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In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

2:33 | Trailer
A recounting of a New England whaling ship's sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby-Dick.


Ron Howard


Charles Leavitt (screenplay), Charles Leavitt (story) | 3 more credits »
1,687 ( 198)
1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris Hemsworth ... Owen Chase
Benjamin Walker ... George Pollard
Cillian Murphy ... Matthew Joy
Brendan Gleeson ... Tom Nickerson
Ben Whishaw ... Herman Melville
Michelle Fairley ... Mrs. Nickerson
Tom Holland ... Thomas Nickerson
Paul Anderson ... Caleb Chappel
Frank Dillane ... Henry Coffin
Joseph Mawle ... Benjamin Lawrence
Edward Ashley ... Barzillai Ray
Sam Keeley ... Ramsdell
Osy Ikhile ... Richard Peterson
Gary Beadle ... William Bond
Jamie Sives ... Cole


In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. "In the Heart of the Sea" reveals the encounter's harrowing aftermath, as the ship's surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Experience the true encounter that inspired the myth Moby Dick. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Cillian Murphy was the scarecrow in Batman: The DarkKnight, Chris Helmsworth was Thor in the MCU. Tom Holland was Spider-Man also in the MCU. Benjamin Walker is Erik Geldena in MCU Jessica Jones, See more »


Near the end of the film, subtitles reference the title of Melville's novel as "Moby Dick" (with no hyphen). The actual title of the novel is "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale" so even with the customary shortening, the title is "Moby-Dick" (with a hyphen). See more »


[first lines]
Herman Melville: [in his letter] How does one come to know the unknowable? What faculties must a man possess? Since it was discovered that whale oil could light our cities in ways never achieved before, it created global demand. It has pushed man to venture further and further into the deep blue unknown. We know not its depths, nor the host of creatures that live there. Monsters. Are they real?
[a huge whale passes]
Herman Melville: Or do the stories exist only to make us respect the sea's dark secrets?
Title Card: NANTUCKET ...
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Featured in The Saturday Show: Episode #1.9 (2015) See more »

User Reviews

A solid adventure that should have dropped the Moby Dick connection
21 November 2019 | by davidmviningSee all my reviews

They should not have included the connection to Moby Dick. I thought it was just a marketing gimmick, but Herman Melville is a character and the impetus for the overall framing device. I imagine that it's true that Melville used the story of the "Essex" as partial inspiration for his grand opus (perhaps the greatest novel written in the English language, in my humble opinion), but is that necessary information to tell the story that enticed him in the first place? The story of the "Essex" is interesting on its own. It doesn't need Herman Melville to help tell it, but maybe that was the point. "No one will care about a story of a whaling ship in 1820, but if you add Moby Dick to the marketing, you'll get in seats. All the kids love Moby Dick!"

That's really my only explanation for why Melville was included. They needed to help sell the narrative and the film overall to skeptical audiences who might not be interested in a story of a whaler from 200 years ago, but no one cares about Moby Dick other than me and other nerds. I can't imagine the addition added much in terms of box office since it was such a dud there anyway.

Moving on, though. The Melville sections that largely bookend the story (and pop up from time to time in the middle) are fine on their own. Well acted and photographed, so at least there's that. Inside the actual story, though, we do have a compelling narrative that's about more than just a whale. And that's where I think the Melville sections undermine the whole movie. The story of the "Essex" is about more than just a giant, angry, and vengeful sperm whale. It's the story of a crew sent on a dangerous mission where most died and the few that did survive only did so through the most extreme of circumstances and methods. The men involved are interesting, especially the central conflict between the untested Captain that comes from a naval family and the experienced first mate who comes from a family of landsmen. It's a clash of personalities and hubris that carries the movie quite well.

The movie also looks good. It doesn't go for strict realism, instead we have a more painterly vision of the aesthetics of life at sea. The waves almost look like they have brushstrokes guiding them. The lighting is always used to maximum effect with the sun popping up in just the right place for a pretty view, even in the face of total destruction. I really like how the movie almost had an oil painting look from beginning to end, although the Melville segments are far more darkly and realistically shot.

Overall, I finally got into the movie after the whale attack, which was about halfway through the movie. From then on, I was completely on board, enjoying the tale of desperation and survival that was the "Essex" looking for rescue. Perhaps the movie could have been great, but I do think that it ended up distracted at times, but ultimately good.

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Official Sites:

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USA | Australia | Spain



Release Date:

11 December 2015 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

In the Heart of the Sea See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »


Box Office


$100,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,053,366, 13 December 2015

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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