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Top 10 Fishing Movies Ever Made | Catch the Best

Fishing Movies

In his famous quote, Henry David Thoreau observed that many fish their whole lives without realizing their true purpose. Filmmakers often echo this sentiment. They use the act of fishing as a setting to explore themes like friendship, political conflict, love, and even lighthearted humor. From these diverse themes to a few more, Empire Magazine highlights ten films that capture the essence of fishing movies on screen.

Top 10 Best Fishing Movies

The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

The Old Man and the Sea (1958) is a classic film based on Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The film tells the story of Santiago (Spencer Tracy), an aging Cuban fisherman who goes 84 days without catching a fish. Determined to break his unlucky streak, Santiago ventures far out to sea and hooks a giant marlin. The battle between the man and the Fish is thrilling and suspenseful, as Santiago is forced to use all his skill and strength to reel in the massive creature.

John Sturges and stars Spencer Tracy directed the film in his final role. Tracy’s powerful and moving performance perfectly captures Santiago’s determination and resilience. The movie received multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Cinematography and Best Actor for Tracy.


  • Santiago (played by Spencer Tracy)
  • Manolin (played by Felipe Pazos Jr.)
  • Other characters include minor roles like Martin, a cafe proprietor, and unnamed gamblers.

Release Date

  • The film premiered in September 1958.


  • The book “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway was initially published in 1952.

A River Runs Through It (1992)

Robert Redford directed the iconic coming-of-age drama A River Runs Through It (1992). The film explores the themes of fly fishing, family, faith, and the destructive power of alcoholism. It is based on the novella by the same name, Norman Maclean, who also narrates the film as an older man.


  • Norman Maclean (played by Craig Sheffer)
  • Paul Maclean (played by Brad Pitt)
  • Reverend Maclean (played by Tom Skerritt)
  • Mrs. Maclean (played by Brenda Blethyn)
  • Jessie Burns (played by Emily Lloyd)


The film follows the story of the Maclean brothers, Norman and Paul, who grow up in Montana during the early 20th century. Their Presbyterian minister father teaches them the finer points of fly-fishing, which becomes a lifelong passion for both brothers. However, their paths diverge as they enter adulthood. Norman excels in school and leaves Montana to attend college, while Paul remains in Montana and becomes a skilled but troubled fisherman. As Paul descends deeper into alcoholism, Norman must grapple with his love for his brother and his sense of responsibility.


A River Runs Through It was a critical and commercial success. The movie received multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay. Brad Pitt’s performance as Paul Maclean was particularly praised. The film is also known for its beautiful Montana scenery and its lyrical exploration of the themes of family and loss.

The River Wild (1994)

The River Wild (1994) is a thrilling action-adventure film directed by Curtis Hanson. Here’s a breakdown of the movie:


Gail Hartman (played by Meryl Streep), a former white-water rafting guide, is facing marital problems with her workaholic husband Tom (played by David Strathairn). To reconnect with her family and reignite their adventurous spirit, Gail takes Tom and their son Roarke (played by Joseph Mazzello) on a white-water rafting trip down the Salmon River in Idaho. At the last minute, Tom reluctantly joins them. As they embark on their journey, they encounter another group of rafters – two men named Wade (played by Kevin Bacon) and Terry (played by John C. Reilly). Although Wade and Terry initially appear pleasant, it soon becomes clear that they are dangerous lawbreakers on the run. They take Gail, Tom, and Roarke hostage, forcing them to navigate the treacherous river rapids while evading capture.


  • Family bonds and overcoming challenges together
  • Facing one’s fears and inner strength
  • Survival in the wilderness

Critical Reception

The River Wild received mixed reviews. While Meryl Streep’s performance was praised, some critics found the plot predictable. Nonetheless, the movie was a financial success and is still a well-liked option for those who enjoy survival-focused action-adventure films.

Jaws (1975)

Steven Spielberg’s iconic thriller may be known for its suspense and terror, but it also features memorable scenes of shark fishing. Set in the fictional town of Amity Island, the film follows Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) as they hunt down a massive great white shark. The film’s blend of heart-pounding suspense and thrilling action has made it a timeless classic.

Release Date

June 20, 1975

Main Characters

  • Martin Brody (Police Chief) – Played by Roy Scheider
  • Quint (Professional Shark Hunter) – Played by Robert Shaw
  • Matt Hooper (Marine Biologist) – Played by Richard Dreyfuss
  • Larry Vaughn (Mayor) – Played by Murray Hamilton
  • Ellen Brody (Martin’s Wife) – Played by Lorraine Gary

The Perfect Storm (2000)

Based on Sebastian Junger’s non-fiction book, this gripping film tells the true story of Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing boat caught amid a ferocious storm in the North Atlantic. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen and featuring a stellar cast led by George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg, The Perfect Storm portrays the bravery and sacrifice of fishermen facing nature’s wrath, delivering an emotional and unforgettable cinematic experience.

