Submarine movies are a popular genre of films that often feature the adventures and struggles of crew members onboard a submarine. Some of the most well-known submarine movies include:
The genre has a long history: Submarine movies have been around since the early 20th century, with the first known submarine movie being the French silent film “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” in 1907. They often involve real-world events: Many submarine movies are based on actual historical events, such as the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in “Jaws” (1975), or the real-life defection of a Soviet submarine in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990).
They require unique production challenges: Filming a movie on a submarine is no easy feat. Many submarine movies use models, sets, and CGI to create the illusion of being underwater, while others have actually been filmed on real submarines or in underwater tanks. They can have political undertones: Submarine movies often deal with themes of war, espionage, and national security, and can reflect the political climate of the time they were made. For example, “The Hunt for Red October” was released during the height of the Cold War, and reflects the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union at the time.
Submarine movies have been a popular genre for many years, and have often been used to explore themes of war, survival, and human psychology under extreme conditions. They can range from action-packed thrillers to more introspective dramas, and often provide a unique setting for exploring the depths of the human experience.
They explore the human condition: At their core, submarine movies are often about people trying to survive and work together under extreme conditions. This can lead to powerful explorations
- Top 10 Best Submarine Movies of all Time
- 1. Das Boot (1981)
- 2. The Hunt for Red October (1990):
- 3. Crimson Tide (1995)
- 4. U-571 (2000)
- 5. K-19 The Widowmaker (2002)
- 6. Black Sea (2014)
- 7. Hunter Killer (2018)
- 8. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
- 9. The Enemy Below (1957)
- 10. Gray Lady Down (1978)
- 11. The Abyss (1989)
- 12. Phantom (2013)
- 13. The Meg (2018)
- 14. Operation Petticoat (1959)
- 15. Below (2002)
- 16. On the Beach (1959)
- 17. Phantom Below (2005)
- 18. The Last Voyage (1960)
- 19. The Secret of the Submarine (1915)
- 20. Submarines
- Should you watch these Submarine movies?
Top 10 Best Submarine Movies of all Time
1. Das Boot (1981)
This German film, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, follows the crew of a German U-boat during World War II. Das Boot is widely regarded as one of the best submarine movies ever made due to its realistic and intense portrayal of life aboard a German U-boat during World War II. The film, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, was adapted from a novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, who drew on his experiences as a war correspondent on board a U-boat.
One of the strengths of Das Boot is its attention to detail in depicting the cramped, claustrophobic conditions of a U-boat and the day-to-day struggles of the crew as they navigate the dangers of the ocean and enemy attacks. The film is also notable for its nuanced portrayal of the crew members, who are shown to be complex individuals with their own fears, motivations, and moral dilemmas.
The performances in Das Boot are universally praised, particularly that of Jürgen Prochnow as the U-boat captain, who delivers a nuanced and empathetic portrayal of a man struggling with the horrors of war and his own conscience. The film’s score, composed by Klaus Doldinger, is also highly regarded for its haunting and atmospheric quality.
Overall, Das Boot stands out as a powerful and thought-provoking film that captures the realities of war and the human experience in a unique and compelling way.
2. The Hunt for Red October (1990):
Based on the novel by Tom Clancy, this film follows the attempt by the Soviet Union’s newest nuclear submarine to defect to the United States. The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 American submarine thriller directed by John McTiernan and based on Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel of the same name. The film features an all-star cast, including Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, and Sam Neill.
The Hunt for Red October tells the story of a Soviet submarine captain (Connery) who defects to the United States with his high-tech nuclear submarine, the Red October. The United States government, led by CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin), must track the Red October and prevent a nuclear crisis from escalating into war.
The film is praised for its suspenseful plot, engaging characters, and technical accuracy in depicting submarine warfare. The performances of Connery and Baldwin are particularly noteworthy, with Connery delivering a memorable portrayal of the stoic and enigmatic Soviet captain and Baldwin portraying a cerebral and determined CIA analyst.
The Hunt for Red October is a classic submarine movie that combines thrilling action with intelligent storytelling and political intrigue. It remains a beloved film among fans of the genre and is often cited as one of the best submarine movies ever made.
3. Crimson Tide (1995)
Starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, this film follows a tense standoff between two high-ranking officers on a U.S. nuclear submarine during a crisis in Russia. “Crimson Tide” is a 1995 American submarine thriller film directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. The film follows the commanding officer and the executive officer of a nuclear submarine as they clash over their interpretations of an order to launch their missiles.
