The 10 Best Submarine Movies

The 10 Best Submarine Movies

There’s something compelling about the submarine genre of movies: the close quarters, the life-and-death nature of it, the mystery of what’s out there in the dark and vast ocean depths. By our unofficial count, there have been roughly 100 submarine-oriented flicks made since World War II. (The exact number depends on which movies you decide to include). Spot Cool Stuff has seen the vast majority of them. Here’s ranking of our personal favorite ten best submarine movies:

Note that our list seems to vary from the consensus opinion. To share your list, dive down to our comments section.

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies


movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies
movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies
movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

#10 The Enemy Below

At the height of World War II an American warship squares off against a German submarine. Watch as dueling captains, Robert Mitchum versus Curt Jürgens, struggle for supremacy. Not surprisingly, the 50+ year old The Enemy Below has an antiquated feel, especially the pacing and special effects, but the superlative plot carries it through. 1957

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

# 9 Below

Below is less of a submarine movie and more of a Sixth Sense-like horror-suspence movie that happens to take place underwater. Submarine movie purist may want to navigate clear of this haunted tale. For lovers of ghost stories this flick staring Gary Broadway is a worthy watch. 2002

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

# 8 Run Silent – Run Deep

A World War II submarine captain, Clark Gable, is bent on taking revenge against the Japanese sub that sunk his previous ship. And he’s determined not to let the safety of his crew or his executive officer (and personal rival) Burt Lancaster get in his way. Run Silent is more of a cautionary tale about the destructive nature of revenge than it is a serious action flick. Still, the close confines of a sub together with the superlative acting from an all-star cast make this psychological tale an entertaining watch. 1958

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

#7 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

In Disney’s first (and some would still consider best) large budget movie, Kirk Douglas ends up on a fantastical submarine captained by an eccentric and reclusive James Mason. The duo experience several harrowing adventures, including battles with enormous creatures of the deep. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, both the film and the original Jules Verne’s book, have withstood the test of time reasonably well. A few remakes have been attempted over the years, the best of which might be a Nickelodeon cartoon version. Spot Cool Stuff would love to see a modern well-directed, well-special effected version. Are you listening Steven Spielberg? 1954

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

#6 The Hunley

The first submarine to ever sink an enemy warship: The H. L. Hunley in 1864. The Hunley, a made-for-TV movie, stars Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland and depicts the incredible true story of this Confederate submersible and the soldiers who sacrificed to build and operate it—and to keep it secrete from the Union. Sadly, the movie is only available on VHS though several compelling documentaries about the Hunley are available on DVD and Blu-ray, the History Channel’s History’s Mysteries Raise The Hunley foremost among them. 1999

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

#5 Das Boot—The Director’s Cut

Many a movie critic has declared Das Boot the best sub movie ever. Spot Cool Stuff can not see why (and not for lack of trying, mind you). We understand that real submarine warfare involves a lot of monotony and long bouts of tedium. But that doesn’t mean we want to see a movie with that same tedium, which is what Das Boot delivers. For the first 90 minutes of this movie we follow along as almost nothing happens aboard a German u-boat. Literally, even the movie characters spend this time lamenting the lack of action. The pace finally picks up 1 1/2 hours into this 2-DVD disc flick, enough to keep Das Boot from sinking out of our the top five in our ranking — barely. 1981

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

# 4 The Abyss

Can you make a thrilling submarine movie without the specter of war as part of the plot? The Abyss proves you can. A crew including Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are underwater petroleum engineers called upon to help recover a lost nuclear submarine. What they find is a mysterious race of creatures who live in the uncharted depths of the ocean and who seem to be plotting to wipe out humanity! 1989

