- You don't need to spend lots of money on sets or Stock Footage. You can create plenty of suspense with just a scanner and a pinging sonar.
- You can justify a Shirtless Scene (Old submarines like German U-boats had no air conditioning and were very cramped and very hot).
- Confined spaces tend to bring out the worst in people and are good for horror movies.
- There's the added danger that if the sub goes to the bottom involuntarily, the chances of everyone dying are pretty high.
- Nuclear power plant in an isolated submarine? Asking for dramatic trouble.
- Torpedoes can run for a good ten or fifteen minutes.
- Silent Running Mode is an excellent source of suspense.
- Hot Sub-on-Sub Action is just plain cool.
- The whole thing is a contest of wits with plenty of scope for a Guile Hero.
- There is gobs and gobs of Technology Porn.
- Both sides are to some degree blindfolded and depend on hearing each other making for an interesting combat situation.
- The stakes are all or nothing. If a sub survives an engagement likely everyone aboard will survive while if it is sunk it will be so far underwater that everyone will die.
- Historical settings like the Cold War or World War II lend plausibility to the story; with all the secrecy back then, an adventure that took place hidden under the ocean seems like it really could have happened.
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Anime & Manga
- Yellow Submarine. This sub is part TARDIS, but it's small for a fantasy ship, with lots of pipes, and has very intimidating controls. And while its engine isn't quite as dangerous as a nuclear reactor, it's good for some drama.
- Das Boot
- The Enemy Below, which was Recycled In Space as the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan has another sub duel Recycled In Space with two starships inside a nebula. There's even a scene in which Enterprise "submerges," waits for Reliant to pass overhead, and then "surfaces" to attack.
- Later Star Trek films would play with the trope further, with the Enterprise and other Starfleet ships having to contend with cloaked Klingon warships:
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: The USS Grissom is destroyed in a surprise attack by Kruge's Bird of Prey; later on the Enterprise is also badly damaged by Kruge's ship.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: The Enterprise spends much of the film being persued by another Bird of Prey commanded by Klaa.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: A Klingon starship carrying Chancellor Gorkon to meet with the President of the Federation is attacked by a cloaked Klingon Bird of Prey hoping to frame the Enterprise for the attack. The film's climax has the Enterprise and the USS Excelsior battling the advanced Bird of Prey which, unlike her predecessors, does not need to uncloak to fire her weapons.
- Below by David Twohy (of Riddick fame) plays the "bringing worst in humans" part for all the scares it can get out of it.
- We Dive at Dawn- British film made during World War II, involving a British sub of the P-class being sent to the Baltic to sink a new German battleship. Despite being a propaganda film, it's still pretty good.
- Operation Petticoat - a comedy about evacuating nurses from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) to Australia in December 1941.
- Destination Tokyo - a drama made during the war based on a recon patrol into Tokyo Harbor. The effects were so good that the Navy used it as a training film.
- Run Silent, Run Deep - surprisingly realistic take on sub warfare around the Japanese home islands.
- Submarine Command
- Up Periscope
- Morning Departure - actually set just post WWII, but plays much more like a WWII story than a Cold War one.
- Hellcats Of The Navy - which won the Golden Turkey Award for the worst Ronald Reagan film of all time.
- The Bedford Incident which is a loose retelling of Moby-Dick uses a Soviet Submarine in place of the whale.
- The Hunt for Red October
- The Spy Who Loved Me features multiple submarines. Among its more notable aspects is a movie featuring Page Three Stunna pics somehow getting a PG when the BBFC reclassified the thing and Barbara Bach's shower. On naval ships, water is at somewhat at a premium (no, you can't get it directly from the sea; that's salt water and you need to desalinate it first) and sailors take a "Navy Shower" (rinse, lather, rinse off). Bach has the shower running. The captain clearly liked her; "Hollywood Showers" are only permitted if you've done something special.
- Down Periscope
- K19: The Widowmaker
- Ice Station Zebra
- Crimson Tide
- Wing Commander: A Terran space fighter carrier finds itself fighting against badly stacked odds. They spend much of the movie trying to hide from the enemy Kilrathi fleet, while trying to find some way to delay their attack on Earth long enough for The Cavalry to get in position to stop them. A lot of the movie was intentionally made as an homage to Das Boot.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
- Operation Pacific. The WWII exploits of the fictional USS Thunderfish are culled from actual wartime submarine incidents. The Technical Advisor for the film was ADM Charles Lockwood, COMSUBPAC during the war.