The story takes place during a tense period of the Cold War, where a Russian rebellion threatens to escalate into a full-scale nuclear war. The USS Alabama, a nuclear submarine, receives orders to launch a preemptive strike against Russia, but when a message is received that could potentially alter the situation, the two officers are at odds over whether to follow through with the mission or wait for further instructions.
The film was praised for its tense atmosphere, strong performances by Washington and Hackman, and its portrayal of the intense pressure and responsibility faced by submarine crews. It also received nominations for three Academy Awards, including Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing.
4. U-571 (2000)
Set during World War II, this film follows a U.S. Navy submarine crew’s mission to capture an Enigma machine from a German U-boat. “U-571” is a 2000 American war film directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Harvey Keitel. The film is loosely based on real events and tells the story of an American submarine crew that boards a German U-boat during World War II to steal the Enigma machine, a device used by the Germans to encrypt their communications.
The film is set in 1942 and follows the crew of the fictional USS S-33 submarine as they are given the mission to capture a German U-boat and retrieve the Enigma machine. The crew successfully boards the U-boat but soon finds themselves stranded when their own submarine is sunk by a German destroyer. The Americans then assume the identities of the German crew and must complete the mission while fighting off their enemy and avoiding detection.
The film was praised for its intense action sequences and attention to detail in portraying the dangers faced by submariners during World War II. However, it also received some criticism for taking creative liberties with historical events and for inaccurately portraying the role of American forces in capturing the Enigma machine.
5. K-19 The Widowmaker (2002)
Starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, this film is based on the true story of a Soviet nuclear submarine that suffered a nuclear reactor malfunction in 1961.
“K-19: The Widowmaker” is a 2002 submarine film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson. The film is based on a true story and depicts the events surrounding the 1961 Soviet nuclear submarine K-19, which suffered a critical reactor malfunction during a test mission in the North Atlantic.
The film follows the crew of K-19, who are ordered to test the submarine’s nuclear missile capabilities despite concerns about its safety and reliability. During the test, a coolant leak causes the reactor to overheat, leading to a dangerous buildup of pressure that threatens to cause a catastrophic nuclear explosion. The crew must work together to contain the situation and prevent a disaster, even as their own lives are put at risk.
The film received mixed reviews, with some critics praising the performances of Ford and Neeson and the film’s tense atmosphere, while others criticized the script’s lack of character development and historical inaccuracies. However, it is generally regarded as an intense and suspenseful portrayal of a real-life nuclear crisis and the heroism displayed by the crew of the K-19 in preventing a catastrophic disaster.
6. Black Sea (2014)
This British-American film follows a group of submarine crew members who attempt to recover a sunken Nazi submarine in the Black Sea. “Black Sea” is a British submarine thriller film released in 2014. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald and starred Jude Law in the lead role. The story follows a group of submarine sailors who are hired by a wealthy businessman to retrieve a sunken Nazi submarine in the Black Sea that is rumored to contain a large amount of gold. As the crew sets out on their mission, tensions rise among the crew members, and they must overcome various obstacles, including rival factions, treacherous weather conditions, and mechanical failures.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its tense atmosphere, strong performances, and realistic portrayal of submarine life. However, some critics criticized the film for its formulaic plot and lack of originality. Despite mixed reviews, “Black Sea” was a moderate commercial success, grossing over $18 million at the box office.
7. Hunter Killer (2018)
Starring Gerard Butler, this film follows the crew of a U.S. Navy submarine as they attempt to rescue the Russian president during a military coup. “Hunter Killer” is an American action thriller film released in 2018. The film was directed by Donovan Marsh and starred Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, and Common in the lead roles. The story follows a group of Navy SEALs who team up with a submarine captain to rescue the Russian president who has been kidnapped by his own defense minister. As they race against time to prevent a global war, they must overcome various obstacles, including rogue Russian forces and treacherous waters.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its action sequences and performances but criticized its clichéd plot and lack of originality. Despite mixed reviews, “Hunter Killer” was a moderate commercial success, grossing over $31 million at the box office.
The film is based on the 2012 novel “Firing Point” by Don Keith and George Wallace.
8. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)
Starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, this classic film is set in World War II and follows a U.S. submarine captain on a mission to destroy a Japanese warship. “Run Silent, Run Deep” is an American war film released in 1958. The film was directed by Robert Wise and starred Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster in the lead roles. The story follows a United States Navy submarine captain, played by Gable, who is obsessed with sinking a Japanese ship that previously eluded him. As he prepares for a dangerous mission to seek revenge, he clashes with his executive officer, played by Lancaster, who questions his decisions and authority.
