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Top 10 Submarine Movies

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Niki Neptune. They like to get down. Way down. Submarine movies are almost always claustrophobic, epic and tense: these are some of our faves. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 submarine movies. For this list, we’re looking at those movies that feature submarines as a major plot element. While some other movies may have taken place in underwater labs or research stations, our list focuses on 100 percent submarine action. Special thanks to our users nneptune, Thomas Newman, aldqbigsquare, Philip Folta and Kosh Naranek for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Niki Neptune.

Top 10 Submarine Movies

They like to get down. Way down. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 submarine movies.

For this list, we’re looking at those movies that feature submarines as a major plot element. While some other movies may have taken place in underwater labs or research stations, our list focuses on 100 percent submarine action.

#10: “K-19: The Widowmaker” (2002)

It’s a thrilling tale of bad luck, quick thinking and bravery, all set on a Soviet submarine during the Cold War – and just think: it’s based on a true story. After a series of unlucky events, the K-19 nuclear sub takes off on her maiden voyage. But their bad fortune doesn’t stop there: an equipment malfunction leads the crew and its captain to make some difficult decisions, all in the name of preventing World War III.

#9: “Yellow Submarine” (1968)

We can only imagine how many baby boomers watched this movie while on LSD. Delightfully surreal, the film follows the adventures of The Beatles as they attempt to save the underwater realm of Pepperland from the villainous Blue Meanies by masquerading as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Traveling in a yellow submarine, of course, the band sings their way through the magical submerged lands, making this flick fun to watch AND listen to.

#8: “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (1961)

Between the sky being on fire, battling a giant squid, near-mutinies, and an onboard saboteur, there are more than enough separate plot elements to propel this film. The high-tech sub Seaview and its crew are on a mission to save the Earth from a world-threatening sky fire, but many obstacles stand in their way. While the underwater scenes look like they were filmed in the director’s backyard, that doesn’t detract from the genuine thrills this sub flick has to offer.

#7: “U-571” (2000)

A team of Americans must board a German U-boat in disguise, pilfer their Enigma machine to decode Nazi communications, sink the sub and escape with no one the wiser. Sounds simple enough, until they get stuck on the foreign sub when the one they came on goes under. Though the U-571 was a real submarine, the film is based in fiction, and some viewers found it galling that Americans would cast themselves as the heroes – especially the British, who actually deciphered the Enigma code; but what are facts to a good action movie?

#6: “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958)

This top-notch war flick is packed to the brim with action. Not the Michael Bay of type of action; the 1950s type, when it was subdued but effective. But the film’s focus is really on the relationship between the crew and its captain, although they’re also racing to destroy a deadly Japanese warship. Featuring a plot that became standard in the submarine movies that followed, this is a ‘50s film that blows many modern day action thrillers out the water.

#5: “The Enemy Below” (1957)

Things get pretty intense when war is involved. Considering battling submarines can be a matter of life and death, it makes sense that emotions would be heightened and crews would be on edge. In this battle of wits, two opposing captains engage in a volley of strategic attacks, finally culminating in a destructive showdown. But in the end, mutual admiration and human decency trump patriotism, and the two crews learn to respect each other. Dawww...

#4: “Crimson Tide” (1995)

Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman go head-to-head in a battle that happens, for the most part, inside the submarine. After receiving a coded message alerting them that Russian rebels have taken control of the country’s missile silos, they’re on the alert for confirmation that they must launch a pre-emptive strike. However, when the second message arrives incomplete, Washington and Hackman engage in a battle of wills that divides the crew and blurs the lines between right and wrong.

#3: “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954)

Monsters abound in this Disney classic, based on the novel by Jules Verne. Only, one of the monsters happens to be a “submerging boat” called the Nautilus that’s manned by a crew of ex-cons and helmed by the infamous Captain Nemo. Between sinking ships, fighting off cannibals, or battling a giant squid, Nemo and his crew have been busy aboard their submarine – but there are plenty more adventures where those came from in this epic fantasy journey.

#2: “The Hunt for Red October” (1990)

Impressive, intelligent and thrilling, this submarine movie outlines the inherent danger involved when defecting from the Soviet Union. Another Cold War-era picture, “Red October” follows one rogue captain who’s headed towards American shores with the most advanced submarine in the world, but is he coming to defect or to attack? With both the Soviets and the Americans throwing everything they have at the eponymous sub to sink it in time, this is a puzzle that only Jack Ryan is smart enough to stop.

Before we surface our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Up Periscope” (1959)
- “Operation Petticoat” (1959)

#1: “Das Boot” (1981)

Alternating between the monotony of downtime and the frenetic energy of battle, no film paints a more realistic picture of life aboard a wartime sub than this German production. Taking place almost entirely aboard a German U-boat during WWII, the movie is gritty, claustrophobic and tense, and it focuses not so much on specific characters as on their shared experience aboard the vessel. Riveting no matter what your political affiliation, “Das Boot” is a truly remarkable submarine movie. You’ll never root so hard for the Nazis.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite submarine movie? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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