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Top 10 Epic Movie Battles At Sea

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Brett Cassano Battles from movies that are ship against ship on the open water, be they battleships, submarines, frigates or with sails, on the ocean, sea, lakes or otherwise. WatchMojo presents the top 10 oceanic battles from your favourite films! But which ship will fight it's way to the ultimate victory. Will it be Master and Commanders The HMS Surprise from the Far Side of the World, Sean Connery's the Red October from the Hunt for Red October, or The Black Pearl from Pirates of the Carribean fame? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Special thanks to kadam for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/top+10+sea+battles+on+screen

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Heave to and prepare to be blown out of the water! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Sea Battles in Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at the most thrilling and memorable sea battles ever filmed for the silver screen. Although many great aerial battles have taken place at sea, we’re focusing just on battles that involve at least two naval vessels above or below the water. Also, as you can imagine, a few of these are climactic battles, so a SPOILER ALERT is now in effect!

#10: Greeks vs. Persians
“300: Rise of an Empire” (2014)

In this stylized interpretation of historical fantasy, the Battle of Artemisium is brought to life with blood and guts galore. The Athenian General Themistocles leads an armada of Greek warships into the stormy Aegean Sea to battle the Persians. Monstrous waves swallow up hundreds of soldiers who meet their swift deaths at the pointy ends of Greek spears and Persian arrows. The Persian ships are pulverized when Themistocles gives his ships the order to ram them. Film composer Junkie XL’s pounding, adrenaline-fueled score adds some extra ferocity to this scene, making sure this bloody battle on the rough seas is a stylish one as well.

#9: U-96 vs. British Battleships
“Das Boot” (1981)

Wolfgang Peterson’s World War II epic is a film to be reckoned with. Bringing viewers along for a ride on the German U-boat, U-96, this immersive cinematic experience is a riveting journey, with one of the most exciting scenes occurring when a British fighter plane spots the U-96. The sub must evade incoming enemy fire from a fleet of British battleships before making a dangerous dive below the surface. At this point in the film, the actors appear very pale and on-edge. This was because the film was shot on claustrophobic sets and the actors were kept away from sunlight – exactly how a real submarine crew would have experienced it.

#8: The Reaper vs. The Morning Star
“Cutthroat Island” (1995)

The last film from the original Carolco Pictures may not have such a great reputation, but it certainly has its moments. Notable among them is the final battle between two pirate galleons: the Reaper and the Morning Star. Having previously directed “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger,” director Renny Harlin creates an explosive opus of smithereens as both ships open fire on each other at close range. This scene features some pretty impressive stunt work and pyrotechnic effects, along with all the classic pirate-y images one would expect from a pirate flick. Hey, even the worst movies have some good scenes, matey!

#7: Pirates vs. French Warships
“Captain Blood” (1935)

Based on the book published in 1922, this daring high seas adventure stars Errol Flynn in his first leading role as the dashing, romantic swashbuckler Captain Blood. Escaping a life of slavery, Captain Blood and his fellow slaves commandeer a Spanish galleon and become pirates in the West Indies. The most exciting sequence comes when Captain Blood and his crew take on two French warships off the coast of Port Royal. Complete with broadsides, grappling hooks, and daring swordplay and accompanied by a high-spirited musical score, this 1935 classic set the standard for decades of pirate films to come.

#6: Romans vs. Macedonians
“Ben-Hur” (1959)

This film follows the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a former Prince who winds up a slave in the galley of a Roman warship. In this memorable scene, the Romans are sent to destroy a fleet of Macedonian pirates. And as such, Ben-Hur and his fellow slaves must row laboriously to the unforgiving beat of the ship’s drummer. Arrows and fireballs volley back and forth between warships until Ben-Hur’s ship is rammed and completely destroyed. Although most of this scene was filmed using miniature model-boats, this scene still holds up pretty well even over fifty years later, an example of the power of movie magic.

