In a constant pursuit to push their physical limits, they decide to explore one of the most immense and mysterious cave systems on earth. They quickly realize they may not be up to the task.
The film Narcose made our list for its unique approach to freediving. Instead of merely focusing on the dives, it approaches the sport from a completely different angle.
Produced by the film making team of Guillaume Néry and Julie Gautier, it examines the physical effects of freediving and a unique physical condition it causes, known as nitrous narcosis. If you are a diver who has contemplated going further than 30 meters underwater, Narcose is a must-watch.
10. Dolphin Man
For those who are interested in the history of the sport of freediving, Dolphin Man is a must. The film centers around the life of freediving legend, Jacques Mayol. Beautiful photography and in depth story telling is the strength of the movie.
Mayol would serve as an inspiration to many in the freediving world. His life story would also later serve as the impetus to the famous cult classic, The Big Blue.
A Few Other Freediving Movies and Documentaries Worthy of Mention
Here are some movies that didn’t make the top of our list but are still worth a look.
- One Breath Around the World
- Free Dive
- Yasemin Dalkilic – World’s Deepest Woman
Shooting the scenery provided by a natural underwater environment always presents challenges when filming. It is not merely sticking a camera underwater and shooting anything that passes the lens. A great freediving film will showcase the sport in all of its grandeur.
However, the best movies about freediving do not solely rely on visuals. A great film also focuses on characters and their stories. Freediving is a sport that involves fascinating people asking their bodies to do extraordinary things. Freediving films that artfully combine the human elements while keeping us engaged in their stories are invaluable to satisfying the film viewing experience.