Watchworthy

Movies That Take Place Primarily Underwater, Ranked 

Dave Schilling
Updated January 23, 2020 956 votes 165 voters 4.9k views 21 items

List Rules Only films set in the ocean. Movies that take place on the high seas ('Titanic,' 'Jaws,' 'Orca,' etc.) but do not have a significant number of scenes underwater do not qualify.

Earth's oceans are deep, vast, and full of mystery. Most of us will never know what it's like to dive thousands of feet below sea level and witness the natural wonders under the surface. Maybe that's why filmgoers are so fascinated by movies about deep sea exploration.

Whether they're submarine stories like The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide, horror tales like Underwater and Deep Blue Sea, or more whimsical films about magical undersea kingdoms like The Little Mermaid and Aquaman, movies set in the ocean give audiences a chance to dive into a world most of us are unfamiliar with.

But which movie in this subgenre (pun intended) goes the deepest? Vote up your favorite underwater films by how deep they travel.

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Finding Nemo is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Movies That Take Place Primarily Underwater, Ranked
Photo: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

What's It About? Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a helicopter parent/widower clownfish whose precocious son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), is captured and dumped in a dentist's office fish tank. As Marlin hunts through the ocean for his missing child, he's joined on the journey by the forgetful royal blue tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). 

Are There Sea Creatures/Monsters? There are whales, electric jellyfish, and some pretty intimidating sharks, but this is a kids movie, so it's never particularly scary.

How Deep Does It Go? The depth of a clownfish's habitat rarely exceeds 12 meters, or 40 feet. Plus, half the movie takes place in a dentist's office on land. So, we're not talking super-deep here.

Actors: Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Eric Bana, Allison Janney, Albert Brooks, + more

Released: 2003

Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Does this float your boat?
The Little Mermaid is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Movies That Take Place Primarily Underwater, Ranked
Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

What's It About? Mermaid princess Ariel (Jodi Benson) falls in love with the human Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes), which causes her to abandon her life under the sea to be (all together, now) a part of his world. Ariel will have to overcome the meddling of evil sea witch Ursula if she wants to avoid becoming a poor, unfortunate soul and live happily ever after with her prince. Will Eric get to kiss the girl? Only one way to find out.

Are There Sea Creatures/Monsters? The Little Mermaid includes talking fish, a talking crab, a half-woman/half-octopus, and a mermaid.

How Deep Does It Go? Not deep enough. The undersea scenes are located in relatively shallow depths where familiar fish species thrive, and the whole plot of the movie is about Ariel trying to escape her life underwater. One might even argue that this movie is anti-ocean.

Actors: Jodi Benson, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright, Jason Marin, + more

Released: 1989

Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker

Does this float your boat?
The Hunt for Red October... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Movies That Take Place Primarily Underwater, Ranked
Photo: Paramont Pictures

What's It About? When Soviet submarine commander Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) decides to defect to the United States and hand over the highly advanced sub Red October, only CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) can ensure Ramius and his crew's safety as they attempt to evade capture at the hands of both the Soviet and US Navies.

Are There Sea Creatures/Monsters? No, unless you think that the simmering tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the threat of mutually assured destruction, is some sort of metaphorical monster.

How Deep Does It Go? This is a submarine movie, so you can only go so deep before the pressure compresses your boat. Red October is supposed to be a modified Typhoon-class Soviet sub, meaning that its maximum operational depth would be about 1,300 feet.

Actors: Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Tim Curry, James Earl Jones, Jeffrey Jones, + more

Released: 1990

Directed by: John McTiernan

Does this float your boat?
Aquaman is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Movies That Take Place Primarily Underwater, Ranked
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
4
Aquaman

What's It About? An adaptation of the DC Comics character Arthur Curry, heir to the throne of Atlantis. The half-human Aquaman has the power to talk to fish and various other sea creatures. Aquaman clashes against his nefarious half-brother the Ocean Master for control of the sea while coming to terms with his mixed heritage.

Are There Sea Creatures/Monsters? Most of the characters in this movie would qualify as "sea creatures." 

How Deep Does It Go? In order to claim the throne of Atlantis, Aquaman has to venture into a hidden kingdom all the way at the center of Earth. So, yeah. Deep.

Actors: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, + more

Released: 2018

Directed by: James Wan

Does this float your boat?