32 Best Movies About The Navy

Movies

There are a lot of great war movies out there, and a lot about military life. Movies about the Navy are especially interesting because there is such a tremendous diversity of what is told on the big screen. Whether it’s life as a pilot, a SEAL, or on a 19th-century ship, the stories are endless and endlessly interesting. Still, we managed to cut it down to 32 of the best movies about the Navy on this list. 

Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Hunt For Red October

While The Hunt For Red October’s main character is Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), a CIA analyst, he’s a former Naval officer who finds himself in the midst of a submarine dispute and audiences get a broad look at navy life. Not only do we see U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines, but we get the Soviet side also, making it a great Navy movie. 

Steve McQueen in a Navy uniform standing on the bow of a ship with the ocean and an island behind him

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Sand Pebbles

1966’s Sand Pebbles is an oft-forgotten epic starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough. While most war movies of the era were about World War II, Sand Pebbles takes place in the inter-war period in China. The director, Robert Wise, is mostly famous today for the musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music, he proves here he can direct a heck of a Navy movie too. 

Tom Hanks stars in Greyhound.

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Greyhound

One thing that always makes a military movie interesting is an under-explored aspect of life or war. 2000’s Greyhound is a great example of that, as a visceral depiction of one of the U.S. Navy’s missions during World War II escorting ships across the Atlantic to the U.K. and the European theater. Tom Hanks plays the captain of a Navy Destroyer leading the mission. 

Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

Crimson Tide

Life on a nuclear submarine is stressful for everyone, and none more so than for those charged with commanding the vessel. Crimson Tide puts viewers in that hot seat with a story about the struggle of two well-meaning officers, the captain played Gene Hackman, and his number two, played Denzel Washington, as they disagree over a communiqué to launch their missiles.  

Nick Jonas in Midway.

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Midway (2019)

The reviews for 2019’s Midway were middling, but that’s not fair. While it’s not a perfect movie, it is remarkable historically accurate by most accounts and it’s exciting from start to finish. The CGI is a little cheesy, but it’s still a gripping movie about arguably the most important battle in the Pacific Theater and the one that turned the tide of the war toward the Allies. 

The submarine at the surface in Das Boot

(Image credit: Constantin Film)

Das Boot

It’s been praised not only as a great war movie but one of the best movies of all time. The German Das Boot is harrowing, claustrophobic, and simply brilliant in its visceral depiction of life on a German U-boat in World War II. It was one of the most dangerous jobs in the war, and the viewer feels just how hard and terrifying it could be. 

Kirk Douglas in The Final Countdown

(Image credit: United Artists)

The Final Countdown

Released a few years before Top Gun and made with the full cooperation of the Defense Department, 1980’s The Final Countdown holds up remarkably well decades later. The special effects are extremely dated, but the shots of the aircraft carrier, the planes, and the rest of the sets are excellent, as are the stars in it, notably Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas. It’s an unrealistic story of time travel, but it’s very fun. 

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

(Image credit: United Artists)

Apocalypse Now

Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) in Apocalypse Now is an army officer, but he’s being taken up the river by a Navy river patrol boat. What makes that interesting is that we normally think of the Navy out on the high seas, fighting other ships on the ocean or with planes in the air. Rarely do we get a glimpse of life on something like a river patrol boat. It’s a miracle the movie was even made, given the disastrous production issues it faced. 

Kenneth Branagh in Dunkirk

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Dunkirk

Just as in the real-life story, Dunkirk involves multiple branches of the British armed forces. We see the army on the beach and the Royal Air Force in the air, and we also see not only the actual Royal Navy, led on the beach by Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh), but we also see all the civilian boats pressed into service by the Navy in the famous evacuation. 

tora! Tora! Tora!

(Image credit: 20th century Fox)

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Though it’s likely the most well-known these days, Pearl Harbor is not the only movie to tell the story of the most infamous day of the 20th for the U.S. Navy. Indeed, the best just might be 1970’s Tora! Tora! Tora! starring an ensemble cast of American and Japanese actors, showing both sides of the attack. 

