Top 10 Amazing Movies About Swimming | Ready, Set… Action!

by | Feb 12, 2022 | Swimming | 0 comments

Can’t get enough of the pool? Why not stream some cinematic swimming action at home? Here are our top picks of movies from around the world which have put swimming on the big screen!

Best Action Movie – Heroic Swimming

The Guardian(2006)

The Guardian (2006)

The Guardian” is a 2006 American action drama film directed by Andrew Davis. The story revolves around Ben Randall (played by Kevin Costner), a highly skilled and experienced U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

It is the story of a troubled high school swim champion enrolls in a tough US coast guard program where he bonds with an older swimmer over a common experience of survivor’s guilt. This movie is packed with intense rescue scenes and tear-jerking moments, you might need goggles and a nose clip to stop blubbing!

But as it’s a movie, the thing takes a turn, and after a tragic mission, Ben is reassigned to teach at the Coast Guard’s elite training school. Here, he encounters a talented but troubled swimmer named Jake Fischer (played by Ashton Kutcher).

Ben sees the potential in the troubled kid and mentors him through the gruelling training process. As the story develops, you see a complex relationship marked by challenges and personal growth by the teacher and the student. The film explores the themes of sacrifice, teamwork, and resilience in the dangerous world of Coast Guard rescues and the characters’ lives.

Why is it a must-watch for swimmers?

This movie offers a compelling portrayal of the intense physical and mental demands of rescue swimming. It is a glimpse into the rigorous training that Coast Guard swimmers undergo to save lives and help people in deep waters. The story also emphasizes the importance of skill, endurance, and courage in life-threatening situations. 

“The Guardian” is not only a thrilling action film but also a tribute to the dedication and heroism of those who serve in the Coast Guard. It’s a must-watch for people interested in swimming and water rescue.

Honourable mention:

The Big Blue (Le Gran Bleu) (1988), a moving story of two estranged childhood friends and now rival pro free divers, became a cult hit when it was released. Its striking underwater visuals and breath-taking action sequences are a must-watch for diving fans.

Best Biopic – Courage 

Pride (2007)

Pride (2007)

Pride” is a 2007 British-American film directed by Sunu Gonera. The story is inspired by true events and is set in the 1970s. This true-life drama about Jim Ellis, a swim coach to teens from a deprived Philadelphia neighbourhood in the 1970s, is an inspirational tale of overcoming crime, prejudice and huge odds to start the city’s first African American swim team

The coach, Jim Ellis (played by Terrence Howard), is a swim coach who faces the discrimination and wants to put an end to it. The story encourages the audience to stand against injustice. So Jim decides to take on the role of coaching a group of troubled teens in the city of Philadelphia. He and his team form the Philadelphia Department of Recreation swim team and start working towards overcoming prejudice, both within and outside their community. Their efforts bear fruit and they become a competitive swimming team achieving the impossible against all the odds.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers? 

“Pride” is an inspiring film against prejudice and hate. The movie is a great watch that  highlights the transformative power of swimming and teamwork. The scenes showcase the beautiful and engaging way how physical and mental challenges characters face as they train and compete in the world of competitive swimming. 

The movie also addresses the importance of perseverance, unity, and breaking down racial barriers, making it a compelling watch for swimmers who appreciate stories of overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of sporting excellence.

Honorable mentions:

Two runners-up in the inspirational biopic category are Swimming Upstream (2003) – which delves into the turbulent family life of Olympic swimmer Anthony Fingleton, particularly the impact of his alcoholic father – and Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story (1997) – which recounts the champion diver’s struggles with homophobic bullying, emotional abuse, and his HIV+ status. 


Best Romance – Swimming in Love

The Splash

Splash (1984)

Splash” is a 1984 American romantic fantasy comedy film directed by Ron Howard. This feel-good romcom tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a woman who is also secretly a mermaid. The movie earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and is the perfect light-hearted movie for an evening in.

