Sailing films have been popular this year, with The Mercy and Adrift hitting the cinema screen. We take a look at 10 actors who have played real life sailors, explorers, seamen and pirates


Terence Morgan as Sir Francis Drake in Sir Francis Drake

Terence Morgan In 'The Penthouse'

English actor Terence Morgan played Sir Francis Drake in the 1961 TV series. The series focused on Drake’s well known voyages and world circumnavigation in a single expedition.



Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as Tami Oldham Ashcroft and Richard Sharp in Adrift

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin 'Adrift' Premiere - Los Angeles

Released this year, Adrift is loosely based on the story of young couple Tami Oldham Ashcroft and Richard Sharp, who, in 1983, decide to deliver yacht Hazana, sailing  4,000 miles from Tahiti to San Diego. During the journey the couple get caught in Hurricane Raymond. When Ashcroft awakens from unconsciousness after 27 hours, she realises that Sharp is nowhere to be found and their boat has suffered serious damage. Tami Oldham Ashcroft has to repair the yacht as much as she can and sail using a makeshift sail and a sextant for 41 days until she can reach Hilo in Hawaii.



Jeff Bridges as Captain Christopher Sheldon in White Squall

Jeff Bridges

Starring Jeff Bridges as Captain Christopher Sheldon, White Squall is the fictionalised story of the Albatross, a ship which sank in 1961 during an Ocean Academy Ltd sailing trip. Fourteen teenagers were on the boat when it hit a squall 200km west of Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. Six people lost their lives, including the academy owner Captain Christopher Sheldon’s wife Alice, four students and the ship’s cook.



Colin Firth as Donald Crowhurst in The Mercy

Colin Firth Mercy film

Colin Firth played amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst in The Mercy, a film released this year about his failed attempt to win the first Golden Globe Race in 1968.  After running into trouble at sea, the British businessman is believed to have committed suicide while competing in the circumnavigation event, which saw Sir Robin Knox-Johnston crowned the winner.





Pål Sverre Hagen as Thor Heyerdhal in Kon-Tiki

actor Pal Sverre Hagen smiling

Actor Pål Sverre Hagen played Norwegian explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdhal who in 1947 embarked on his Kon-Tiki voyage, sailing from South America to the Tuamotu Islands in Polynesia in a hand-built raft to prove that ancient people could have made long sea voyages. Despite a couple of accidents along the way, Heyerdhal made the journey and arrived at his destination.




Gerard Depardieu as Christopher Columbus in 1492: Conquest of Paradise

Gerard Depardieu

Directed by Ridley Scott and released in 1992, 1492: Conquest of Paradise tells the story of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, played by French actor Gerard Depardieu, and his discovery of the Americas.



Clara Paget as Anne Bonny in Black Sails

Actress Clara Paget

British actress Clara Paget played Irish Anne Bonny, one of the most famous female pirates of all times who active in the Caribbean in the 1700s. TV series Black Sails (2014-17) is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s fictional ‘Treasure Island’ and tells the story of Captain Flint and his gang of pirates.



Lambert Wilson as Jacques Cousteau in The Odyssey

French actor Lambert Wilson

French actor Lambert Wilson plays Jacques Cousteau in this biopic of the explorer, naval officer, conservationist, researcher, scientist and aqualung co-creator’s extraordinary life.

Keith Michell as James Cook in Captain James Cook

Actor Keith Michell

Australian actor Keith Michell portrayed explorer and navigator Captain James Cook in the eponymous 1988 mini TV series. Quite an apt choice of actor considering that Cook’s maps of Newfoundland are the first recorded documents of Europeans contact with the eastern coast of Australia.


Peter Ustinov as Blackbeard in Blackbeard’s Ghost

Peter Ustinov

Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard, was arguably one of the most famous pirates of all times. Many actors have played him, including James Purefoy recently, but for a bit of fun, you can’t beat iconic actor Peter Ustinov in 1968’s film Blackbeard’s Ghost.