If you’ve been in the Navy or the Marines, submarines probably hold a significant spot in your memory. In good times and bad, submarines have been a part of the war effort for decades and many stories have come from them.
Some of these stories have been told on film and we’re taking a look at the top 20 submarine movies ever made.
Best Submarine Movies of All Time
20. 72 Meters
Made in 2004, this dramatic action thriller follows a Russian submarine crew that gets stranded 72 meters below the ocean’s surface.
19. The Hunley
The Hunley takes it back to the Civil War era during the siege of Charleston in 1864. This 1999 TV movie is about the Confederate submarine known as the H.L. Hunley which became the first submersible vehicle to take down an enemy ship during a battle.
18. Black Sea
After hearing about a submarine said to be sunken at the bottom of the Black Sea that’s apparently loaded with gold, a submarine captain accepts the job of finding it. Although he’s working for a shady backer on the project, he wants to do well to get back in his former employer’s good graces. Jude Law stars in this adventure drama.
17. In Enemy Hands
When the submarine Swordfish gets torpedoed, the Americans onboard are picked up by a German U-Boat. Now, they’re in enemy hands but the threat of meningitis is the real threat to everyone’s survival onboard.
16. Phantom: The Submarine
This movie was made back in 1999 about Korea’s first nuclear submarine called Phantom. Its crew has no record of ever existing and its mission is do-or-die as they dive deep into the Pacific Ocean.
15. The Bedford Incident
Released in 1965 and inspired by the Cold War, this movie is a fictional depiction of what happened aboard the USS Bedford. It follows the stories of the commander’s response to incoming Soviet threats and his relationships with the subordinate officers who must take the commander’s orders.
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14. The Abyss
This interesting movie is an unexpected submarine horror drama by James Cameron. Integrating the paranormal with American naval submarines makes for a must-see film about submarines.
13. Ice Station Zebra
Loosely based on the book by the British author Alastair Maclean, this film was released in 1968 and was also heavily influenced by the events of the Cold War. Throughout the movie, you’ll see spies, double-crossing, and somewhat uniquely, a unified force among the American and Soviet soldiers.
12. Kursk: The Last Mission
This brand new film was released in 2019 and features incredible actors such as Colin Firth. Its cinematography is by the Oscar-winner Anthony Dot Mantle and although some scenes can be difficult to watch, this slow-burning movie about the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster is bound to become a favorite.
11. Down Periscope
It’s not often you find a comedy on a list of the best submarine movies of all time, but Down Periscope is just that – a comedy! Starring Kelsey Grammer, Lauren Holly, and Rob Schneider, viewers watch as Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge gets saddled with a bunch of misfits as seamen as he tries to reinvigorate his Naval career.
10. Destination Tokyo
If you’re a fan of old Hollywood glamor and the golden age of cinema, you’ll love Destination Tokyo. Starring Carey Grant, this submarine war movie premiered in 1943 and is considered one of the greatest World War II movies of all time.
9. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Although it’s not a war movie, this one’s a classic. Adapted from the book by Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is known as an early example of the steampunk genre. It was the first Cinemascope science fiction film in technicolor and was the first science fiction Disney film to be produced by Walt Disney himself. You’ve probably seen it before but it’s worth revisiting if you’re looking for one of the best submarine movies.
8. Torpedo Run
Another early submarine movie, Torpedo Run is from 1958 and the story unfolds as a commander is forced to blow up a Japanese ship even though there are American prisoners on board. It was nominated for an Oscar.
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7. The Enemy Below
In a classic game of cat and mouse, this 1957 film depicts the encounter between an American destroyer and a German U-Boat during World War II. As both captains are experts, the results of this game can be deadly.
6. Run Silent, Run Deep
When a US submarine commander becomes obsessed with doing away with a specific Japanese ship, he starts to butt heads with his officers and crew. Starring Hollywood heavyweights Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, this 1958 film considers themes of vengeance, endurance, courage, loyalty, and honor.
When a group of US Navy submariners disguise themselves and board a German submarine in 1942, their goal is to capture the cipher device called Enigma. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and more, it’s become a submarine fan favorite since its release in 2000.
4. K19: The Widowmaker
Starring Harrison Ford, this movie is about the K19 Soviet submarine who malfunctions on her maiden voyage. It was the first of many disasters that would befall Russia’s first nuclear sub and the storyline follows the captain as he and the crew race to prevent a nuclear disaster.
3. Das Boot
Based on the German novel by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim and set during World War II, Das Boot is certainly one of the greatest submarine movies of all time. It depicts the tedium and boredom of living and working on a German U-Boat in the cramped spaces as well as the sheer terror that often ensues.
2. Crimson Tide
Set on the US submarine Alabama, a trigger-happy combat veteran as captain is keen on using their nuclear missiles while his first officer stages a mutiny to prevent it.
1. The Hunt for Red October
Adapted from a novel by Tom Clancy and starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, this movie was a true hit. A Russian submarine captain makes his way to the US in a stealthy submarine called Red October. A CIA operative gets wind of his route and sets off to prevent any possible attack. But is he trying to defect or do damage?
Best WW2 Submarine Movies
Of the list above, we’ve separated some of the best submarine movies about World War II for anyone specifically looking for submarine movies about WW2.
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Best WWII Submarine Movies
Das Boot: A genuine classic in terms of World War II submarine movies, it’s a must-watch for its intensity. The horrifying, claustrophobic feelings that emerge from the film are unforgettable.
U-571: This film about Americans posing as Germans to intercept the cipher Enigma is a fictional World War II story. However, something similar happened in real life but it was the British Navy to do it.
Run Silent, Run Deep: Based on the book by Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr., the story is all about submarine conflicts in the Pacific during World War II. Its title refers to the submarine stealth tactic known as “silent running.”
The Enemy Below: The Enemy Below is considered one of the best World War II submarine movies because it was based on a novel by Denys Rayner who was in the British Navy throughout the Battle of the Atlantic. It also won an Oscar in 1958 for Best Special Effects.
Torpedo Run: This movie views World War II from inside a submarine as the commander is determined to take down a Japanese aircraft carrier, no matter the costs.
Destination Tokyo: The USS Copperfin departs San Francisco and not long after gets attacked by Japanese planes. It’s a dramatic film where people die, feelings are hurt, and tensions between the Americans and the Japanese are palpable. It’s considered a classic World War II submarine movie.
Down Periscope: The comedy about a Lieutenant Commander who gets stuck with an odd crew of seaman uses a rusted World War II-era diesel submarine called the US Stingray. The movie isn’t about World War II, but it’s a comical touch.