Notable Submarine Movies

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  • U-9, WEDDIGEN [German, 1926] - True story of a WW1 German u-boat commander, Otto Weddigen, who sank three British cruisers on the same day and whose sub was later rammed and sunk by HMS Dreadnought.
  • SUBMARINE [1928] - This review is interesting.
  • MEN WITHOUT WOMEN [1930] - The crew of a sunken sub awaits rescue. This movie was made right on the cusp of the change from silent to sound, and some of the dialog is heard while some must be read.
  • THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP [1932] - A sub captain, his wife, and his 2IC, who is also his wife's lover, bounce off each other (yes, all three of them) in his crippled vessel.
  • HELL BELOW [1933] - This time the 2IC is in love with his disapproving captain's daughter, and when the captain drowns the 2IC's best friend by diving too quickly to avoid aircraft attack the 2IC gets really angry.
  • MORGENROT [German, 1933] - Set in 1915. A German sub sinks a British cruiser but is itself sunk by a destroyer in shallow water. Most of the sub is flooded and not all the survivors can escape to the surface.
  • SUBMARINE RAIDER [1942] - Listen to this. A girl is rescued by a U.S. sub after a Japanese aircraft carrier heading for Pearl Harbour sinks her yacht. The sub is unable to warn Pearl because it is attacked by a plane from the carrier. When they hear the news of the attack on Pearl they let the carrier find them again and lure it to its doom.
  • CRASH DIVE [1943] - This time the captain and his 2IC are in love with the same girl only they don't know it - at first. When they find out, it complicates their mission to launch a commando raid on a Nazi supply base.
  • DESTINATION TOKYO [1943] - Before the Doolittle Raid could respond to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour a U.S. sub had to do a recon mission. This is the story of that mission.
  • WE DIVE AT DAWN [1943] - A British sub is sent on an almost suicide mission to sink a Nazi battleship that is harbored behind strong defences.
  • WESTERN APPROACHES [1944. a.k.a. THE RAIDER] - A Nazi sub sinks a British merchant ship then waits to attack rescue vessels. It sinks one but is itself sunk by cannon fire.
  • LES MAUDITS [French, 1947] - Nazi officials attempting escape to South America on a u-boat are depth-charged off France. Coming ashore for medical help, they kidnap a French doctor who eventually persuades them to surrender.
  • THE FLYING MISSILE [1950] - Drama about the first launching of a guided missile from a submarine.
  • MORNING DEPARTURE [1950] - Crew of a sunken sub battles panic while awaiting rescue or asphyxiation.
  • OPERATION PACIFIC [1951] - Commander 'Duke' Gifford (John Wayne) skippers a sub against the Japanese and works his way through most of the sub movie cliches including a tempestuous onshore romance.
  • SUBMARINE COMMAND [1951] - Sub movies graduate to the Korean War with this one. The captain is seeking an opportunity to redeem himself for past errors.
  • TORPEDO ALLEY [1952] - Korean conflict again. Romantic rivalries among officers again.
  • 20 000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA [1954] - The great-grand-daddy of sub stories well filmed by Disney.
  • HELL AND HIGH WATER [1954] - U.S. sub crew foils Red Chinese plot to start WW3 and blame it on U.S.
  • ABOVE US THE WAVES [1956] - British one-man subs attack German battleship Tirpitz.
  • THE ENEMY BELOW [1957] - Duel between a U.S. destroyer and a German u-boat produces mutual respect.
  • HELLCATS OF THE NAVY [1957] - Stars Mr & Mrs Ronald Reagan and, interestingly, focusses on leadership issues.
  • SHARKS AND LITTLE FISHES [German, 1957] - The submarine war from the German point of view. A precursor of Das Boot.
  • RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP [1958] - The overly fanatical captain is relieved of his command by his more level-headed 2IC. Precursor of Crimson Tide.
  • TORPEDO RUN [1958] - A sub commander must give the order to sink an enemy ship with POWs aboard, including his wife and child.
  • U-47, LIEUTENANT COMMANDER PRIEN [German, 1958] - True(-ish) story of WW2 Germany's most successful u-boat commander.
  • ATOMIC SUBMARINE [1959] - Set in 1968. A state-of-the-art atomic sub encounters hostile aliens in the Arctic.
  • ON THE BEACH [1959] - Only partly a sub movie. As the deadly fallout of WW3 poisons the world, a U.S. sub sets out from Australia to investigate apparent radio signals coming from North America.
  • OPERATION PETTICOAT [1959] - Comedy. A sub rescues some nurses and, needing a paint job and having only red and white paint, ends up painted pink. Great camoflage, guys.
  • ORZEL [Polish, 1959] - True story of a Polish sub that escaped the Nazis, teamed up with the British and sank a German troop transport during the invasion of Norway. 'Orzel' is Polish for Eagle, a curious name for a sub.
  • UP PERISCOPE [1959] - Is the sub's captain a coward? His 2IC doesn't think so and resists mutinous mutterings from the crew. The reverse of the 'overly fanatical captain' plot.
  • VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA [1961] - This is notable as the worst use of sub technolgy in a sci-fi movie. Ridiculous and dull. So of course it became a television series.
  • MYSTERY SUBMARINE [1963] - A Nazi u-boat is captured by the British and used as an imposter among the wolf-packs. It is detected and attacked; the crew is rescued.
  • THE BEDFORD INCIDENT [1965] - Cold War gets hot in the Arctic as U.S. destroyer hunts Soviet sub.
  • ASSAULT ON A QUEEN [1966] - Would-be pirates salvage a WW2 sub and use it to hold up the liner Queen Mary.
  • ICE STATION ZEBRA [1968] - Cold War adventure of a U.S. sub with a saboteur aboard and on a mission to beat a soviet sub to an Arctic weather station which has vital strategic information.
  • GRAY LADY DOWN [1978] - A U.S. nuclear sub collides with a tanker and sinks. The crew waits to be rescued.
  • DAS BOOT [German; 1981] - The story of the final mission of a WW2 German u-boat. Considered by many to be the best sub movie ever made. The 'Director's Cut' is the preferred version.
  • THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER [1990] - The captain of a Soviet super-sub wants to defect to the U.S., or does he?
  • THE LAST U-BOAT [German, 1990] - A u-boat with a combined German / Japanese crew is taking plutonium from Japan to the Nazi A-bomb project when news comes of the end of the war.
  • CRIMSON TIDE [1995] - When a nuclear sub loses contact with the chain of command during an international crisis, the fanatical captain intends to launch his missiles but his 2IC leads a mutiny against him.
  • DOWN PERISCOPE [1996] - Comedy. By sheer gumption and cunning, the foul-up crew of a conventional sub defeats a nuclear sub at a war games exercise.
  • HOSTILE WATERS [1997] A Russian sub collides with an American sub off Bermuda, which creates both a political and an environmental crisis. Based on a real incident.
  • THE HUNLEY [1999] The true story of a Confederate States submersible (manually powered) which attacked and sank a U.S. ship during the Civil War. Stranger than fiction.
  • U-571 [2000] - Historically misleading film which shows an American crew capturing the Nazi 'Enigma' code machine. In fact it was a British crew that captured it.
  • K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER [2002] - True story of a huge Soviet sub that was ordered to sea before it was properly finished being built, successfully tested a missile, and then suffered leaks in its nuclear reactor leading to the deaths of many of its crew from radiation poisoning.
  • BELOW [2003] - In 1943 an American sub rescues three British survivors of a hospital ship apparently sunk by an enemy sub. One of the Brits is a woman, and she discovers that the sub's official commander is missing. Then the sub begins to have extremely bad luck, and eventuallly seems to develop a mind of its own, altering its course and heading back to where the commander was lost.
Author Comments: 

