REEL 13

Discussion – Why submarines?

Posted: July 2, 2011
The Enemy Below (1957)

The Enemy Below (1957)

For being such a specific niche, submarine movies are a surprisingly popular genre. There’s The Enemy Below, Das Boot, U-571, and The Hunt for Red October, just to name a few. What is it about submarine movies that make them so appealing?

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  • Lawrence Zeitlin

    Men, confined in a tight space, facing mortal danger, facilitate an intensity of interaction that is missing in most other wartime movies. It is literally sink or swim. Besides, submarine movies are cheap to make. One set, no budget for foreign travel, no prima donnas – or even Madonnas. What’s not to like?

  • Matt Maginley

    Metaphor for the human condition: man needs the God given natural world to live, anything he creates can only sustain life for a short period of time. The shot selection, and frame composition amplify this. Dialogue is secondary to the visual language.

  • penelope carter

    It’s the mystery. Oceans encompass most of the globe. It’s deep. It’s dark. We want to be with them down under. They’re heroes. They dive undetected, attack, kill and are victorious. All blood is washed away — more??????????????

  • Ed McKinney

    I think it’s the claustraphobia of the situation, and the realization that the men inside of the submarine are in such a fragile veessl in an alien, hostile environment in which they could not survive without the protection of that vessel. In a film like “Das Boot”* in particular, the narrow confines, and even the smell of the place become almost like a character. *”Boot” in German literally means “boat”, and is pronounced “boat”, not “boot”.

  • penelope carter

    Matt, of course dialogue is secondary…. it’s video. And you’re stretchin’ the God thing….but Bravo for commenting. Lawrence — they can’t swim from a sub? And I’m a prima donna — so please, watch it!!!! Sweet dreams

  • penelope carter

    After reading Ed, I gotta either go to bed or get a life. this is starting to sound like my 1972 film course. Roger over and out!!!!!

  • Mark Albertson

    Another good submarine flick was Destination Tokyo with Cary Grant, John Garfield and Alan Hale. A good submarine picture is usually a story about the hunter versus the hunted. And there are times in these movies when the submarine portrays both. This can lend to a realism not seen in other types of war movies. And this mirrors real life. For in World War II, the United States deployed 250 submarines. 52 did not return home.

  • Al Polkowski

    If you think submarine movies are appealing and exciting, being a crewmwmber on one is more so.

    I qualified on submarines in the mid 60s and was a crewmember for 6 years. Exciting and dangerous.

    It takes a special person to ride subs.

  • John Esser

    One of my favorite submarine films is (and don’t laugh till you’ve rewatched it) – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The final battle sequence, while between two ships in space, is ripped from WW II submarine movies.

  • Lucille Rogers

    Submarine movies will always fascinate us because it’s so hard to imagine being in such close quarters for extended periods and under such dangerous conditions. There’s no easy escape when you’re under water—it takes real men with real courage—so few of us are put to that test!

  • Larry Buck

    The hunters, confined to a small piece of the world, often become the hunted, depending on non-visual ways of sensing their surroundings. Submarine life, warfare, strategy & tactics are all different from what we know & see around us, so there is the appeal of the unknown. As they “paint” their world with words it becomes clearer to us.