Based on the true story -- albiet a heavily flavored Hollywood retelling -- of Captain Bligh and his crew, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the wonderful story of the harsh life in the British navy circa 1780. It has gone through several big screen reimaginings, going as far back as a silent offering from 1916. Version two 'In the Wake of The Bounty' from 1933 starred Errol Flynn but did not amount to much at the box office. CPL has the excellent 1935 version with the incomparable Charles Laughton as Bligh and Clark Gable as First Mate Christian Fletcher. Sent on a two year mission to bring breadfruit plants from Tahiti, the two protagonists lock horns from the beginning. Dangerous assignments, reduced rations, floggings and an horrific keel-hauling, set the stage for the mutiny. It took home Oscars for Best Picture and Best director in 1935 and was nominated for many others.
For a little different retelling there is the 1962 version with Trevor Howard donning the captain's hat, and a young and intense Brando bringing a completely different take than Gable to the role of Fletcher. For a fifth take on the story there is the 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, that actually stands up quite well. I would have to say that I have never been able to decide whether I like the 1935 or 1962 version better---they are both among my favorite movies and I watch them again and again.
Although Captain Bligh has come to be synonomous with the cruelty of the duty-obsessed, he was thought by his superiors in the British Navy to be only slightly harsher than he need have been. In fact, the real life Bligh was quite well regarded by his peers and his superiors thought enough of him to decorate him. This was for what is still considered to be one of the most exceptional feats of survival ever. With only a sextant and a pocket watch (no charts, no compass and certainly no GPS !) he successfully navigated across 3600 miles of open ocean in a 23 foot launch, bringing to safety himself and 17 of the 18 members set adrift by the mutineers.
Still feeling mutinous ?
The Caine Mutiny with Humphry Bogart, Van Johnson and Fred McMurray. This tells the modern day tale of another first mate who wrests power away from his captain. In my opinion, one of Bogart's best performances.
Horatio Hornblower: Mutiny I previously reviewed this under Pick of the Week for December 7 2008. It's a good enough series to warrant two mentions.
Damn the Defiantfrom 1962 with Sir Alex Guinness, Dirk Bogarde and yet more cat o' nine tails and navy battles.
And although not about mutiny, but a good swashbuckling tale nontheless, try Master and Commander with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany from 2003.