The resurgence of interest in submarines and underwater adventures has been triggered by recent events, reminding audiences of the terror and intense discoveries made in the deep sea. As a result, submarine movies are gaining popularity, capturing the imagination of viewers worldwide.
James Cameron’s iconic film “Titanic” was inspired by the true tragedy of the ill-fated ship, and now, the fascination with underwater exploration has led to a surge in interest in submarine-themed films.
While pirate ships, Navy vessels, and cruise liners have been popular settings for sea-faring movies, submarine films have a unique appeal that captivates audiences. Here are some of our favorite submarine movies that offer thrilling and immersive experiences.
8. Hunter Killer (2018)
Hunter Killer, the most recent and contemporary submarine movie on our list, touts an all-star cast of actors, including Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini, and rapper-turned-actor Common. The film follows Butler’s Captain Joe Glass as he embarks upon a time-sensitive hunt for a U.S. submarine that has gone missing somewhere in the Arctic Ocean.
After realizing that a group of Russian revolutionaries are planning to coup their government, Captain Glass uncovers a global conspiracy that threatens to unravel the nature of international relations as we know it. In order to prevent a nuclear conflict, Glass and a team of elite Navy SEALS must traverse the harsh terrain of enemy waters in order to rescue to kidnapped Russian president.
7. Black Sea (2014)
This Jude Law-led adventure thriller sees former naval officer Robinson construct a rag-tag crew of misfits in order to escape poverty by locating a Nazi U-boat rumored to contain a sunken treasure. This submarine movie operates as one part heist film, one part vessel for class consciousness, and serves as a better Uncharted-style treasure-hunting story than the actual Uncharted movie, which premiered in 2022.
With the 2008 financial crisis still fresh on the minds of audiences in 2014, Black Sea utilizes a number of class struggles to drive its narrative, including rampant unemployment, the rising housing market, and the seemingly ever-increasing cost of living.
6. Down Periscope (1996)
Despite its abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score of a meager 11 percent, Down Periscope serves as one of the funniest slapstick comedy submarine movies to ever come to the big screen. Frasier‘s Kelsey Grammer, Shameless‘s William H. Macy, and slapstick legend Rob Schneider lead the film’s cast through a variety of comedy set pieces which surely set this film apart from any other entry on this list.
The film follows a classic slobs vs. snobs storyline, popularized by National Lampoon films of the 70s and 80s. Grammer’s Tom Dodge is a bumbling Navy Captain, piloting an underdog crew on a decrepit ship through a simulated water challenge, much to the chagrin of his nemesis, the conventionally successful Admiral Yancy Graham.
5. U-571 (2000)
Based, incredibly loosely, on a true story, U-571 follows Matthew McConaughey’s Lieutenant Andrew Tyler as he leads a team of sailors into the depths of the sea to recover a sunken Nazi U-571 submarine that the allied powers have sunk. As the horrors of World War 2 continued to rage around the globe, salvaging the Enigma machine from the U-boat could be just what the Allied powers needed to turn the war around.
In a cruel twist of fate, however, the U.S. crew’s submarine is sunk, forcing them to board the German vessel to survive. While this submarine movie focuses on the extrapolation of the first Enigma machine, the 2014 film The Imitation Game focuses on the team of scientists and engineers who cracked the machine, making the two films perfect for a double feature.
4. Crimson tide (1995)
This intense submarine movie follows Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington as U.S. submarine Captain and Lieutenant Commander, respectively, as they attempt to circumvent the arrival of a nuclear conflict in the throes of the Cold War.
After it becomes clear that the Soviet Union has access to nuclear weapons, Hackman’s Captain Ramsey attempts to command his crew to aggressively strike at the Communists, as Washington’s Lieutenant Commander Hunter insists that an act of aggression would spark an armed conflict rather than circumvent one.
Before long, the pair’s fundamental disagreement sparks a full-fledged mutiny, in a stark allegory for the Cold War itself, leaving the many nuanced readings of military code hanging in the balance.
3. The Hunt For Red October (1990)
Based on the incredibly successful Tom Clancy novel, The Hunt For Red October stars an incredible cast featuring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Sam Neil, Tim Curry, and James Earl Jones. The action thriller follows Connery’s Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius as he utilizes advanced cloaking technology to evade both foreign and domestic military powers while gunning for the east coast of the United States in a powerful submarine called the Red October.
This submarine movie features elements of science fiction, utilizing futuristic technology from both the CIA as well as the Soviet submarine in order to heighten the tension present within the film’s central conflict.
2. The Life Aquatic With Seteve Zissou (2004)
With the recent arrival of Wes Anderson’s latest and possibly greatest film, Asteroid City, many fans of the visionary director and his stylistic aesthetic have ventured back through his quirky catalog in order to catch up on some of his more underrated films. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a submarine movie that follows Bill Murray’s titular oceanographer as he swears vengeance upon a bloodthirsty shark that devoured a member of his crew.
With visiting members of the public aboard his submarine, including a pregnant journalist and a man Zissou believes to be his biological father, the crew travel the depths of the mighty sea, only to discover danger and despair at each turn.
1. Das Boot (1981)
Das Boot has been hailed as one of the greatest and most humanitarian submarine movies of all time, particularly for its nuanced look into the morals and ethics of war and its exploration of what it means to be a soldier.
The film follows a team of German soldiers on board a submarine patrolling the Atlantic Ocean in the midst of World War 2. Unlike most Nazi soldiers committed to film and television, these characters hold a great depth of nuance, as many of them were unfortunate souls drafted into a war they had no interest in fighting. As the film progresses, the miserable nature of cabin fever cooped up inside the tin can at the bottom of the ocean proves to be more deadly than the armed conflict itself.