Movies About Creatures of the Ocean

Reef scene
Csaba Tökölyi / Getty Images

Kids love the vast ocean and the variety of sea creatures that inhabit it. Some of these ocean-themed movies will take them under the sea for an aquatic adventure, while others focus on sea creatures like whales and dolphins. Fortunately, thanks to online streaming services and networks like PBS, Discovery Kids and even Disney Channel, there's a load of great ocean movies for your kids. 

If you're looking for that perfect movie for your kids and you to watch, you should definitely check out the following ten films, listed in order of age recommendation from youngest to oldest.

The iconic under-the-sea Disney movie, "The Little Mermaid,is a musical adventure featuring animated sea creatures of all kinds. The beauty, magnificence, and peril of life under the sea are portrayed in a classic story fit for a princess, or prince.

The musical adventure follows the mermaid Ariel, one of King Triton's many daughters, as she meets a sea witch Ursula and is given the opportunity to walk on land at a cost — her beautiful voice. Love ultimately triumphs over the conniving Ursula, and thanks to fun characters like Sebastian the crab and Flounder the guppy, it keeps the mood lighthearted despite the cartoon danger. 

This movie is definitely a classic and great for the whole family. Plus, if you like it, "The Little Mermaid" also has a couple of sequel movies, "The Little Mermaid II: Under the Sea" and "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning." 

Speaking of "The Little Mermaid," the intensely beautiful and unique imagery of Hayao Miyazaki surges to life in this imaginative story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. "Ponyo" is one of the latest and last of Miyazaki's feature films, a career that has spanned decades and received multiple awards.

A musical panorama of underwater sea life introduces us to a little fish-like creature who doesn't seem to want to stay in the water. Sosuke, a young boy on the beach, finds and rescues the unusual little fish and names her "Ponyo." The boy and his fish form a wonderful bond, and then Ponyo is turned into a little girl. Sosuke and Ponyo have a grand adventure together, but their fate lies in the hands of something more powerful than themselves. 

Super fun for the whole family, I definitely recommend this for a movie night with your children.

Another fabulous animated under the sea movie, "Finding Nemo" tells the story of a young clown fish who becomes separated from his father and his father's attempt to rescue him from the great wide ocean.

Featuring all kinds of sea creatures — from sharks and turtles to jelly fish and sting rays — "Finding Nemo​presents an under water adventure that can be a real nail-biter for young kids. Nemo's frantic father searches the sea for his son, but Nemo is in a fish tank in a dentist's office in Sydney. Thankfully, with the help of Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) Nemo finds his way back to his ocean home, but young children may be frightened or unsettled during some scenes in the movie. 

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Finding Dory

Finding Dory. Disney/Pixar

As a breakout hit from the first film, Dory gets her own special feature in this 2016 blockbuster by Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. "Finding Dory" tells of Dory's life after she helped Marvin find Nemo in the first film as she attempts to relocate her long-lost family. 

The forgetful fish voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres, adventures into an aquarium where her parents had been rumored to have been taken. Told through a series of flashbacks coinciding with her adventure through the aquarium, the story is truly compelling for adults while remaining fun for children. 

However, like its predecessor, there are some moments in the film that may give younger audiences a bit of a fright. Not to worry — there are many laughs along the way and a happy ending to boot. 

In this funny fish tale, a small fish named Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) takes the credit for walloping a shark. But, Oscar's lie soon gets him caught in a heap of trouble as he tries to maintain his celebrity status, get the right girl and avoid being eaten by an angry great white (Robert De Niro). Shark Tale is rated PG, for some mild language and crude humor, and the language and innuendo make the movie less suited for young children, despite the colorful animation and comedic characters.

If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you watched "Free Willy" as a kid or heard the Michael Jackson song "Will You Be There" featured at the end of the film. Well, all the whales aren't free quite yet and Free Willy is back in "Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove."

Eleven-year-old Kirra — played by Bindi Irwin — adores animals. When her father is injured in a fall and must be hospitalized, Kirra is sent to stay with her grandfather, Gus — played by Beau Bridges — in South Africa. Kirra is not excited about leaving her father, and when she sees the junky old theme park her grandfather owns, her excitement diminishes even more. However, Kirra and her grandfather get a big surprise when a storm leaves a baby orca trapped in the lagoon.

Kirra names the Orca Willy and begins to focus all of her energy on saving it and returning it to its pod. The grownups in her life have other ideas, however. This movie is a new version of sorts to the original "Free Willy" movies that also features a beautiful Orcas and other sea animals.

Based on a true story, "Dolphin Tale" follows the progress of a dolphin named Winter who lost her tail but survived against the odds. In the movie, a boy named Sawyer finds the dolphin all tangled up in a fishing net. After the people from the Clearwater Marine Hospital take the dolphin to their facility, Sawyer faithfully visits Winter and becomes friends with a girl named Hazel and her family.

Winter the dolphin inspires us all with her story of overcoming obstacles and becoming a source of hope for many. It's fun for the whole family but has a few thematic elements bent for the PG audience. 

From Disneynature, "Oceansis a documentary that is geared toward family audiences. Disneynature films attempt to give all the information and footage of a documentary, while still allowing the film to capture the imagination and attention of audiences of all ages. The film is directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, and Pierce Brosnan narrates the oceanic adventure.

Although it might not retain the interest of younger audiences, it's perfectly suited for older children, teens and adults alike. It's full of interesting facts, and I definitely walked away with a few conversation pieces for my next dinner party.

Narrated by the soothing voices of Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, "IMAX: Deep Sea" takes viewers deep underwater, introducing them to a few of the ocean's most exotic creatures. Without films like these, most of us would otherwise never see — or even conceive — of the wonders that exist far beneath the ocean's surface.

The film focuses on the fascinating ways in which the creatures of the deep are dependent on each other, and how our destiny is inevitably tied to theirs. It might be a little frightening for younger children as some of the deep sea creatures are downright terrifying, but the imagery is gorgeous and narration fascinating. Definitely a must-see!

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Big Miracle

Big Miracle
Image via Amazon

Released in theaters February 3, 2012, "Big Miracle" is based on a true story and relates the events of Operation Breakthrough. In 1988, three gray whales were trapped off the coast of Barrow, Alaska. Many people from different walks of life came together to watch and help. The Americans were even able to call upon a Soviet ship for help.

The movie provides an entertaining, educational and inspiring look at a little piece of history. However, it might be a bit intense for younger audiences and lose a bit of interest for kids under 10. It's definitely a compelling and essential story, though, so queue it up and watch it soon!