Best Sub Movies to Watch: 14 Films About Submarines

best sub movies

Trailer/Getty A scene from "Das Boot" (l) and "The Hunt for Red October" (r)

As the world is gripped by the ongoing saga of the missing “Titan” tourist sub, there is renewed interest in movies about submarines. What are the best sub movies to watch?

Although the OceanGate submersible is a very different type of vessel from a military-grade submarine, Google Trends still shows a spike in interest in films about subs. From the German-language World War II masterpiece “Das Boot” to the modern Gerard Butler thriller “Hunter Killer,” to the Cold War movie, “The Hunt for Red October,” to a movie about the Russian submarine Kursk called “The Command,” there is a submarine movie for all interests.

The Coast Guard and OceanGate say the five men died when the submersible faced catastrophic failure. “We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

Rear Admiral John Mauger said in a news conference on June 22, 2023, that a remote-operated vehicle discovered the tail cone of the Titan lying 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor. “The degree is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,” Mauger said.

Here are 14 sub movies to watch, in no particular order, with trailers for each film:

1. Das Boot, 1981

“Das Boot” is a German-language movie with subtitles, but it’s regarded by some as the best war movie ever made, and certainly one of the best sub movies ever made. “Das Boot” has a 98% score from critics and a 95% positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film often ranks #1 on lists of submarine movies.

The movie chronicles a German U-boat crew during World War II, its taut pacing capturing the claustrophobia and daily life of being on a submarine in the depths of the ocean during the perils of war. According to Vinyl Writers, the movie “literally takes place in the invisible and unglorifiable underground: below the sea-level.”

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Jurgen Prochnow, the film follows a German submarine as it “patrols the Atlantic Ocean during World War II, manned by a crew that must contend with tense conflicts and long stretches of confined boredom,” the Rotten Tomatoes description says. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards, according to IMDb.

2. The Hunt for Red October, 1990

“The Hunt for Red October,” starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin and based on a novel by Tom Clancy, is set during the Cold War.

It has 88% positive scores from both critics and audience members on Rotten Tomatoes.

According to the Rotten Tomatoes caption, the sub is “virtually invisible.” Connery is a sub captain who “abandons his orders and heads for the east coast of the United States,” the site says. Baldwin plays Jack Ryan, a CIA agent who is charged with figuring out Connery’s motive and whether he is a threat to the U.S.

3. James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge, 2014

If you’re more interested in a documentary-style movie relating to submersibles than a war movie, try “James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge,” which chronicles the “Titanic” director’s dive to the almost seven-miles deep Mariana Trench. It’s known as “earth’s deepest place,” reports National Geographic.

4. U-571, 2000

This World War II sub movie, “U-571,” is about a group of Americans who disguise themselves as Nazis to invade a German submarine. According to IMDb, the movie features actors Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Harvey Keitel.

The Americans enter the German sub in disguise to capture an Enigma cipher machine, IMDb reports. Lacking the artistry of a movie like “Das Boot,” the film “U-571” is still good popcorn fare. “Boarding the German ship, the Americans’ cover as a rescue force is quickly blown. Forced to take the crew hostage, the Americans lay their explosives and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup,” its Rotten Tomatoes page says.

5. Hunter Killer, 2018

Gerard Butler on a sub!

If you want a modern sub movie, try “Hunter Killer,” which has its antecedents in “The Hunt for Red October.” This film stars Scottish actor Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman.

“An untested American submarine captain teams with U.S. Navy Seals to rescue the Russian president, who has been kidnapped by a rogue general,” its IMDb profile reads.

The movie is dedicated to the memory of Michael Nyqvist, the great Swedish actor who plays the Russian sub commander in the movie. Michael Nyqvist died at the age of 56 on June 27, 2017, so he did not live long enough to see the film’s release, according to Daily Variety.

6. The Enemy Below, 1957

“The Enemy Below” starts Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum. “During WWII an American destroyer discovers a German U-boat, and in the ensuing duel the American captain must draw upon all his experience to defeat the equally experienced German commander,” its IMDb profile reads.

Curt Jurgens plays the German U-boat commander. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the fierce battle between the two commanders eventually leads to mutual respect between them. “During the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, two equally able captains on opposing sides square off in a life-and-death game of tactical maneuvering,” the site says.

7. Run Silent, Run Deep, 1958

Clark Gable as a submarine captain; what could go wrong?

According to Rotten Tomatoes, Gable plays the sub commander whose vessel is torpedoed by the Japanese during World War II.

Gable then takes over the command of the USS Nerka, and he faces hostility from his crew as he makes it his mission to find the ship that sank his sub, Rotten Tomatoes reports.

8. Torpedo Run, 1958

Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine lead the cast in this 1958 movie, according to Turner Classic Movies

“A submarine commander is forced to blow up a Japanese prison ship carrying his family,” TCM reports.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the sub commander must destroy the Japanese aircraft carrier responsible for Pearl Harbor, but it’s using a ship as a shield that is carrying his wife and child. The movie focuses on this impossible moral dilemma.

9. Crimson Tide, 1995

A young Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman are among the actors in the modern sub movie “Crimson Tide.”

According to IMDb, the movie takes place on a U.S. nuclear missile submarine where “a young First Officer stages a mutiny to prevent his trigger happy Captain from launching his missiles before confirming his orders to do so.”

10. In Enemy Hands, 2004

This sub movie from 2004 stars William H. Macy. “American sailors are taken captive by a German U-boat, and they all have to work together to fight an outbreak of meningitis,” its page on Rotten Tomatoes says.

According to IMDb, the sailors are picked up by the Germans after they survive a torpedo attack on their own submarine.

11. The Command, 2018

If you’re looking for a different milieu, try “The Command,” which chronicles the real-life Russian Kurk disaster. According to TV Guide, “The Command” is a movie that “recounts the 2000 K-141 Kursk submarine disaster. It tells the story of the Russian nuclear submarine as it’s sinking to the bottom of the Barents Sea and the sailors fighting to survive in it.”

According to TV Guide, the movie documents how political battles imperil the rescue efforts.

12. K-19, the Widowmaker, 2002

This 2002 movie about subs features actor Harrison Ford. According to IMDB, it centers around a Russian nuclear submarine.

That’s right, Ford plays a Russian sub commander. Film critic Roger Ebert calls it “Ford’s most consequential movie, a misbegotten role that forever altered his career.”

Sent to the American seaboard, the sub is facing imminent disaster that could ignite World War III.

13. The Abyss

“The Abyss” is a James Cameron movie that has a different twist: It involves aliens, according to IMDb.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie focuses on petroleum engineers who are trying to rescue a sunken nuclear submarine.

The film stars Ed Harris.

14. Greyhound, 2020

Another more modern submarine movie is Greyhound, a 2020 World War II movie starring Tom Hanks. According to Rotten Tomatoes, Hanks is an American sub commander who is pursued by German U-boats as he leads an Allied Convoy across the Atlantic.

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