#5: Atollers vs. Smokers
“Waterworld” (1995)

The second seafaring box office bomb from 1995 to make our list has its fair share of great moments too. And arguably, the coolest scene is the attack on the atoll. A villainous band of Mad Max-style pirates called ‘Smokers’ surrounds and attacks the atoll where Kevin Costner’s gill-necked Mariner is being held captive. The Mariner narrowly escapes this onslaught of trigger happy Smokers in his trinket- and gadget-handy trimaran boat. Considering the battle sequence is from one of the most expensive movies ever filmed to that point, this scene really does feature some insane stunt work involving boats, airplanes, and jet skis. “Waterworld” may not have been critically well received, but come on… an airplane, launching machine gunning-pirate-water-skiers through the air is pretty darn cool.

#4: U-571 vs. Destroyer
“U-571” (2000)

This World War II film follows the crew of a U.S. Navy submarine on a mission to steal a secret coding device from the Germans. When their own sub is sunk, the American crew unwittingly commandeers a German U-boat, the U-571. Although this film is far from historically accurate, its climax is a nail-biter. The final battle pits the commandeered U-571 against an attacking German destroyer. Suspense builds as a U.S. seaman becomes trapped in a flooded compartment and the sub starts taking heavy incoming fire from the destroyer’s cannons. With crewmembers abandoning hope and hoping to abandon ship, their lives hang in the balance as one lowly torpedo races towards its target.

#3: Red October vs. V.K. Konovalov
“The Hunt for Red October” (1990)

Skillfully directed by “Predator” and “Die Hard” director John McTiernan, this ‘90s action thriller tells the story of the defecting Soviet submarine Captain Marko Ramius and his stealth Typhoon-class sub, the Red October. With an impressive cast of A-list talent, this film derives much of its ‘edge of your seat’ suspense from Ramius’ mysteriously calm demeanor while the menacing sonar pings of incoming enemy torpedoes grow louder and quicker by the second. Even Ramius’ own men look nervous as hell during these deadly underwater games of cat and mouse. The final battle, however, comes down to an epic game of chicken between the Red October and the V.K. Konovalov.

#2: The Black Pearl vs. The HMS Interceptor
“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

Director Gore Verbinski’s wildly bizarre and delightful reimagining of the pirate genre gave audiences a helluva ride when it first sailed into theaters. Not only did this film have plenty of creativity peppered throughout its action sequences, it also had a cast of odd and colorful characters scheming for blood. Aboard the ghostly ship the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa pursues the Interceptor, hell-bent on re-capturing Elizabeth Swann. Verbinski keeps the action fun with swinging pirates, blunderbusses, monkeys, and mangy mutton-chopped pirates. And Jack Sparrow’s antics throughout hearken back to the comical plights of Buster Keaton. The third “Pirates” film, “At World’s End,” adds even more Jack Sparrow-antics to the fray as the Black Pearl battles Davy Jones’ Flying Dutchman around a gigantic whirlpool.

Before we hoist the colors for our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions…
- USS Haynes vs. German U-boat
“The Enemy Below” (1957)

- SS Seawitch vs. German U-boat
“Action in the North Atlantic” [aka “Heroes Without Uniforms”] (1943)

- USS Nerka vs. Bungo Pete
“Run Silent Run Deep” (1958)

#1: HMS Surprise vs. Acheron
“Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003)

While “Pirates of the Caribbean” created swashbuckling, supernatural sea battles, “Master and Commander” recreated the grim, bloody reality of what a historical ship-to-ship battle would’ve looked like. In Peter Weir’s seaworthy epic set during the Napoleonic Wars, smoke and gunpowder permeate in the air, and ships take damage and need repairs – as do wounded sailors. In the final battle, Captain Jack Aubrey disguises his vessel as a whaling ship hoping to draw his enemy in close so he can deal greater damage. Fortunately, the ploy works and he opens fire on the French privateer. With epic sound design and cinematography bringing the scene to life, this clash gives viewers a true sense of the size, scale, and power of two towering warships battling on the water.

Do you agree with our list? What famous sea battles in films did you enjoy? For more awesome Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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