Top Ten Submarine Movies
In honor of things that float (and sink), this is a list of the top ten submarine movies of all time. I’m not talking about a movie with a submarine that does a fly-by, but this is a list of movies based on submarines or taking place on submarines. It’s rather simple. It’s underwater fun. I like submarine sandwiches, but that didn’t make the list. Here’s the actual list:
10. The Yellow Submarine (1968) – Some people don’t even consider this a movie, but I balk at that notion. It’s a movie. An animated movie with music. The Beatles put their trademark stamp on this one and strange stuff happens. The Beatles themselves aren’t really in their own movie that much, probably because they’re out hoping and wishing the 60s could go on forever. The problem with this isn’t the music, but the fact that they made a movie based on a strange song. The Beatles wrote a song that makes no sense, so guess what, you get a movie that makes no sense.
9. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – This is not Clark Cable’s best movie, I can tell you that for sure. However, the drama is spot on and has some of the most classic submarine bridge moments I’ve ever seen. I think later films patterned themselves after this movie. Burt Lancaster makes up for Cable’s awful performance and delivers a great supporting role.
8. The Enemy Below (1957) – This is a surprisingly good movie for the time period, because I know the 50s are a haven for bad schlock slapped on screen. The Enemy Below is based on a book and stars Robert Mitchum, a great actor. He plays a World War II submarine Captain. This is one of the first Captain versus Captain movies I ever saw, where both sides were given a good characterization. We spend most of the time with the Americans, but I think the scenes humanizing the Germans heighten the tension of the whole thing. It is a good movie.
7. U571 (2000) – Talk about tension overboard. This movie has that and just about nothing else. Actually, it has a lot of great characters, maybe more than The Enemy Below, but it recycles a lot of the tricks from The Enemy Below and adds some more. Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton try to outwit the entire German army, as they hop aboard a U-boat for America. This film is very well-regarded, but it’s not really my favorite. It doesn’t have the flavor and style of those higher on this list.
6. K19 – The Widowmaker (2002) – This could be a disaster movie as well as submarine movie, for all the trouble they have with the submarine. Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford are the bad guys this time around, but don’t commandeer any U-Boats as in U571. They’re actually the Germans. It’s pretty dramatic and has that style I like, but I hated the ending.
5. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) – This is a science fiction adventure film in the classic tradition. It spawned a television series that ran for four years during the sixties, and I think the Seaview is the most famous submarine next to the Nautilus and maybe the Red October. It has great action, political drama, and it’s not overly complex like heavier, deeper movies on this list. It’s an adventure that’s fun.
4. Crimson Tide (1995) – Back when this movie first came out, I can remember the press. It was regarded as the “Red October wanna-be”, which I think is really unfair, no matter how similar they both are. Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington play off each other pretty well, but they argue and bicker like old women for the whole movie. I agree with the judges of the tribunal at the end: GET OVER YOURSELVES. You’re professionals in the military. This isn’t cooking class.
3. Das Boot (1981) – There is no mistaking it this time, this is an unbiased German war movie and one of the most authentic submarine movies ever made. It is filled with intricate details, and every single moment in this film feels authentic. Whether it is or not, I couldn’t tell you, but it is interesting to watch for its interior scenes, which feel different from any movie on this list. The movie ends in a depressing and horrific way, but that’s the only way this one can go, as the Germans are bombed back to Germany by the Allies.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – The most adventurous submarine movie ever made, and the movie I loved as a kid, it still holds up. It has classic stars, a great score, and fantastic set pieces. It is perhaps one of the most visually stunning underwater movies I’ve ever seen, and James Mason plays Captain Nemo perfectly. His performance is only topped by Kirk Douglas, the traditional man’s man, the number one lone-wolf amongst seaman. I think every kid should see this movie at least once with their parents, and there’s no doubt that they will like the action, the characters, and the color.
1. The Hunt for Red October (1990) – This is the best submarine movie ever made. It combines political drama, tension, and adventure almost perfectly. It has that character dynamic as in K19 or The Enemy Below, but Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery have two roles almost made to complement one another. The dialogue is great and Connery comes off as a grizzled know-it-all in yet another role, but he makes us root for him, even though he’s a Russian bad guy. U571 might have the better effects, and 20,000 Leagues might have more adventure, but The Hunt for Red October has more memorable moments than both of them.