If watching people submerged deep in the ocean, with just a thin layer of metal between them and instant death is your thing, then you will love this list of must-see submarine movies. As Jude Law goes diving for Nazi gold in ‘Black Sea,’ here are 10 of the genre’s most must-see entries.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Deep sea travel was first popularized by writer Jules Verne in the 1800’s. The story of Captain Nemo and his ship, The Nautilus, captured the imaginations of anyone who had ever dreamed of sailing beneath the open sea. Disney’s 1954 adaptation perfectly captures Verne’s steampunk vision, which earned the film Oscars for both Set Direction and Special Effects.
The Hunt for Red October (1990)
Considered the best of the big-screen Tom Clancy thrillers, ‘The Hunt for Red October’ is more than just a solid submarine movie -- it's also a great film. Sean Connery plays Ramius, a seasoned Russian sub captain who has stolen Russia’s most advanced vessel and set course for the U.S. Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan is on the case to determine if Ramius wants to defect or start World War III. If you haven’t seen this movie, fix that. Now.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
Writer/producer/director Irwin Allen brought submarines into the atomic age with his mid-century creation, the Seaview. After being out of radio contact on a mission under the North Pole, the Seaview rises to discover that fires threaten to destroy all life on Earth. It’s up to the crew of The Seaview to save the day in this dated-but-exciting adventure.
Submarines don’t have to go deep into the ocean to tell a great story. In ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ the submarine Proteus and its crew are miniaturized and get injected into the bloodstream of a sick human being. They only have an hour to cure their patient before returning to normal size, and this ticking clock drives one of the genre’s better entries. The film won Oscars for both Set Direction and Visual Effects.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, ‘Crimson Tide’ is an all-out battle between two commanding officers that debate whether to launch a nuclear missile as directed, or to hold off until further notice arrives. Truly one of the best submarine movies of all time; not only is the acting fantastic, but the story will constantly keep you guessing.
No list of must-see submarine movies would be complete without mentioning the Beatles’ visual extravaganza, ‘Yellow Submarine.’ Created at a time when the Beatles were all the rage, the film’s songs hold up well and its animation is the epitome of the psychedelic 1960’s. When you check it out, remember, “All you need is love.”
Das Boot (1981)
Nominated for six Oscars, ‘Das Boot’ is arguably the most gripping and realistic submarine movie ever made. Following the saga of a German U-boat during World War II’s ‘Battle of the Atlantic,’ director Wolfgang Petersen gives viewers a claustrophobic look at the hardships a the German crew must endure in order to fulfill their mission.
The Abyss (1989)
While most of James Cameron’s underrated sci-fi film takes place on a deep-sea rig, several set pieces involve various submersibles sharing the depths with alien life. With then-state of the art effects, Cameron stages a dogfight underwater between two subs that seethes with tension – leading to a very emotional climax for Ed Harris’ character.
Based on a true story, this World War II thriller stars Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton, and shows what lengths the Allied forces were willing to go in order to capture the German’s prized “Enigma” coding machine. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more intense sequence than the one where McConaughey’s crew is pelted with a barrage of depth charges.
If John Carpenter made a submarine movie, it would be ‘Below’ – a little seen but very chilling thriller about potential supernatural phenomena occurring aboard a World War II sub. If the ocean depths don’t kill our crew, their frayed tempers just might. To spoil the plot details any further would deny you the opportunity of experiencing the tension first hand.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
And lastly, a must-see submarine comedy! Writer/Director Wes Anderson once again enlists funnyman Bill Murray to tell the tale of a famous oceanographer that gathers his crew and sets out to seek revenge on the sea creature that killed his partner. With Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, and Anjelica Huston, ‘Life Aquatic’ is a hard film not to like.