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

#3 U-571

A submarine movie with Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi? That might seem like a recipe for disaster, yet somehow U-571 delivers a gripping tale of a WWII spy mission to secretly capture a German enigma decoding machine. Our band of heros begin their daring undertaking aboard a fake German submarine but soon find themselves in command of a real (and crippled) German u-boat after their plan goes awry. The plot was inspired by real mission conducted by the British. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair thought it an “affort to British sailors” that U-571 depicted all the heros as American. Nevertheless, this suspenseful yarn is anything but an affront to lovers of submarine movies. 2000

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies


movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies
movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies
movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

# 2 Crimson Tide

Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington serve as the Captain and Executive Officer of an American nuclear submarine. The submarine is ordered to fire their missiles to prevent a nuclear launch upon the United States. Or is it? Hackman and Washington disagree, to say the least, on the proper course of action. What follows is a riveting chess game of mutinies and counter-mutanies between the two men. Crimson Tide is superbly acted and contains nearly the perfect mix of dialogue and action. 1995

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

# 1 The Hunt For Red October

The Soviet Union built a new type of submarine that could alter the entire balance of the Cold War and its captain, Sean Connery, decides to defect to America with it. The Soviet navy tries to sink the sub before it falls into enemy hands while CIA operatives Alec Baldwin and James Earl Jones try to figure out what heck is going on. That’s the gist behind this superbly acted thriller based on a Tom Clancy novel of the same name; in addition to getting our vote for the best sub movie ever made The Hunt For Red October is also among the best book-to-movie adaptations we’ve seen. 1990

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

updated: 18 Feb 2014
movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

Surprisingly, none of the movies on this list had production budgets that topped US$100 million. The most expensive of them, The Abyss, was filmed for $72 million, which wouldn’t place it in the top 250 most expensive movies even after adjusting for inflation. We’d love to see a submarine movie made on a mega budget. To attract a big budget director like Michael Bay or Steven Spielberg, the screenplay would have to be strong—like Crimson Tide or The Hunt for Red October or (some others would argue) Das Boot. If a submarine movie could weave its way into the Michael Bay biography, it could make for an incredible show.

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

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movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies

No post on SCS has produced as many profanity-laden comments as this one. We’d love to hear other people’s lists. Feel free to disagree with ours in the process . . . but given all the real stuff to argue about in the world, please practice some civility around such a benign topic as this:

movies dvd blu ray best of spot cool stuff  The 10 Best Submarine Movies


Responses

  1. Roger says:

    November 14th, 2009at 6:29 am(#)

    That is a great list of movies. My list is a bit different.

    10. Operation Pacific
    9. Gray Lady Down
    8. Run Silent, Run Deep
    7. Up Periscope
    6. The Enemy Below
    5. K-19: The Widowmaker
    4. Crimson Tide
    3. U-571
    2. The Hunt For Red October
    1. Das Boat

    Pretty cool site you have here.

    [Reply to this comment]

    wilbek Reply:

    Roger,

    Thanks for your two cents. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, of course, but would you might if I strongly disagreed with you on K-19? That actually gets my vote for the *worst* sub movie of all time (as well as an award to Harrison Ford for cinema’s worst fake Russian accent).

    SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. CZ says:

    February 2nd, 2010at 6:50 am(#)

    Placing Red October first and Das Boot on, not even 2nd, but 5th, is just bad taste :(

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. alper ileri says:

    February 13th, 2010at 2:55 pm(#)

    DAS BOOT is ABSOLUTELY number #1. any other stuff is second class. It’s so funny to put it on #5. This means the person who made the list has a little idea on movies.

    [Reply to this comment]

    wilbek Reply:

    . . . or, Alper, it might possibly mean that the person who put together this list knows a lot about movies but has a different option from you. But DAS BOOT clearly is more highly thought of by the people coming to this list than it is by us.

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. JDintheOC says:

    March 19th, 2010at 7:43 pm(#)

    Red October was a pretty good film but I have issues with Connery’s character knowing just when to turn the Sub in the trench. Seems a little too iffy to me.