Close up of Clarke Gable in a submarine

(Image credit: United Artists)

Run Silent, Run Deep

Submarine movies are always tense and one of the best, Run Silent, Run Deep from 1958, has all all the tension you’ll ever need in a movie. There is tension within the ranks, there is tension in the crew as they are attacked, and there is tension that comes with the claustrophobic nature of submarine warfare. It takes a special breed of Navy member to serve on a sub, that’s for sure.

Humphrey Bogart in a navy uniform, on trial in The Caine Mutiny

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

The Caine Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny has a couple of unique aspects to it. One, it was rare in the years right after World War II for a movie to depict a veteran of the war as anything but heroic, and two, Humphrey Bogart essentially plays the bad guy. It makes for a great movie. 

Tom Cruise in Top Gun

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun

There may have never been a better Navy recruitment tool than Top Gun. The massive hit, starring Tom Cruise as a Naval aviator, is a timeless movie that is still beloved today and depicts life in the Navy as pretty darn awesome, yet always on the edge of serious danger. It takes your breath away. 

Russell Crowe looking serious, in an 19th century naval uniform

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World

Hailed by historians and film critics alike Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World is one of the best movies about Naval life in the Napoleonic Wars ever. Praised for its realism and its battle tactics, the movie is as gripping as it is accurate in its story about the HMS Surprise and its captain, Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe). 

Steven Seagal looking serious in a chef outfit.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Under Siege

Say what you want about the ridiculousness of any Steven Seagal movie, but Under Siege is pretty darn awesome. Tommy Lee Jones absolutely chews up the scenery with his over-the-top and fantastic performance as the bad guy and the movie set and filmed on one of the most important battleships in the history of the U.S. Navy, the USS Missouri.  

Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

A Few Good Men

The officer being court marshaled in A Few Good Men is a Marine, but the lawyers are all JAGs – Judge Advocate General – in the United States Navy. The movie is more about life as a JAG, specifically Tom Cruise’s character, as it is about the actual court marshal, though Jack Nicholson steals the show with his performance as the colonel on trial.  

A black and white screenshot of the HMS Bounty on the high seas in Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

(Image credit: MGM)

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

There have been three epic movies about the mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789. The best of the three has to be the first though, 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty starring Clarke Gable as the leader of the rebellion, Fletcher Christian, and Charles Laughton as the dastardly Captain Bligh. It won best picture and while it’s not all that historically accurate, it’s a Navy classic. 

Tom Cruise talking into the radio in an airplane during Top Gun: Maverick.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick

Producing a sequel to 1986’s Top Gun was a bold decision. So many things could’ve been wrong, but Top Gun: Maverick certainly did not disappoint. While it has a lot of the same beats as the first movie, the incredible flying scenes make it even more breathless than the original film and it’s every bit as good, updated for a modern Navy. 

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

American Sniper

Naval servicemen don’t only fight on the sea, of course. The Navy SEALs are legendary for their ground operations. One of the most famous SEALs is Chris Kyle, dubbed “the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” by the book that made his story known and the movie it is based on starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle. It doesn’t shy away from the glory, or the tragedy of Kyle’s life. 

Demi Moore looking at herself in a mirror with a shaved head

(Image credit: Hollywood Pictures)

G.I. Jane

There are very few movies about women in prominent positions within the Navy, and G.I. Jane set out to change that. The result is mixed, it’s a decent movie, but far from great. The story told, and Demi Moore’s performance is the best part of it. She was dedicated to the role in a fictional account of the first woman accepted to SEAL training and got in tremendous shape for the movie to make it as realistic as possible. 

Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard in the cockpit of a jet.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Right Stuff

What does a movie about the early days of NASA have to do with the Navy? Well, a lot, especially considering Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) was the first American in space and a Naval aviator. Another astronaut from the Mercury Seven portrayed in the movie was Wally Schirra (Lance Henriksen), who was also a Naval officer. 

Funny scene from Hot Shots!

(Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Hot Shots!

Sometimes you just need a good laugh and Hollywood history is full of movies and TV shows sending up military life. One of the funniest has to be Hot Shots! which is, at its heart, a parody of Top Gun. It touches on other aspects as well, so it counts here! 

