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Plunge into the deep end with a cinema that dives beyond the pool’s edge.

From emotional currents to thrillers that will have you holding your breath, these picks are more than just splashes and strokes.

Are you ready to wade through the best Swimming movies, shows, and documentaries that make a splash in cinematic history?

Best Swimming Movies, Shows, and Documentaries:

  1. The Swimmer (1968)
  2. Pride (2007)
  3. Swimfan (2002)
  4. On a Clear Day (2005)
  5. The Guardian (2006)
  6. Backstroke (2017)
  7. Touch the Wall (2014) – Documentary
  8. Water Lilies (2007)
  9. Dangerous When Wet (1953)
  10. The Big Blue (1988)

#1 The Swimmer (1968)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)
  • 🌟 Starring: Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule

In “The Swimmer,” Burt Lancaster delivers a powerful performance as Ned Merrill, a seemingly successful suburbanite who decides to swim his way home through his neighbors’ pools. As he traverses the “Lucinda River,” named after his wife, Ned’s journey begins to reveal deep truths and hidden pains about his life and the lives of those he encounters.

The film, based on a John Cheever story, is recognized for its allegorical layers and exploration of themes such as the American Dream, social status, and the fragility of success.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu

#2 Pride (2007)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Sunu Gonera
  • 🌟 Starring: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Kimberly Elise

“Pride” is based on true events surrounding Jim Ellis, played by Terrence Howard, an African-American who starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. Despite facing racism, lack of funding, and other obstacles, Ellis perseveres, shaping the lives of his diverse team members.

Co-starring the late Bernie Mac, “Pride” is an inspirational story that emphasizes the importance of perseverance, community, and the empowering nature of sport.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#3 Swimfan (2002)

  • 🎬 Directed by: John Polson
  • 🌟 Starring: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby

“Swimfan” follows Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford), a high school swimmer who has a brief affair with Madison Bell (Erika Christensen), a new student.

However, Madison’s obsession turns dangerous as she starts to infiltrate and threaten every aspect of Ben’s life. This thriller delves into the dark side of attraction and obsession, set against the backdrop of competitive swimming.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#4 On a Clear Day (2005)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Gaby Dellal
  • 🌟 Starring: Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn, Billy Boyd

“On a Clear Day,” tells an uplifting story of personal growth and redemption. Frank Redmond (Peter Mullan), after being laid off from his job, aims to reclaim his self-worth and patch up his strained relationships by taking on the formidable challenge of swimming the English Channel.

The film is a heartwarming drama that explores the relentless human spirit and the strength that comes from community and friendship.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu

#5 The Guardian (2006)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Andrew Davis
  • 🌟 Starring: Kevin Costner, Ashton Kutcher, Melissa Sagemiller

“The Guardian” stars Kevin Costner as a legendary rescue swimmer, Ben Randall, who becomes an instructor after a traumatic loss during a rescue mission. Ashton Kutcher plays Jake Fischer, a talented but cocky young recruit. Randall trains and mentors Fischer, imparting life-saving lessons and personal wisdom.

A combination of action and character-driven drama, the film emphasizes themes of sacrifice, heroism, and the rigorous demands of being a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

Where to watch: Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu

#6 Backstroke (2017)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Robbie Barclay

“Backstroke” is a short film that tells the suspenseful story of two runaway teens who borrow a car for a journey of adventure and freedom. However, after picking up a mysterious hitchhiker, their trip takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.

Notably, the swimming element is featured in a critical scene that adds depth to the tension throughout the film. The film is recognized for its compelling narrative and its skill in building an atmosphere of increasing dread and suspense.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#7 Touch the Wall (2014) – Documentary

  • 🎬 Directed by: Grant Barbeito, Christo Brock

“Touch the Wall” is a documentary focusing on the competitive journey of two Olympic swimmers, Missy Franklin and Kara Lynn Joyce, as they prepare for the London 2012 Olympics. The film delivers an intimate look at their lives, training regimens, and personal sacrifices.

It is not only a testament to their determination and athletic prowess but also an exploration of their bond as teammates and the dynamics of mentorship and competition.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes

#8 Water Lilies (2007)

  • 🎬 Directed by: CΓ©line Sciamma
  • 🌟 Starring: Pauline Acquart, Louise BlachΓ¨re, AdΓ¨le Haenel

“Water Lilies” is a French drama film exploring the lives of three teenage girls in the suburbs of Paris throughout a single summer. The story centers around their experiences with friendship, love, and desire, all set against the background of synchronized swimming.

Directed by CΓ©line Sciamma, “Water Lilies” is noted for its sensitive portrayal of adolescence and the exploration of the complexities of female relationships.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#9 Dangerous When Wet (1953)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Charles Walters
  • 🌟 Starring: Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, Jack Carson

“Dangerous When Wet” is a classic musical-comedy featuring Esther Williams as Katie Higgins, the star of a swimming farm family. Katie ends up channeling her talent into a sponsored swim across the English Channel, facing both romantic and comedic entanglements along the way.

Famed for its elaborate water sequences and featuring an animated cameo by Tom and Jerry, the film is a showcase of Esther Williams’ aquatic talents and a piece of Hollywood’s Golden Age of musicals.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

#10 The Big Blue (1988)

  • 🎬 Directed by: Luc Besson
  • 🌟 Starring: Rosanna Arquette, Jean-Marc Barr, Jean Reno

“The Big Blue” is a visually stunning film that delves into the world of competitive freediving. It traces the story of two divers, Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (Jean Reno), chronicling their childhood friendship and rivalry that extends into their adult life and intense competition.

Directed by Luc Besson, “The Big Blue” is known for its sweeping cinematography and a profound meditation on the human connection with the sea.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu

FAQ

What is the best swimming movie of all time?

“The Swimmer” (1968), starring Burt Lancaster, is the best swimming movie of all time, acclaimed for its powerful story and psychological depth.

What are some good swimming movies?

“Million Dollar Mermaid” (1952), “The Big Blue” (1988), and “Pride” (2007) are good swimming movies that explore the challenges and triumphs of swimmers.

What swimming movies, shows, and documentaries are on Netflix?

The best swimming movies, shows, and documentaries on Netflix currently are “The Waterboy” (1998), “Touch the Wall” (2014), and the docuseries “Last Chance U: Basketball” (involving swimming training).

Jane is a social worker and founder and author of thefamilyconscience.com - a parenting and family travel site. She's a swim parent with two children swimming competitively at regional level and is also a swimming official. Both she and her kids regularly take part in triathlons and are members of a triathlon club. The Family Conscience offers advice for motivation and positive mindset for teens and tweens - particularly important when it comes to sport!

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