- CDR Perry is wounded on the bridge and gives the order to "take her down", sacrificing himself to save his ship. This scene is based on the actual incident that earned CDR Howard Gilmore of USS Growler the Medal of Honor.
- The Damned is about a group of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who attempt to flee to South America aboard a U-boat as the war is ending..
- Gray Lady Down features two submarines: the USS Neptune and the experimental mini sub The Snark
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - the Trope Maker.
- Discworld's Leonard of Quirm builds a reconnaissance submarine in Jingo.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events novel The Grim Grotto.
- One of Robert Fulton's early submarines plays an important role in Ratcatcher; the first Matthew Hawkwood novel.
- The Hunt for Red October is all about the Red October submarine, and the above-water forces hounding it.
- H.P. Lovecraft's The Temple.
- Das Boot (1973) by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, a novel about a German submarine in World War II. Better known via its film adaptation Das Boot (1981).
- Edward Beach's Run Silent, Run Deep and its sequels, made into a Clark Gable film. Also his book Submarine!, a memoir/history of the WWII Silent Service.
- Two novel series by submarine historian Edwyn Gray, one about a British S-Boat and one about a German U-Boat, both in WWII.
- Glen Cook's "Passage at Arms" follows the story of a Climber ship, a type of spaceship that can under very specific circumstances essentially drop out of conventional space and fly almost undetectable except for a "pseudo-Hawking black hole" several millimeters wide. The primary danger is that while in climber space the ship cannot release the heat buildup from any of their systems.
- The "spider drive" vessels in Honor Harrington series are basically submarines In Space!
- The Dragon in the Sea (AKA Under Pressure) by Frank Herbert depicts tense underwater combat 20 Minutes into the Future between nuclear submarines. Despite being published in 1956 it has survived the ravages of Science Marches On and Zee Rust remarkable well.
Live Action TV
- The 1999 Made-for-TV movie The Hunley is centered around the experimental Confederate submarine Hunley, which had thus far claimed the lives of two of its crews while being tested. A new crew is put together, and they must find a way to use their submarine against the Union Navy blockade of Charleston. The sub sinks, and takes its third crew with it, but not before destroying a Union warship by lancing it with a large explosive device.
- The episode "Why We Fight" from season five of Angel is a WWII flashback where Angel is sent by the U.S. government to help bring in a captured U-boat.
- The Unit has an episode involving a rather trippy dream and the women of the series getting action-y in said dream, plus a South Korean submarine.
- And of course, a submarine is the best place for a certain kind of sandwich.
- JAG featured several episodes taking place on submarines, with plots ranging from historica events, espionage to fish-out-of-water stories to the occasional bit of Hot Sub-on-Sub Action.
- 12 out of 227 episodes featured sub stories.
- 1x3 Shadow
- 4x16 Silent Service
- 5x7 ''Rouge
- 5x22 ''Overdue & Presumed Lost
- 6x15 Iron Coffin
- 7x5 Mixed Messages
- 7x14 Odd Man Out
- 7x23 In Country
- 7x24 Enemy Below
- 8x7 Need To Know
- 8x17 Empty Quiver
- 9x7 Close Quarters
- 12 out of 227 episodes featured sub stories.
- seaQuest DSV
- The episode "The Last Voyage of the Jimmy Carter" of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, is a flashforward/flashback set on humanity's last working military submarine, on a secret mission in the war with the Machines.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" is a sub duel in space fought between Kirk and a Worthy Opponent Romulan Captain.
- The Andromeda episode "D minus 0" is also a sub story Recycled In Space.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
- Last Resort
- Doctor Who: "Cold War" is set on a crippled Soviet sub beneath the arctic ice, with something very nasty loose on board.
- Xena: Warrior Princess, of all things, had the episode "Tsunami", in which a slave galleon is capsized and sunk by an enormous wave. Xena, Gabrielle, and a handful of survivors are trapped below deck in a small part of the ship that still has air, and are trying to figure out how to get out of the ship and get to the surface before they run out.
- The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine", which inspired the film.
- Gorillaz' music video of "On Melancholy Hill" mostly features a fleet of submersibles piloted by the album's artists.
- KISS' "Torpedo Girl" is about Ace being visited by a submarine in the place where he was swimming, and meeting, of course, the titular girl.
- Iron Maiden' "Run Silent Run Deep".
- Music/Raven "Run Silent Run Deep", about a -likely, WWII- submarine attacking a convoy.
- Deep Trouble, a BBC radio series, is a comedy set on a Royal Navy nuclear submarine with an incompetent crew.