Admiral Robert Burke
U.S. Navy, Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Das Boot—the German version. You can feel the crew’s hopes and dreams as well as their fear and claustrophobia. You can almost smell the hydraulic fluid, diesel fuel, and sweat. You relate to the crew because they are like sailors in any navy—doing their jobs to the utmost and fighting for survival against an unforgiving adversary and sea.
Captain Bill Toti
U.S. Navy (Retired), former Hollywood technical advisor
Directors always say they want to get the “realism thing” right, but most just give it lip service. Two of my favorite movies are Run Silent, Run Deep and Das Boot, but the most realistic is the 2019 UK-French movie, The Wolf’s Call (Le Chant Du Loup). Except for a few details on acoustic reach-back, nothing recent gets as close to the acoustic “game of phones.”
Admiral James G. Foggo III
U.S. Navy, Commander Naval Forces Europe/Africa
Das Boot is the most intense submarine movie ever made. It’s a tragic story of men sent to wage the Second Battle of the Atlantic against the Allies in World War II. As the tide turned against them, they found themselves alone yet unafraid. Monotonous boredom compounded with unpredictable and acute periods of extreme danger portrays the roller coaster life of submarine sailors on both sides of the conflict.
Chief Terry A. Gardner
U.S. Navy (Retired)
The 1937 film Submarine D-1. While movies such as Das Boot are better in cinematography and detail, Submarine D-1 offers a rare glimpse and accurate depiction of the pre–World War II submarine service. It includes a scene where the crew uses escape lungs to abandon their boat trapped on the bottom, eerily predicting the loss of the USS Squalus (SS-192) two years later.
Admiral Jonathan Greenert
U.S. Navy (Retired), 30th Chief of Naval Operations
While Das Boot is regarded as the most authentic, no movie perfectly captures all aspects of submarining. In The Hunt for Red October, the actors did a credible job on routine and professional dialogue. However, ship driving in some scenes approached science fiction. Regrettably, Crimson Tide’s account of the operation of an SSBN crew, exemplified by the commanding officer taking his dog on patrol, is ridiculous.
Librarian, B.A. in maritime studies
The Hell Below from 1933 is one of the few submarine movies about World War I and shows U.S. submarines operating realistically for the period, even though they did not operate where the submarines in the movie do. It is partly based on the Zeebrugge Raid!
David J. Ayer
Navy veteran and co-screenwriter of U-571
Das Boot, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, solidly depicted the cloistered intensity and monotony of routine, the countless duties that keep a submarine in the fight, and the frank, direct culture of submariners. The commanding officer was humanely depicted, torn between the mission and the safety of his crew. And the boat itself was a character—strong yet fragile, with its own personality. By the end the audience loves the boat as much as its crew.
Senior Chief Brian Partridge
Without question Down Periscope—a culinary specialist that is borderline within fitness standards (hard to trust a skinny chef), a socially awkward yet technically astute sonar tech, one officer only concerned with making rank while the others are committed to executing the mission, a dedicated crew overcoming the poor condition of the submarine, and, of course, flag officers sitting back enjoying the “show”!
Lieutenant Commander Jeff Vandenengel
Office Space is the best submarine movie. TPS reports, multiple bosses, a defective printer, coming in on Saturday, the oversight team of “the Bobs” that are “there to help,” and the engineers are not allowed to talk to normal people. Incredibly accurate!
Lieutenant Commander Marcelo Martinez
Navy of Ecuador
The most realistic submarine movie ever made is The Wolf’s Call in which the administrative and operational organization of a submarine was very similar to a real one. And the spectral analysis of sound was interesting.
Lieutenant Eric M. Washkewicz
The opening scene in the shipyards of K-19: The Widowmaker most accurately reflects my junior officer tour on board the USS Hartford (SSN-768). The tension between ensuring the ship is fully repaired and able to go to sea and the pressure to return boats to operational status as quickly as possible was the constant challenge during maintenance availabilities.
The Enemy Below (1957) with Robert Mitchum and Curd Jurgens is the best World War II submarine movie. The scenes where Jurgens’s U-Boat was being depth charged by Mitchum’s destroyer made me glad I never had to undergo that experience.
Captain William J. Rogers Jr.
U.S Navy (Retired) and former submarine commanding officer
All submarine movies are overly dramatic and typically contain obligatory scenes such as flooding, exceeding safe depth, or failing components. While also overly dramatic in terms of the acting, Das Boot Director’s Cut most realistically depicts the struggles of undersea warfare during World War II.
Captain Matthew Carr
U.S. Navy, Permanent Military Professor, U.S. Naval Academy
The German film Das Boot is my pick for the most realistic sub movie ever. It shows how bad those poor guys had it. More cramped than a U.S. sub and the Germans lost almost 800 boats during World War II. My second pick would be the Cary Grant flick Destination Tokyo. It combined events that occurred on a variety of boats, but packed a lot of action in two-plus hours.
Lieutenant Commander Ed Martin
U.S. Navy (Retired)
Without a doubt it was Das Boot. The story is as gripping in German as it is in English.
As a former diesel submariner who endured many a bridge watch in heavy weather, I have never seen a more realistic portrayal of what that is like.
Hands down Das Boot. All submariners can relate to the crew, from the highs to the lows. It is why I volunteered and earned my fish.
James T. Harper
Das Boot—the movie shows the unique relationships among the officers and among the crew, and between the two and with the Captain. It also conveys the tedium and rigors of patrol along with the need for constant vigilance and attention to detail—all with very accurate production detail as to the design and operation of the boat.
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