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. GURU says:

    June 19th, 2010at 5:22 pm(#)

    Person Who Put DAS BOOT on 5th Place Is Nothing More But …..! Who Now Nothing About War Gener THIS IS A FACT!! And You People Can Cry Whatever You Like!

    DAS BOOT is No.1 Then Is Long Time Nothing And Then Come Hollywood Pop Bombastic SHIT!

    When You See PULP FICTION on no.5 in IMDB list
    And DANCES WITH WOLVES Not Even In Top 250 Then You Know What Im Talking About!
    People Like This Know Little Or Nothing About Movies!
    ANOTHER FACT!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. Adi says:

    August 15th, 2010at 7:50 pm(#)

    Hunt for Red October is a good movie but hearing Connery’s pitiful attempt at speaking Russian is a big and unnecessary spoil.

    U-571 is horrible in every possible way except perhaps the action. It all revolves around a mission to obtain the “Enigma”. The joke about it all is that the enigma was specifically designed with the assumption that it will fall into enemy hands. So capturing it is a total non-event. I won’t even go into all the other distortions it makes of historical facts. Hollywood certainly doesn’t expect much from their US audience.

    Das Boot is definitely the best movie here. You can’t compare it with the typical action movie. It is more like a documentary of life on a German submarine in WW2 with everything it entailed. Amazingly accurate right down to the smallest detail.

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. ken says:

    August 17th, 2010at 11:32 pm(#)

    I concur with some of the comments. U0571 and Below were certainly execrable!
    There was a movie made in the 1990s called Troubled Waters about a collision between a Soviet and US submarine. That was really good. I think Rutger Hauer was in it.
    I do think that K-19 was a better film than is given credit generally.
    Also, Tom Clancey movies are hard to watch because of all the jingoistic US rah-rah. The Main character’s motivation seems a little absurd. The USSR cannot be trusted with such a potent weapon, but the US can?! Also, the real mutiny was aboard a frigate that never made it out of the Baltic. A movie of the real event would be great!

    [Reply to this comment]

  8. Burritolikethesun says:

    October 12th, 2010at 11:26 am(#)

    Hmmm, author of this article–it seems most of the people think you are an idiot. Perhaps your rationalization for Das Boot being 5th is poor? der der der

    [Reply to this comment]

    wilbek Reply:

    Burritolikethesun,

    Well, determining what movie is “best” is a matter of taste not smarts. We get that Das Boot gives the most accurate portrayal of live on a sub. That accuracy seems to be important to a lot of people who’ve left comments here. Fair enough. But to us we think of “best” to mean “most entertaining.” If the characters in Das Boot are complaining about the lack of anything happening then we think it is reasonable complain about that ourselves. And it isn’t as if Das Boot was completely left off—the 5th best movie of a popular genre is still really good.

    In any case, more opinions welcome . . .

    [Reply to this comment]

  9. laurence cooper says:

    March 14th, 2011at 2:04 pm(#)

    A friend and I both remember watching something on tv in the 1990′s about an americn and soviet sumbarine that collided. it was probably a made for tv film and was supposedly based on a real incident in the 1960′s. The part that made an impression on both of us was that one of the Russian engineers volunteered for a suicide mission to go into the nuculear reactor control room and shut it down manually. It doesn’t seem to be any of the main submarine films and we think it may have been called Close Encounter but we cannot find any reference to it – any ideas? Laurence

    [Reply to this comment]

  10. Jjb says:

    March 20th, 2011at 11:25 pm(#)

    My faves are The Abyss, Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, Deep Star Six, Leviathan… Found a new one on netflix called depth charge, not that great, but not too bad. Also, Sphere with Dustin Hoffman qualifies as an underwater adventure.

    As the Author of this webpage says, Below is a ghost movie, with a few cheesy SFX, stay away if you want a real sub action adventure. If you like ghost stories of the deep, it is ok.

