There Simply Are Not Enough Submarine Movies These Days


There are not enough submarine movies these days. It’s a shame, really. Everyone loves a submarine movie. They might not come right out and say “I freaking love submarine movies” when you ask what kind of movies they like. They’ll probably say, like, “action movies” or “the Marvel ones” or “literally anything with Keanu Reeves.” That’s fine. I love those kinds of movies, too. But I bet when they’re sitting at home on some weekend afternoon, flipping through their cable guide or streaming service of choice, and they stumble across a submarine movie, they’ll at least stop to check it out. And if they stay long enough for someone to launch a torpedo, even a single torpedo, they’ll be hooked. That’s the power of a submarine movie. Or rather, that was the power.

It’s didn’t used to be this way. There used to be lots of submarine movies. The Hunt for Red October was a good submarine movie. So was Crimson Tide. They have a lot in common, actually. Both were about conspiracies related to Russian military actions and both had the word red or a synonym for red in the title and both featured a hotshot younger guy fighting the system and a gruff and cranky older guy who was in charge of a submarine. In Red October, the hotshot and gruff guy were Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, respectively. In Crimson Tide, they were Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman.

Somehow, none of those four guys were Harrison Ford or Tommy Lee Jones, despite the fact that the movies were made in 1990 and 1995, a period of time when Harrison Ford played almost every hotshot and Tommy Lee Jones played every gruff and cranky guy. And one of the guys, the one played by Alec Baldwin, was Jack Ryan, a character Harrison Ford played in two movies in the 1990s. My point here is that, with enough manufactured confidence, you could probably convince someone that Harrison Ford was in either The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide.

It gets even more confusing because Harrison Ford actually was in a submarine movie a few years later: 2002’s K-19: The Widowmaker, which was based on a true story. There used to be a lot of weapons called Widowmaker, too. I always found that weird and a little presumptuous. What if the person it killed was single? It wouldn’t make anyone a widow then. In that case, the weapon would be more of a FriendSaddener or DogConfuser. Something to think about, I guess.

Another submarine movie was U-571. That one was set during WWII and starred Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi. It’s weird that we talk about literally anything other than this. Most conversations should be some variation of:

PERSON 1: Anyway, that’s why I have all those papayas in my bathtub.

PERSON 2: Hey, remember that movie where Matthew McConaughey and Bon Jovi were on a submarine?

PERSON 1: Yup.

My theory is that the title is the problem. U-571 isn’t catchy. At least K-19 was smart enough to realize letters and numbers aren’t enough and add “Widowmaker” to the end. Maybe if U-571 did that it could have helped. Just a word or phrase to help grab the public’s attention. Something like U-571: That Submarine Movie With Matthew McConaughey and Bon Jovi. Just spitballing.

There used to be so many submarine movies that Hollywood started making wacky submarine comedies, like Down Periscope, which starred Kelsey Grammer as a slacker sub commander and came out in a year that Frasier won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. There’s a lot going on in that sentence. I just blew right by the phrase “wacky submarine comedy.” That was rude of me. Think about it, though. At that point, submarine movies were so common that a wacky submarine movie was a relatable comedic premise. And it starred Frasier!

These days, there simply are not many submarine movies. There are movies with submarines in them, sure. But just having a submarine does not make your movie a submarine movie. The Fate of the Furious had a submarine. It was a big deal, too. Charlize Theron and Tormund from Game of Thrones stole a Russian submarine and tried to use it to start a nuclear war because they were anarchists, which you can tell because Charlize’s character was named Cipher and had braids. At one point, this happened:


Seems a lot like a submarine movie, right? No. Wrong. The submarine stuff was only at the end. And the submarine wasn’t even fighting another submarine. It was fighting a speeding fleet of neon sports cars. The Fate of the Furious is a movie that merely has a submarine in it. It is not a submarine movie.

The Meg is not a submarine movie either, for at least two reasons, even though a lot of it takes place underwater. First of all, The Meg is a shark movie, and a shark movie can’t be a submarine movie, even if a nuclear submarine captained by Harrison Ford is dispatched to fight the shark. The presence of a huge killer shark makes it a shark movie, full stop, no matter what else is going on around it. And second, if we’re being really technical here, even if The Meg was not a shark movie, it still would have been more of a submersible movie than a submarine movie. I’m sorry to be a stickler like this but words are important.

That’s why the time has come for a new submarine movie. It’s been too long. We can put one of the Marvel guys on one if it will help. I would watch a movie about Drax commanding a submarine. Or maybe the next John Wick movie could take place in a submarine, with him fleeing New York and fighting off ocean-based assassins from underwater with only the assistance of his trusty canine sidekick. I don’t know.

Again, I’m just spitballing. All I know if that there are not enough submarine movies these days and it’s bumming me out.