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15 Best Submarine Warfare Movies Ranked

Looking for the absolute best? Here's our handpicked list of must-watch submarine movies. Historical drama, intense action — it's a wild ride!

By Mahad Hussain Last updated

Submarine in vigorous waves of ocean

So you're in the mood for some intense submarine battles?

Well, we've got you all covered with our handpicked list of 15 must-watch submarine warfare movies. These films are known for their gripping narratives and claustrophobic settings that have enthralled audiences for decades!

From the historical gravitas of "Destination Tokyo" to the intense naval battles of "Greyhound," this collection spans a cinematic seascape of high-stakes drama.

The chosen films, carefully selected based on their historical significance, stellar performances, technical realism, and sheer entertainment value, offer a diverse exploration of submarine warfare. Whether it's the pulse-pounding thrills of a Cold War submarine chase or the harrowing reality of historical naval battles, each film on today's list will immerse you in the risky world beneath the surface.

Let's navigate the depths of storytelling excellence in this riveting cinematic journey through the chronicles of submarine warfare.

Destination Tokyo (1943)

Scenario: Pacific War Submarine
Image
Rotten tomatoes67%
Metacritic7.1
Cary Grant

Cary Grant

John Garfield

John Garfield

Alan Hale

Alan Hale

John Ridgely

John Ridgely

Dane Clark

Dane Clark

Warner Anderson

Warner Anderson

William Prince

William Prince

Robert Hutton

Robert Hutton

Tom Tully

Tom Tully

Faye Emerson

Faye Emerson

Peter Whitney

Peter Whitney

Warren Douglas

Warren Douglas

Directed by Delmer Daves

Set against the backdrop of World War II, "Destination Tokyo" is your ticket to the high seas and heart-pounding action.

The film submerges you into a riveting tale of courage and friendship beneath the Pacific waves.

For that nail-biting tension, you'll follow a U.S. submarine crew on a daring mission. As the team faces the perils of enemy waters, the movie skillfully navigates through the complexities of war, offering a mix of suspense and heartwarming connections.

The cast nails it, bringing wartime tension to life.

However, some might find the pacing a bit boring, and the portrayal of Japanese characters has raised debate. Despite that, the film stands as a solid wartime epic, capturing the sacrifices and resilience of those who served.

So, if you're up for a mix of thrills and heartfelt moments, "Destination Tokyo" is your go-to.

The Enemy Below (1957)

Scenario: WWII Naval Duel
Image
Rotten tomatoes86%
Metacritic7.4
Robert Mitchum

Robert Mitchum

Curd Jürgens

Curd Jürgens

David Hedison

David Hedison

Theodore Bikel

Theodore Bikel

Russell Collins

Russell Collins

Kurt Kreuger

Kurt Kreuger

Frank Albertson

Frank Albertson

Biff Elliot

Biff Elliot

Michael McHale

Michael McHale

Alan Dexter

Alan Dexter

Joe Di Reda

Robert Boon

Directed by Dick Powell

Brace yourself for the naval showdown of a lifetime with "The Enemy Below."

This maritime classic plunges you into the depths of WWII, where the hunter becomes the hunted in a relentless battle between an American destroyer escort and a German U-boat.

Intense cat-and-mouse strategies, high-stakes decision-making, and the ever-present threat beneath the waves — as the tension escalates, the film masterfully captures the psychological warfare between the rival captains, adding layers of depth to the naval drama.

The performances are top-notch, particularly Robert Mitchum and Curt Jürgens, who steer this cinematic ship with precision.

Moreover, the strategic dance of wits keeps you hooked till the end.

"The Enemy Below" sails as a gripping tale of war's complexities, offering a riveting voyage through the perils of the open sea.

Ready for battle?

Full speed ahead!

