Submarine films

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This article is about war films associated with the naval craft. For the 2010 film, see Submarine (2010 film).
Typical setting of a submarine film (Das Boot)

Submarine films are a subgenre of war film in which the majority of the plot revolves around a submarine below the ocean's surface. Films of this subgenre typically focus on a small but determined crew of submariners battling against enemy submarines or submarine-hunter ships, or against other problems ranging from disputes amongst the crew, threats of mutiny, life-threatening mechanical breakdowns, or the daily difficulties of living on a submarine.


The danger from the extreme pressure of deep water dives and the claustrophobic, cramped submarine quarters imbues films of the subgenre with a great deal of dramatic tension. To heighten this tension, these films often depict submarine commanders descending below "hull crush depth" to evade attackers. Films from this subgenre tend to feature dramatic scenes in which submarine-hunters try to destroy submarines with depth charges. A stock scene in the submarine genre film is the depiction of a grim-faced submarine crew waiting in silence as depth charges explode overhead and bolts fly out of bulkheads in the submarine (they are dead silent because sound carries extremely well underwater, and so even the sound of men talking on a submarine would be picked up by normal sonar on other ships). Modern (post-World War II) movies often add conflict between different enemies.

Also a typical feature in all depicted eras is the sudden switch from hunter to hunted; while stalking enemy ships or carrying deadly nuclear missiles, the submarine often becomes, within moments, the hunted victim of overwhelming attack, the crew fleeing for its collective life.

While submarine films do use dramatic battle scenes, much of the tension in these movies tends to be created using other devices, such as conflict between officers, a threatened mutiny, damage to the boat, or life-threatening problems with the diving equipment or the engines/nuclear reactor. This sets this subgenre apart from its parent genre of war films, which tend to focus more on battle scenes. Several submarine films use occasional 'dark humor' as comic relief to the tension, in common with other war films.

List of submarine movies[edit]

This is a list of movies, grouped by era, in which a submarine plays a significant role in the storyline. Many submarine movies are set in World War II or during the Cold War, with varying degrees of fictional elements. Some movies depict historical events from actual battles or incidents, such as Above Us the Waves, a 1955 film which depicts the true story of the British Royal Navy's midget submarines attacks on the Tirpitz. Other submarine movies develop a fictional plot created using submarine types and tactical or technological issues that are associated with these conflicts, such as the film U-571, which tells the story of a fictional U-boat in World War II. In some cases, these fictional submarine films may weave together some details from actual events. Other submarine films from the fantasy or science fiction film genres depict entirely fictitious events, such as the various film versions of Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.


Pre-World War II[edit]

World War II[edit]

Korean War[edit]

  • Submarine Command 1951 — fictional USS Tiger Shark
  • Torpedo Alley 1952 — US Drama directed by Lew Landers depicting US Navy pilot rescued at sea by submarine in WWII before applying for submarine duty in time for Korea; AKA Down Periscope

Cold War[edit]

Post-Cold War[edit]

Future or Fantastic Past[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]