Titles in ITALICS are the ones I'm sure I've seen.

Titles in ITALICS AND BOLD are the ones I recommend. (Thanks to Jim for the suggestion.)

I would like to acknowlege u-boat.net and, of course, IMDb.

Damn bertie, I am continually impressed by the originality of your lists (and I mean that as a compliment). Thanks for kicking in yet another winner. Never would I have thought I'd want to see so many submarine movies. And I am randomly reminded of how much I enjoyed that scene in The Hunt for Red October where Connery turns the sub around to head *toward* the pursuing torpedo.

Aw, shucks! But I have to admit I had help. I've just finished adding a couple of acknowlegements (and correcting a bunch of typos).

I hope it is a winner. At least it's a useful list rather than one of those silly 'game' lists (who started those things?):-D

Definitely a winner! I have a request though: I see you are italicizing the ones you've seen; can you make the ones you've seen and recommend italic and bold?

Great list. Have you seen the DVD for Das Boot? They really did a bang up job. Terrific.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks. Yes, I have seen the DB DVD and I've got it in my collection. An artistic and technical triumph (the latter applies both to the movie and the DVD).

I'd recommend "Operation Petticoat" - it's a good light comedy, great for a lazy Sunday afternoon. You know, the usual Blake Edwards fare.

Once again, an interesting list. Very original

I think David (Pitch Black) Twohy's recent supernatural submarine flick, Below (2002), was worth a watch.

Dan, yes, I did, and it is. Great on dvd.

Nice to see you hereabouts Bertie! You have an uncanny knack of popping up just when I'm on the verge of e-mailing you to find out where you went. :-)