Our favourite swimming films to watch now

Swim vicariously with our pick of the best swimming films and documentaries you can watch from the comfort of your sofa.

Bad weather keeping you indoors? Swim vicariously with our pick of the best swimming films and documentaries you can watch from the comfort of your sofa.

The Ice Mile (2022)

A documentary film showing both the beauty and adventure in outdoor swimming – chasing those lower temperatures in the cooling winter, community, pushing distance and the body to its limit.

The film follows endurance swimmer Becca Harvey over a year of her life, highlighting the challenge and, even, the suffering that goes into training for an Ice Mile, together with the classic explorations of the beauty of swimming.

Watch on Vimeo

Fifty-Four Days (2022)

Ruby starts wild swimming in the wake of her father taking his own life. By swimming each day at dawn and forming an unlikely friendship, she learns to accept her grief and the grief of those around her. Read our feature about the writer and producer of the film, Cat White.

Fifty-Four Days will be available to watch online in spring. It will also be screened at the Genesis Cinema in London on 15 March as part of a Women’s History Month and at the Northampton Film Festival for an International Women’s Day screening on 9 March. Keep an eye on Kusini Productions’ Instagram for updates.

Watch the trailer

Black Stroke (2024)

According to the latest figures from Sport England, 87% of Black adults in the UK do not swim. This powerful short documentary follow the stories of three people from different walks of life breaking racial stereotypes to learn to swim for the first time.

Vindication Swim (2024)

A young single woman, living alone in London in the 1920s, Mercedes Gleitze dreamed of becoming the first English woman to swim across the English Channel. But, with seven failed attempts behind her and struggling to raise funds through her job as a typist, the odds were stacked against her. Her unmarried status, working-class background and German heritage put further barriers in her path.

Despite these barriers, Mercedes found a way and swam from France to England in 1927, immediately attracting glittering celebrity status. But it didn’t last long. A rival swimmer claimed to have also swum the Channel but was shown to be a fraud, and this threw doubt on Mercedes’ achievement.

To prove the doubters wrong, Mercedes declared she would do the swim again.

This, in brief, is the plot of Vindication Swim, a new film inspired by Mercedes’ swimming legacy, out in cinemas now. Read Simon’s review of the film.

Under the Surface (2023)

Swimming films
© Sam Walker

Rachel Sarah’s second swimming film Under The Surface explores acceptance after injury, men’s mental health, and what it means to be vulnerable as a man in the outdoor endurance swimming world.

The film goes back to the time before Jim found swimming, where he broke his back in a work-related accident. We are taken through Jim’s experiences with addiction to pain medication, his loss of his long-term relationship, and through the reality of recovering from an injury.

Jim finds solace and rehabilitation in endurance swimming, learning to walk again through his swimming, and starting to build a new career as a swim coach in the process.

Watch the trailer

The Invincibles

A moving short film about three open water swimmers Mairead Ni Mhaoileóin, Tom McCarthy Tom Bermingham, who are dedicated to the water all year round – rail, hail or shine. Shot at Myrtleville beach, Co Cork.

Dark Side of the Lens

A poetic and visually breathtaking short film from renowned surf photographer Mickey Smith, shot on the Irish coast in winter. Prepare to be mesmerised by the beauty of the surf and a wondrous soundscape.

My Big White Thighs and Me

This film encourages us all to turn down the volume on the demands of the world and to celebrate the quiet heroism of a female life and body. A story about womanhood, miscarriage, healing, loving your own skin and freezing your bum off in cold water.

Watch on Vimeo

Beyond The Blue

Beyond The Blue is a short documentary that explores the origins of the Swim Dem Crew, and the relationship between co-founders Peigh Asante and Nathaniel Cole, both within and beyond the water.

The short film not only documents the love they both share for the water but it also raises awareness the importance of mental health and its connection with sport.

The Water Holds Me/The Water Binds Us

Drawn from research with the wild swimming community across the UK, this short film is based on the stories of women who dip, dive and swim in rivers, lakes and seas.

Watch on Vimeo

Nyad (2023)

Athlete Diana Nyad sets out at 60 to achieve a nearly impossible lifelong dream: to swim from Cuba to Florida across more than 100 miles of open ocean. Starring: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster and Rhys Ifans.

Watch on Netflix

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (2023)

In the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion. Find out more about the film.

Watch trailer

Sea Donkey (2017)

Sea Donkey is the inspirational story of Adrian Sarchet’s attempt to swim from Northern Ireland to Scotland across the North Channel – one of the most brutal open water swimming challenges in the world.

This documentary explores the beautiful, funny and harrowing boundary between ambition and folly in extreme sport. A must-see for anyone inspired by the tenacity of the human spirit.

Watch on Vimeo

Wild Water (2024)

What drives somebody to swim in a freezing reservoir, and what do they find on the other side? Wild Water tracks the landscape and the people as they use the restorative powers of cold water to reconnect with their mental health, identity, nature and each other. This film is a documentary with Yorkshire’s Gaddings Dam providing the backdrop to swimmers’ lives and the story of their community.

Wildwater will be screened at Hebden Bridge Picture House on Saturday 9 March. Keep an eye on the website for info about wider release updates.

Watch the trailer

Plunge (coming soon)

The film begins in live-action as Katie walks towards the ocean. As she submerges the world becomes animated, with an animated version of Katie swimming before us.

Plunge tells the story of Katie who found empowerment, friendship, and healing by plunging into frigid waters of the sea. As her voice relates to us the physical and mental struggles that have plagued her for decades, her animated form darts confidently through kelp forests and sofas on the ocean floor. She tells us about her strong community and the tremendous physical benefits of cold-water swimming.

Through Katie’s story this beautiful film addresses themes of isolation and connection, mental health and wellbeing, and climate change and empowerment.

Find out more

Lead photo: Wild Water

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.