Young Woman and the Sea: 10 Biopics Like It You Should See

In ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ director Joachim Rønning explores the events of 1926, when a young Olympic swimmer, Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, became the first woman to cross the English Channel in record time. The biographical drama chronicles her incredible journey as an Olympic gold medallist and a trendsetter in the world of sporting achievements for female athletes. In 1926, she swam 21 miles across a rough, choppy sea beset with harrowing obstacles and emerged as the first woman to swim across the English Channel, a feat achieved in less time than the ones who came before.

The Norwegian director adapted the film from writer Glenn Stout’s 2009 book of the same name. An exploration of gender dynamics and women empowerment, the Rønning directorial delves deep into the cultural and societal stratification within an industry plagued with old-fashioned values and maintaining the orthodoxy as it is. In an era where women didn’t have much of a voice or say, her sporting glory stands out as a shining beacon for all those who have followed since. If you’re craving for similar narratives that capture the adversities and struggles of people who push the boundaries beyond the norm, have a look at these 10 movies like ‘Young Woman and the Sea.’

10. The Miracle Season (2018)

Recounting the inspirational true story behind the Iowa City West High School girls’ volleyball team, ‘The Miracle Season’ is a sports drama directed by Sean McNamara. After the sudden death of their star player, Caroline “Line” Found, in unfortunate circumstances, the film follows the aftermath as the coach and team attempt to salvage their resolve to retain their state championship title. It’s their way of honoring Line’s memory and keeping her spirit alive.

A transformative story about turning grief and loss into a well of strength and determination, ‘The Miracle Season’ explores the personal drive and adversity faced by athletes across the spectrum. Like Trudy, the Iowa City West team responds to their challenges with an even greater push for success. The film shows how showcasing physical and mental prowess can act as a source of healing from deep personal loss and tragedy. It’s a triumphant story of finding a miracle in the bleakest of circumstances.

9. A Private War (2018)

‘A Private War’ is a candid recounting of the harrowing events surrounding the life of Marie Colvin, a war correspondent who risked her life to provide a voice to those in need. Directed by Matthew Heineman, the film follows Colvin’s journalistic expeditions to uncover the truth from those suffering in chaotic and war-torn regions. Constantly facing danger head-on, Heineman’s direction explores the mental toll on Colvin as she witnesses the atrocities endured by countless civilians.

Adapted from the Vanity Fair report titled ‘Marie Colvin’s Private War’ by Marie Brenner, the film delves into themes of journalistic integrity, moral responsibility, the consequences of war, and the horrifying toll it takes on individuals. While its intensity may be far removed from Joachim Rønning’s sports drama, Colvin’s trailblazing achievements as a reporter in war zones echo Trudy’s sporting glories. A dark but inspiring narrative about giving voice to the voiceless, even at the cost of mortal peril, ‘A Private War’ is a biopic drama for those looking to experience its raw, hard-edged delivery of truth.

8. Race (2016)

Jesse Owens’ rise to prominence and the hardships he faced to get there are chronicled in the Stephen Hopkins sports biopic, ‘Race.’ The film covers Owens’ journey from an unknown African American athlete to the global icon he would become. It centers around the events of the 1936 Berlin Olympics when he won four gold medals and defied Adolf Hitler’s Aryan supremacy ideology in the German dictator’s country. Plagued by racial discrimination and segregation throughout his career, Owens had to rise above all of it to leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all athletes who came after him.

Owens’ incredible story mirrors Trudy’s in their efforts to highlight the systemic oppression targeted towards them. ‘Race’ exposes the heart and ability of sports to bridge all manners of gaps through the sheer effort of achieving something great and monumental. It highlights the courage, perseverance, and resilience sportspeople require at the highest level to operate under immense pressure and scrutiny. Ultimately, it serves as a fierce reminder of how the struggle against societal injustices, while always a prescient concern, can be momentarily bridged through the pursuit of athletic and sporting excellence.

7. Unbroken (2014)

‘Unbroken’ captures the astonishing true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who became a bombardier during World War II. Crafted by Angelina Jolie, the film revolves around his early years as a track and field athlete and then his transition into a soldier during the events of World War II. Zamperini’s willpower and fortitude are tested when his bomber plane crash lands into the Pacific Ocean and he has to survive for weeks adrift at sea. Based on the 2010 non-fiction novel of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand, ‘Unbroken’ is an incredible tale of resilience, courage, and the preservation of an optimistic outlook even after facing overwhelming odds.

Set during a similar era to ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ the Angelina Jolie-directed biography shows a different side of the 1930s—a much darker side embroiled in war. Zamperini’s remarkable odyssey through difficulties and unimaginable pain is reflected in his unbroken spirit and verve for survival and redemption. It’s a sports drama that takes you through the valley of death and embraces a never-say-die attitude.

6. The Boys in the Boat (2023)

A story about resilience, unity, and teamwork, ‘The Boys in the Boat‘ offers a true account of the University of Washington’s rowing team expedition to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Directed by George Clooney from the pages of Daniel James Brown’s acclaimed novel of the same name, the film follows Joe Rantz, the leader of the team, as he overcomes his own hardships by bringing his team together into one united front. As the whole country watches the crew’s hunt for glory with trepidation and bated breath, Rantz’s leadership becomes paramount, driving them toward victory despite the odds.

