Who doesn’t love sailing on the open seas? The people in these moves, seriously, you wouldn’t want to either.
To be fair, while these are all based on “horrific” events, they’re not all technically considered horror movies. Primarily, they’re disaster movies. But I’m adding them to the list because they ‘re all set on cruise ships (or adjacent) and feature death, destruction, and general mayhem.
So if you’re looking for a good scare while sailing the high seas, these cruise ship horror movies are for you.
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Best cruise ship horror movies
I’m someone who truly loves the ocean, but Poseidon encompasses all that terrifies me about the sea – except sharks, there are no sharks.
It’s the perfect blend of a classic disaster movie with a healthy dose of “we’re trapped and can’t get out” horror. The special effects are pretty good, even by today’s standards (honestly, sometimes they’re overdone today). And I can tell you that the sinking of the Poseidon is one of the most believable and terrifying things I’ve ever seen on film.
Technically, this is a remake of the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure , but I’m including it because, well, it’s just a better movie. If you want to watch the original, go for it. But if you’re looking for a more modern take on the shipwreck disaster genre, Poseidon is the way to go.
2. Ghost Ship (2002)
Ghost Ship is a massive B-movie, but I weirdly enjoy it… enough that I’ve seen it half a dozen times. A salvage crew is approached by someone who’s found a derelict ship and convinces them to salvage it. They find it and decide to board, only to realize its got supernatural entities on board.
This movie is hella cheesy, and as a word of warning, there’s a legitimately DISGUSTING murder scene at the beginning of the film. It’s seriously ick. They also stumble upon gold bars so it’s a little hard for them to just leave when people start dying (money motivation is serious guys). This film stars some people you might recognize, including Julianna Margulies, Gabriel Byrne and Desmond Harrington.
3. Dead Calm (1989)
Dead Calm technically takes place on a yacht, so we’ll call it cruise ship adjacent. This is the movie that introduced Nicole Kidman to the world, and despite being dated it has some solid reviews.
Rae (Kidman) and John Ingram (Sam Neill) set sail on their luxury yacht after the death of their son, in an attempt to escape the tragedy. While sailing, they come across a sinking ship and rescue the only survivor, Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane).
Hughie tells them that the crew died from food poisoning, but John is immediately suspicious. As Rae begins to feel empathy for Hughie, it becomes clear that there is more to his story than meets the eye.
What follows is a tense thriller with excellent performances from all three leads. If you’re looking for a cruise ship horror movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat, Dead Calm is definitely worth a watch.
4. Triangle (2009)
Also cruise adjacent is Triangle starring Liam Hemsworth, Melissa George, and Michael Dorman. A group of friends set sail on a yacht, but it turns out they’re not the only ones on board.
They encounter mysterious weather that force them to abandon their ship for another one, only for the craziness to continue. While it’s a strange story, a lot of movie-goers say that the film is well-acted and tells a legitimate scary story.
5. Titanic II (2010)
I’m tempted to include the first Titanic movie on this list because it’s legitimately based on a horrific disaster. But it’s billed as a romance, and I don’t feel like getting into an internet fight with someone in the comments… so, here we are with Titanic II.
It’s 100 years after the Titanic sailed, and the Titanic II is taking the same route (honestly, NEVER a good idea). The ending of this ships cruise? Exactly what you’d imagine. I think what was the most WTF part of this flick for me was the fake clearly green screen scenes that took place in Greenland (I think).
As a Canadian, I can whole-heartly confirm that these were not “weather experts” by any means – they weren’t wearing gloves or hats in the freakin’ snow. Not that there was any realism involved in this movie, but if there was it wouldn’t be found there.
6. Titanic 666 (2022)
If you want cheese, Titanic 666 is for you. Oh MAN is this filled with old school cheese in a new school movie. Brand new as of this year, the latest installation of Titanic disaster films features the Titanic III on sale for its first voyage with a bunch of influencers on board (yes, this is a real movie).
Starring AnnaLynne McCord and Keesha Sharp, this Tubi Original can be watched for free. Admittedly, adding 666 to a horror movie title instantly makes it terribly cheesy – and that’s exactly what it is. But if you go into it with cheese in mind, it’s actually a fun time. My only complaint is they didn’t just outright name the ship Titanic 666 – III is just so boring.
7. Deep Rising (1998)
Deep Rising is the Captain Phillips of the horror cruise ship movie world.
In this flick, a newly minted ocean liner is launched and while havoc is found on board when a thief Trillian (Famke Janssen) tries to steal from the rich guests. But her thunder is stolen when a sea creature starts to attack the boat.
I’m not sure if this film was mean to be a horror comedy, but it got that way. It’s a little bit Alien, a little bit Deep Blue see and 100% 90s cheese. If you want a good deep sea laugh, this flick could be worth it.
8. Chupacabra: Dark Seas (2005)
To be fair, Chupacabra: Dark Seas is not a good film but it involves a cruise ship. So, for the purposes of this post and the lack of horror movies that have a cruise ship as the location, it’s making the cut.
This Syfy Chanel Original film is built on the premise that the legendary Chupacabra is smuggled onto a cruise ship. Unsurprisingly, things to very badly, very fast. It has a whopping 30% score on Rotten Tomatoes (not the worst I’ve seen but not great either).
However, it surprisingly features Giancarlo Esposito who you might recognize from The Mandalorian. If you’re up to have a horror-filled laugh this movie night, this is the flick for you.
9. Death Ship (1980)
Death Ship is a British-Canadian horror movie that will send chills down your spine, pending you find cheesy ’80s movies terrifying. This is a pretty dark, albeit dated, movie where the survivors of a cruise ship collision are picked up by a mysterious black ship.
Little do they know, the ship they’re on – the SS Northern Star – was taken over by Nazis. It’s essentially a floating concentration camp, and it’s sailing the seas luring unsuspected sailors (and vacationers). While the acting and effects are pretty bad, it’s still a fun movie to watch if you enjoy ’80s horror.