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 or otherwise separates them.
- 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.
- 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 an ape, 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 USS Oklahoma capsizing, showing the fates of the sailors both above and below deck. On a lesser note is the USS Arizona, shown exploding and immediately sinking after being hit by an armor-piercing bomb.
- USS Indianpolis: Men of Courage has the titular US Cruiser sunk by a Japanese submarine, with most of the surviving crew members dying of exposure, shark attack, and dehydration in under 5 days.
- Yamato, where a large portion of the second half of the film is taken up by the Yamato's final mission, where it was eventually sunk by repeated attacks from hundreds of aircraft before it reached its destination.
- In Morning Departure the 12 survivors of the explosion and crash are trapped in submarine sitting on the bottom of the sea.
- 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.
- Horatio Hornblower:
- Marie Gallante, a French supply ship, is damaged by a cannon ball during her capture by the Indefatigable. Hornblower is assigned to take her to an English port. When he realizes the ship is holed, he tries to do some damage control, but he's unable to save her. The ship sinks and his crew of four men and their French prisoners must abandon the ship and sail in a small boat.
- Justinian, British ship of the line, is destroyed off-screen by Papillon, a French ship of war and sinks. The crew from the "Indy" are sent to pick up survivors.
- Captain "Dreadnought" Foster takes command of a supply ship with two small rail guns and attempts to do battle with a Spanish frigate. He manages to deprive the Spanish of their supplies and he prevents them from taking the British supplies, but their schooner (with said supplied) is wrecked and most of the crew do not survive. Foster does survive and thinks he did the best thing he could.
- Spanish ship Almeria is chased by "Indy" inshore in a big storm and founders on the rocky shoals. Hornblower persuades his prison guard Don Massaredo to give him his parole and lets him launch a rescue boat to save the crew.
- Captain Bracegirdle loses his ship Grasshopper in "Duty". He survives, but has lost his ship and his crew and is just a shell of a man he used to be.
Bracegirdle: They were loyal to me to the last. They managed to get ashore. And as those bastard frogs came at us. My men stood by me. And my men died for me. And in amongst their bodies, I was left for dead. I wish I were dead, Horatio. I lost my ship and all my men. And even if a court martial were to acquit me, I'd never get a command again.
- "Inside the Spaceship" (a.k.a. "The Edge of Destruction") in Doctor Who, where a malfunctioning switch attempts to send the TARDIS back to Event One—the Big Bang—where the TARDIS and her occupants will be obliterated.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Persona 5, after completing the seventh Palace, a giant cruise ship, the Phantom Thieves are forced to escape from the sinking ship. It takes Ryuji performing a Heroic Sacrifice and nearly dying in the explosion for them to escape.
- Adol Christin, the main character of the Ys franchise of action RPGs, often begins games just after the boat he is aboard sinks.
- 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.
- 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.