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Submarine Pirates

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A Sister Trope to Sky Pirate and Space Pirate.

Submarine Pirates are pirates who have moved with the times and use a submarine as their vessel for attacking shipping (or in "underwater" works, other submarines, which makes them a bit more like Space Pirates). They may be Ruthless Modern Pirates or A Pirate 400 Years Too Late, depending on their personal style. They may wear a Creepy Old-Fashioned Diving Suit.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell 2, Motoko catches a bunch of pirates in a stolen Imperial American submarine sneaking under her clients' floating city. Fortunately, she has a better sub.
  • Lupin III: Part III: In 'Telepathy is Love's Signal', Lupin and Jigen battle a sub full of female pirates for possession of a sunken pirate ship full of Spanish gold beneath the Bermuda Triangle.
  • Submarine pirates appear in GUN×SWORD episode "Thank You Ocean".
  • Mars Daybreak: Submarine mecha pirates on Mars.
  • The New Adventures of Gigantor had an episode called "The Pirate Submarine".
  • In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Captain Nemo and his crew live aboard the Nautilus. So it serves as their home as well as their base of operations.
  • One Piece: In addition to standard sailing ships, this series also has submarines and ships capable of operating underwater similar to subs. Examples include:
    • The ship of Trafalgar Law and his crew, the Heart Pirates, is a yellow submarine named the Polar Tang.
    • The Straw Hat Pirates have a Midget Submarine called the Shark Submerge, one of several mini vehicles deployable from the Soldier Dock System of the Thousand Sunny.
    • The ship Wapol used when he was pretending to be a pirate was a sailing ship called the Bliking that was capable of submerging.
    • There's also another pirate submarine owned by an unnamed pirate crew that attempted to kidnap the royalty of Dressrosa and Prodence on their way to the World Council meeting during the Reverie Arc, but they ultimately fail thanks to Coby and Helmeppo who were assigned as their Marine Escorts.
    • All ships are capable of operating underwater when they have been coated in a special resin bubble. This is mostly used to allow pirates and other criminals to travel to the New World by going under the Red Line through Fishman Island, but can also be used to attack or surprise enemies as seen by the Whitebeard Pirates in the Summit War. The big difference is that these ships are regular ships that can only go underwater when they are coated. The moment the coating comes off, they turn back to normal and cannot submerge again until they are re-coated.
  • Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea. The Big Bad is a pirate named Phantom who travels around in a giant submarine. He even has a Pirate Parrot — a Chatot that rides on his shoulder.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Terry and the Pirates: Captain Judas used a submersible crawler to continue his piratical career when he first returned.

    Films — Animation 
  • The cat pirates in Cat City use a submarine instead of a ship.

    Films — Live-Action  
  • In the 1910 short The Aerial Submarine, a man's son and daughter are kidnapped by pirates in a mysterious submarine. The father finds his children's camera, with a picture of the sub, and he takes it to the police. Meanwhile, the pirates sink a treasure ship and manage to get the loot on board before they're chased by a British navy ship, which is astonished to discover that not only can the sub go under water but it can also fly.
  • Father and son Jesse and David Kane's crew in Aquaman were hired and equipped by Orm to hijack military submarines using a stealthy submersible prototype, Orm's aim being to provoke retaliation from the surface world and thus justify a unified Atlantean invasion. Jesse's father, a particularly skilled frogmannote  who served for the U.S. Navy in the Second World War, had turned to scavenging and piracy after the war when his home country's government mistreated him in spite of his service. He passed his stealthy diving skills to Jesse, and Jesse in turn to David.
  • Assault on a Queen, a lesser-known Frank Sinatra movie from 1966. Pirates were using a salvaged German submarine to steal gold from the Queen Mary, hitting it with a dummy warhead and threatening to use live ones.
  • Batman: The Movie: The Penguin owns a submarine in which he brings the United Underworld along (Joker, Riddler and Catwoman) in order to ambush Batman with a torpedo, and his Number Two in it is a stereotypical pirate of old somehow, pirate talk included.
  • In Down Periscope, a U.S. Navy war game calls for simulating an attack by terrorists working in conjunction with Submarine Pirates. The sub commander is specifically ordered by the admiral in charge of the war game to "think like a pirate". One of the particularly funny scenes involves the crew making XO Pascal walk the plank while tied-up and blindfolded right into the waiting nets of a fishing vessel.
  • In Invention for Destruction (The Fabulous World of Jules Verne) the Big Bad uses a submarine to sink ships and recover cargo.
  • Pirate Submarine features a heroic version. During WWII, the French submarine, the Casabianca, escapes from German-held Toulon, and, upon joining the Free French forces at Algiers, is sent on a secret mission to Corsica to take two secret-service agents to make contact with the underground there. The agents contact the Marquis resistance forces, and learn they are ready to revolt but lack the needed arms and ammunition. The submarine is sent back to Corsica with the necessary weapons for the resistance-fighters, and also returns with trained troops to assist the resistance forces in attacking the Germans.
  • A Submarine Pirate is a 1915 silent film where an inventor and his accomplice plan to rob a ship carrying gold bullion by using a submarine.

