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Film / Das Boot

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Captain of the Weser: So, what's it like down there, in a submarine?
The U-96's Chief Engineer: It's... quiet.
Captain of the Weser: Quiet? Hmm.

Das Boot ("The Boat" in German) is a 1981 West German war film (based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lothar-Günther Buchheim) about the perils-ridden patrol of a World War II German submarine, the U-96, in the Atlantic Ocean. It is directed by Wolfgang Petersen and stars, among renowned German stage actors, Jürgen Prochnow as The Captain (commonly called Kaleun, short for Kapitänleutnant, or der Alte / the Old Man), with a soundtrack by Klaus Doldinger. The movie is generally praised for its realistic portrayal of the claustrophobic atmosphere in a World War II era sub. As noted by many visitors to Bavaria Studios, the interior set of the sub is actually even more claustrophobic than comes across on the screen.

Across the multiple versions of the film that exist, the plot quite simply encompasses one naval patrol aboard the U-96 along with its crew. They initially struggle to stay alert while nothing happens for endless stretches of time in the middle of the Atlantic, and later on struggle to survive extremely dangerous encounters with Allied navy ships. That's pretty much it: all the weeks-long stretches of boredom interspersed by hours-long stretches of terror that made up real German naval patrols.

Fun Fact: When the movie premiered in the United States, the audience cheered at the caption at the very beginning that says that 30,000 of 40,000 German submariners died. The makers of the movie were really afraid at that moment, because that was supposed to be a tragic fact. By the end of the movie, however, the audience was also sympathetic to the submariners and, as said in the director's commentary, gave a standing ovation to the film.

Bavaria Film, the studio that made the film, created a sequel in 2018, also titled Das Boot, in the form of a series.

Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.

This work contains examples of:

  • Actually, That's My Assistant: The captain of the supply ship Weser awkwardly assumes the young, clean shaved and uniformed 1WO is the Captain among a bunch of jaded and bearded sea-wolves.
  • Adaptational Name Change: In the book, the eponymous U-boat was called UA, which was a foreign U-boat the Germans had built for the Turkish Navy but seized for use in the Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of the war. All other boats mentioned are given anonymous names like UF and UX; this was a deliberate choice by the author to protect certain details. The film designates the boat as U-96, which was the actual boat that the author sailed on.
  • Adapted Out: A sixth officer mentioned in the novel, and omitted from the film, is the 2nd Engineer who joins the boat on a training cruise in order to take over for the Chief Engineer at the end of the patrol. The 2nd Engineer does not socialize or dine with the other officers and is immediately disliked by the Captain who pledges he will find a way to prevent the man from become the new Chief Engineer. In the film, much of the antagonistic elements of the 2nd Engineer are written into the character of the First Officer.
  • Airstrike Impossible: U96 is told to redeploy to the Mediterranean, which means sneaking through the narrow Gibraltar sound, which at the time was swarming with warships and planes of the Allies. It gets worse: since the crewmen are unaware of British radar innovations, they are detected and bombed outside the strait, before they can even submerge and properly begin their approach.
  • All for Nothing: After all they've suffered and survived through the entire film, most of the crew die or get injured suddenly in an air raid the moment they make it back to their base. Not to mention the submarine they all worked so arduously just days ago to restore is finally sunk for good.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted, as befits a film made by Germans, for Germans. Only the 1WO has any faith in Hitler's program. However, historically only partially accurate: of all the services, the German Navy was the least political, but the number of true believers in the Uboat service was among the highest.
    • This may well be caused by the fact that the U-Boat service had to receive so many replacements (to replenish casualties they sustained which was growing to such massive amount by 1943), as the service loses men (especially old experienced ones) they will tend to get replaced by newer ones that are either heavily indoctrinated (due to being young enough to have gone through the mandatory Hitler Youth in the 1930s for instance) or more entrenched with the Nazi ideology. During the earlier part of the war, they probably are as apolitical as the other Kriegsmarine aspect, but as the staggering casualties mount, they get slowly refilled with men who are more aligned with the Nazi. In addition, Admiral Karl Dönitz, the commander of the U-boat fleet and later supreme commander of the navy, was a staunch supporter of Hitler, to the point that he was named Hitler's successor at the end of the war.
    • The Captain even states that the newer crewmembers he has are not long out of the Hitler Youth.