The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its suspenseful atmosphere, realistic portrayal of submarine life, and strong performances from the lead actors. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $8 million at the box office. “Run Silent, Run Deep” is considered a classic of submarine cinema and is often cited as one of the best films of its genre.
The film was based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Edward L. Beach Jr., a retired naval officer who served on several submarines during World War II
9. The Enemy Below (1957)
This film, also set during World War II, features a cat-and-mouse game between a U.S. destroyer and a German U-boat. “The Enemy Below” is an American war film released in 1957. The film was directed by Dick Powell and starred Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens in the lead roles. The story follows a United States Navy destroyer captain, played by Mitchum, who engages in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a German U-boat commander, played by Jurgens, during World War II. As the two captains try to outsmart each other, they gain a mutual respect for one another and begin to question the morality of their mission.
The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its suspenseful atmosphere, realistic portrayal of naval warfare, and strong performances from the lead actors. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $5 million at the box office. “The Enemy Below” is considered a classic of submarine cinema and is often cited as one of the best films of its genre.
The film was based on the 1956 novel of the same name by D.A. Rayner, a British naval officer who served in World War II.
10. Gray Lady Down (1978)
Starring Charlton Heston, this film follows the rescue of a U.S. submarine that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean. “Gray Lady Down” is an American disaster film released in 1978. The film was directed by David Greene and starred Charlton Heston, David Carradine, and Stacy Keach in the lead roles. The story follows the crew of a United States Navy submarine, the USS Neptune, which sinks after colliding with an undersea mountain. As the crew struggles to survive in the cramped and rapidly flooding submarine, a rescue operation is launched to save them.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its realistic portrayal of submarine life and tense underwater sequences but criticized its predictable plot and melodramatic moments. Despite mixed reviews, “Gray Lady Down” was a moderate commercial success, grossing over $15 million at the box office.
The film was based on the 1971 novel of the same name by David Lavallee, a retired naval officer who served on several submarines during his career.
11. The Abyss (1989)
While not strictly a submarine movie, this film features a team of underwater oil drillers who must work with a team of Navy SEALs to investigate a mysterious object on the ocean floor. “The Abyss” is an American science fiction film released in 1989. The film was written and directed by James Cameron and starred Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn in the lead roles. The story follows a team of deep-sea oil rig workers who are recruited by the United States Navy to help investigate a mysterious underwater object. As they descend deeper into the ocean, they encounter strange and dangerous creatures and must confront their own fears and flaws.
The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its innovative special effects, immersive underwater sets, and strong performances from the lead actors. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $90 million at the box office. “The Abyss” is considered a classic of science fiction cinema and is often cited as one of the best films of its genre.
The film’s underwater scenes were shot in a specially-built large tank in South Carolina, which was the largest underwater filming set ever constructed at the time. “The Abyss” also pioneered new techniques in computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create convincing digital effects for the underwater creatures.
12. Phantom (2013)
“Phantom” is an American-Soviet conspiracy thriller film released in 2013. The film was directed by Todd Robinson and starred Ed Harris, David Duchovny, and William Fichtner in the lead roles. The story follows the captain of a Soviet submarine, played by Harris, who is ordered to lead a classified mission during the Cold War. However, as the mission unfolds, the captain begins to suspect that his crew has been infiltrated by KGB agents and that the true nature of the mission is being hidden from him.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the strong performances from the lead actors but criticized its convoluted plot and lack of suspense. Despite mixed reviews, “Phantom” was a moderate commercial success, grossing over $1 million at the box office.
The film was loosely based on the real-life events of the K-129 submarine incident, which occurred in 1968 when a Soviet submarine carrying nuclear missiles sank in the Pacific Ocean. The incident was shrouded in secrecy and has been the subject of various conspiracy theories over the years.
13. The Meg (2018)
“The Meg” is an American science fiction horror film released in 2018. The film was directed by Jon Turteltaub and starred Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, and Rainn Wilson in the lead roles. The story follows a group of scientists and a deep-sea rescue diver, played by Statham, who must confront a giant prehistoric shark known as the megalodon after it is accidentally released from its underwater habitat.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its impressive special effects and thrilling action sequences but criticized its clichéd plot and shallow characters. Despite mixed reviews, “The Meg” was a commercial success, grossing over $530 million at the box office.
The film was loosely based on the 1997 novel “Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror” by Steve Alten. The novel centers around the discovery of the megalodon and a team of scientists who attempt to capture it alive for study. The novel spawned a series of sequels and spin-offs, but the film adaptation deviated significantly from the source material.