  • Doc Savage fights submarine pirates in The Submarine Mystery and again later in Five Fathoms Dead.
  • Played with in the Frank Herbert story The Dragon In The Sea (AKA Under Pressure) has a future in which oil is so scarce that submarines are sent into foreign territory to secretly mine undersea sources of oil. These are government submarines however, rather than pirates. This trope only applies because it's a Space Cold War and none of this is happening officially.
  • Hagbard Celine in Illuminatus!.
  • The Yabba-Dabba-Doo from Sewer, Gas & Electric is an environmentally friendly, green, pink polka-dotted pirate submarine.
  • The Time Wars novel The Nautilus Sanction incorporates events from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea so it naturally includes submarine pirates.
  • Jules Verne:

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of Burn Notice featured an Amoral Attorney who counted a drug cartel among his many evil clients. To rescue his daughter, Westen and crew request that the attorney get them a one-man submarine from the cartel. The submarine ends up being Team Westen's payment.
  • The crew of HMS Achilles from The Last Ship qualify, as they are no longer operating as part of the Royal Navy or any other competent command authority and are attacking both military and civilian targets without authorization.
  • Man from Atlantis: "Siren". While investigating the mysterious loss of three ships in one part of the ocean, Mark and the crew of the Cetacean encounter a submarine operated by a modern-day pirate. The pirate has captured a mermaid that can produce a hypnotic siren song, which mesmerizes anyone who hears it, even Mark.
  • The Octopus from the M.I. High episode "The Octopus". He uses his submarine Naughty Lass to hijack ships to steal the components he needs to make a nuclear warhead to melt the polar icecaps.
  • Divatox from Power Rangers Turbo is an intergalactic space pirate whose HQ is a fish-shaped submarine known as the Subcraft for the first half of the series. In episode 26, it is docked within the Space Base, and from then on remains integrated into the base as its main command deck.
  • In the pilot movie for SeaQuest DSV a heavily modified Delta IV submarine was being operated by pirates, led by former seaQuest captain Marilyn Stark.
  • A two-part episode of TV Colosso featured a crew of submarine pirates led by Captain F.J., whose name has been commented as being opposed to the Boss of TV Colosso, J.F.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Shadowrun supplement Cyberpirates. Some pirate gangs use submarines to attack and loot surface ships.
  • Space Gamer magazine #68 After the End adventure "Island of Entellope". The Renegades, a group of pirates who have their base on the title island, use a submarine called the Esmerelda. It's powered by batteries and propelled by turbines. It has a quick firing, self-loading ballista and can ram surface targets with an explosive-tipped spar.
  • The Day After Ragnarok: Set in the aftermath of the Nazi attempt to summon the Midgard Serpent at the end of World War II. With surviving governments exhausted by both the War and the Serpentfall, piracy of all kinds is back. Rogue U-boats and Japanese submarine pirates are major threat to shipping (in addition to the sea monsters that are becoming increasingly common).

  • LEGO Aquazone: The Aquashark and Stingray factions are pirates who exclusively use submarines and operate underwater.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Ventura The CD Rom Game, one of the villains involved in animal poaching is a submarine named Nautilus.
  • The world of Aquanox has them. In fact, the main plot of Aquanox: Revelation is kicked off when your character's home sub is hijacked by pirates while he is away, and he is forced to deal with them from then on (one of them later turns out to be his uncle).
  • Star Fox 64 has the Sarumarine on Zoness, an illegally obtained and modified research vessel turned offensive powerhouse. The pilot himself talks in quite the pirate-esque fashion.
    Sarumarine Pilot: Disrespectful little whelps! I'll teach ye some respect!
  • Sub Culture had everyone in submarines, so naturally pirates used them too.
  • There's a group of pirates like this in Xenogears. They start off in a sand submarine, though.
  • The player crew in We Need to go Deeper can become submarine pirates by attacking undersea civilizations to raid their shops. Underwater Ghost Pirates also appear as enemies.
  • The Merryweather Heist in Grand Theft Auto V allows you to be one of these, using a minisub to steal a nuclear warhead from a sunken freighter ship. You can also play as one in Grand Theft Auto Online if you acquire the Kosatka nuclear submarine from the Cayo Perico Heist update.