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)

Scenario: Pacific Submarine Warfare
Image
Rotten tomatoes100%
iMBD62
Metacritic7.3
Clark Gable

Clark Gable

Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster

Jack Warden

Jack Warden

Brad Dexter

Brad Dexter

Don Rickles

Don Rickles

Nick Cravat

Nick Cravat

Joe Maross

Joe Maross

Mary LaRoche

Mary LaRoche

Rudy Bond

Rudy Bond

Jimmy Bates

Joel Fluellen

Joel Fluellen

Directed by Robert Wise

Forget cheesy explosions and Hollywood heroics — "Run Silent, Run Deep" is as real as the sweat dripping off Clark Gable's brow as he captains the USS Nerka.

Think 'Das Boot' meets 'A Few Good Men!'

Haunted by the loss of his previous ship, Gable clashes with the steely ambition of Burt Lancaster, his new Executive Officer. The tension sizzles like the battery banks as they hunt a legendary Japanese destroyer in the treacherous "Bunko Straits."

Can they overcome their differences and sink their enemy before they run silent?

This ain't just a war flick, though. It's a study of loyalty, revenge, and the crushing pressure of command.

You'll feel the sting of claustrophobia with every creak of the hull, taste the metallic tang of fear, and hear the echoing pings of sonar like your own heartbeat.

So, prepare to be blown away by one of the most gripping submarine films ever made.

The Bedford Incident (1965)

Scenario: Cold War Crisis
Image
Rotten tomatoes86%
Metacritic7.3
Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

James MacArthur

James MacArthur

Martin Balsam

Martin Balsam

Wally Cox

Wally Cox

Eric Portman

Eric Portman

Michael Kane

Michael Kane

Gary Cockrell

Gary Cockrell

Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Brian Davies

Brian Davies

Paul Carson

Ed Bishop

Ed Bishop

Directed by James B. Harris

Imagine a submarine film where the real enemy isn't a lurking destroyer but the paranoia twisting its own captain's mind.

That's the chilling reality of "The Bedford Incident!"

It's a Cold War thriller that dives deeper than any ocean trench.

Starring the steely-eyed Richard Widmark, this film is a slow-burning descent into the claustrophobic pressure cooker of a nuclear sub as every decision hangs heavy with potential global catastrophe.

Widmark plays Captain Finlander, a man so fixated on tracking a phantom Soviet sub that the line between vigilance and delusion blurs. It's not just the Soviets he distrusts — the tension crackles like live wires between him and his crew, a young reporter, and a level-headed doctor.

"The Bedford Incident" is a suspenseful chess match played out in the cramped metal belly of a submarine, where the stakes couldn't be higher. Each stifling scene ratchets up the tension, making you question every order, every twitch of Widmark's icy stare.

So, if you crave a submarine movie that chills you to the bone with its psychological depth rather than explosions, go for "The Bedford Incident."

Just remember, this icy thriller might leave you questioning if the warmth of humanity can thaw the Cold War's frozen grip.

Das Boot (1981)

Scenario: U-Boat Peril
Image
Rotten tomatoes98%
iMBD85
Metacritic8.4
Jürgen Prochnow

Jürgen Prochnow

Herbert Grönemeyer

Herbert Grönemeyer

Klaus Wennemann

Klaus Wennemann

Hubertus Bengsch

Hubertus Bengsch

Martin Semmelrogge

Martin Semmelrogge

Bernd Tauber

Bernd Tauber

Erwin Leder

Erwin Leder

Martin May

Martin May

Heinz Hoenig

Heinz Hoenig

Uwe Ochsenknecht

Uwe Ochsenknecht

Claude-Oliver Rudolph

Claude-Oliver Rudolph

Jan Fedder

Jan Fedder

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

"Das Boot" is a WWII epic that isn't afraid to get its hands dirty — and yours too, by the time you surface.

The film is a gut punch of realism, plunging you into the claustrophobic terror and existential dread that gnawed at U-boat crews. It throws you into the stinking belly of a German U-boat, where stale breath clings to every bulkhead and camaraderie hangs heavier than the briny seawater.

This movie is a masterclass in suspense.