An aircraft carrier in The Bridges At Toko-Ri

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Bridges At Toko-Ri

The Korean War is often overlooked by Hollywood, with the notable exception of MASH, of course. Even more overlooked is the Navy’s contribution to the conflict. The Bridges at Toko-Ri is the rare exception here, telling the story of Navy pilots taking on a harrowing mission to bomb bridges in North Korea. 

Taylor Kitsch in Lone Survivor

(Image credit: Universal)

Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is a very hard movie to watch. It’s the devastating true story of SEAL Marcus Luttrell, played by Mark Wahlberg. During a mission in Afghanistan in 2005 Luttrell was the only member of his SEAL team to survive an ambush by Taliban fighters. It’s as harrowing as a war movie can be. 

chris pratt in zero dark thirty

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Zero Dark Thirty

While Zero Dark Thirty is partially about the CIA’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden, the movie also includes extensive scenes with the SEAL Team 6, led by characters played by Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt. It’s a fascinating look into the preparation for their raid of Bin Laden’s compound and his eventual death. 

Robert Mitchum talking another actor in The Enemy Below

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Enemy Below

The Enemy Below is a rare example of showing both sides of a conflict. On one side is Robert Mitchum, playing a U.S. Destroyer captain, and on the other is Curt Jurgens as the captain of a German U-boat. Both are skilled at their jobs as they play a cat-and-mouse game trying to sink each other in this extremely entertaining and exciting movie. 

Naval officers marching in An Officer And A Gentleman

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

An Officer And A Gentleman

It might be a stretch to call An Officer and a Gentleman a surprise hit, but it was huge when it was released in 1982. It tells the story of, well, an officer in the Navy (Richard Gere) going through Officer Candidate School in the Navy with the late Louis Gossett, Jr. as his tough-as-nails instructor, while dating a new girlfriend (Debra Winger). Gossett won an Oscar for one of the best performances of his career

A scene from They Were Expendable

(Image credit: MGM)

They Were Expendable

The John Wayne-led They Were Expendable is an old-fashioned war movie in the best way possible. Directed by the legendary John Ford, it tells a fictionalized version of a real PT boat that fought the Japanese in the Philippines in the earliest days of the war, in 1942. If you love movies about the Navy, and you love old movies, this one has it all. 

Abbott and Costello in In The Navy

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

In The Navy

If anything, you can argue there are too few great comedies about the Navy. The Army has its fair share, but it’s pretty thin for the sailors. One great exception is the ridiculous In The Navy starring Abbott & Costello. Sure, it’s certainly dated, but it’s still pretty darn funny. Abbott & Costello are their usual ridiculous selves and there are some great moments of hilarity any sailor would appreciate. 

Naval officers talking to each other in Sink The Bismarck

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Sink The Bismarck!

The sinking of the German battleship Bismarck by the British early in World War II was a major event that began to set the tone for the rest of the war, especially on the high seas. The movie, appropriately called Sink the Bismarck!, tells the (mostly) true story of the hunt for, and battle with, the Bismarck, which at the time was the most formidable ship on the world’s oceans and it’s sinking pretty much relegated the German Navy to fighting a submarine war, with few surface ships. 

Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Navy uniforms walking in a hallway

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Men Of Honor

Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars in Men Of Honor alongside Robert De Niro. Gooding plays the real-life Carl Brashear who becomes the first Black master diver in the Navy after President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces. De Niro plays his tough but fair instructor who, despite being told to make sure Brashear didn’t pass the course, is impressed with Brashear and makes sure he does pass. It’s a powerful statement on race within the Navy and a movie well worth checking out. 

A yellow raft all alone in the ocean.

(Image credit: American Film Company)

Against The Sun

2015’s Against The Sun flew under the radar as a straight-to-streaming release, but it’s an underrated movie. It tells the true story of a Navy flight crew who was forced to crash land in the ocean. They survived for an astounding 34 days, but it wasn’t easy and the movie depicts the hardships and horrors vividly. 

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