    U571 was absolutely the worst movie ever made and the folks who made tha piece of crap deserve to be thrown out the airlock without their wetsuits. The cap on the crown of feces that this movie is made of is the big CGI explosion at the end. If you are going to waste money on CGI, at least make it look slightly realistic. Better yet, use some firecrackers and blow up a model instead. The only big budget movie with worse SFX is Air Force One – with the CGI airplane hitting fake CGI trees…

    [Reply to this comment]

  11. Flavio Rino says:

    April 27th, 2011at 10:01 pm(#)

    Well, it seems pretty straight forward to me, that if you make a “10 best submarine movies” you’re not going to put there some idiot comedy about subs just because it’s entertaining, you’ll put the most accurate, well interpreted, directed, etc. Noone googles “best submarine movies list” to look for ‘entertaining’.

    Das Boot is easily worth the 1st place, you actually get the feeling, the intensity of life on a U-Boat. K-19 is not that bad, I mean, you put horror movies about subs and you disregard K-19 and others alike? Get real…

    I must say the list on the first comment was way better. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask someone who really enjoys submarines to help you with that next time?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Marilyn Reply:

    I’ve just finished watching K19-The Widowmaker and followed up with a blog where the blogger went to great length to find out what happened to the sub after it was abandoned.

    I don’t think the movie was all that bad.

    Das Boot was so fantastic that I’ve watched it every time I get a chance. My late husband rode the nuclear subs as a civilian engineer out of New London CT and work and boredom seem to be the only two things that take place on a sub.

    I’m fascinated by submarine movies and watch every one that I can, often more than once.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Adam Plessinger Reply:

    Actually I just Google’s best submarine movies for exactly that reason… for entertainment. If I wanted an education about submarines, I would have searched for best sub documentaries. I haven’t seen das boots but plan to now. Without seeing it though, I would have to agree that being bored for ¾ of a movie for an amazing last ¼, would make it tough to put it as #1.
    The phantom is a fairly new sub movie that I would strongly recommend! Its based on a true story and has a greaat cast and plot. I loved crimson tide and the hunt for red October, and would put the phantom right up there with them.

    [Reply to this comment]

  12. Flavio Rino says:

    April 27th, 2011at 10:06 pm(#)

    btw, if you’re looking for “entertaining” then you should definately have put in the list “down periscope”

    [Reply to this comment]

  13. paulie says:

    May 25th, 2011at 1:24 am(#)

    Hey Jjb, you must have been watching on cable on one of those new 120 Hz LCD TVs that make everything look like cheap video. U-571 is a GREAT movie, with more than competent effects. As for the list, I can’t really add anything to it, but I’d move “The Enemy Below” to #5 and “20,000 Leagues” to about #4.

    [Reply to this comment]

  14. paulie says:

    May 25th, 2011at 1:29 am(#)

    Actually, it’s tough because “Das Boot” is also great. I would also move “Crimson Tide” to #1 just ahead of “Hunt for Red October”. In my opinion, “Crimson Tide” is the best movie (of any kind) since “The Last Emperor”.

    Moderator: maybe you can add this comment to the end of my previous one..?

    [Reply to this comment]

  15. sam crowell says:

    June 14th, 2011at 1:33 am(#)

    I need help!! I am looking for a movie about a sub sunk in the pacific during WWII which seems to have comes back to get the only member of its last crew to survive the last patrol. It is decided to re-sail the last voyage and the sub takes over command!!! If anyone remembers this movie please respond.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Cherie Reply:

    Do you mean “Ghostboat”?
    It stared David Jason. It’s not a bad movie. Quoting Amazon….
    ” The re-appearance of a British submarine that was lost and sunk in World War 2, the only survivor is recruited by the admiralty to attempt to discover what happened to the rest of the crew and how the submarine resurfaced. After boarding the sub the investigation team begin to take on characteristics of the original crew and their ultra secret mission, to destroy a top secret target in Russia and set sail to complete this task that was set in motion 65 years previously”

    [Reply to this comment]

  16. Stefanoa says:

    July 19th, 2011at 10:50 am(#)

    #1 for me is “Das Boot”, no doubt.
    K-19 looks also realistic and well done.