You follow the raw journey of young war correspondent Herbert Grönemeyer, witnessing the transformation of idealism into weary cynicism, duty morphing into self-preservation. The comradeship that binds the crew is both their lifeline and their prison, each man a cog in a desperate machine yearning for a glimpse of daylight.

On the other hand, it's not all grit.

Director Wolfgang Petersen paints the ocean depths with haunting beauty!

The bioluminescent glow of jellyfish is a fleeting reminder of the life teeming outside the steel coffin. But this beauty is always juxtaposed with the brutality of war, torpedo salvos tearing through the water like screams, sinking enemy ships.

"Das Boot" is not a film for the faint of heart. It's a long, slow descent into the abyss, forcing you to confront the claustrophobia, the moral ambiguity, and the chilling reality of a war fought in metal tubes at the bottom of the world.

The Abyss (1989)

Scenario: Deep Sea Exploration
Image
Rotten tomatoes88%
iMBD62
Metacritic7.5
Ed Harris

Ed Harris

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Michael Biehn

Michael Biehn

Leo Burmester

Leo Burmester

Todd Graff

Todd Graff

John Bedford Lloyd

John Bedford Lloyd

Kimberly Scott

Kimberly Scott

Chris Elliott

Chris Elliott

J.C. Quinn

J.C. Quinn

Pierce Oliver Brewer, Jr.

George Robert Klek

Christopher Murphy

Directed by James Cameron

While "The Abyss" might not play out the classic wargame of torpedoes and depth charges, it still deserves a top 15 spot on our submarine movie list. Trust me, this aquatic adventure dives deeper than most into the human psyche, making it truly unforgettable.

After you plunge into the mind-bending depths of this 1989 sci-fi trip, it'll leave you gasping for air.

Playing a roughneck diver named Bud, Ed Harris gets thrown into the Mariana Trench after a near-death experience (yikes!). But instead of finding oil, he stumbles upon something… well, let's just say it ain't exactly a drill bit.

Cameron paints a picture of underwater beauty that's so real you can practically feel the spray on your face. But then turns it on a dime, throwing in some seriously creepy alien goo and mind-bending hallucinations.

However, "The Abyss" isn't just a visual feast — it's a heart-pumper about trust, sacrifice, and the bonds that hold us together even when we're surrounded by darkness. You'll laugh with the ragtag crew of divers (even as they make you nervous with their wisecracks!), cry at their losses, and cheer for their triumphs.

Be warned, "The Abyss" will suck you in like a riptide, leaving you changed after you surface. You might question everything you thought you knew about aliens, water, and maybe even yourself.

But hey, that's the beauty of a good mind-bender, right?

Just remember, sometimes the biggest monsters aren't the ones with tentacles — they're the ones we carry inside.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

Scenario: Cold War Sub Chase
Image
Rotten tomatoes88%
iMBD58
Metacritic7.5
Sean Connery

Sean Connery

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin

Scott Glenn

Scott Glenn

Sam Neill

Sam Neill

James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones

Joss Ackland

Joss Ackland

Richard Jordan

Richard Jordan

Peter Firth

Peter Firth

Tim Curry

Tim Curry

Courtney B. Vance

Courtney B. Vance

Stellan Skarsgård

Stellan Skarsgård

Jeffrey Jones

Jeffrey Jones

Directed by John McTiernan

Buckle up, mates, for a Cold War thrill ride in "The Hunt for Red October."

Forget clunky missiles and cheesy dialogues — this film dives into the icy depths of paranoia and human drama aboard a rogue Soviet sub. It's like a chess match on steroids, with Sean Connery playing a cunning captain who wants to defect with his state-of-the-art Typhoon.

Will the Americans trust his game or sink him on suspicion?

Alec Baldwin's CIA analyst races against the clock to unravel the truth. Baldwin's Jack Ryan sprints on land, desperately deciphering cryptic messages and navigating political landmines, hoping to convince the trigger-happy brass that Connery's not a rogue but a desperate defector.

