Many of our great adventures in literature and film have taken place in and around the water. Boats are synonymous with adventure. Whether you're waterskiing in the Ozarks, sailing on the Indian Ocean or navigating your local pond with a remote control boat, being on the water is exciting and sometimes treacherous. It s no surprise that movies reflect this.

Here are some of the best (it was hard to narrow it to 10, so I cheated a little):

10. Titanic / The Abyss   Despite these movies' flaws, James Cameron knows how to tell a story. These two adventures, with boats at their core, are impossible to watch and not get utterly caught up in. In Titanic, the spirit of the  unsinkable  ship lingers on even from its watery grave, as do the victims who suffered the same fate, all of which is beautifully captured through the microcosm of the love story of Jack and Rose. The Abyss wonderfully captures the mystery of the vast unexplored watery terrain that inhabits the majority of our planet. This science-fiction take on one crew s encounter with aliens of the deep is emotional and ultimately believable. You will care about the fate of this submarine s crew.

9. John and the Missus   This obscure, hard-to-find film takes place on an island and tells the compelling story of a mining village in Newfoundland whose livelihood is dying. As a result, the town itself is being divided between the older loyal residents and the younger generation, itching to start anew somewhere else. John and his missus are ultimately forced to leave the island, but they refuse to leave their home behind. The home itself becomes a boat, towed across a broad stretch of waters to its new location, thus becoming a symbol of the need for consistency in the face of inevitable change. This indelible image that you won t soon forget is the capstone of an equally memorable film.

8. Life of Pi   This visually stunning movie is worth seeing for the images alone, but the story is equally compelling. After a storm at sea, Pi Patel, a young teenager from India, is separated from his family and most of the zoo they are transporting across the Atlantic. Pi has to survive over a period of months on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. This is enough to fuel an interesting story, but throwing a man-eating Bengal tiger into the mix takes it to a whole other level, as he has to find ways to avoid becoming part of the tiger s survival kit. By the end, this movie takes on many levels of meaning and everything is called into question, except the boat itself, which is the one constant.

7. The Poseidon Adventure   This is the anti-Titanic movie. A cruise liner that should have been in the shop takes one more voyage and ends up capsizing. The rest of the movie is spent in survival mode, forcing those on the ship to find a way to freedom through the bottom of the ship. This is a true adventure, where the ship becomes both a lifeboat and a deathtrap that needs to be escaped before it s too late.

6. Dead Calm   This is a supremely eerie, highly effective thriller about a young couple who happen upon a seemingly abandoned boat floating in the middle of the ocean. Upon closer inspection, they discover the boat s crew has been reduced to a lone survivor. Despite some formulaic and by-the-numbers elements, you will feel the extreme isolation of two boats that intersect in the middle of a vast ocean under extreme circumstances. The ensuing tension doesn t let up until the satisfying climax.

5. Das Boot  The boat in the title is a submarine, and all the boredom, terror and horrific futility of war are played out in the confined space of this submerged vessel, packed to the gills with German soldiers. Though the world is now in general agreement they were fighting for the wrong side, director Wolfgang Peterson will make you feel you are sharing the same claustrophobic space, and you will mourn the loss of each man who falls.

4. Mud   Mark Twain would have loved and, like me, wished he had written this adventure of two boys who discover a boat lodged in the trees of a small island in the middle of the Mississippi, as the result of a recent flood. The boys  plans to adopt the boat as an impromptu treehouse are foiled when they realize it is being used by someone else   a fugitive hiding out on the island. The plot that ensues is intriguing, suspenseful and shot through with the hope and mystery of romance that eludes them the way it so often does us. The boats in this movie are as integral to their world as the memorable characters that won t soon leave your soul once you ve seen it.

3. Knife in the Water   Roman Polanski s first movie is a masterfully told story of a couple who picks up a hitchhiker on the way to the sea for an afternoon of sailing. The hitchhiker ends up coming along on the boat and the tensions between the characters rise, as it does in life, with a subtlety you don t see coming until it s too late. This character-driven movie effectively straddles thriller and drama, using the boat and the water as a fourth character that looms all around, adding to the tension.

2. The African Queen / Lifeboat   These two wartime films are real adventures set on the smallest of stages against the biggest of backdrops. They are microcosms of the conflicts they document   the two world wars. In The African Queen, romance ensues between two very unlikely characters who band together against a common enemy. The conflict between the characters in Lifeboat becomes an allegory of the war itself.

1. Jaws   There has never been, and may never be, a great adaptation of Melville s Moby Dick, but this wildly entertaining thriller   with many of the same elements as Melville s classic   may eliminate the need for it. The catch phrase,  We re gonna need a bigger boat  says it all. As night slowly falls, the boat s creaking hull seems to intensify along with the tension of knowing the monstrous great white shark lurks in the black waters beyond the boat s mast. The boat, though inadequate, survives just long enough for the conquering of the beast before the last man falls.


The next time you gather the kids around the TV, be sure to get some popcorn, stick one of your favorite water-bound adventures in the DVD player and prepare for adventure. See where your imagination sails as you maneuver through obstacles on the storm-tossed sea and into the depths of the human heart.

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