    Hunt for R.O. and Crimson Tide are nice and fun to watch, but more action and hollywood-styled.

    [Reply to this comment]

  17. Karl says:

    August 10th, 2011at 1:24 pm(#)

    Das Boot is by far the best. I was actually more gripped that there were long drawn-out scenes as it gave a real sense of a crewman’s time in a submarine.

    I was hooked from beginning to end of this tremendous film. A true classic.

    [Reply to this comment]

  18. Ken says:

    September 7th, 2011at 9:52 am(#)

    Anybody that has read about submarines, especially WWII would realize that “Operation Pacific” is based on facts: faulty torpedoes, subs being sunk by there own torpedoes, etc. This flick is certainly more interesting and factual than “Crimson Tide”. A nuclear submarine with only one working radio; give me a break.

    “Das Boot” is certainly one of the best and more accurate of the sub pictures. They even used real U-boats.

    For historical accuracy that documents the American Silent service in WWII “Operation Pacific” is excellent and should be in the top half dozrn and certainly the top ten.

    [Reply to this comment]

  19. toni says:

    January 10th, 2012at 7:01 am(#)

    huh,K 19 better than DAs boot???LOLOLOLOL
    You make me laugh
    You maked worst review ever…
    BIG LOL..
    It seems you are not very smart to put K19 on 1st place…
    even IMDB gives 8.5 score for DAs boot!!!
    That u 571 is shit compared to Das boot
    Only USA movie i like is Crimson tide,excellent performance by Denzel Washington.
    DAS BOOT IS BEST SUBMARINE MOVIE EVER!!!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

    toni Reply:

    corrections to post above

    1.HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER instead K19
    2.ONly submarine USA movie i like is Crimson tide…

    [Reply to this comment]

  20. Fred says:

    August 8th, 2012at 8:39 am(#)

    Ice Station Zebra……..

    [Reply to this comment]

  21. Louie says:

    August 8th, 2012at 1:00 pm(#)

    The Abyss is not a submarine movie!!!!!!

    There is no human condition so miserable that it can not be made worse by the presence of an officer of the law.

    Mark Twain

    [Reply to this comment]

  22. Larry Blackburn says:

    August 8th, 2012at 8:09 pm(#)

    I’d sink (sorry, it’s out there) both Below and The Abyss in favor of Gray Lady Down.

    [Reply to this comment]

  23. michaelw_newyork says:

    August 14th, 2012at 9:23 pm(#)

    How could you have forgotten Ice Station Zebra ? Ok, so it wasnt exactly a submarine movie, but it did involve a submarine, and it combined wildly implausible submarines of different types which we were supposed to be so stupid as to believe were actually the same submarine. Has some good footage in it that looks real to me.

    MW

    [Reply to this comment]

  24. Brian Tucker says:

    February 9th, 2014at 11:32 pm(#)

    As a submarine veteran of 3 boats, I can assure you the favorite submarine comedy of all time is “Crimson Tide”.

    [Reply to this comment]

  25. helen says:

    March 5th, 2014at 10:52 pm(#)

    I am trying to recall a submarine movie I watched in the 1990s. It’s a comedy of a old submarine going to be face out and be replaced by new technologies submarine. There were some argument and a competition was set between the old and new submarine. … It was really funny movies… dying to watch it again. . Pls.. If anyone recall the title … pls respond.

    [Reply to this comment]

  26. Kirk says:

    March 26th, 2014at 8:20 am(#)

    What about “Last Resort”? It is not a movie but a series, it is kinda new (2012 I think) and It is very cool. Even if not a movie I suggest you guys to watch it, you won’t be disappointed.

    [Reply to this comment]

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