The story is a simple but extremely engaging one. A young boy Allen Bauer falls in water and is saved from drowning by a mysterious mermaid named Madison (played by Daryl Hannah). The boy grows up to be a man (played by Tom Hanks). Years later, Allen encounters Madison again while on a business trip in New York City. He remembers his experience and chases her. Despite the challenges of Madison’s aquatic origins, they fall in love.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

“Splash” offers a whimsical and entertaining take on the theme of aquatic romance, unlike other movies that talk about hard work, sacrifice and endurance. The cinematography of the movie is exceptional as it captures the magic and beauty of the ocean. The swimmer feels part of the ocean with the fantastical portrayal of mermaids and their underwater world. 

But “Splash” comes with a twist. While the movie may not provide a realistic depiction of swimming, it adds a touch of fantasy and enchantment to the water. The beautiful movie makes it a delightful choice for those who enjoy the magic of fairy and aquatic tales. The movie’s light-hearted approach to the underwater realm and its romantic elements can make it an enjoyable watch for swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

Honourable mention: 

The Shape of Water (2017) is a darker version of the human-falling-in-love-with-sea-creature genre, about a mute cleaning lady who falls for a humanoid amphibian. The unlikely lovers enthralled audiences and bagged this movie 4 Academy Awards. Water Lilies (La Naissance des Pieuvres) (2007), a steamy French coming-of-age movie about the sexual awakening of two synchronised swimmers, also gets a shout out for its sharp observation of teenage girls’ psyches.

Best Comedy – Laugh and Swim

The shiny shrimps

The Shiny Shrimps (Les Crevettes Pailletées) (2019)

The Shiny Shrimps” (original title: “Les Crevettes Pailletées”) is a 2019 French comedy film directed by Cédric Le Gallo and Maxime Govare. This French flick tells the tale of flamboyant underdogs ‘the Shiny Shrimps’, an amateur LGBT+ water polo team, and their journey to competition in Croatia.

Perhaps a tad clichéd and predictable, but wholly uplifting and fun! Although the film is fictional, it is inspired by a real team of the same name, of which co-director Cédric Le Gallo is a member.

The story follows a disgraced and homophobic Olympic swimmer named Matthias Le Goff (played by Nicolas Gob). He is given a chance at redemption. In order to avoid a public relations disaster, Matthias is assigned the task of coaching an amateur gay water polo team called “The Shiny Shrimps” for the Gay Games in Croatia.

As Matthias reluctantly takes on the coaching role, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. The film combines elements of comedy and drama to explore themes of tolerance, diversity, and the power of camaraderie.

The Shiny Shrimps, made up of a diverse group of characters, bring humor and heart to the story as they strive to compete and challenge stereotypes in the world of sports.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

For swimmers, “The Shiny Shrimps” offers a unique perspective on the intersection of sports and LGBTQ+ issues. It celebrates the spirit of inclusivity and acceptance within the context of aquatic sports, making it a compelling watch for those interested in the cultural and social dimensions of swimming.

The film’s light-hearted and heartwarming approach makes it an enjoyable choice for both swimmers and audiences looking for a feel-good sports comedy with a message of tolerance and unity.

Honourable mention:

Red Wood Pigeon (Palombella Rossa) (1989) is another (Italian) water polo comedy-drama focussing on a man who loses his memory in a car accident and attempts to reconstruct his identity through conversations with players on a trip to Sicily to play a crucial league-deciding match. Expect plenty of poolside antics!

Best TV Series – Swim to the End 

Barracuda (1996)<br />

Barracuda (1996)

Barracuda” is a 2016 Australian drama miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Christos Tsiolkas. This absorbing Australian TV series follows an ambitious 16-year-old swimmer as he joins a prestigious school through a sporting scholarship. His journey to the Olympics is fraught with harassment, identity crises and fear of failure. The series comprises four episodes originally aired on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The story revolves around Danny Kelly, a talented and ambitious 16-year-old swimmer from a working-class background. Danny earns a scholarship to an elite private school and joins the swim team. As he navigates the competitive world of swimming, he faces the physical challenges of training and the social and economic disparities between himself and his more privileged teammates.

The series delves into themes of ambition, identity, and the impact of social class on sports. It explores the sacrifices and pressures faced by young athletes striving for success in a highly competitive environment. The narrative also examines how personal choices and relationships can shape an individual’s journey in the pursuit of excellence.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

For swimmers, “Barracuda” provides a nuanced portrayal of the world of competitive swimming, shedding light on the complexities and challenges athletes face in their quest for greatness. The series offers a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of the sacrifices and personal struggles that can accompany a career in high-level sports, making it an engaging watch for those interested in the human side of athletic endeavours.