    • The officers of the Weser also get in on the aversion: while they greet the U-boat crew with the Roman salute and Sieg Heil's, when the captain is about to toast them, he begins to include the Führer in his speech; an officer clears his throat, and the captain stops short, remarking they're nowhere near Germany (and implicitly, they don't have to observe that custom). He later greets a Kriegsmarine attaché and his Gestapo escort with "Heil Hitler", though.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: While the song itself is old enough, the recording of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" used in the film is sung by the Red Army Choir and post-dates the war by over a decade.
  • Anyone Can Die: The text at the top of the page suggesting a 75% mortality rate for German submariners? It's not an exaggeration. No other branch of any armed service suffered such a high casualty rate (higher than the Japanese Kamikazes) and continued to function.
  • Armchair Military: The Weser officers, who clearly haven't been in the fighting recently. Their captain keeps lamenting to the Old Man about how hard it is to be in a place with no action while flaunting all of the fresh, luxurious food they have available (the worse part is that the captain is probably being honest about what he feels, but doesn't understand one word of what hell he's wishing for). Later on, when the U-Boat sinks and repairs must desperately be made, the Old Man snarks that it was nice of the Weser staff to give them torpedoes worth 25,000 Marks but couldn't give them 25 cents' worth of electrical wire.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • While the film does give an excellent feel of what life was like on a U-Boat, the film takes place in autumn 1941, when the U-Boat Force was doing much better than it would later on. As detailed below, despite the 1941 date the film's plot behaves more in a manner in line with the situation in 1943-45.
    • The submarine base at La Rochelle was not operational until November 1941. At the time U-96 departs, the port was dried up. While U-96 was based out of Saint-Nazaire, the filming location was switched to La Rochelle as the port had not changed by such a large degree after the war.
    • In the uncut version, the crew learn on the radio that the Allies have launched a massive air raid on Hamburg and Cologne. Neither city was bombed in autumn 1941. At the time, the British air raids were small-scale and considered little more than a nuisance.
    • In the uncut version, Werner explains in narration that they have been sent to Italy in order to help secure the supply lines for Rommel's Afrika Korps, as they are "losing Africa." While Operation Crusader was underway at this point, the North Africa campaign was not even close to a decisive end.
    • The airstrike depicted at the end of the movie could not have taken place at that point in time late 1941. RAF planes would not have risked a low flying air raid against a heavily defended German naval base in 1941. The airstrikes that did take place almost always were against surface ships and from a higher altitude to avoid flak. This kind of air raid was more likely towards the end of the war. Unsurprisingly the real U-96 was sunk by an air raid but right at the end of the war, not in 1941.
  • Artistic License – Military: While Werner is taking pictures of the crew in the torpedo room, an unidentified culprit (hinted in the extended cut to be Ario) tosses a greasy rag onto his face. Even as a reporter, Werner was still an officer and the culprit would have been severely disciplined.
    • To be fair, the chief of the watch was pissed and demanded to know the culprit in no uncertain terms. Werner, mortally embarrassed, beat it out of the torpedo room, after which you got a Smash Cut, so you never really knew if he found out who did it or what was done to them.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    Lamprecht: Bad news, guys. [putting on a serious face]
    Ario: What's going on?
    Lamprecht: Soccer. Schalke. We lost, 5-0. No chance of making the semi-finals.
  • Beard of Sorrow:
    • After weeks of being stuck on the U-boat, the 1WO is pretty much the only one who still bothers to shave.
    • Nicely foreshadowed, when the Captain advises Werner to save some pictures for when they return, as the whole crew of mostly young new recruits will have beards by then.
  • Binocular Shot: Used for the looks through the periscope.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Happens to the Captain in the final moments of the film. In the novel, it is explained that he has shrapnel wounds through his back.
  • Boring Return Journey: The travel back home after Gibraltar is quick and uneventful compared to the novel.
  • Can't Catch Up: In time to turn the tide, anyway. The film opens at the beginning of the tipping point in the Battle of the Atlantic, when the second 'happy time' of hunting is over for the Germans, the Tommies have stopped making mistakes, and radar and active sonar are nasty but increasingly common factors for U-boat crews to (often unsuccessfully) try to deal with. Near the war's end, the German navy had successfully developed the vastly superior Type-XXI submarine, but by then Germany's industrial capability was so devastated that only four ships of the type put to sea.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. It's mentioned that during their time in France many of the crew are Properly Paranoid about spies, and in particular, Ullmann is terrified of what will happen to his French fiancée if La Résistance find out she's pregnant by a German.
  • Chromosome Casting: Minus the hooker/singer Monique during the party at the beginning and Ullmann's French girlfriend he says goodbye to, all of the characters are men.
