19 Classic Movies on the High Seas

Any time is great for cruising. Here's a list of old movies featuring ocean voyages. 


Romance and Comedy Cruises

An Affair to Remember (1957)
  • A famous remake of a shipboard romance between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr who are engaged to other people. See also Love Affair(1939).

  • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: The telegrams, which make an otherwise isolated cruise reconnect with the outside world. The characters would rather be alone.

Good Girls Go to Paris (1939)
  • Joan Blondell desperately wants to take an ocean voyage to Europe. Will blackmailing a young man -any young man-for the money do the trick? Will she ever make the trip?
  • Best Cruise-y Thing About It:  The title credits have luggage and sea shadows in the background.

The Lady Eve (1941)
  • A father-daughter confidence team (Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck) takes cruises to scam tourists out of their cash. They didn't count on Stanwyck falling in love with a mark (Henry Fonda).
  •  Best Cruise-y Thing About It: Stanwyck's huge steamer trunk which folds out into a mini closet is the kind you'd often see on cruise ships in old movies and in real life. 

Musicals on a Cruise

These movies share a song or two to enhance the sea-worthy story.

Romance on the High Seas (1948)
  • Doris Day makes a stellar film debut as a woman hired to impersonate a socialite on a cruise to South America. Of course, our star sings in the film, including the Academy Award- nominated song, "It's Magic."

  •  Best Cruise-y Thing About It: Doris Day gets the famed Warner Brothers lacquered treatment so that sea gales do not muss her hair, but her chiffon dances gaily in the wind. It's magic!
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
  • No cruising movie list would be complete without this famous romp on the high seas.  It's an ocean trip following the adventures of a gold digger (Marilyn Monroe) and her best friend (Jane Russell). A song on board: "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?"
  •  Best Cruise-y Thing About It: To sidle up to millionaires, Monroe uses the passenger list to gather intel, then bribes the maître d' to rearrange the ship's seating chart for dinner, but with hilarious results.

The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)

  • Two ocean liners race across the Atlantic, but with W.C. Fields, Bob Hope and Martha Raye involved, the movie is not about who wins; it's all about how much zany fun can be packed into the plot along the way.
  • A song on board:“Don‘t Tell a Secret to a Rose,” sung by Tito Guizar. The movie is also known for what would become Bob Hope's signature song, "Thanks for the Memory."

  •  Best Cruise-y thing about it: W. C. Fields steers the vessel with his feet.

    • Monkey Business(1931)
      • The Marx Brothers  are on a ship and wreak havoc for everyone. They stowaway in barrels and sing "Sweet Adeline," (even Harpo) which is worth the price of admission.

      • Best Cruise-y thing about it: To disembark without passports, they each pretend to be Maurice Chevalier singing "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me." It's an absolutely ridiculous thing to do, but it's the Marx Brothers.
      We're Not Dressing (1934)
      • A socialite (Carole Lombard) entertains guests on a yacht in the Pacific, when an irresistible force comes along in the form of Bing Crosby, the singing sailor.

      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: Ethel Merman belting out a song and dance at the small yacht's bar is hilarious.

      Adventure on the High Seas

      In the mood for a cruise that's less than serene? Then grab your sword, plunge a dagger and buckle a swash with these films!

      Against All Flags (1952)
      Against All Flags (1952)
      • Maureen O'Hara plays a pirate who matches wits and swords with Errol Flynn.
       The Black Swan (1942)
      • Listed as one of the American Film Institute's must-watch movies, Maureen O'Hara matches tempers with the pirate Jamie Waring (Tyrone Power) when he kidnaps her and takes her on his ship, the Black Swan.
      • George Sanders is unrecognizable in a red beard as Captain Billy Leech.
      Double Crossbones (1951)
      • Donald O'Connor is caught in a case of mistaken identity when the authorities believe he is the dread pirate, Blood Thirsty Dave.
      The Princess and the Pirate (1944)
      • Bob Hope tries his hand at a pirate caper in this comedy about a man who wakes up with a treasure map tattooed on his chest. All the pirates are after him, dead or alive.

      Death on the Nile (1978)
      • An Agatha Christie murder mystery interrupts an Egyptian pleasure cruise. But detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) urges his little grey cells to discover whodunnit. Bette Davis is a suspect, as are Angela Lansbury and David Niven who turn in someone of the funniest dance moments on film.

      Cruising on the Periphery
      These movies are not mainly about the cruise, but have a few noteworthy scenes on the sea

      I Love You Again (1940)
      • The action begins on a ship when William Powell hits his head trying to save a man's life who has fallen overboard. Remembering that he is a gangster, he now
        discovers the completely different life he has led during his amnesiac state.

      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: Powell's character in the beginning is an hilarious bore. The confines of the ship make everyone the captive audience to his inanities.
      In Search of the Castaways (1962)
      • While searching for her father around the world and enduring wild animals, avalanches and earthquakes, Hayley Mills is featured in a number of important scenes aboard a private yacht. When aboard the vessel, the tone of the film takes a breather from the adventures that she gets into on land.

      •  For you Disney-philes: You guessed it -there is no mother in the plot.
      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: The stately yacht dinner where everyone is dressed to the nines.

      It's a Date (1940)
      • Deanna Durbin takes a sea voyage to Honolulu to ask her mother (Kay Francis) to coach her in a play. See also Nancy Goes to Rio (1950).
      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: The young woman mistakenly believes a man (Walter Pidgeon) is a stowaway and stuffs him with food.

      A Night at the Opera (1935)
      A Night at the Opera (1935)
      • The Marx Brothers play cupid for Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones who want to be opera singers in New York. This means a trip on a ship from Europe. The Marx Brothers are at their comic best in these confined quarters.

      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It:  The famous crowded stateroom scene.

      Royal Wedding (1951)
      • An American brother and sister show business team (Fred Astaire and Jane Powell) are booked to perform in England. This means an ocean voyage for a few scenes before they arrive.

      • Best Cruise-y Thing About It: There are a few scenes of the show biz team dealing with a turbulent dance floor. The film crew is somehow gently rocking an enormous set as big as a ship's ballroom back and forward for this number!

      Too Many Husbands (1940)
      • A shipwrecked man (Fred MacMurray) finds his way home and discovers his wife (Jean Arthur) has remarried. There are no ship scenes, but lots of exposition about what has taken place from ship to shore - the aftereffects of having been on a cruise that went wrong. See also Move Over Darling (1963) and My Favorite Wife (1940).
      What are your favorite cruise-themed films?


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