Submarines are inherently cinematic settings for thriller plots: the moody red bridge lighting, the surfaces are all dripping and reflective. Most of all, the submarine is a claustrophobic trap that ensures heightened tensions when things inevitably go wrong. It’s hard to fathom piloting an underwater ship with no windows. The crews of military sub adventures, especially World War II action dramas, are floating blind, trapped in a marvel of analog engineering. A submarine’s ears are its eyes, and only the haunting underwater echoes of acoustic pings can illuminate the way.
The stakes of submarine films are automatically life and death. There are no miracle crash landings under the crushing pressures of the ocean’s depths, so when a leak springs in the hull, even the bitterest enemies must band together. It’s a tidy little metaphor for human societies, so directors have been probing these waters for almost as long as filmmaking has existed. These are the 15 best submarine movies of all time ranked.