  • Comforting Comforter: Towards the end, a crew member covers the Chief Engineer with a jacket after the latter lies tired out on the floor after his great achievement.
  • Composite Character: A sixth officer mentioned in the novel, and omitted from the film, is the 2nd Engineer who joins the boat on a training cruise in order to take over for the Chief Engineer at the end of the patrol. The 2nd Engineer does not socialize or dine with the other officers and is immediately disliked by the Captain who pledges he will find a way to prevent the man from become the new Chief Engineer. In the film, much of the antagonistic elements of the 2nd Engineer are written into the character of the First Officer.
  • Counting Bullets: Kriechbaum uses a blackboard to count the number of depth charges dropped by the Allied destroyer. The last number we see is 23.
  • Damage Control: Stuck at the bottom of the Straits of Gibraltar, the entire crew has to help repair the boat.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The stiff 1WO comes off less callous and more sympathetic in the mini-series when he opens up a little and reveals his fiancée died in an aerial raid on Cologne only weeks before the patrol.
  • Darkest Hour: All hope seems lost when U-96 has sunken to the floor of the strait of Gibraltar, the bow plane is jammed, hull breach is imminent, water is rushing in uncontrollably and battery cells are cracked.
  • Death from Above:
    • Depth charges thrown from destroyers are perhaps the things the submarine's crew dread the most, with the only thing they can do to avoid them being diving deeper.
    • The crew are also menaced by Allied aircraft several times. The first time (shown only in the uncut edition) takes place right after they leave their port with minor equipment damage. The second time, Krichbaum is badly wounded. The third...well...
  • Diabolus ex Machina: A partial example because the ending is justified by the premise and the aerial menace has been foreshadowed and shown, but the Downer Ending does come suddenly out of nowhere and is guaranteed to shock a first time viewer.
  • Dive! Dive! Dive!: Standard evasive maneuver against incoming or present danger. Deconstructed at Gibraltar when the immersion can't be stabilized due to the damage sustained and the boat keeps diving and diving out of control.
  • Downer Ending: A pretty extreme example - there really wasn't a much stronger way for the efforts of the submarine's crew (and the entire German navy really) to be rendered totally useless.
  • The Dreaded/Hero Killer: No Allied characters are shown, but their destroyers and airplanes fulfill this role. Evasion is the only option and a number of German aces of the deep have met their end against those hunters.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The film starts with sub crews getting obnoxiously, paralytically drunk on shore leave. Given what they've just come from and are about to go back to you can't really blame them.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: One of the tracking shots required special effects to produce. It pans across a submarine factory/pen, passing by at least three subs. However, only one model sub was actually built for this scene.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Only a few of the enlisted crewmen have their names provided. Everyone else is "The Captain", "The 1WO" etc.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Everyone in the sub — even the resident Nazi — is utterly horrified at discovering that one of the ships they hit, which is still floating after several hours and is on fire, is still full of Allied sailors who weren't rescued by the rest of the convoy and are desperately jumping into the ocean and pleading the U-Boat for help.
  • Fan Disservice: To produce exactly the effect intended, the stark realization of the cold dehumanizing grind of war. The film goes into detail about the toilet habits and medical well being (or lack thereof) of the crew, and has several lingering close up male naked butt shots as they either rush out of the loo in an emergency or are examined for disease.
  • Fatal Family Photo:
    • On two occasions Werner gets shown pictures of crew's family: The chief engineer shows him pictures of his wife and cadet Ullman shows him a picture of his (pregnant) French girlfriend who wants to marry him. The end of the film sees Ullman die in the air raid, but the engineer subverts it by staying alive.
    • In the uncut edition, Navigator Kriechbaum shows Werner a picture of his four sons, and says he has a fifth on the way. He gets wounded by a British fighter and is last seen being loaded onto an ambulance at the base, being driven away seconds before the air strike.
  • Feedback Rule: A downplayed example in the beginning of the film, where a German soldier comes on stage at a bar and tests the mic which produces a slight feedback.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: As U-96 is pulling into port, with Kriegsmarine personnel saluting on both sides of the dock, the captain is twice shown looking up nervously. The Allied planes swoop in moments later.
