Hollywood usually has a hard time accurately portraying the outdoors. But when it comes to fishing, at least the movie makers are trying. Here's a ranking of the 15 best fishing movies of all time, followed by three that absolutely stink. What's your favorite fish flick?
"Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women." Jaws is not only the best fishing movie ever but Quint is the best fisherman the world has ever seen. Well, up until the shark ate him anyway.
Quint gets bonus points for surviving the U.S.S. Indianapolis horror, his un-PC behavior, and his fine singing style… Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we've received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.
A River Runs Through It
Fishing is more than a pastime to the Maclean family of 1920's Montana in Robert Redford's 1992 Oscar winner; it's a metaphor for religion, life, and love. And a beautiful metaphor at that, as the fly fishing performed on screen is probably the most stunning ever filmed. The last remaining member of the family sums it up best when he proclaims, "My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things -- trout as well as eternal salvation -- came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy."
Amen. Now let's go fishing.
The Old Man and the Sea
Papa's ode to the faith, victory, and defeat that is fishing comes alive in this 1958 Spencer Tracy classic. Although countless papers have been written on what the Old Man's battle truly means, for me it boils down to this -- I fish, therefore I am.
Keep fishing Old Man, wherever you are. Keep fishing.
Grumpy Old Men
For 50 years Grumpy Old Men, Max Goldman and John Gustafson, have competed in fishing, life, and love. Although it was the latter that set them to feuding, it was the fishing that kept them close. As close as enemies can get that is. Moron and putz, as they affectionately refer to one another, hit the ice everyday in an attempt to catch the big one. According to Internet Movie Database, filming the fishing scenes in Minnesota's freezing temperatures sent co-star Walter Matthau to the hospital with pneumonia.
Grumpier Old Men
Septuagenarians Goldman and Gustafson take to warm weather fishing in their lifelong attempt to catch Catfish Hunter, a catfish so wily he actual smiles at anglers who try to land him. The men are joined this time by Sophia Loren's Maria Sophia Coletta Ragetti, a woman who is as good an angler as she is beautiful. And she's pretty hot for somebody in her 60s.
The Perfect Storm
Based on the true story of the Andrea Gail's sinking in October 1991, The Perfect Storm is swordfishing at its best. Well, minus the sinking in the ocean part that is. In addition to some fine fishing, viewers are also treated to a hook in the hand, a glow stick fight, George Clooney putting a 12-gauge slug through a shark's head and one killer storm.
Moby Dick (1956)
Although not a fishing movie per say (Did you know whales aren't fish? They're mammals. Who knew?!) Moby Dick made our list for the sheer determination of Captain Ahab and his quest to bag the big one. Anyone who's ever had his leg taken off by a bass can relate to his quest for vengeance! Bonus points for screaming, "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Ye damned whale," while throwing down a Quaker style beating on Moby at the end.
Ye damned whale indeed!
On Golden Pond
Henry Fonda's Norman Thayer kicks the disrespectful punk out of his new step-grandson Billy by teaching him all there is to know about fishing. We need more Norman Thayer's in the world. God knows we don't need any more disrespectful punk kids running around. There's enough of them already. You know what? Quit reading this and go take some kid fishing. I think the world will be the better for it.
Seriously, go now.
Not a lot of fishing in this 2003 whopper of a tale, but Big Fish makes our list because protagonist Edward Bloom knows how to tell a fish story. His best? How he caught an uncatchable fish utilizing his wedding ring as bait. Of course his story about hanging out with mermaids was a good one too. But then a mermaid tale is always nice.
Salmon Fishing in Yemen
Yet another movie where fishing serves as a metaphor. This time fishing represents Bruce Banner's desire to not turn into the Hulk. Oh, sorry. Just got back from The Avengers with my son. The fishing in Salmon Fishing in Yemen is a symbol of faith and hope. I find that having both of these helps my fishing.
Billy Ray Cyrus as a bass champion named Hot Rod Johnson and comedian Bill Engvall as a bait shop owner trying to save his business by winning a bass fishing contest. How'd I miss this when it came out in 2008? Was Billy's daughter in it? Who cares? Plenty of fishing and most of it is fairly realistic.
Man's Favorite Sport
Rock Hudson's Roger Willoughby is the author of the best selling fishing guidebook of all time in this 1964 film. Trouble is the book is fiction, Willoughby's never been fishing in his life, and his boss at Abercrombie and Fitch (Yes kids, A&F used to be a sporting goods store) just entered him in a fishing contest. As they say, hilarity ensues.
Little known fact: I dedicated my book Texas Safari: The Fishing Guide to Texas to Roger Willoughby.
Joe Pesci and Danny Glover unsuccessfully tried to parlay their chemistry from the Lethal Weapon movies into this 1997 movie about two guys who win a dream fishing vacation. While the fishing action is fun, the movie -- not so much. Did I mention there's funny fishing action?
Crocodile Dundee II
While I can't condone using dynamite to "catch" fish, there is something funny about doing it off New York City waters as Mick "Crocodile" Dundee does.
Definitely not as good as the original, but still worthy of the list. Jaws 2 focuses on Police Chief Martin Brody's hunt for another maneating Great White shark that's bloodying the waters of Amity.
The shark is so big that it's eating killer whales. Speaking of killer whales, here's three fishing movies that suck ...
**3 Fishing Movies That Suck
Free Willy 3: The Rescue**
The story of a hardworking commercial fisherman held down by the man for so long he has to turn to selling orcas for sushi. I'm pretty sure sushi isn't made from whale and I'm pretty sure Willy wouldn't care about that kid by the third movie.
Insert Rosie O'Donnell joke here.
Snakehead Terror / Night of the Snakehead / Swarm of the Snakehead
It's a three-way tie for worst fishing movie featuring an invasive species. As bad as they are I'm pretty sure snakeheads aren't Godzilla in fish form. If you can't tell from the movie poster, these blockbusters are about murderous snakehead fish.
Fish don't talk. They don't go to group therapy. They don't care if their offspring is lost. They don't get amnesia. They can't speak whale. They can't plan. They can't talk to birds. They can't talk. They don't like sea turtles.
From "Jaws" to "A River Runs Through It," Hollywood has turned out some great fishing movies. It has made some awful ones too. Gayne Young ranks the the 15 best and 3 that suck.