The tension cracks like ice underfoot, making you question every decision, every whisper through the crackling radio. It is a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse, questioning loyalties and forcing you to choose sides.

So, prepare to surface with a newfound appreciation for the silent war fought beneath the waves.

Crimson Tide (1995)

Scenario: Nuclear Sub Tension
Image
Rotten tomatoes89%
iMBD66
Metacritic7.3
Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman

Matt Craven

Matt Craven

George Dzundza

George Dzundza

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini

Rocky Carroll

Rocky Carroll

Jaime Gomez

Jaime Gomez

Michael Milhoan

Michael Milhoan

Scott Burkholder

Scott Burkholder

Danny Nucci

Danny Nucci

Lillo Brancato

Lillo Brancato

Directed by Tony Scott

"Crimson Tide" throws you into the metal coffin of a nuclear sub where two captains, played by Hackman and Washington, fight over the world's weight of a trigger finger! One's a grizzled veteran, ready to launch nukes on suspicion, the other a by-the-book exec terrified of unleashing Armageddon.

The film doesn't offer easy answers, forcing you to question loyalty, obedience, and the ripple effects of war.

The audience becomes the crew itself, trapped in the belly of the steel beast, questioning every move, every raised voice. The film's split reception — some praising the realism, others criticizing the moral ambiguity — reflects the very dilemma at its core: who holds the trigger to Armageddon?

It's a slow-burning study of pressure, paranoia, and the moral gray area of war. You'll feel the sweat dripping from the bulkheads, the weight of responsibility crushing you alongside the crew.

So, if you crave a submarine movie that goes beyond the boom-and-bang, "Crimson Tide" is your ticket.

U-571 (2000)

Scenario: WWII U-Boat Mission
Image
Rotten tomatoes68%
iMBD62
Metacritic6.6
Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton

Harvey Keitel

Harvey Keitel

Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi

David Keith

David Keith

Thomas Kretschmann

Thomas Kretschmann

Jake Weber

Jake Weber

Jack Noseworthy

Jack Noseworthy

Tom Guiry

Tom Guiry

Will Estes

Will Estes

Terrence 'T.C.' Carson

Terrence 'T.C.' Carson

Erik Palladino

Erik Palladino

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Prepare to submerge into the heart of WWII with "U-571," a gripping submarine thriller that takes you on a perilous mission behind enemy lines.

Matthew McConaughey leads an all-star cast in this high-stakes tale of bravery and sacrifice.

The film creates a riveting mix of underwater suspense and naval warfare action. Still, some critics argue it takes liberties with historical accuracy. While the pace keeps you on the edge, the deviation from true events has sparked debates among history buffs.

Yet, if you're in it for pulse-pounding submarine drama, "U-571" delivers an adrenaline-packed voyage.

Ready to navigate the murky waters of wartime intrigue?

Dive in and decide for yourself!

Below (2002)

Scenario: Submarine Haunting
Image
Rotten tomatoes66%
iMBD55
Metacritic6.1
Matthew Davis

Matthew Davis

Bruce Greenwood

Bruce Greenwood

Olivia Williams

Olivia Williams

Zach Galifianakis

Zach Galifianakis

Scott Foley

Scott Foley

Holt McCallany

Holt McCallany

Nick Chinlund

Nick Chinlund

Jason Flemyng

Jason Flemyng

Dexter Fletcher

Dexter Fletcher

Andrew Howard

Andrew Howard

Christopher Fairbank

Christopher Fairbank

Matthew Leitch

Matthew Leitch

Directed by David Twohy

"Below" sinks you into the eerie world of supernatural submarine thrillers where the line between reality and the supernatural blurs like the murky depths of the ocean. Unlike the classic war games, the film is infused with a healthy dose of psychological chills.

It plunges you into a claustrophobic nightmare where the enemy might be lurking not just outside, but within.

Oliver Reed's grizzled skipper leads a WWII crew on a seemingly routine rescue mission that takes a terrifying turn when they stumble upon a sunken German U-boat. Soon, whispers of ghosts and inexplicable malfunctions ripple through the steel coffin, blurring the lines between sanity and paranoia.