  • Freak Out: At the end, when Allied planes bomb the dock, one of the boatmen suffers a complete nervous breakdown and begins screaming incessantly while his fellow sailors hold him with shell-shocked expressions on their faces. It's possible that he goes permanently insane, but we don't get to see that far before the story ends.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • First they hit a three-week storm. Then they fall afoul of a destroyer. Then a destroyer with ASDIC. Then a fleet of destroyers with ASDIC. Then naval attack aircraft with radar. Then their hydroplanes break, sinking them to the bottom of the Gibraltar Straits. Then, after frantic repairs and just managing to resurface the boat before they are crushed/drowned/suffocated, they are sunk in port by a fighter-bomber air-raid.
    • On the bright side, the journey home went pretty smoothly compared to the novel version. Along with the above, U-96 in the novel spent their return journey without periscopes, without radio, without sleep, with the entire hull shuddering and twisting around with every wave (they spent most of the return trip in escape gear, in case a large wave snapped the pressure hull open), without working torpedoes (they tried to sink a neutral liner with them and failed thanks to the first officer's incompetence), with engine fumes venting into the boat and only one intermittently working engine. Then upon coming in sight of the shore, they found themselves in a minefield (as they discovered when a friendly U-boat a few hundred meters away ran into one), were forced to stay perfectly still on the surface in full view of any passing enemy aircraft (due to risk of hitting said mines) and then were subject to an air raid that destroyed the nearby friendly U-boat, leaving U-96 to return to port with two dozen traumatized and hideously wounded sailors from another boat on their already ruined deck. It was only at that point that the full air raid occurred and sank U-96 in port.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • While having dinner aboard the Weser, Werner helps himself to a giant whole fish.
    • When the boat returns to La Rochelle, you can see a dock worker dancing along to the welcoming band.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: The film has French club singer Monique singing to a drunk and cheering German crowd of soldiers at the beginning of the movie.
  • Glory Days: The period in which German submarines had the upper hand is called "the happy times" and ended a few months before the beginning of the movie. The remaining aces get only more bitter and cynical.
  • Going Down with the Ship: At the end, after watching the boat sink at the dock, the Captain collapses.
  • Gratuitous English:
    • The Captain is fond of defiantly stating "Not yet!" Justified Trope in that he's directing his comments at the Royal Navy that's trying to sink his boat and kill his crew.
    • Also Thomsen's "I am not in the condition to fuck."
  • Gratuitous French: In the novel, usually when the submariners are reminiscing about their time in France. The Old Man is fond of saying "Comme ci, comme ça" in dire situations, but by far the biggest offender is Werner's Girl Back In France, Simone.
  • The Great Repair: A matter of life or death after the U-boat nearly hits rock bottom at Gibraltar.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: The 1WO is fresh into the U-boat corps having come from a plantation in Mexico and knowing nothing about the horrors of the war or U-boat life. He is an ardent Nazi and a by-the-book officer and is the only one who even tries to maintain his appearance and cleanliness throughout the film, though even he winds up frayed around the edges by the end.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The "ping" sound of the sonar picking up the enemy sub.
    • The beating sound of an enemy ship's propellers is invariably followed by the ship dropping depth charges.
  • Heroic BSoD: Johann, of all people, cracks under the pressure of repeated depth chargings and is subsequently terrified of the consequences, but the Old Man is lenient and Johann's top performance returns.
    • Der Alte also briefly gets in on this, once he receives the report of a second destroyer closing in on them after the convoy attack. He quickly snaps out of it, but it's clear he was rattled.
  • Hero-Worshipper: The crew of the supply ship Weser. Their enthusiasm is met with apathy by the submariners, but the Christmas food is welcome anyway.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: The character of Phillip Thomsen is very loosely based on Heinz Hirsacker, the real life commander of U-572. Hirsacker was not as noble or brave as Thomsen is portrayed in the film and was never awarded a combat decoration for his U-Boat service, much less the Knight's Cross. He was further accused in 1942 of cowardice before the enemy after repeatedly avoiding enemy ships and retreating to base at the first sign of pursuit. Hirsacker was convicted by a court martial and sentenced to death, but committed suicide in 1943 before the sentence could be carried out.
  • Hope Spot: When the crew manage to resurface the submarine, epic music plays, and the scene cuts to the men happily singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". Then, they arrive at La Rochelle, and are strafed by a British fighter-bomber.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: U-96 is on patrol to intercept Allied ships but winds up being hunted by destroyers left and right. The trope is used as the Tag Line in the English box art.
  • If We Get Through This…: The Captain tells the crew "it's half a bottle of beer for each" if they can make it safely back to La Rochelle.
