5 Phenomenal Movie Sea Captains

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

If you think about it there have been a ton of ship captains in the movies. Captains of planes, captains of starships, captains of sea vessels. I could go on and on. Today’s Phenomenal 5 is focusing on the open waters. There is some real variety to choose from when considering sea captains. There were some great examples that I hated to leave off but who hopefully will get some love in the comments section. With that in mind I certainly don’t claim this to be the definitive list. But in my mind these five sea captains are most certainly phenomenal.

#5 – Captain Jack Sparrow (“Pirates of the Caribbean”)


Okay, let’s pretend that the sequels never happened (at least not the last two). The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film was a big surprise for me. It was loud, silly, rambunctious, and a load of fun. A key reason for its success was the wacky performance from Johnny Depp as the preposterously absurd Captain Jack Sparrow. He is on a mission to regain his beloved ship The Black Pearl and in doing so causes all sorts of mischief and chaos. He weaves through one nutty predicament after another and Depp has an absolute blast doing it. Unfortunately none of the sequels fully recaptured the fun of the first flick. But it’s a really good film in large part thanks to Captain Jack.

#4 – Captain E.J. Smith (“Titanic” – 1953)


Whenever you mention Titanic and the movies together people are almost always going to think of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. Personally I prefer the 1953 Jean Negulesco version for several reasons. One reason is the cast of characters including Brian Aherne as the Captain E.J. Smith. Aherne brings an undeniable realism to his character as he faces a career highlight that turns into a devastating tragedy. His decision to satisfy the desires for a speedy voyage over the need for caution in icy waters proves to be costly. Yet watching Smith labor with the decision and with the consequences are some of my favorite parts of this terrific movie.

#3 – Captain Ahab (“Moby Dick”)


I am a big fan of Gregory Peck and his performance as the whale-crazed Captain Ahab is just one reason why. It’s a full 30 minutes before Captain Ahab appears in the 1956 John Huston version of the old classic. But in that 30 minutes we have the mystery and intrigue of the character built through the words of others. That helps make Peck’s first appearance all the more rousing. With his glazed stare and peg leg in tow, Peck’s Ahab is the vengeance-fueled and consumed character brought so vividly to life from Herman Melville’s novel. It’s a wonderful performance from Peck and Ahab is a sea captain that is certainly memorable!

#2 – Captain Quint (“Jaws”)


He may not be the captain of a huge whaling vessel, luxury liner, or pirate ship, yet Captain Quint from the ageless classic “Jaws” is one of the best movie captains you’ll find. First offered to Lee Marvin, the role of Quint was eventually given to Robert Shaw about a week before production. It was a great choice! Shaw snarls and barks like the most seasoned fisherman as he proudly helms his fishing boat the Orca. Quint has become an unforgettable movie character and his obsession with the giant great white shark leads to an amazing finale. I mean who will ever forget the final glimpse we get of Captain Quint?

#1 – Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey (“Master and Commander”)


Russell Crowe has had several incredible period performances but few are better than his work as Captain Jack Aubrey in Peter Weir’s brilliant “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”. Talk about embodying a role! Crowe looks, acts, and feels the part and it’s his convincing presence that drives the entire film. Set in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Aubrey is commissioned with tracking down a fierce French warship called the Acheron. We stay aboard Aubry’s ship HMS Surprise as they battle things from storms to their French rivals. Through it all Captain Jack is a pillar of strength showing compassion as well as grit. He’s a true sea captain that I would have no problem following into any waters regardless of how dangerous they may be.

So there are my choices of phenomenal movie sea captains. See something I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your choices. Please take time to comment below.

43 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movie Sea Captains

  1. Great list. Love thinking about this stuff.

    No love for Captain Ron? It’s Snake on a boat!

    Or if we want to be more serious (though I’m not sure this would count) you could pick Lt. Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey in U-571). That movie was INTENSE. I suppose the not having Captain in his title removes him from contention.

    Last pick now that I just remembered another. Marko Ramius (The Hunt for Red October) – Sean Connery. Nuff said.


    • Not the biggest Captain Ron fan, lol!

      There were several that I wanted to include but I eventually left off due to the lack of “Captain” in their title of rank. I wanted so bad to squeeze in Bogart as Charlie Alnutt in The African Queen but just didn’t right. (Darn it)

  2. Glad to see Captain Aubrey on the list and a continued love of yours for Crowe. Such a great flick. Wish the sequel would come out but I highly doubt it given the big budget needed again. I really cannot think of any others to include..Captain Nemo?

  3. great list here Keith, but oh man!! should’ve waited til around mid-september-ish (I think?) for Captain Phillips to be released. i’m super anxious to see how Hanks might do in that crazy situation, it really looks promising. not sure if it’d qualify for a top five, but you never know! I also really liked Clooney as Cap’n Billy Tyne in Perfect Storm, though some may not agree with that! ha

  4. Nice stuff Keith. Other than Captain Hook I can’t think of anyone else i’d add. Good to see Jack Sparrow on there though. I think a lot of people hate on the character, largely because of the sequels, but I still think the first film is pretty decent.

  5. Love Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow. It never runs out of steam despite the sequels dipping in quality…

    …of course, Quint had to be in there! 🙂

  6. Awesome list!!! Not only did you have Crowe here but also my classic crush Gregory Peck 😛 I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen Moby Dick yet, but Peck played a dashing and charismatic sea captain as Captain Horatio Hornblower 😉

    Btw, I also love Captain E.J. Smith depicted in the James Cameron version.

    • Oh reeeeally? I knew you were a proud Peck girl. Can’t believe you haven’t seen Moby Dick. I think you’ll really like it and Peck’s performance!

      As always Ruth, thanks for the reading and comments

      • Guess what Keith, I ended up watching about 20 min of Cameron’s Titanic because of your list, ahah. I’d say Bernard Hill was pretty good as the Captain in that one.

      • He really is good and I would even call him a highlight of the film. Very good performance. He also really looks like the real Captain E.J.!

  7. Master and Commander is an over long and overrated snooze fest. The only reason it’s on the top of the list is that Keith is a Russell Crowe homer.

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  9. nice to see you mentioned Brian Aherne’s Capt Smith, I think his performance is one of the best out of all the Titanic films made over the years.
    Regards, Patrick Walsh, New Zealand

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