The film's critics praised its atmospheric dread and suspenseful build-up, while some found the ambiguity frustrating. But one thing's for sure — the claustrophobic setting, unsettling whispers, and the ever-present threat of lurking evil will have you on the edge of your seat.

The question isn't if they'll surface but who (or what) will make it back with them.

So, are you ready to descend into the unknown and face the demons that lurk in the watery abyss? Because sometimes, the scariest monsters aren't the ones we fear — they're the ones that wear our own faces.

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Scenario: Cold War Disaster
Image
Rotten tomatoes60%
iMBD58
Metacritic6.7
Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard

Joss Ackland

Joss Ackland

John Shrapnel

John Shrapnel

Donald Sumpter

Donald Sumpter

Tim Woodward

Tim Woodward

Steve Nicolson

Steve Nicolson

George Anton

George Anton

James Francis Ginty

James Francis Ginty

Lex Shrapnel

Lex Shrapnel

Ingvar E. Sigurðsson

Ingvar E. Sigurðsson

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

"K-19: The Widowmaker" dives into the depths of submarine warfare with gripping intensity.

Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson lead a stellar cast, bringing raw emotion to this Cold War thriller. The film delves into the true story of the Soviet submarine's nuclear crisis, making it a riveting historical drama.

The tension is palpable as the crew battles not only the treacherous sea but also the impending nuclear disaster. The cinematography captures the claustrophobic atmosphere inside the submarine, enhancing the immersive experience.

While some critics argue about historical inaccuracies, the movie succeeds in delivering heart-pounding moments and showcasing the sacrifices of those on board.

"K-19" is a compelling blend of suspense and human resilience, making it a must-watch for fans of submarine warfare and historical dramas alike.

Black Sea (2014)

Scenario: Treasure Hunt
Image
Rotten tomatoes81%
iMBD62
Metacritic6.4
Jude Law

Jude Law

Karl Davies

Karl Davies

Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker

Daniel Ryan

Daniel Ryan

Scoot McNairy

Scoot McNairy

Tobias Menzies

Tobias Menzies

Michael Smiley

Michael Smiley

David Threlfall

David Threlfall

Ben Mendelsohn

Ben Mendelsohn

Konstantin Khabenskiy

Konstantin Khabenskiy

Grigoriy Dobrygin

Grigoriy Dobrygin

Bobby Schofield

Bobby Schofield

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

We've got another honorable mention on our list!

"Black Sea" might not play out the classic battles and underwater skirmishes of traditional submarine warfare. However, it still deserves a spot on our radar. This heist thriller dives into the depths of human greed and survival, making it a heart-pounding journey you won't want to miss.

What's going on?

Well… there's Jude Law plays Robinson, a skilled diver haunted by past failures, who assembles a ragtag crew of ex-pats for a high-stakes mission: retrieving Nazi gold from a sunken U-boat in the Black Sea. But greed and paranoia boil faster than the engine room, turning comrades into cutthroats as the depths reveal their secrets and test their morals.

Critics praised the film's tense atmosphere and its exploration of moral ambiguity. At the same time, some found the violence excessive and the ending predictable.

Nevertheless, "Black Sea" is a character study etched in rust and sweat.

It will leave you questioning the price of greed and the choices we make under pressure.

Kursk (2018)

Scenario: RussianSubmarine Tragedy
Image
Rotten tomatoes71%
iMBD55
Metacritic6.6
Matthias Schoenaerts

Matthias Schoenaerts

Léa Seydoux

Léa Seydoux

Peter Simonischek

Peter Simonischek

Max von Sydow

Max von Sydow

August Diehl

August Diehl

Colin Firth

Colin Firth

Bjarne Henriksen

Bjarne Henriksen

Magnus Millang

Magnus Millang

Artemiy Spiridonov

Joel Basman

Joel Basman

Pit Bukowski

Pit Bukowski

Matthias Schweighöfer

Matthias Schweighöfer

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

"Kursk," also known by its English title "The Command," takes audiences on a gripping journey into the harrowing world of submarine warfare.