  • Leitmotif: Both the Das Boot Theme and the Erzherzog-Albrecht-Marsch when the boat arrives to La Rochelle.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: After receiving a medal, a heavily-intoxicated Thomsen begins a speech criticizing the nation's military leaders, including Hitler. He's about to get one last jab in at Hitler when he notices party officials staring at him, so he quickly changes the second half of his sentence to say that Hitler is about to dominate Churchill. Nobody's fooled, but he doesn't get in any trouble for it.
  • Man on Fire: Some of the British sailors from the burning ship are on fire which prompts them to jump into the sea.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Everybody aboard U-96 except the 1WO.
  • Nazi Protagonist: It is World War II and the crew is German, but the 1WO seems to be the only one who supports Hitler.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: A particularly cruel example. Most of the film deals with the sheer terror faced by the men in a German U-Boat during World War II, including several points where they're nearly sunk by Allied depth charges. Somewhere in the last quarter of the film, the titular submarine actually sinks, but the crew manages to devise a plan, repair the damage, get to the surface, and return home. It seems like the film will have a happy ending as the crew survives and makes it back to port, and then the majority of them get killed in an air raid.
  • Nose Art: Type 6: The Laughing Sawfish. Historically it was the emblem of the 9th U-Boat Flotilla, of which the historical U-96 was a member.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: The Wretched Hive bar at La Rochelle, full of drunken U-Boat sailors and cheap girls.
  • Plot Armor: Played with and deconstructed. Werner often tries to reassure himself that the boat can't sink because he's on the boat and of course he has to get out of this. After all, we're all the main character according to ourselves, and every one of the 75% of German submariners who perished felt the same way. Ultimately Played Straight, though not by sinking at sea.
  • Present Tense Narrative: The novel was written this way.
  • Propaganda Machine: In the uncut version, there are multiple broadcasts of the Wehrmachtbericht, which was a daily radio program that detailed the progress of the German war effort. The first broadcast boasts about a victorious hunt by the U-Boats, while a later one describes the hardships being faced in Russia.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: When everything is going to hell and the submarine is stuck on the sea floor, the depth gauge is past its last marking (260 meters) by about twenty meters. 260 meters is already way past the point where the navy originally expected the hull to be crushed and destroyed. The shipyard rated it to 90 meters.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: At the party at the beginning of the film, one officer staggers in drunk and begins firing his pistol randomly. Luckily, he doesn't hit anybody. He scores perfect hits on the face, chest, and groin of a nude wall painting, though.
  • Re-Cut: Several. Das Boot was 150 minutes long for its original theatrical release in 1981, then expanded into a five-hour Mini Series on British and German television a few years later. In 1997 Wolfgang Petersen made a new Director's Cut edit for a theatrical reissue, which clocks in at just under 210 minutes. Both the miniseries and 1997 versions have been released on DVD and Blu-ray, with the original theatrical cut also included on the Blu-ray release of the latter.
  • Red Alert: Whenever the Captain shouts "ALARM!!!" (especially whenever the Allied navies spot the submarine), though half the time it's just exercises.
  • Redemption in the Rain: Sort of. Johann makes up for his earlier breakdown by working tirelessly to repair a number of life-threatening leaks, and of course gets extremely wet in the process.
  • Rising Water, Rising Tension: When the submarine takes water, the crew has to dive under to fix the leaks.
  • Screen Shake: Happens when the water bombs hit close to the submarine.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying:
    • The first scenes involve the crews from a pair of submarines in the wolfpack having a party the night before going back to the Atlantic.
    • Later aboard the submarine, the crew is enjoying themselves after a stressful day. We see one crew member scantily-clad and doing a Josephine Baker impersonation while the rest of the crew shout out catcalls and wolf whistles.note 
  • Sealed Orders: U-96 barely survives a convoy attack and having used most of their fuel, they decide to return to their home port in France. Unfortunately, they then get a new message through the Enigma code machine which is "for captain's eyes only." He then gets the necessary ciphers from a safe, only to learn that their orders are to head for the Mediterranean.
  • Sensor Suspense: Inverted to great effect, as the sonar pings bouncing off the boat are used to showcase how the Allied navy is hunting the German U-boat.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Thomsen. In the uncut version, while at the bar with Der Alte, the telephone rings and Thomsen cries out "ALARM!!!"
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Every single detail of the internal construction of a VIIC U-Boat was painstakingly researched and included on the set. Literally the only difference between the internals of the set and the internals of a real U-Boat was that the set could have the side removed to allow for effective filming, though they only did that for one scene. A pretty short scene. The rest of the movie used a novel hand-held gyroscope equipped camera, as Steadicam was too bulky to be used inside the cramped set. The camera was specially designed and made to facilitate filming of this movie, and the gyroscopes were so noisy that most of the movie had to be dubbed.
