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Humanity has been fascinated for a long time with going under the sea and this is epitomised in the Sub Story. Fiction and fact-based drama involving submarines has many advantages to it:

  • 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 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.

Many of these are During the War, but they don't have to be. Indeed they don't even have to involve the military. They don't even have to be underwater, as Space Is an Ocean means that fictional spaceships will often behave like subs. Films such as The Fantastic Voyage and The Core have recycled Sub Story tropes in more fantastical settings (a man's bloodstream and the Earth's mantle, respectively).

Home of many a Cool Boat with a Badass Crew. Expect at least one Silent Running Mode scene.

Examples of Sub Story include:

Anime and 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
  • U-571
  • The Enemy Below, which was Recycled in Space as the Star Trek the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror".
  • Enigma
  • Below by David Twohy of (him 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 Two, 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 that incorporates a few real events from several different subs during the war.
  • Run Silent, Run Deep
  • 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
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
    • This one 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 given 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.
  • Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea


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 espionage to fish-out-of-water stories to the occasional bit of Hot Sub-On-Sub Action.
  • Sea Quest DSV
  • A flashforward from an episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
  • The Star Trek the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror" is a sub duel Recycled 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


  • 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.

Video Games