    Web Comics 
  • Captain Snow and his crew from Archipelago, another "submarines only" 'verse.
  • In Girl Genius Sanaa Wilhelm or rather Trygvassen was apparently queen of a group of pirates who used a mechanical narwhal before ending up at castle Heterodyne.
  • In Irregular Webcomic! the pirates somehow end up in 1940 and hijack a German U-boat.
  • Killer Whale from Puffer and Clarissa pilots a massive submarine. He wanders the ocean, attacking smaller ships and stealing their supplies.

    Western Animation 
  • Birdman (1967) episode "Serpents of the Deep". Dr. Shark operates from a submarine that has a weapon that can cut through objects. He uses it to steal a bathyscape so he can mine gold from the ocean floor.
  • Captain Hammerhead and the crew of the Dark Orca in The Deep (2015), who act as a dark version of the heroic Nekton family.
  • The Jonny Quest episode "Pirates from Below". They approach Dr. Quest's private island in a submarine and steal his submersible vehicle, the Underwater Prober. Later on when the Quest team escapes in the Prober the pirates attack in torpedo-firing one man subs.
  • Looney Tunes: The plot of Porky the Gob involves a hunt for a pirate sub, staffed by some outlandish characters, one of which has an outlandish uniform and an even more outlandish mustachio. Porky, left alone to guard his ship, manages to fend off an attack by the sub, capture it, and claim the reward.
  • Pirate Island, the base of pirate Sam Scurvy in the Doctor Dolittle animated series, was actually a disguised submarine that used to follow Dolittle's ship.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) had a pirate captain using a submarine with Deflector Shields, thwarted with Mona Lisa's help.
  • In a novel twist on this trope, Transformers: Robots in Disguise features Hammerstrike, a pirate who turns into a submarine.
  • A Villain of the Week of Yogi's Gang tried to steal the ark so he could discard his damaged submarine.

    Real Life 
  • While not strictly piracy related, private submarines used for maritime crime became notoriously famous as of late, their chief function being smuggling. The U.S. Coast Guard has seized a few submarines with drug shipments aboard and several more under construction. The vessels themselves are custom-built to various standards of quality, from ramshackle fiberglass boats barely able to submerge to thirty meters long steel hulled true submarines with respectable seaworthiness.
    • There was also a plot by several drug lords to buy a former Russian submarine. Fortunately this was intercepted by US Customs agents. Interestingly, while one would think this would be a supervillain-sized benefit, it would in fact be the opposite. The US military's sonar defense network is designed to pick up and track huge, Soviet-era submarines, so using one to smuggle drugs would have failed almost immediately. The smaller, custom-built ones are effective because they float under the sonar, as it were.
  • During the interwar period, there were some experiments with large submarines that could theoretically surface and force a ship to surrender and fork over extremely valuable cargo before sinking or possibly even capturing them. This would also avoid the whole "leaving people to drown" bit of submarine warfare that people find so objectionable. However, the various naval treaties eventually limited sub displacement putting an end to this line of thinking (along with concerns that an armed merchant ship could potentially sink such a sub with a lucky hit).
    • It's worth mentioning that the cruiser submarine that caused the ban was the French Surcouf. Her internal storage and passenger bays were described for "prize collecting" personal and cargo and she even had a small boat explicitly intended for boarding. And she was named for a privateer. Subtle. The Surcouf also carried its own observation plane, potentially allowing for some crossover with Sky Pirates.
  • During the Spanish Civil War, Italian submarines operating in support of Francisco Franco's Nationalist faction were at one point referred to as "pirates" for political reasons. Those political reasons being that saying that someone was carrying out submarine pirate attacks could be used as a reason for the European nations to come together to form cooperative anti-sub patrols (including, ironically, the Italians), while just publicly declaring that the Italian navy was attacking merchant shipping would be to accuse them of an act of war and nobody in Europe was ready for that war yet.
  • Military submarines, starting with those in the Royal Navy in World War 1, started flying the Jolly Roger after a British admiral complained that they were "underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English" and that personnel should be hanged as pirates. It became a tradition among the Americans and Commonwealth navies to fly the pirate flag after a successful mission and continues to this day.