    • In addition to this, for the bridge of the U-Boat (where the lookouts stood, mostly exposed to the ocean), rather than stick with the then-standard method of throwing buckets of water at the actors to simulate waves hitting the ship in a storm, the crew built a specialist rig that would throw realistic amounts of water at the bridge at realistic pressure - this led to the previously noted incident where the amount of water caused an actor to lose his footing and threw him into a railing, breaking one of his ribs. The setup was realistic enough that when a shot called for a wave to come down the hatch into the control room (Extremely common and not at all a problem for the bilge pump), the exact same system in the exact same setup provided what could only perhaps be described as a 'column of furious water' - more than 4 metres and two hatchways down from the bridge.
  • Silent Running Mode: It is a movie featuring a submarine after all.
  • Sitting Duck: The U-boat survives every attempt to sink it, until it reaches harbour at the end of the movie, only to get sunk by an Allied air raid where it cannot dive to safety.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: The crew of the merchant ship Weser, which resupplies U-Boats, have clearly not been through the worst of the war.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: This film is given one with the 2020 film, Greyhound, where an Allied naval convoy endures the attacks of German U-Boats. While it doesn't have quite the intense downbeat tone of this film, Greyhound shows that enduring U-boat attacks on the surface without air cover is no picnic.
  • SteadiCam: Used to great effect, as it enabled camera operators to work within the confines of a real-size replica U-Boat and produce tracking shots following crew members through bulkheads and around pipes. Interestingly enough, the actual gyro-stabilized rig was a more compact variant designed by the film's camera department to fit inside the U-Boat set. The most iconic use of the gyro-stabilized camera was in the scene immediately after the U-96 launches torpedoes at the convoy. Initiating an emergency dive when the boat is fired on by a destroyer, we get to see the mass of crewmen rushing from the stern to the bow in one continuous (or near-continuous, based on the steam flash in the kitchen) shot through hatches and cramped corridors, with people climbing over the cameraman at some points.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Ping... Ping... Ping.... Unlike most examples of the trope, only used when appropriate, since it implicitly tells the audience of the use of Allied active sonar.
  • Sub Story: Trope Codifier: Not only universally regarded as the greatest submarine film, but also easily among the greatest war films.
  • Suicide Mission: The U-Boat is supposed to get to Italy via the Strait of Gibraltar, one of the most heavily defended Allied naval zones in the world. While it's not intended as a suicide mission the crew treat it as such.
  • Tablecloth Yank: During the scene in the La Rochelle whorehouse, one crew member tries this. He's so drunk he can barely stand, so needless to say he fails.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Averted, ironically. The story is primarily concerned with the ordeal of the submariners, to the point that, beyond the token "True Believer" and a brief mention of racial policy (Werner recalls a colleague who attempted suicide after discovering he had slept with a Jewish girl), the Nazi ideology is never brought to the surface.
  • Toros y Flamenco: The soundtrack plays flamenco music when the crew arrive in Spain. They dock at Vigo, a northern city where that kind of folklore has no roots in real life.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "Rückzug" and "Heimkehr" reprise the film's main theme in triumphant fashion as the U-96 crew manages to cheat death right under the Royal Navy's nose in Gibraltar (by repairing the submarine's engine and having it go back to the surface against all odds) and come back at the base.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The Captain finds Thomsen nearly passed out drunk and full of vomit in the bathroom.
  • War Hero: The film opens with Captain Thomsen being awarded the Ritterkreuz, which was a high honor for bravery.
  • War Is Hell: Life aboard the submarine is harsh and the crew's chances of survival low, the film captures the horror of it quite well. And watching helpless enemy sailors burn on a ship they just torpedoed is not a particularly pleasant sight for them.
  • We Have Reserves: The implied attitude of the off-screen Commanders.
  • We Just Need to Wait for Rescue: The crew are horrified that the Allies did not come to help the burning suffering crew of a ship they had torpedoed.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out what happened to Ullmann's French girlfriend, or the LI's wife in Köln. Fairly justified, as the crew is not allowed to send personal messages and the movie ends just as they return home.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Old Man frequently heaps praise on the tactics and skill of the British, often in the same breath as an utterance of "Tommy bastards", and often while on the point of being sunk by them. The crew even have a fondness for It's a Long Way to Tipperary.