Release Date

June 30, 2000

Main Characters

  • Billy Tyne (Captain)
  • Bobby Shatford (Crew Member)
  • Christina Cotter (Bobby’s Girlfriend)
  • David “Sully” Sullivan (Crew Member)
  • Linda Greenlaw (Captain of Another Boat)

Big Fish (2003)

This fantastical drama, directed by Tim Burton, explores the complex relationship between a dying father (Albert Finney) and his estranged son (Ewan McGregor). Fishing is a recurring motif throughout the film, symbolizing the father’s larger-than-life stories and the son’s journey to understand his father’s mythical tales. With its imaginative storytelling and visual flair, Big Fish is a heartfelt exploration of family, storytelling, and the power of imagination.

Release Date

December 10, 2003 (limited release)

Main Characters

  • Edward Bloom (Young & Old)
  • Will Bloom
  • Sandra Bloom (Young & Old)
  • Jenny (Young & Old) / The Witch
  • Dr. Bennett

The River (1984)

Starring Mel Gibson and directed by Mark Rydell, this drama follows a Tennessee farmer’s battle against a local power company’s plans to dam the river that has sustained his family and the community’s way of life. The film intrigues anybody interested in the relationship between ecological and human resilience because of its themes of environmental protection and the close bond between humans and their natural environments.

Release Date

December 19, 1984 (limited release)

Main Characters

  • Hank Garvey
  • Mae Garvey
  • Guy Adkins

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)

Adapted from Paul Torday’s novel, this charming romantic comedy-drama directed by Lasse Hallström stars Ewan McGregor as a fisheries expert tasked with introducing salmon fishing to the desert kingdom of Yemen. Emily Blunt co-stars as a consultant helping McGregor navigate cultural differences and bureaucratic hurdles, leading to unexpected challenges and heartwarming discoveries. The film’s blend of humor, romance, and exploring unlikely passions makes it a delightful and refreshing addition to the fishing movie genre.

Release Date 

April 20, 2012 (limited release)

Main Characters

  • Dr. Alfred “Fred” Jones
  • Harriet Chetwode-Talbot
  • Sheikh Muhammed
  • Patricia Maxwell

Towed In A Hole (1932)

The film’s story originated from director George Marshall’s encounter with a fishmonger loudly advertising his wares on the street. It sparked the idea of Stan and Ollie in the fish business, leading to their hilarious attempt to cut out the middleman and become fishermen.

  • Genre: Slapstick Comedy (Short Film)
  • Release Date: December 31, 1932
  • Directed by: George Marshall
  • Main Characters: Laurel and Hardy (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy)


Stan and Ollie are fishmongers who decide to cut out the middleman and catch their Fish to increase their profits. They purchase a dilapidated boat, and their attempts to repair and launch it lead to a series of hilarious mishaps.

Interesting Facts

  • “Towed in a Hole” is one of Laurel and Hardy’s best short films. It is known for its physical comedy and perfect comedic timing.
  • Before stricter censorship codes were enforced, the film was part of Hollywood’s “pre-Code” era.

The Bounty Hunter (1954)

Directed by Andrew McLaglen, this classic Western stars Randolph Scott as a bounty hunter tasked with bringing in a notorious outlaw hiding out in the rugged wilderness. The film’s breathtaking landscapes and rugged outdoor scenes showcase fishing as a survival skill and a metaphor for the protagonist’s relentless pursuit of justice. With its gripping storyline and memorable performances, The Bounty Hunter remains a must-watch for fans of classic Westerns and fishing enthusiasts.

Release Date

September 25, 1954 (USA)


André De Toth

Main Characters

  • Jim Kipp (Bounty Hunter).
  • Dr. Ralph Spencer (Towns Doctor):
  • Julie Spencer (Dr. Spencer’s Daughter):
  • Claire Harding ( Saloon Singer):


These top 10 best fishing movies offer diverse cinematic experiences that celebrate the art, adventure, and emotional depth of fishing. Whether you’re drawn to tales of epic battles with sea creatures, poignant reflections on family and nature, or the thrill of angling in breathtaking landscapes, these films capture the essence of fishing in unforgettable ways. Explore these movies to immerse yourself in the beauty and excitement of the fishing world, brought to life on the silver screen.

Tags: Best Fishing Movies, Old Fishing Movies

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