Leaning on the true story of the Russian submarine disaster, the film navigates the emotional toll on the crew's families and the gripping rescue attempts.

Matthias Schoenaerts delivers a powerful performance, capturing the desperation and resilience of the stranded sailors. The movie excels in portraying the human side of submarine warfare, raising questions about government transparency and accountability.

This English version of the film retains its intensity, offering viewers a compelling narrative that delves into the complexities of the underwater world and the courage displayed in the face of adversity.

While it may lack the adrenaline of some action-packed counterparts, "Kursk" evokes empathy and contemplation, going beyond the usual surface of conventional war dramas.

It offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective that makes it a must-watch.

The Wolf's Call (2019)

Scenario: Submarine Espionage
Image
Rotten tomatoes85%
Metacritic6.9
François Civil

François Civil

Omar Sy

Omar Sy

Mathieu Kassovitz

Mathieu Kassovitz

Reda Kateb

Reda Kateb

Paula Beer

Paula Beer

Alexis Michalik

Alexis Michalik

Jean-Yves Berteloot

Jean-Yves Berteloot

Damien Bonnard

Damien Bonnard

Pierre Cevaer

Pierre Cevaer

Sébastien Libessart

Sébastien Libessart

Paul Granier

Paul Granier

Etienne Guillou-Kervern

Etienne Guillou-Kervern

Directed by Antonin Baudry

Another real deal on the list — we've got quite a few of these today!

"The Wolf's Call," a French submarine flick that's anything but your average war game. This film dives headfirst into the psychological depths of a French nuclear sub crew facing an unknown enemy.

Swap icy U-boats for sleek titanium titans and torpedoes for mind-bending sonar readings.

Omar Sy plays Captain Quint, a sonar genius haunted by a past tragedy. When a routine mission turns into a high-stakes cloak-and-dagger dance with a mysterious underwater object, Quint's extraordinary hearing becomes both a weapon and a burden.

"The Wolf's Call" ain't just a white-knuckle thriller — it's a meditation on trust, sacrifice, and the thin line between heroism and madness. You'll feel the claustrophobia, the weight of impossible choices, and the echoes of ghostly memories that haunt the hull.

While critics debated its pacing and ambiguity, there's no denying the film's visual stunners and its exploration of the unseen forces that lurk beneath the waves.

If you go for it, be ready to descend into the unknown and test your own sense of reality.

Greyhound (2020)

Scenario: WWII Atlantic Convoy
Image
Rotten tomatoes77%
iMBD64
Metacritic7
Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks

Stephen Graham

Stephen Graham

Rob Morgan

Rob Morgan

Josh Wiggins

Josh Wiggins

Tom Brittney

Tom Brittney

Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue

Will Pullen

Will Pullen

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Karl Glusman

Karl Glusman

Chet Hanks

Chet Hanks

Jimi Stanton

Jimi Stanton

Matt Helm

Matt Helm

Directed by Aaron Schneider

We're nearing the surface after diving deep into some of the best submarine flicks ever!

World War II rages!

Amidst the tumult, "Greyhound" sails you through a gripping maritime saga — a cinematic voyage into the heart of wartime heroism.

Tom Hanks commands the screen, his weathered face etched with the burden of leadership under fire. As a U.S. Navy captain and his crew navigate a gauntlet of German U-boats in the depths of the Atlantic, salty spray stung their faces. The constant ping of sonar echoes fear and vigilance across the steel decks.

"Greyhound" masterfully balances the suspense of naval warfare with the camaraderie forged amidst the waves.

While the breakneck pace may leave some breathless, and questions linger about certain character choices, the film undeniably stands tall as a testament to wartime sacrifice.

For those seeking a turbulent sea of thrills and heartbreaking moments, "Greyhound" beckons as a cinematic odyssey.

Will you answer its call?

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