Fans of ‘Young Woman and the Sea’ will find its underdog story replicated in the George Clooney sports drama. With the backdrop of the Great Depression and World War II looming over the heads of its characters, the Washington team displays great heroism, determination, and growth as the pressure mounts to perform for a huge, expecting audience back home. The team has to bridge its class gaps, overcome any personal differences, and make a single-minded effort to obtain glory, even if the odds are stacked against them massively.

5. On the Basis of Sex (2018)

‘On the Basis of Sex’ is a biographical drama about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her challenges with gender discrimination. Set during the 1950s and 60s, the film chronicles her early life at Harvard Law School and then her legal career as she fights for equality for women. From tackling a tax case that impinges on gender discrimination to her future prominence in her field alongside her contributions to gender equality, the drama centers around her life and her husband, Martin Ginsburg.

Directed by Mimi Leder from a script penned by Ginsburg’s real-life nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, ‘On the Basis of Sex’ tackles the same issues of repression of the female voice and achievement as portrayed in the Joachim Rønning directorial. Inspirational and uplifting, it lets you into the life of one of the most groundbreaking and influential women in history and the hardships she had to endure to reach the top. Even as a symbol of power, her real strength lies in her conviction and beliefs in a world where men and women live equally.

4. United (2011)

Based on the tragic incidents surrounding Manchester United’s Busby Babes, the British sports drama ‘United’ tells the harrowing tale of the 1958 Munich air disaster, focusing on the events leading up to it and its aftermath. Told through the eyes of legendary soccer player Bobby Charlton, the film follows his entry into the Manchester United senior squad and the subsequent air crash in Munich, where he was injured and lost several of his teammates. Exploring the relationship between Charlton and assistant manager Jimmy Murphy, the biography trails the pair as they recuperate after the tragedy and try to find a way back from their losses.

‘United’ is an exploration of how adversity is part and parcel of glory, even if it’s not of your making. Like ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ it digs deep into the human spirit’s ability to bounce back and stand up even in the worst circumstances. The Munich air disaster is a dark taint on soccer history, and the lives it claimed are forever remembered in the chants of the Manchester United fans who sing the songs of the Busby Babes in their Old Trafford stadium. Because of the emotional aspect of sports, it can often teeter on life and death territory, and that is certainly the case in ‘United.’

3. Remember the Titans (2000)

A powerful sports drama about racial tension, teamwork, and overcoming prejudice, the Boaz Yakin-helmed ‘Remember the Titans‘ centers around Herman Boone and his struggles with uniting the T.C. Williams High School football team after he takes over as coach. Disregarded by the players because of his race, Herman and his assistant have to find a way to make them look past their differences while also encouraging them to be their best selves. The film follows his unmitigated efforts to bring a sense of inclusion and camaraderie into the ranks of his football team.

‘Remember the Titans’ is a touching and rousing sports epic about a man’s unwavering leadership over a difficult situation charged by social undercurrents. Like Trudy in ‘Young Woman and the Sea,’ Herman faces hefty opposition after he is appointed a coach at T.C. Williams. But through perseverance, a never-give-up attitude, and mutual respect for his team and players, Herman manages to make his players realize their true potential. A story about looking beyond what’s on the surface and being patient with our efforts, ‘Remember the Titans’ is sure to leave a mark.

2. Moneyball (2011)

An under-budget team awaiting the departure of all its star players—that is the predicament of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. In ‘Moneyball,’ director Bennett Miller takes a peek behind the curtains of Major League Baseball, depicting the plight of one of its participating teams that are vastly under-resourced compared to the competition. The film chronicles the challenges faced by Billy, both in his family and professional life, as he tries to find a new sophisticated way to rebuild his team and fight for the championship without relying on old-school baseball thinking and its constrictive norms.

Brought to the screen from the pages of Michael Lewis’ 2003 novel of the same name, ‘Moneyball’ blends elements of sports and finance to deliver a unique mix of inspiring and aspirational themes. Billy’s pioneering efforts to bring a sophisticated, numbers-based approach to player recruitment are seen as a challenge to the baseball world, accustomed to their tried and tested methods from the past. Both Billy and Trudy face a cacophony of naysayers calling for their downfall and betting against their success, but it’s their stalwart determination to achieve their goals that makes their story resonate with those close to failure. The film won numerous awards and had six Academy Award nominations.

1. Hidden Figures (2016)

Directed by Theodore Melfi, ‘Hidden Figures,’ tells the story of three female African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race. Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are mathematicians who are segregated and discriminated against in the institutes where they work because of their race and sex. The film follows their battles against harsh societal injustices and the orthodoxy that attempts to challenge them every day. Their contribution to their field is limited by the various infractions visited upon them by higher-ups or those who aren’t welcoming to people who don’t look like them.

The biographical drama is a loose adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 novel of the same name. Set in the 1960s, ‘Hidden Figures’ uncovers the underlying unfairness of racism and misogyny in the workplace. Pitting its central characters against those stuck in traditional values and unable to look past their prejudices, the story about the swimmer who crossed the English Channel and the three mathematicians who worked at NASA may be set in different industries, but their struggles are the same. An aspirational tale of courage against adversity, ‘Hidden Figures’ is an essential and worthwhile watch.

Read more: Young Woman and the Sea: The True Story of Gertrude Ederle, Explored