Honourable mention: 

Dive (2010) is an emotional two-part BBC drama about a teenage Olympic diving hopeful facing a difficult decision: to continue with an unplanned pregnancy or her strict training program. Strong performances by the lead actors make this an engaging watch.

Best Psychological Drama to get your Mind Swimming

The swimmer

The Swimmer (1968)

The Swimmer” is a 1968 American surreal drama film directed by Frank Perry and starring Burt Lancaster. This story of an advertising exec finding himself by swimming in various pools in his wealthy neighbourhood might be more suited to pretentious film buffs than swimmers (it’s more about suburban discontentment and American self-delusion than swimming). However, it’s an intriguing, poetic and slow-burn piece of cinema worth a watch if that’s your thing!

The story revolves around Ned Merrill (played by Burt Lancaster), a seemingly affluent man who decides to swim home using a series of swimming pools in the suburban neighbourhoods of his friends. The journey is presented as a surreal and symbolic exploration of identity, societal expectations, and the passage of time.

As Ned progresses through the pools, encountering various friends and acquaintances, the narrative takes on a dreamlike quality. Each pool represents a different aspect of Ned’s life, and his journey becomes a metaphorical exploration of self-discovery and the consequences of his past actions.

For a swimmer, “The Swimmer” offers a unique and reflective perspective on swimming. The film uses swimming as a metaphor for the journey through life, with each pool representing a different stage or experience. The symbolism and psychological depth of the story can resonate with those who appreciate the meditative aspects of swimming. While not a conventional sports film, “The Swimmer” provides a thought-provoking and artistic portrayal of the water’s transformative and reflective qualities. It is an intriguing watch for individuals who enjoy exploring the deeper meanings of swimming.

Honourable mention:

Swimming Pool (2003). This sensual suspense movie follows a British crime novelist to the South of France to find inspiration for her next book. She warms up to her publisher’s daughter in his upmarket summer house, but things take a dark turn as fiction starts to blur into reality.

Best documentary – Swimmer’s win

The Last Gold

The Last Gold (2016)

The Last Gold” is a documentary film released in 2016 that recounts the achievements of the U.S. women’s swim team during the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. It is a  fascinating look at one of the great untold stories in Olympic swimming: the struggle of the 1976 USA women’s swim team against an unstoppable team of doped-up East German athletes. The documentary is narrated by Emmy-winner Julianna Margulies.

The documentary focuses on the relay race in the 4×100-meter freestyle event, where the American women faced formidable opponents from East Germany, known for their state-sponsored doping program.

The American women’s team, considered the underdogs, delivered a historic and inspiring performance against the heavily favored East German swimmers. The film not only highlights the intense competition and the quest for victory but also delves into the broader context of the Cold War era and the political implications surrounding sports.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

“The Last Gold” is a compelling and motivational story for swimmers. It showcases the resilience, determination, and teamwork required to overcome significant challenges in and out of the water. The documentary celebrates the spirit of sportsmanship. It is the story of triumph of the human spirit. 

The documentary is an inspiring watch for swimmers who appreciate the dedication and sacrifices involved in pursuing excellence in the sport. Additionally, the film sheds light on the historical context of competitive swimming and the impact of geopolitical tensions on the world of sports, adding depth to the narrative for those interested in the broader social and political aspects of swimming.

Honourable mentions:

Unfiltered (2005) focusing on GOAT Michael Phelps and his friend/competitor Ian Crocker, and Touch the Wall (2014), focusing on swim stars Missy Franklinand Kara Lynn Joyce, give an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the intense training, sacrifices and personal commitment of Olympic swimmers.

Best Animated Movie

High Speed! Free! Starting Days (2015)

High Speed! Free! Starting Days (2015)

The story primarily centres around Haruka Nanase and Makoto Tachibana, two friends who join their school’s swim team and develop a passion for competitive swimming. An inspiring and beautiful Japanese animated film in which four friends join the school swim team for a medley relay. Without perfect coordination and understanding, they struggle to secure a win, but eventually learn the meaning of teamwork.

The film explores their personal growth, relationships, and challenges as they pursue their swimming dreams.

