Catastrophic damage to a large vehicle (such as a spaceship, or a cruise ship) forces the characters to struggle to survive in a familiar environment that has suddenly become dangerous. Some characters must deal with situations outside of their expertise, because the appropriate person is unavailable. Meanwhile, the senior command personnel may need to make decisions that could mean sacrificing crew to save the vehicle. Subtrope of Fight to Survive. Can be used as a plot for a Bottle Episode, as it can be used to craft a tense episode without having to craft new sets. Often includes at least one Locked in a Room scenario when the power to the doors fails. May lead to a Cold Equation. While it often goes hand in hand with Abandon Ship, it usually has nothing to do with Ship Sinking unless the shipwreck kills one of the lovers.
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Anime & Manga
- Cradle of Monsters by Sanbe Kei, which follows a handful of survivors from an intercontinental school trip as they struggle to escape a luxury cruise liner that, like in the movie "Poseidon," was capsized and is currently belly-up. As if trying to find a way off a sinking ship wasn't bad enough, they've also got to deal with their dead peers coming back to life as crazed, murderous zombies. And to make matters worse, a few of the survivors aren't as nice as they let on, and others have decided to kill anyone who MIGHT be infected. Somehow, From Bad to Worse just doesn't begin to describe it...
- Played for Laughs in Jonah, a comic strip from the British Anthology Comic The Beano. Each week Jonah would manage to attempt to board a ship and then accidentally cause it to sink.
- Deep Gravity is the spaceship variety; the freighter Vanguard is damaged, and needs to be escaped before it is destroyed in a planetary atmosphere. Beyond the danger of the damaged ship itself, survivors also have to contend with also escaped alien predators which were being transported.
Films — Live-Action
- The Poseidon Adventure and its 2006 remake Poseidon: May be seen as the template for film portrayals of the scenario for decades to follow.
- U-571, in which the crew of an American submarine must escape to the German sub they just stole a decoding machine from, when their own boat is sunk. Everything is labelled and documented in German, making it next to impossible to use the controls.
- All adaptations of the RMS Titanic disaster feature this, but the James Cameron version in particular.
- The submarine at the end of The World Is Not Enough and its video game adaptation.
- Late in Star Trek Into Darkness, the Enterprise is crippled and tumbling into Earth's atmosphere. Kirk and Scotty make their way to Engineering as Gravity Screw sends them and their fellow crew members tumbling, with many a Red Shirt seen falling to their death.
- In Life of Pi, a cargo ship sinks in a heavy storm at night with a few people desperately trying to get into the lifeboats. Ultimately, Pi becomes the Sole Survivor and sets off in his lifeboat, accompanied by a monkey, a hyena, a zebra and a tiger.
- The Finest Hours: The crew of the Pendelton find themselves in one after a welding seam breaks under stress, and the ship breaks in two.
- Pearl Harbor has the the USS Oklahoma capsizing, showing the fates of the sailors both above and below deck.
- The book Star Surgeon by James White, after Sector General was hit by a missile that tore a hole in the hospital and destroyed the translation computer.
- The Perfect Storm, based on a true story. In this case, there were no survivors.
- The first chapter of SeaFire has James Bond and his current girlfriend stopping a takeover of a cruise ship by Ruthless Modern Pirates. An explosion caused by a misfired torpedo from Big Bad's submarine nearby rocks the boat in the next chapter, and it goes bottom of the sea.
- One episode of Mission: Levity deals with the crew having to board a broken space ship and turn off the Tractor Beam linking it to the Levity before both ships burn up in the atmosphere.
- In MythBusters, Jamie and Adam tested the power of duct tape in a sinking ship scenario. Turns out, duct tape may be able to keep a small boat from sinking long enough that it can get help.
- Mass Effect 2 opens with Shepard struggling to save Joker (the pilot) as the Normandy burns.
- SOS, a SNES game which is almost The Poseidon Adventure The Game, with a similarly capsized ocean liner that must be evacuated through the bottom of the ship.
- Happens in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, though the ship has floodgates to control its sinking. Of course, it only applies to the Nonary Game 9 years ago on the Gigantic. The one in which the game takes place is just a recreation of the ship, with simulated flooding.
- In the first mission of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the ship is bombed by enemy planes and you have to run through the flooding and collapsing cargo hold to get topside, where you must make a Leap of Faith to a helicopter.
- Tomb Raider: Underworld has Lara entering a boat only to release a demon that results in the ship sinking. Cue a turn through the sinking ship.
- Resident Evil 6 at one point has Ada enter a submarine in order to get a Plot Coupon but it turns out to be an elaborate trap and the sub is scuttled forcing Ada to escape the now horizontal boat.
- Far Cry 3 has Jason sneaking aboard a boat in order to get the location for some lost treasure only the computer is booby-trapped and in the resulting explosion the boat starts to sink; forcing Jason to swim through the ship fighting off the enemies that for some reason are more interested in killing him than escaping with their lives.
- Naturally, a common training exercise in real world navies. The typical setup is to send the team of trainees into the room and start flooding it, and then they have to use whatever is on hand to devise methods of sealing holes, blocking leaks, and isolating sections that are too far gone. Everyone will be soaked by the end regardless.