14. Operation Petticoat (1959)
“Operation Petticoat” is an American comedy film released in 1959. The film was directed by Blake Edwards and starred Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in the lead roles. The story follows the captain of a World War II submarine, played by Grant, and his crew, as they attempt to salvage a damaged submarine and paint it pink to avoid detection by the enemy. The crew also takes on a group of stranded army nurses, played by Joan O’Brien and Dina Merrill, who create chaos aboard the submarine.
The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised its humorous tone, witty dialogue, and strong performances from the lead actors. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $10 million at the box office. “Operation Petticoat” is considered a classic of its genre and has since become a beloved film.
The film was loosely based on the real-life experiences of a US Navy submarine, the USS Sea Robin, which was damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequently salvaged and repaired using parts from other submarines. The film’s portrayal of the Sea Robin as being painted pink was fictional, however, and was intended as a comedic device.
15. Below (2002)
“Below” is a supernatural horror movie directed by David Twohy and released in 2002. The film is set during World War II, and it follows the crew of an American submarine, the USS Tiger Shark, as they are sent on a dangerous mission in the Atlantic Ocean.
As the crew navigates the treacherous waters, they begin to experience strange and unexplained events onboard the submarine. They start to suspect that there may be a supernatural presence among them, and tensions rise as they try to figure out what is happening and how to survive.
The cast includes Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Scott Foley, and Zach Galifianakis in one of his earlier film roles. The movie received mixed reviews from critics but has since gained a cult following for its tense atmosphere and twist ending.
If you’re a fan of horror movies set in confined spaces, or if you enjoy World War II stories with a supernatural twist, “Below” might be worth checking out.
16. On the Beach (1959)
A post-apocalyptic film set in the aftermath of a nuclear war, where a U.S. submarine crew searches for signs of life while dealing with the effects of radiation. “On the Beach” is a post-apocalyptic drama film released in 1959, directed by Stanley Kramer and based on a novel of the same name by Nevil Shute. The film is set in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has devastated the northern hemisphere, leaving only Australia untouched. However, as the radioactive cloud from the northern hemisphere begins to spread, it becomes clear that the end of humanity is inevitable.
The movie follows a group of characters living in Australia, including an American submarine commander (played by Gregory Peck), a young Australian woman (played by Ava Gardner), and a scientist who is trying to find a way to save at least some of humanity (played by Fred Astaire). As the characters come to terms with their impending doom, they grapple with the meaning of their lives and the choices they have made.
The film is known for its haunting portrayal of the end of the world and its strong performances from its cast. It received mixed reviews upon its release, but has since been recognized as a classic of the science fiction and post-apocalyptic genres. If you’re interested in thought-provoking films about the end of the world, “On the Beach” is definitely worth a watch.
17. Phantom Below (2005)
A low-budget action movie set on a U.S. Navy submarine, where the crew must fight against a group of terrorists who have taken control of the vessel.
18. The Last Voyage (1960)
“The Last Voyage” is a disaster film released in 1960, directed by Andrew L. Stone. The movie tells the story of the SS Claridon, a passenger ship that sets sail from New York to Europe. However, when a boiler explodes on the ship, the crew and passengers are left struggling to survive as the vessel slowly sinks.
The movie follows the efforts of the captain (played by Robert Stack) and his wife (played by Dorothy Malone) to save the passengers, including a young boy and his parents, who are trapped in a flooded lower deck. As the ship continues to sink and time runs out, the characters are forced to make difficult choices in order to try and survive.
“The Last Voyage” is known for its intense suspense and realistic portrayal of a maritime disaster. It was praised for its special effects and realistic depictions of the sinking ship, which were achieved through the use of practical effects and actual sinking of a real ship. The movie received generally positive reviews and was considered a critical and commercial success at the time of its release.
If you’re a fan of classic disaster movies or tense thrillers, “The Last Voyage” is definitely worth checking out.
19. The Secret of the Submarine (1915)
One of the earliest submarine movies, this silent film follows a German submarine crew during World War I.
When terrorists seize a Soviet nuclear submarine and threatens to destroy Los Angeles, a court-martialed American captain gets a shot at redemption.
Should you watch these Submarine movies?
Submarine movies can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in the history, technology, and adventure of underwater exploration and warfare. Fans of naval history, military fiction, and science fiction may also find submarine movies to be engaging.
However, submarine movies may not be suitable for young children due to their intense themes and depictions of violence. Parents should use their discretion when deciding whether or not to allow their children to watch submarine movies.
Overall, submarine movies are best suited for individuals who are interested in the subject matter and are comfortable with the level of intensity and realism that these movies often portray.