For swimmers, especially those who enjoy the sport of swimming and are interested in the camaraderie among teammates, “High Speed! Free! Starting Days” provides a relatable and enjoyable narrative. The film captures the excitement, struggles, and friendships that often accompany the journey of young athletes discovering their love for swimming. It’s a story that celebrates the joy of the sport and the bonds formed through shared goals and experiences.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

Moreover, the animation in “High Speed! Free! Starting Days” beautifully depicts the fluidity and grace of swimming, making it visually appealing for those who appreciate the aesthetics of the sport. Overall, the movie offers a blend of sports, friendship, and coming-of-age elements that can resonate with swimmers and fans of the “Free!” series.

Honourable mention:

Finding Nemo (2003) follows a timid clownfish braving the ocean’s dangers to rescue his son and learning to embrace his fears in the process. Although not technically about swimming, the film has gorgeous ocean scenes that will tempt you to don your scuba gear!n the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Best Inspirational Movie – Swimming to the Rescue

On a Clear Day

On a Clear Day (2005)

On a Clear Day” is a 2005 British drama film directed by Gaby Dellal. When a Scottish shipyard engineer becomes jobless and sinks into depression, he finds a new purpose by embarking on the enormous challenge of swimming across the English Channel, concealing his plan from his wife. A wonderfully feel-good movie to lift your spirits!

Feeling adrift and in search of purpose, Frank decides to set an ambitious goal: swim the English Channel. Despite not being an experienced swimmer, he assembles a group of friends from his local community to help him train and achieve this extraordinary feat. As Frank confronts physical and emotional obstacles, the film explores themes of resilience, friendship, and the transformative power of setting and pursuing personal goals.

For swimmers, “On a Clear Day” offers a poignant and inspirational story centred around swimming. The film depicts the physical and mental challenges involved in long-distance swimming. It provides a realistic portrayal of the dedication and determination required to undertake such a demanding endeavour. Swimmers may find the movie relatable and motivating, as it captures the spirit of overcoming obstacles in pursuing a significant swimming goal.

Why is it a must watch for swimmers?

 “On a Clear Day” emphasizes the sense of community and support that can emerge within a group of individuals working towards a common objective. The film’s themes of personal growth and the importance of pursuing one’s passion make it a compelling watch for swimmers who appreciate stories of perseverance, friendship, and the transformative nature of swimming.

Honourable mention:

My Brother… Nikhil (2005). In Goa, a swimming champion gets diagnosed with HIV and his life crumbles. Ostracised for his new status, he is abandoned by his family, team, and friends. However, his elder sister and boyfriend fight to give him back his dignity.

Best horror / thriller – Dangerous Swimming

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Les Diaboliques” is a 1955 French psychological thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The story revolves around the complex relationship between the wife and mistress of a tyrannical school headmaster. The wife, Christina Delassalle (played by Véra Clouzot), and the mistress, Nicole Horner (played by Simone Signoret), conspire to murder the oppressive headmaster, Michel Delassalle (played by Paul Meurisse).

The two women meticulously plan and execute the murder, drowning Michel in a bathtub. After the crime, they dispose of the body in a swimming pool at the school. However, the plot takes unexpected and eerie turns when Michel’s body mysteriously disappears from the pool, leading to a series of twists and revelations that keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

Although not exactly about swimming, a swimming pool plays a key role in this classic twisty horror. A woman and her husband’s mistress plot to murder the man in question by drowning him in a bathtub and then dumping his body in a pool to make it look like an accidental drowning. However, after the murder, his corpse vanishes from the pool and strange occurrences ensue. It will keep you guessing until the raucous finale!

The underwater scenes in the pool add tension and mystery to the narrative, and the film’s climax involves a dramatic discovery in the water. Therefore, while the movie may not be directly related to the sport of swimming, the swimming pool setting and its significance in the storyline make it an intriguing watch for those who appreciate the interplay between suspenseful storytelling and aquatic elements.

Honourable mentions:

Falling into the “so bad they’re good” category, Swimfan (2002) and12 Feet Deep (2017) provide jumpy moments and creepy after-hours low-lit pool atmosphere… grab the popcorn!

So this is our list. Have you got any good movies about swimming to recommend?
Let us know in the comments!


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